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Solo Features

Gaydar’s radar

In these nouveau times of the worldwide web, it’s hard to believe that Gaydar is almost ten years old. So how relevant is it to the modern Irish gay man and woman?

With its clever name and extensive target market, the Gaydar website was never going to fail. Launched in November 1999 by South Africans Gary Frisch and his partner Henry Badenhorst, it caters for gay and bisexual men, women and couples and is now very popular in Ireland, the UK, Australia and many parts of North America, Europe and South Africa.
So how does it work? Well, it all begins with registration. Registered users create a profile, which would typically include standard information on age, location, physical features, sexual predilections, hobbies. They also give a description of themselves, along with what they might be looking for in a prospective partner. There is provision for profile owners to upload a number of photographs as well. Users can browse through online lists of other users who are logged into the site at that time. They are able to send messages to each other and to participate in chat rooms. Users also have the option to upgrade from ‘guest’ to ‘member’ status by paying a subscription that allows access to all the site’s features.
While Gaydar is firmly established in the heart and mind of the Irish gay scene now (www.gaydar.ie), it seems that when it comes to the sexes, the experience can be somewhat different. Damian is a 35-year-old photographer, who has used the site in the past and occasionally pops back in now to have a look.
“It is free if you want to be a regular guest, but it costs €12 a month if you want to become a member,” he explained. “Paying the money affords you better access to the site and to members’ profiles. It also pushes you up the chain so you are higher in the list. This can have its advantages – for the male side you get to see all the x-rated pictures of members’ members! Otherwise it is a waste of money, you can still send and receive messages.”
In terms of meeting people via Gaydar, Damian finds it quite an ineffective method.
“Most people you’d either ignore in public, or they look nothing like their profile,” he said, adding that from cruising pictures of people’s members, there’s not a whole lot about it that’s very good.
“And it can be a total waste of time,” he continued. “An hour can easily pass and all that will happen is you will have a twitch in your eye from staring at a monitor too long.”
Damian had met men on Gaydar who he has met up with again – but only once or twice and they were ‘nice guys but nothing special’.
“Gaydar – for men this is – is, in effect, a one-stop knocking shop. If you are the kind who likes to arrange random sex with random strangers this is the place. I’m sure there are examples of people who have met friends on it but I am lucky enough to already have met fantastic friends in a social setting.”
So does he think you’re better off being a man or a woman surfing the Gaydar land? In other words, which of the sexes – if any – is the winner?
“Men for the sexual part I think, and women for the friendship part,” said Damian. “I know my girlfriends build up better relationships friend-wise online, whereas men have a one track mind 99 per cent of the time.”
The range of people who use the site is varied, he said, from people looking for one night stands to relationships to friendships.
“It takes all kinds!”
So, what’s better – face to face or online?
“Face to face on a dance floor with your top off at 6am,” said Damian, “and Gaydar when you’re home in the wee hours wishing you jumped the sexy man you’d seen earlier but didn’t have the courage. So then you hide behind a terminal staring at peoples’ profiles and eventually fall asleep.”
Meanwhile, Sally is 38 and works in the financial services sector. After finding it difficult to meet someone on the gay scene, she discovered that an alternative was to log on and get gay surfing.
“The first site suggested to me by a straight female friend was www.anotherfriend.com – she’d noticed that there was a ‘women looking for women section’, which I thought was fantastic!
“There are different costs with different benefits, depending on the type of member you want to become. These are typical of most dating sites. For example, there might be an option to upload photos to share either publicly or privately. I didn’t feel brave enough to upload a photo and was also a little embarrassed to do so – I’m not sure if it was the outing myself completely or the fact that I didn’t want an ex-girlfriend to see that I was looking for girls online (even though if she saw me there it would mean she was doing the same thing!). Anyway off I went and filled out a profile, which was easy enough. It was the free flowing text description of yourself and what you are looking in a partner that was difficult. I chose to keep it simple and breezy and stated that I was looking for ‘sane women’. I later noticed nearly everybody states that so there must be a lot of crazies out there!!
“I’d spend hours trawling through profiles wondering if these could be the loves of my life – most didn’t have photos uploaded either but even chatting with women about the gay lifestyle (I was living a very straight life at that time) was exhilarating.
“So, I went on my first date with a woman who seemed quite normal – she was the same age as me with a similar background. Thankfully she was very attractive and the dating lasted a month, which was just what the doctor ordered! However, the next date I went on lasted one drink, alarms bells had gone off in my head when she referred to herself as a cutie pie but I decided to be open minded and proceed. The personality difference was wider than the Grand Canyon so after an hour of pleasant but tedious conversation I made my excuses and left. So long to her and so long to internet dating – until last year when I logged onto Gaydar that is!
Sally had heard about Gaydar from her male gay friends but up to then she wasn’t aware that there was a Gaydar girls section – www.gaydargirls.com.
“It’s really easy to log onto and the process of setting up a profile is again very simple,” she said. “It’s similar to other dating websites, but what I found better with Gaydar is that every profile you are looking at is of a woman interested in chatting to or meeting women only, whether gay, bisexual or bi-curious. On other sites even though you enter your preference when you log in of ‘woman interested in woman’, they can throw up female profiles of straight women which I find frustrating. And on www.anotherfriend.com for example, even though women specify they are looking for same sex relationships, they always reiterate ‘no men please’ or ‘guys please don’t wink at me, I won’t respond’ etc on their profiles because I guess straight men are getting gay female profiles presented to them.
“Gaydar has a ‘thumbnail’ section, which allows you to see who is online when you log on. I was with a gay male friend and we logged into Gaydargirls and Gaydar (for the boys) – there was over 500 guys online on that particular evening but the girls section only had a disappointing 37 online! The most I have encountered online at any one time is 52 – for the whole of Ireland!
“Having said that, what I find more appealing about Gaydargirls is that you can view a profile, send a mail and get an instant response unlike the other sites I have used where you send a mail and then maybe check the next day for a response. Messaging someone online makes for a more free flowing natural conversation. The downside is that unless you save your messages they get automatically deleted after a certain number of hours. So if you are chatting with numerous girls and the next time you log on your message history has been deleted there’s the fear that you could start repeating yourself and appear to have a touch of Alzeimers!”
According to Sally, Gaydargirls caters for all types of relationship interests, whether you’re just online for chatting, looking to meet new gay girls or looking for casual sexual encounters.
“The profiles vary from women not having a photo posted to women displaying only their naked genitalia and emphasing that they are only looking for sex, no strings attached. Some may be in relationships already either with a man or a woman.
“I haven’t met anybody from the site and the initial titilation of ‘flirting’ online has worn off. Then again it is the summer, Pride is coming up, as is aLAF so I think I’ll take my chances with the three dimensional lesbians as opposed to the two dimensional ones!”

The web addresses for Gaydar are www.gaydar.ie and www.gaydargirls.com.

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