First published on 20 Apr 2012. Updated on 20 Apr 2012.
In this fast-paced digital age, the average gay man is so inundated with cruising possibilities that most of us want throw the computer and iPhone out the window and run screaming from the room. Never fear, Time Out is here to help sort through the morass of bums, abs and other bits. We’ve tried and tested the big four gay dating sites in this city and produced a hands-on guide to the modern Melbourne cruise. We start, as we're wont to do, with the biggest.
You know Grindr. You use Grindr. And you know why it’s the one that came along and blew all the others out of the water. The big innovation was geolocation on your phone, a fancy techy-sounding word that essentially means the app tells you who is nearby – sometimes to the nearest couple of metres. Paired with an easy user interface – it’s like one of those sprawling Chinese menus with the pictures on it… just with guys, and on your phone – and features like priority starring, it’s easy to see why Grindr’s been so successful.
Who uses it
Everyone. Well, everyone who is gay. Straight spinoff Blendr hasn’t generated nearly as much buzz.
The profiles are picture-heavy, with little room for text. Aside from the usual headless torsos, torso-less bums and bum-less penises, there are a few landscape shots from those still ‘in-the-closet’ types looking for something surreptitious (and conveniently located) on the side.
The GPS locator function, despite other sites/programs attempting to jump on the bandwagon, is still the best in the biz.
Well the pic-heavyness means there isn’t much in the way of get-to-know-you blurbs that might help your selection. And the whole thing certainly takes away from any star-crossed lover vibe you might have been dreaming of – oh for the romance of old-school pot-luck cruising. Also, God help you should you be living in the 'burbs somewhere; geolocation will just remind you how alone you are. But the true downside is that the proximity of that awkward co-worker with the crush on you can be finally revealed – not that Time Out advocates cruising at work…
When it’s 3am and you’re leaving an inner-city bar… alone.
Looking for long-term love and someone to read you poetry on the beach? The jaded Time Out editors suggest you give up and go sob into something chocolate flavoured. For the more persistent among us, RSVP offers a ray of hope. It really is about that ‘LTR’ aspiration, as the lingo goes, and is a fortunately torso-free landscape (mostly). And just as everyone on Grindr is looking to, er, grind, most folk on RSVP are here for love, so there’s not too much chance of getting your signals crossed.
Who uses it
The crowd skews older: think latter-life divorced men just now figuring things out, and on the younger side, the romantic dreamer types you probably won’t find at 4am at Nevermind.
A little like Facebook, RSVP is about showing off how much you know and how in-the-know you are. Much references to the latest Jonathan Franzen and those to-die-for favourite Surry Hills eateries.
RSVP definitely has the most detailed profile parameters, and allows a lot of room for blurbs – you will know everything you did and didn’t want to know about your prospective date before you meet him.
Prepare for long, (figuratively) tear-stained correspondences from gents who really, really want to meet you. Also, the cost structuring with paying for messages and winks can get quite expensive. It’s an investment… but, a long-term one.
When you wake up the next morning with that guy you met on Grindr and realise it’s time to get a bit more serious.
By far the competition’s most explicitly raunchy offering, Manhunt is great if you’re looking for action with a side of polite small talk… polite small talk that’s probably a thinly veiled ploy for more action. Did we mention action.
Who uses it
Torsos. Chests. Penises. Bums.
The Manhunt profile is about hiding your own flaws while demanding an unrealistically dreamy guy for the night as if clicking into a Dominos build-it-yourself pizza-creator. Oh, and there’s usually room for an offensive, racist comment or two: “Fit guy from Northern Beaches looking for NSA action. Gym body only (that means no fatties, fatties). Only whites – I'm not racist, I just really don't like other races.” Riggghhhht…
The advanced search functions available to Manhunt users means that one can easily locate the perfect leather-clad, boot-licking, cub/twink/daddy/in-between for them. The best feature is one they stole from Grndr, though, a good geolocator combining some serious raunch with serious convenience.
The chances of something long-lasting springing out of a Manhunt hook-up are as slim as the hairless, Swedish lad whose profile you’ve got saved to your desktop. Also, the chances of the person you’ve been chatting to for two weeks actually meeting you after a lengthy IM back and forth, well they're even slimmer.
When you and that guy you met on RSVP are looking to get a little experimental with a third party.
One of the earliest of the hookup sites, Gaydar (est 1999) is the one with the most varied and various clientele. Because of its long-standing and respected presence in the industry, Gaydar has amassed the biggest following and we can assure you it attracts all sorts. Perfect for the man who wants to try all the colours in the rainbow flag, in all parts of town.
Who uses it
It may not be the hot new kid on the block, but it’s a staple of the Melbourne gay community. Users are people who’ve been using it for years, meaning they’re at that “well-established-moneyed-up-silver-fox” stage of gay life. So, if you like a bit of sugar with your daddy…
Well, given certain mid 2000s scandals involving prominent European politicos, a typical profile might include an unusual interest in agricultural policy. But generally, look for talk of profession and settling down.
Good photo service and really detailed profiles mean you’re going to get a relatively accurate and full picture of the people on here (assuming the fine people of Internetland are being completely truthful).
Well, if you’re online to get freaky (ahem, and you know that you are), there are a few barriers: you pay extra for naughty pics and all photos are screened by whatever little men in the computer screen are running the site.
When you’ve given up on the rest and need to settle down with someone sweet, clean, unperverted and, well, a little moneyed.