Would you sign up for a gay dating site that uses techniques reminiscent of the religious right to gain new members?
The matchmaking website Gayquation has launched a new “30or30 Initiative” that asks gay men to either abstain from all sexual activity for 30 days (or more) or refrain from “jumping into bed” with a new boyfriend until you’ve dated for at least a month.
The 30or30 page is chock full of sex shaming and dubious statistics that are reminiscent of the anti-gay industry. The opening splash screen shows two sets of male feet sticking out under the covers with the ominous warning, "A poll of over 1000 gay men revealed that a staggering 42% have engaged in at least one sexual act while not being able to recall their partner’s first name. 27% of which claimed numerous instances and have lost count in their lifetime number of sexual partners. WTF!!!”
Further down the page, the prudishness continues with tidbits like, “90% of gay-specific dating sites/apps allow for erotic or pornographic photos,” and “65% of the straight community hold the sterotype [sic] that most gay men engage in casual sex.” Throw in some scare tactics that would make Nancy Reagan proud like, “20% of gay men are HIV-Positive, but nearly half don’t know it AND 62% of HIV-positive gay men have unprotected sex,” and you have a recipe for making gay men feel ashamed and scared about having sex.
None of the “statistics” include citations.
The user testimonials are just as ridiculously full of internalized homophobia and HIV hysterics. One goes so far as to demand a ban on gay pride floats that don’t meet certain standards of decorum and “incredible design.” Charles from Los Angeles bemoans that a man he met on vacation didn’t want to have a monogamous relationship with him after a few Mai Tais.
"I met this man while on vacation in Hawaii. We clicked right away and needless to say we slept with each other the first night without protection. I felt a connection with him but 5 days later without notice he disappeared and I learned he slept with a colleague soon after. I felt disgusted and disgusting. I made a cardinal rule I would not venture down that path again. Luckily, am still HIV neg,” the testimonial reads.
Another one claims, "I was coaxed into visiting a bath house in London and was amazed what a black light could find on the walls. I met a guy named Jack who asked if I was into golden showers and dirty sanchez!? Find out what that is and you will understand why I flew out there [sic] like a bat out of hell.”
Why should you be abstinent for 30 days? Apparently you’ll find yourself in a Hawaiian bathhouse having unprotected kinky sex with a tourist if you’re not careful. Hasn’t the use of ridiculous scare tactics to promote abstinence as an HIV prevention tool been thoroughly discredited? Of course there’s no safer-sex information to be found on the site.
Ridiculous statements aren’t unique to the 30or30 page. The Gayquation website proudly claims that it “strictly caters to the GLBT community,” but then in the next sentence says it is “quite proud to be exclusive to gay men.” Nothing says inclusive like excluding three-fourths of the queer community.
That’s the point of a site like 30or30 or Gayquation. People will pay money to feel superior to others and part of an exclusive group. Whether it’s churches and rightwing orgs or gay business owners preying off of stereotypes, fear and prejudice, the result is the same. They make money by making people feel bad about themselves.
The initiative page is hosted on a separate domain and visitors can only know that it’s owned by a gay matchmaking site by checking out the text at the bottom of the page; the About Us page never mentions its owner. It assures visitors that private information is “never sold or given to third parties for any purpose,” but turning over personal details to the website will likely get your info dumped in the dating site’s databases. After all, the owner isn’t a third party.
Once a gullible guy signs up via the 30or30 form, he could be contacted by the dating site. Since abstinence-only plans aimed at adults aren’t realistic and never succeed, they’ve included the option of not having sex with a new boyfriend for 30 days. Need a new boyfriend? They can conveniently help you find one for as low as $50 a month.
The press release announcing the initiative acknowledges who owns the site. They say they are asking “those in the GLBT community to help remove the stereotype and sexual proclivities that predominate the gay culture” and repeat the same dubious unsubstantiated statistics.
“Our motivation for starting this effort came from our clients and the experiences they shared with our matchmakers," says Benjamin Boyajian, owner and founder of Gayquation. "It was amazing the stories that were told, dating as single gay men. You could hear the frustration and cynicism in their voices, even from men in their 20's. Together we shared the same sentiment 'enough is enough!’ We felt the need to do something, even if it meant a small dent.”
After multiple attempts to reach the company they responded to set up an interview, but then never followed through despite several more attempts to follow up.
According to Boyajian’s personal website, he does not actually make matches for Gayquation clients himself. Instead, he offers his matchmaking services privately outside of the site — effectively as competition for his own company.
The way it stands, the only thing Boyajian’s company is matching with its 30or30 campaign, is the religious right.
Bil Browning is a long-time gay activist and writer. He is the founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Bilerico Project. He is an established conference speaker and regularly appears on news stations like CNN, MSNBC, FOX or NPR. He has been featured prominently on the front page of the New York Times and his work is regularly discussed across the country.