Monday, October 30, 2006

Objectification 37 / Personality 4

When I first discovered Manhunt, it seemed like a great idea: you leaf through the pages; find something that looks appealing; and place your order. Simple as In the actual world, I've been surprised by the real heat generated by men I'd never pick out of a catalog. A sort of opposite corollary developed after a few transactions in the virtual venue - I discovered that even if what arrives is the exact size, shape, and color desired, matching in every way the description and depictions, that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be satisfied with what shows up on the door step. Buyers remorse. It took a number of tries before I realized it, but the M.H. is just not my thing. But I'm still on it all the time. The site still seems to be in it's ascendancy - its always packed with guys online - and has become sort of an electronic gay home room in addition to the premiere hook up site. I use it now primarily for voyeuristic thrills and to spy on the efforts of my buddies. We write snarky comments back and forth regarding especially cringeworthy profiles and our own relative slattern-ness. It's fun. Unfortunately, all the other guys I've "met" on the site are still floating around in the Manhunt ether as well. They wanna chat - usually with salatious intentions - but honestly, at this post coital juncture in our relationships, I have nothing left to say to most of these guys.

My solution to too much visibility was to establish a stealth profile. My original M.H. profile is very Ed-like. The text conveys my personality, sense of humor, interests and outlook. It is replete with clear and current face and full length pictures of me smiling and happily engaged in wholesome, fully clothed pursuits. The stealth profile takes a different tack. There is no personality presented, no details other than height, weight, and age, no face picture and no text save for the instruction that applicants unlock all of their images before bothering me. The whole substance of the post is five photographs. Yes. Like many men having a digital camera, ample free time and a borderline-obsessive degree of narcissism, I've taken a lot of pictures particular aspect of male anatomy which is never far from the thoughts and concerns of gay men. Quite a number of pictures, and really good ones, it seems. I'm not sure if it's the camera angles, lighting, or my compositional skills as an artist/designer, but the response has been remarkable.

This doesn't make me happy at all. A number of men to whom I'm completely invisible in the streets and bars of Philadelphia and New York have noticed this other on line self. Some have been introduced to me a number of times, though retain no memory of this. Others assiduously avoid any and all eye contact with me when we cross paths in the establishments where we and our common acquaintances congregate. A few have not responded to (occasionally having deleted unread) the friendly and upbeat messages I've sent to them from my real profile. However, they find the stealth profile strangely compelling, expressing their delight in the images and expounding at length in all manner of graphic detail exactly how, where, and to what duration and degree they would like the pictured appendage applied. I don't of course reply to these men.

I was in San Francisco recently, and decided to perform an experiment. Both of my profiles were unknown there. I changed the address of each to The City by the Bay, and logged them on simultaneously during the heavily trafficked after work period, dutifully refreshing each regularly to keep both profiles right at the beginning of the list of candidates. I ran the test for an hour. The results: stealth profile received thirty seven contacts, while real profile garnered a paltry four - and one of those was from a previous Philadelphia contact who'd wondered if I'd moved to California. Ah, the commodities game! It's that old truism from advertising: don't reveal details that might give prospective buyers any reasons to say no.
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