Gay Dating Dynamics

There’s an odd dynamic at play in gay dating. While straight couples can struggle over money and power issues, gay couples do too – but often with different results.

One big factor is that gay men seem to have a greater sense of fun than straight couples. This might include dancing in clubs, gay cruises, exotic travel, or a love of food and drink.

1. Social Pressure

Gay men, like all people, are subject to the pressures of societal expectations that can play out in various ways in their relationships. For example, in some cases, gay male couples find themselves struggling with the question of who should assume the more traditional domestic role of breadwinner and caretaker of home and car(s). In this context, it is important for each partner to be clear about what their expectations are.

In addition, the social construction of masculine body ideals often influences gay men’s public presentations in online dating profiles. For example, gay men are more likely to use a more sexually explicit lexicon and present themselves as large, athletically toned males in their online dating bios (Oakenfull 2007; Sender 2003). Conversely, lesbian women tend to be less visible in media based representations, and therefore are less likely to be presented as stereotypically feminine bodies by their online dating bios (Sender 2000; Thorne and Copeland 1998).

Some same-sex couples also face the challenge of dealing with family members who disown or abuse them for their homosexual orientation. Therapy may be helpful in navigating these difficult dynamics.

2. Competition for Money

Unlike heterosexual couples, gay men often don’t assume traditional gender roles. However, if one of two partners earns more than the other, issues of competing for money or the “male peacock” mentality can arise.

In this exploratory study, the first author conducted 21 semistructured one-on-one interviews with Chinese gay users. Participants were asked about their motivations for using dating apps, their perceptions of app functionalities, and patterns of communication on these platforms.

Interviews were recorded on a digital audio recorder and later transcribed by the second author, who is straight and unfamiliar with the local gay dating app culture. The coding process was inductive, with minimal a priori expectations.

The first theme focuses on subjective negotiation in the context of relationships initiated on dating apps. Whether or not these relationships are to be long-term and intimate, many of the participants use these media platforms to initiate social relations with strangers. This is evidenced by their practice of platform switching, whereby they swapped contact information between platforms to keep an eye on potential relationship development.

3. Gender Expectations

Gay men are socialized to believe that “work comes first.” They’re often expected to sacrifice personal and family time for the sake of their career goals. As a result, the dynamics of gay relationships can play out differently than those in straight ones.

In mate-selection studies, homosexuals show similar mating patterns as heterosexuals of their same gender, with both sexes favoring mental, positive personality traits over physical ones (Bailey et al. 1994). However, lesbians tend to rate feminine partner characteristics more highly than masculine characteristics, suggesting a fluidity of gender performance expectations and preferences that is largely overlooked by common stereotypes.

Lesbians also rate expressiveness (i.e., affectionate, compassionate, expresses feelings) as a top characteristic in a partner (Regan et al. 2001). This could reflect the role that women play in societal norms regarding emotional expression, which may be one reason why lesbian couples experience lower levels of conflict than heterosexual couples.

4. Physical Attraction

New same-sex marriage laws and a more progressive society have empowered the LGBTQ community to form long-term, committed relationships and families. But these couples face unique stresses, especially when sex and physical attraction play a role.

Gay men and lesbians tend to emphasize mental, positive personality characteristics, family-oriented attributes, and other qualities more than a partner’s physical attractiveness when choosing a lifelong romantic or sexual partner (Regan et al.). These findings challenge stereotypes that same-gender partners are “hypersexual” or too obsessed with sex. In fact, physical attractors ranked seventh in importance on average among 21 possible attractors for both women and men in the same-gender dating sample.

However, some homosexuals who place personal ads for their own mates use terms such as “butch” and “femme” when describing themselves or the partners they seek. This language reflects gender-specific biases that have little bearing on the overall relationship.

5. Age Difference

A lot of people have a hard time with age differences in gay relationships. Even though they might be in a committed relationship, the thought of their partner dating someone much younger than them still makes some feel uncomfortable.

It may be easier to imagine a gay couple with a big age gap when you consider that some men have very different interests than women. This is why men sometimes choose partners who are a decade or more older than them. Aside from sex, some of these older men enjoy activities that appeal to their youthful (even “age-inappropriate”) side. This can include things like exotic foods, recreational drugs, and even the latest fashion trends.

If you think about it, it’s not so strange that famous straight men like Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas have wives who are a good number of years junior. Yet, when prominent gay men like Fry and Spencer start dating younger women, the tabloids are quick to brand them pedophiles. This demonstrates the underlying homophobia that still shapes society’s conventions about gay sexuality and dating.