www. Online Hookups 4 Students .co.nz

www. Online Hookups 4 Students .co.nz

The concept of online dating has quivered menacingly on the edge of my consciousness ever since a friend of mine began using it a few years ago. While I am yet to overcome the mental hurdle of actually signing up to one of the numerous sites on offer, I found myself intrigued by fellow students who have done this very thing.


Impatient with the desolate Dunedin dating scene, Alice* signed up to NZDating at the tender age of 19. “My flatmate and I thought we’d try it because we were sick of the state of the guys in Dunedin. Not that they’re all bad, but we were looking for something a bit more serious.” Whilst it could reasonably be argued that at 19 it is unlikely that one could already have truly exhausted one’s entire potential romantic cohort, Alice nonetheless threw caution to the winds and for three months was part of that parallel universe that lies behind sites like FindSomeone, MatchFinder and DatingNZSingles.

Alice was immediately inundated with requests for close encounters of a carnal kind. “You can choose if you’re looking for sexual meetings or just for friends or a relationship. I think my profile said just ‘looking for a relationship’ but it didn’t stop some people. I had an influx of old men messaging me, one offering $200 for me to sleep with him, as well as lots of young couples wanting threesomes.” Unable to handle the pressure, Alice’s flatmate abandoned ship almost immediately. But they say that good things come to those who wait, and Alice was pleasantly surprised when Charlie*, an apparently “normal” law and politics student, messaged her wanting to get to know her. The two ended up being together for several months.

But although Charlie had no qualms about the way the two met, Alice did. When anyone asked her, Alice would “think up an excuse and just say though a friend or something. It just sounds like you’re really desperate for a boyfriend if you do online dating.” This stigma led to some intra-flat tension for Alice, as one of her flatmates never warmed to Charlie – “the only reason she didn’t like him was because he was from online dating and she didn’t trust him.” Indeed, though she was perfectly positive when describing her now ex-boyfriend, Alice herself was never fully able to shake the suspicion that there was something shady about him. “Even now I think, ‘why were you on that website?’”


It was back in third year that the now 23-year-old Oscar felt he was getting a bit long in the tooth when it came to romance. The time had come for him to start being proactive, and he got into online dating after lamenting his lack of a love life to an older gay friend who recommended he try it. Using sites like NZDating, Manhunt and Bro2Bro, Oscar has since met with approximately 20 men he has found online – not always for sex, but most of the time.

Oscar disparagingly recounts that he’s been “propositioned to sleep with someone for beer and pizza. He was 64 and he had a wife.” However, such solicitations have by no means been his worst online dating experiences. Oscar considers the dishonesty that can be associated with online dating (that is, meeting people that don’t look like their photograph) to be its main disadvantage. “I’ve had two of those [experiences] – where I go to someone’s house and they look like a troll – and they’re very distressing.”

“I was going to meet up with this dude – he sent me photographs of himself frolicking on the beach looking amazing. In retrospect, I should have realised that somebody who looks that good probably isn’t going to be on NZDating. I turn up to this house in South Dunedin (should have known) and it was a creepy Buddhist guy who ushered me into his room that had chanting and incense and a single bed.”

Fortunately, Oscar was able to extricate himself before ending up as some sort of Tantric sacrifice, and he did not allow this one untoward experience to stop him getting back on the Manhunt horse. However, he had another similar incident only this year. “It was in the North East Valley,” Oscar sighs, resignedly. “I am now loath to go out to South Dunedin or to the NEV because … the people that live there … I’m probably not going to find attractive. This guy was in this crappy house and I got down to the end of the hallway and there was this strange dog and crap everywhere and he was like, 4’11”, and came at me.”

Revelling, as we all are, in that illusion of invincibility afforded to us by youth, I was unsurprised when Oscar admitted that safety is not his primary concern when it comes to arranging these meetings. However, referring to the NEV incident, Oscar muses that “if he hadn’t been a little ugly man, he could have kept me in his rape dungeon at the back of his house.” Indeed, before going on any late-night excursions, Oscar “makes sure that I always save a search of the Google-mapped address, so that if ever I don’t come back, the police can look at my computer and track him down.”

Remind me again why this is a good idea?

I was becoming increasingly less sold on the presumed merits of online dating. (Surely I am not the only one to be put off by a veiled reference to Alf Stewart’s depraved extra-curricular activities?) It was obvious to me why middle-aged-and-older people use these sites, whether they be recently divorced, looking for an affair, or simply out of the game for too long. But it was less clear why my own peers – brimming with sexual promise and with an apparently endless stream of opportunities to socialise in real life – would resort to online dating.

It had seemed to me that once one has crossed this nefarious threshold – admitting romantic defeat in the real world – one is only a pair of stomach-controlling knickers away from dying fat and alone, as Bridget Jones always feared, to be found three weeks later, half-eaten by Alsatians. When I asked Alice why she thinks our peers use sites like NZDating, she answered that students, particularly those of the international and homosexual persuasions, “are kind of out of their comfort zone when they move to Dunedin – they want to find someone and don’t really know how. Because when people go to town, they’re not usually there looking for a relationship.”

Not only does meeting people online omit much of the ambiguity that real-life courtship can entail, but it also enables people to expand their social circle beyond those with whom they would usually come into contact on a day-to-day basis. Jorge*, a friend of Oscar’s who utilises similar sites, notes that “students are by far not the majority of users.”

This widened cohort is particularly significant for the gay community. According to Associate Professor Chris Brickell of the Gender Studies Department here at Otago, because it is “a small community within a community, it’s easier to find out who is gay by going online and having a bit of a ferret around.” Brickell chuckles. “It makes finding a needle in a haystack a bit easier.”

Oscar is inclined to agree. “I don’t really see any fair excuse for straight people, it’s easier for them to meet other straight people – if you’re wanting to have a gross hook-up, surely a straight guy or girl goes to Monkey? It’s not that easy for gay guys.” Jorge concurs. He first looked at one of these sites as a young teenager before he had come out, and explains that “when you’re not out, it’s kind of hard to see a gay scene. It was kind of a curiosity thing, at first.”

On that note

The differences between the straight and gay communities on these websites, both demographically and they way each group seems to use them, has long been a source of interest for me. Most if not all of Jorge’s gay friends use online dating sites, while Oscar can’t think of a single straight friend who does. Further, in Oscar’s empirical experience, “the heterosexual male category is older than the gay ... Obviously, there are still older gay guys on the sites, but there are way more 38, 45, 53-year-olds that are heterosexual on them, whereas the gay group is a little bit younger.” Brickell also notes that gay men seem more likely to have sexually explicit profile pictures – “cock shots” – than heterosexual men, and the normalcy of this seems to have made it an accepted part of gay online dating culture.

Dangerous liaisons

Whilst the horizon-broadening aspect of online dating can be something of a mixed blessing, having a whole world of potential flings and friends at your fingertips is what drives the explosive popularity of apps like Grindr and Blendr, which literally show you, in real time, another user’s geographic proximity in relation to your own. According to Jorge, Grindr has even become integral, for some, to the coming out process itself. But do these apps normalise and enable behaviours that are potentially damaging to an individual or society’s health? Brickell notes there has been a public health argument made against online dating – that “the ease of hooking up with people online has led to an increase in unsafe sex practices.” However, a person inclined to engage in unsafe sex may have this proclivity wherever they happen to meet the people they bone – online or at Monkey Bar. Brickell himself remains unconvinced. “They’ve never posited a causal mechanism that I think’s convincing. I suspect that, if there is an increase in rates of unsafe sex in young people, it’s partly got to do with the perceptions of treatability of sexually transmitted infections, and HIV in particular.”

Blurry lines

Given how technologically savvy we Youth Of Today are, how Facebooked, Instagrammed and Tweeted our lives have become, and our generation’s seemingly inexhaustible capacity to do things “ironically,” the stigma attached to young people using online dating is, in some ways, difficult to understand. Surely it is more in keeping with the way we conduct our social relations in general to think about online dating as simply being on a “trajectory of evolving ways of meeting people,” as Brickell puts it. It is, after all, a means to initiate relationships that generally seem to follow the typical dinner-and-a-movie path, even though they were formed via a URL.

Given that interfacing is done increasingly via smart phones in pockets rather than boxy PC monitors in darkened rooms, online dating could certainly drift, slowly but surely, into the mainstream. Contrary to Alice’s experience, both Oscar and Jorge have found they can speak of their online dating experiences freely with friends, who, though intrigued, are not at all bothered by the guys’ virtual courtships. For this reason, Jorge thinks that online dating is becoming more socially acceptable, even amongst young people.

Sooner rather than later, online dating might be truly considered complementary to, or even a logical extension of, the way we conduct our romantic relations, rather than a mark of having given up. Indeed, according to Brickell, the “real and virtual lives” dichotomy has become an anachronism: “the online social world and on offline social world are overlapping constantly. While the Internet transforms some elements of social relationships, it’s not completely another world.”

Proponents of online dating like Oscar and Jorge feel that, though relationships may be conceived online, the world into which they are born and nurtured is very much one not of pixels but of flesh and blood. “Give it a go, what’s the harm?” says Oscar. “I don’t think there should be a social stigma about online dating at all. None of my friends are mad online dating losers that just sit on their computers all day.” In truth, the demise of so many of our favourite watering holes could make online dating increasingly appealing – even necessary – as Dunedin morphs, with grim inexorability, into a wasteland of bygone, pub-based promiscuity.
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2013.
Posted 6:05pm Sunday 7th July 2013 by Brittany Mann.