Love & Sex

I Did It For Science: Gay Bar

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image I Did It For Science by Grant Stoddard

To see how I fare as an object of carnal desire in a gay club.

State your hypothesis in the form of a prediction that can be verified by the results of the experiment.

If Pat Benatar’s theory is correct — if love is, in fact, a battlefield — then girls are the mighty coalition forces and dudes are a rag-tag band of conscripts, each armed with a rusty rifle and a white flag. At least that’s how I’ve always thought about it. Some friends of mine are naturally adept at cracking the signs and signifiers that comprise girl-code. Many of them possess even less charm, wit and spunk than I do, God bless ’em. They can make smart, pretty, funny girls laugh at their jokes and touch them suggestively before pulling them into a cab. I’m inevitably left behind, scratching my big dumb head before going home to rub my dumber, smaller one . . . while crying.

Even after intensive tutoring from a dating coach, I’m as effective as a cow with a fountain pen when it comes to dropping lines with the ladies. But maybe it’s the ladies who are the problem. What if I were to interact with a group that ostensibly thought and acted like me? Namely, other gentlemen. I’m guessing that, like hetero guys, gay men like to at least talk straight. And, as men, they also think about sex every seven seconds on average. In a setting where I could shrug off the whole Mars/Venus residency issue, would my advances be more enthusiastically received? Sure, I’ve locked lips with an XY in the name of science before, but that was a setup. This time, I wanted to go undercover, set a trap and see who wandered in. It’d be like fishing for lobsters . . . only I wanted to catch gay men, not lobsters. (Point of clarification: although I haven’t ruled out man-love as a personal option, I’m predominantly attracted to women.)

Please list all the materials required for this experiment (including, if applicable, how they were obtained).

Drink tickets
Bright orange sleeveless T-shirt.

In this portion of your report, you must describe step-by-step what you did in your lab. It should be specific enough that someone who has not seen the lab can follow the directions and recreate the same lab.

Job One was to find the best venue for my big night out. I polled a few of my gay friends, who proclaimed my dressed-down look “too gross” for the competitive clubs in Chelsea, the West Village and the appropriately named Meatpacking District. “Your thing is definitely more . . . East Village,” said Eric, as he gave me the ol’ up ‘n’ down. (My “thing” can best be described as “rebel without a razor or a nice pair of slacks.” What can I say? I like to keep it real.) He suggested a few appropriate dives: the Phoenix, the Cock (which Eric admitted was totally scuzzy, despite its classy moniker) and, lastly, the Hole. Apparently, the Hole is the place to be on Thursday nights, not only for men seeking men but also for the discerning drunkard on a budget. The cover charge is ten bucks; once inside, everything you can get down your throat is free. There’s an open bar too.

Let’s back up for a second. In the past, I’ve been accused of being a tad fey. First, I have an outrageous British accent, which my colonial friends tend to associate with an innate lust for cock. Second, because I hail from Mother Europe, I tend to wear snugger-fitting pants, I can’t help dancing like Molly Ringwald, and I get pedicures (but only in the summer months). Plus, after seeing Chicago, I raved about Catherine Zeta-Jones and came across all “jazz hands” for about a week. But giving my burly man-friends an occasional whiff of pinkitude is one thing , convincing a room of 200 hardened marys is quite another.

Aiming for a “casual queen” effect, I put together an outfit: Chuck Taylors, a pair of crotch-hugging jeans, a tight orange sleeveless tee and a green Army hat cocked at a jaunty angle. A cursory glance in the mirror confirmed two things: a) I looked pretty ‘mo* indeed; and b) I had worn this exact outfit several times last summer, when I wasn’t trying to convince people that I was gay as a cucumber. I guess context is everything. When my friend Brian said, as he often did, “Grant, that fucking army hat looks soooo gay,” I’d always assumed he meant it in the ’80s sense. You know, as in bad. Turns out he meant I was sporting a look that would make Marc Almond blush.

I decided to bring my gal pal Jenny along to the bar. Brian wasn’t going to miss this for the world, and he brought his camera along to document the night’s events. I even got Eric on board to give me pointers on how getting dudes all hot and bothered is done.

* ‘mo abbrev. From homosexual.

Quantify the effects of the experiment.

We got to the Hole around 10:45. The place was almost empty. Brian, Eric, Jenny and I did a quick lap around the joint, then I took off my sweater to show them the goods. I was met with a chorus of “Mmmmm, you look nice!” I handed the bartender my drink ticket with a wink and a big tip. He pressed the ticket back into my palm, saying, “This one’s on me, sweetheart.” Crikey! That doesn’t happen in regular bars too often. I deduced that either he was looking to get fucked, or he just wanted the tips to keep flowing all night. Maybe both.

Unfortunately, the Hole’s management had decided their “ten dollars, all you can drink” policy was totally bonkers. They had changed it to $10 for five free drinks, then $2 a drink after that. Still, it’s an amazing deal, considering that plenty of downtown bars charge ten bones for a weak-ass Sea Breeze. I’m harping on about this drink deal because it led me to believe I’d be walking into a crowd of dudes so wasted that they’d fling themselves at me with reckless abandon.

Instead, we walked into a straight-up bar brawl: two pissed-looking dudes were really going to work on each other. I don’t know what the fight was about, but it involved none of the open-handed bitch-slapping I expected. No wonder Oscar de la Hoya is a gay icon. Quick as a flash, the friendly booze-merchant leaped over the woodwork and ejected the guys with a minimum of fuss. I hadn’t seen a bar fight in five years of living in New York, and I certainly wasn’t expecting one tonight.

After the undesirables were flung out, the desirables went back to their chatting and their Cosmos. “So, what’s your type?” asked Eric. I didn’t really have one. I glanced around the room and picked out a few guys who kind of looked like me. I guess that’s narcissism for you. “You’ve got to make yourself available,” advised Eric. “Get in the mix, man!” echoed Brian, who was loving every second of my gay debut. My gaybut, if you will.

I decided to suck down a few more cocktails before starting my quest for cock and tail. Suitably buzzed (it doesn’t take much), I grabbed Jenny’s hand and led her onto the rapidly filling dance floor. We proceeded to get our freak on to Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty.” Apparently Jenny is a closet fag hag. She certainly looked the part: she was wearing a cocked beret over her straightened auburn mane, and red press-on talons. “This color is called ‘aperitif,'” she shouted over the music after almost taking my eye out.

After three free drinks, I felt pretty silly. I started busting some dance moves I wouldn’t dare try in front of my bedroom mirror. I can honestly say that all eyes were on me, but I attribute that to my epileptic jig, not my hunky bod. Jenny and I were among the first on the dancefloor, but pretty soon, the scene was banging.

A couple of years ago, the scene was quite literally banging: after becoming a popular destination for public sex, the Hole’s lower level was closed. Rumor had it that tonight would involve some kind of grand re-opening. (“No, no,” quipped Brian, “everyone’s here for the Grant opening!”) But aside from the fistfight, an evening at the Hole was unfolding like a night at any other club.

That was about to change. Get two hundred horny gay dudes together, get ’em all shitty on liquor and cocaine, and before long, everybody’s a little handsy. Eric soon became too drunk to offer any cogent mating advice, so I just followed his lead, inhaling another free cocktail and diving deep into the scrum of gyrating gentlemen. Hands in the air! Shit. I immediately noticed that everyone else wearing a tank top had gone through the trouble of trimming their underarm hair. Even with my arms down, I looked like I had Don King in a headlock. Would it blow my cover? I couldn’t help thinking about that American spy in WWII, the one who infiltrated Germany by sprachen sie Deutsch without a trace of an accent, only to arouse suspicion by holding his knife and fork like an American. I think he ended up getting shot against a wall in Colditz.

I was convinced that my twin thickets would make me persona non grata, but suddenly a pretty young fashionisto grabbed my hips, pulled me nose-to-nose and started freaking my shit! Brian led the cheers from the peanut gallery. The stranger nuzzled my neck and squeezed me tight, while another chap bumped him from behind in an aggressive spooning formation. Then Fashionisto put his left hand on my right hip and his right hand on my left. In one deft motion, he spun me around like a top. In seconds, I was at the business end of a five-man conga line, getting the “hot dog in the bun,” if you know what I mean. Oh, the humanity! An unsolicited erect penis between the buttocks can be a less-than-pleasurable experience, even through pants. While being dry-humped by this testosterone man-caterpillar, I felt a pang of guilt for waking up my girlfriends so intrusively every morning.

Casanova was starting to get rough. I attempted to holler for Brian’s assistance, but the music drowned me out. Every downbeat of Blur’s “Girls and Boys” was punctuated by my new friend’s increasingly brutal pelvic thrusts. Somehow, I was able to break out of his viselike grip and limp over to Brian, who was dying with laughter at the bar. After a short breather, I decided to go in for a second sortie. I stood on the barstool, quickly identified the eye of the man-storm and jumped into it.

Typically, I’m no good at approaching people without benefit of an introduction. On the rare occasions that I’ve said “Hey, how’s it going?” to a girl in a bar, I’ve come across as so totally disco that I’ve felt compelled either to apologize for my cheesiness or follow up with, “So, what’s your sign?” At the Hole, I was determined to right my past wrongs. I singled out a fine specimen and shimmied through the crowd toward him, practicing a few surefire lines in my head. I had a few options:

  1. The casual. “What’s up?”
  2. The confessional. “Hey, I don’t usually go up to guys in bars, but . . . “
  3. The tres disco. “Hey, you are beautiful!” replete with point-and-wink.
  4. The observational. “This music/Oh, those shoes!/This fucking guy . . . ” Each to be executed with rolled eyes and a casual nod in the direction of the DJ, some Blahniks or the guy on the dancefloor wearing water wings and a candy pacifier.

I decided on something like, “Hey, how are you tonight?” I practiced it a few times. I made eye contact from a few feet away. Our stare-down continued until I was almost nose to nose with the guy. “Uh . . . hey, how are y . . .” I sputtered. Before I could finish my sentence, one of the dude’s hands was on my neck, one was on my waist, I was being pulled into point-blank range and his full, stubbly lips were beginning to part. He sucked my bottom lip into his mouth and gave it a firm bite. It hurt. Sated, he started bumping his chest against mine in time to the music. I danced out of the huddle, mildly shocked. It couldn’t be that easy, could it?

Eric was seeing stars at this point, but he was just coherent enough to ask how I did. As I leaned in to tell him, I saw something out of the corner of my eye: Brian was poised with his camera like a skeet-shooter. Just as I realized the boys had set a photographic trap, Eric gave me a 150-proof smacker on the lips. I guess wearing a sleeveless shirt to a gay club makes you fair game. It put me in mind of the “traffic light” parties I attended in college: you wore green, yellow or red depending on whether you were looking for action, open to suggestion, or trying to give the impression that getting into your pants would be harder than shucking a clam with a lettuce leaf. At the Hole, it was assumed you were trolling for cock just by virtue of being in attendance.

Let’s talk about the advantages of being a straight guy at a fairly raunchy gay club for a second. The room was about 85% cock-heavy, but the twenty people who could be identified as girls by a layperson were really cute. Better yet, they seemed to be feeding off the fuck-it-all attitude of the other partygoers. Some of them were getting straight-up raw. I mean, really frisky. One raven-haired lass — a friend of a friend of Eric’s — swaggered up to me and said, “Are you the one who’s pretending to be gay so he can write about it?” I confirmed her suspicions. She looked me up and down and said, “You are doing a great fucking job!” I thought so too, although I wasn’t doing anything too different from my day-to-day persona at the time. She glanced at my rig, which was concealed by pants that one of Michael Jackson’s love interests would have trouble squeezing into. “Is that thing real?” she asked. Why do I have to play gay to make girls say shit like that?

I couldn’t break character, but it was hard to resist the urge. I kind of pranced around her and , drawing from my big book of stereotypes , told her that she looked fahh-bulous. She peeled the label off of a bottle of Budweiser and affixed it to the bulge in my jeans. I looked at the crowd apologetically as she watched the label fall to the floor, then pressed it on again. Before things got too intense, I swerved back into the crowd.

A thought at 1 a.m.: Does every straight guy have a gay lookalike? It was like that episode of Seinfeld. I saw a John Stamos, a Jake Gyllenhaal and several gay Strokes, Vines and Hives. But the first guy who came over and planted one on me was a bizarro version of Brian. I mean, he looked exactly like my best friend and he was trying to stick his tongue in my mouth. Of course, as he closed in on me, the real Brian was ready with the camera. (By this point, he’d made the rounds with all the cute girls. He told them that he was “totally straight” and was attending my coming-out party.) Brian’s a shady fuck.

He got his comeuppance later, though. While he was taking a piss in the men’s room, some six-foot-four ‘mo got all aggro and kicked the bathroom door off its hinges. I guess tensions were running high at the Hole that night. Later on, the same guy grabbed Brian by the lower jaw and cranium and tried to force a game of tonsil tennis. I’ve never seen Brian so worried.

At about 2:30, the vibe started getting pretty heavy. Overt making out, kneading, rubbing and stroking were easily observed. A dude with a beard started freaking me, then clamped his hand around my jaw and aimed his squirming tongue in my direction. That was a little grody. Not only did I feel a little used, but I hate beards. I immediately resolved to shave more than once a week.

By 3:00, I’d exhausted my free-drink tickets and my interest. “Come on, girls, we’re going!” I shouted to Eric and Brian. Eric was slightly the worse for wear. He gave us the two-arms-above-the-head “WHOOOO!,” a drink in each hand. Do they call it double-fisting at a place like this? He decided to stick around.

Summarize your findings. Don’t forget to attempt to identify possible variables that could result in different findings for others trying to recreate your test results.

Even on my most MDMA-fueled make-out blitzkriegs, I’ve never smooched that many people , voluntarily or otherwise , in one evening. (That puts me in the minority of most socially adept people I know; I can name, or at lest describe, every woman I’ve ever kissed.) At the Hole, the flurry of face-sucking made every interaction seem so anonymous and transient. It kind of boggled my mind and made me feel a little blue. The only time I saw contact info being exchanged was when some hopped-up rocker chick shouted her email address to Brian above the music.

What set the night apart from an outing at a non-gay bar was the palpable expectation of instant gratification. Although I wish that that was the status quo at the bars I frequent, it kind of skewed my experiment. I wasn’t sure if guys were responding to me, per se. They certainly weren’t responding to anything that came out of my mouth; they were more concerned with shoving something in it. I suspect that everyone got swept up in the Bacchanalian environment. As the night crept closer to tomorrow, people started behaving like there wasn’t going to be one.

Before that night, if you’d asked me whether my favorite non-gay bar should convert to a make-out zone , if unwritten gender-based expectations should be discarded and replaced with copious groping and other acts of the flesh , I probably would have said yes. But now I see the benefits of the time-honored enigma: the code that, once cracked, can lead to the good stuff. (Not to say that code doesn’t exist in gay life, or that gay bars are “wrong” or “bad.” This was a controlled experiment conducted in a very specific place with many variables: the people, the booze, my mindset. I’m sociamilizin’, not generalizin’.) This experiment was unsuccessful in that I didn’t chat or flirt with any guys, per se. I never got the chance. I guess you could say I tried to pull out my usual shock-and-awe tactics but was caught off guard by some very friendly fire.

Do you have an idea for Grant’s next I Did It for Science? Let him know here.


© 2003 Grant Stoddard and, Inc.