But outside of the strict historiographical constraints observed by Mr. D’Emilio, other parts of academe were giving us a little more love.
“During a recession, there’s a greater emphasis on tangibility,” said Richard Goldstein, a pop culture professor at Hunter and the former executive editor at The Village Voice. “When there’s money in the economy, you’ll take more chances and you’ll invest in things that are speculative. But everyone speculated! That’s why the banks crashed.”
To Mr. Goldstein, profiles on singles Web sites like Manhunt are a form of Internet speculation—that is, it’s virtual, it’s risky, you can’t really ever size up if that picture is really what that guy looks like. You know, like E-Trade, with the emphasis on trade.
“Now, there’s a need for things you can touch and see in front of you and whose value you gauge with your eyes and, you know, through the vibe one person gives to another which is physical, which you can’t get when it’s virtual,” he continued. “There have been too many thrills in the last decade, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the style of cruising is less virtual and more tangible.”
So, off the Internet and into the bars?
On Saturday night, a bit after midnight, two boys were testing out this theory at Cake Shop, a cafe on Ludlow Street that converts its basement into a gay punk party named Queers, Beers and Rears once a month. The two boys temporarily broke off a make-out session in order to chat.
“I think I go out more now!” said 24-year-old Josh Dull, who was wearing a Ghostbusters II trucker hat, a tight T-shirt and red suspenders fastened to skinny jeans. “I grew up poor, and this doesn’t bother me. Now everyone feels how I’ve felt my entire life.”
Around this time, the people running the door at Cake Shop wouldn’t allow any more people in—the basement had reached capacity. Near the bathroom, 24-year-old Max Steele, a hipster with a mop of red curly hair who was stripped down to nothing but a pair of black briefs, was waiting in an impossible line.
“Gays love a recession because we hate the capitalist economy that’s found in the hetero-normative patriarchy anyways,” said the young man, a law-firm drone by day and a performer and go-go dancer by night. “I say burn the motherfucker down! Right? Fuck Prop 8! Who gives a fuck? We should burn down Wall Street and take over New York.”
He took a sobering breath.
“Gays are the only people with dispensable money—dispensable income or whatever?” he said, telling us he was a Sarah Lawrence grad. “Well, not for me personally.”
So we wondered what he was doing out.
“I’m like $60,000 in debt from school,” he said. “I’m fucked anyway.”
Additional reporting by Joe Pompeo