Queer Intimacies: Homonormative Online Dating

Davine Sorapuru-Edwards, Anthropology
NML Award: The Data Analysis and Visualization Award (June 2021)

Queer Intimacies: Homonormative Online Dating

Imagine, for a moment, portraying the best representation of yourself with a profile that only allows 15 characters for a screen name, and 250 characters to describe yourself. Challenging, right? Romantic pursuits have been revolutionized by geolocation-based dating applications. In the case of homonormative dating apps and websites use filtering algorithms allowing their subscribers to efficiently find their “type”.

With (hyper)masculinity being fetishized, and femme affect being scrutinized, we see the emergence of the #Masc4Masc (masculine for masculine) trend in digital and analog queer communities. In-fact, the phrase “no fats, no fems, no Blacks, no Asians” is seen with such frequency on some dating profiles that it has, to an extent, become normalized in the queer community. However, the opposite also takes place, where we see the fetishization of racialized men. Perhaps the only way to circumvent such an exclusionary online culture is to be strategic with what data is entered into one’s profile.

My research investigates the language ideologies, and the multifunctionality and indexicality of language used in religious and secular dating profiles, and explores topics of affect, algorithmic bias, digital identity, (hyper)masculinity, and “passing” as they relate to homonormative online dating. This research is guided by the following questions: [1] In what ways do homosexual, bisexual, and queer men use language to (re)construct their digital identities to align themselves with politics of desirability? [2] In what ways do algorithms, data, filtering options, and media affordances alter digital visibility? [3] How has the commodification and racialization of (hyper)masculinity led to an (un)intended segregation within the queer community? [4] Has the legalization of Same-Sex Marriage and the current US political climate altered the utilization of homonormative online dating?