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Hook-up addiction?

Apps and sex sites offer quick thrills, but could keep you from the LTR you seek

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smartphone, gay news, Washington Blade
smartphone, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy bigstock.com)

Dear Michael,

I seem to be spending more and more time on my phone lately, looking for hookups, but I’m having some doubts that this is all good. Pro: I’m meeting lots of hot guys and having a lot of hot sex. Con: I still am not in a relationship and want to have a boyfriend. Pro: All my friends are on the same apps and we have a lot of fun comparing notes. Con: We don’t seem to talk about much else. Pro: It gives me a rush and feels fun.  Con: I think it’s eating up all my time. Pro: It’s fun to be able to meet guys quickly, wherever I am. Con: I almost had an accident while looking for guys on my phone while driving through North Carolina.

What do you think?

Possibly Screwed by my App

Dear Screwed,

Hooking up with people and the hunt for hookups, can feel great. Our brains produce chemicals that give us intense feelings of pleasure not just when we have sex, but also as we move toward getting naked: during foreplay, while we’re flirting, and — if we’re using an app to look for potential partners — when we take the very first step of launching the app. So, as you start scanning all those alluring possibilities on your phone, you are triggering a neurochemical response in your brain that can create an awesome high.

The problem is, because simply getting on the app makes you feel good, you are likely to get on it more and more often. And because actually finding hookups makes you feel good, you can easily get obsessed with chasing this particular high.

If it sounds like I’m using the language of addiction: You’re right, I am.

Now, let’s look at your situation from a slightly different perspective. The road to hooking up can be a speedy route to feeling attractive and desired. The validation we get, from both hookups and potential hookups, can seem like a powerful self-esteem boost. Typically, this leads us to pursue more and more hookups. Gay men, who usually have a core experience of feeling different and defective, are highly susceptible to this sort of fix.

Some problems with this: The boost is fleeting, because external praise for our surface attributes doesn’t really change how we feel about ourselves and we are likely to spend more and more time chasing short-lived validation from people we hardly know.  If you don’t actually feel good about endlessly pursuing hookups, then hanging out with your app will ultimately lower your self-esteem. This is the opposite of what you’re looking for — and what you feel like you’re getting — when you launch the app.

The upshot is, you may be addicted to an experience that is keeping you hunting for hookups, even though you say you want a relationship. And because the particular high of intense excitement that you are chasing is a very different experience from the intimacy and commitment of a relationship, you are conditioning your brain to crave hookups, and their pursuit, rather than something more long-term.

If you want to make a change, you would benefit tremendously from strong support, because it isn’t easy to stop a behavior with such seductive and pleasurable payoffs, even if there are also negative consequences. You report that all your friends are similarly engaged, which makes it difficult to do something different. Consider looking for an additional social network (live rather than virtual) and perhaps a therapist knowledgeable about this issue to help you broaden your sources of pleasure, stimulation and connection.

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at personalgrowthzone.com. All identifying information in the questions has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to [email protected].

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Out & About

Calendar: June 18-24

Events in the week to come

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Friday, June 18

Join the National Archives and Bishopsgate Institute Special Collections and Archives as they present their LGBTQ+ archive collections virtually at 8 a.m. In this event, Vicky Iglikowski-Broad from The National Archives and Stefan Dickers from Bishopsgate will explore the different strengths of their collections, to reflect on how they can be used together to build a fuller picture of LGBTQ+ lives. Event registration is available on Eventbrite.

“DISDance, Pride Edition- Still We Dance” will be at 6:30 p.m. Join the D.C. Public Library and show your Pride by dancing with the Library’s Freegal music collections. Post a video or photo of you and your crew dancing or lip-syncing to Instagram and tag D.C. Public Library on Instagram (@dcpubliclibrary) using the tags #DCPLDanceParty and #StillWeDance. The library’s favorite videos will be shared, and crown the video with the most likes the virtual Queen of Pride. All four Pride playlists are available on Freegal with the names Still We Lead, Still We Live, Still We Laugh, and Still We Love.

Saturday, June 19

Join the DC Center for its virtual job club, a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking. The event begins on Zoom at 6 p.m. For more information, email [email protected].

Sunday, June 20

Join the DC Center and the Beta Kappa Chapter of the Beta Phi Omega Sorority for a peer-led support group devoted to the joys and challenges of being a Black lesbian. You do not need to be a member of the Beta Kappa Chapter or the Beta Phi Omega Sorority in order to join, but they do ask that you either identify as a lesbian or are questioning that aspect of your identity. This event will be hosted on Zoom at 1 p.m. More details are available here.

Monday, June 21

The Center Aging Coffee Drop-In will still take place virtually at 10 a.m. via Zoom. LGBT Older Adults (and friends) are invited to have friendly conversations about current issues they might be dealing with. For more information, visit Center Aging’s webpage.

Join GenderQueer DC for a monthly support group on Zoom for people who identify outside of the gender binary. Whether you’re bigender, agender, genderfluid, or just know that you’re not 100% cis – this is your group. The event will be at 7 p.m. For more information, visit genderqueerdc.com.

Tuesday, June 22

The European Union Delegation to the United States will host “Joining Forces for LGBTI Rights Around the World” virtually at 9:30 p.m. This event is a discussion on how the international community can help advance LGBTI rights around the world and will feature panelists: Mark Bromley, chair of The Council for Global Equality, Olena Shevchenko, director of Insight, and Urooj Arshad, senior program manager of Dignity for All: LGBTIQ+ Assistance Program, Freedom House. Registration for this free event is available on Eventbrite.

“Rainbow Challah Tutorial and Discussion” will be at 5 p.m. on Zoom. All are welcome to attend this event. Challah is a type of bread traditionally baked to celebrate the Jewish sabbath. Attendees will be provided with the recipe and materials list in advance if they would like to make it at home. There will also be a discussion about food, identity, and community. For more information, email [email protected] or call 202-543-1778 x204.

Wednesday, June 23

Capital Pride Alliance and Hook Hall will host “Hooked on Capital Pride” at 2 p.m. There will be drink specials, music, and celebration of all things LGBTQ+. A portion of the proceeds from this event will support the Capital Pride Alliance and partner Pride organizations responsible for producing Youth Pride, Silver Pride DC, DC Black Pride, DC Latinx Pride, Capital AAPI Pride, and Trans Pride, through the GivePride365 Fund. Every reservation will include a bottle of Rose Bubbly, and cabana reservations will come with a bonus celebration kit! For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

Join the LGBTQIA Alliance Washington National Cathedral for a free webinar featuring Billy Curtis, director, Gender Equity Resource Center UC Berkeley on Zoom at 8 p.m. Curtis is a community activist and advocate who was hired as UC Berkeley’s first full-time director for LGBT Resources in 1999. Curtis is currently the director of the university’s Gender Equity Resource Center. To register for this event, visit: capitalpride.org.

Thursday, June 24

Join the DC Public Library for a poetry reading with Micah Powell from his book “Things No One Else Wants to Say.” Micah will read from his book and join a conversation with DC’s own Regie Cabico, poet and director of Capturing Fire Press. The event will be hosted on Facebook and YouTube at 5:30 p.m. To register, visit the library’s website.

Hope in a Box will host “Books That Make Us: A Pride Month Celebration of LGBTQ+ Stories” online at 8 p.m. The event will feature a number of notable figures including Jahana Hayes, member of Congress (D-Conn.) and 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Zach Stafford, columnist for MSNBC and former editor of the Advocate. Tickets are available at: hopeinabox.splashthat.com.

The DC Anti-Violence Program will have an open meeting via Zoom at 7 p.m. At this meeting, there will be opportunities to learn more and get involved in lessening violence both within and directed toward the LGBT communities. To access the Zoom link, email [email protected].

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Blade live chat with ‘Real Housewives’ author Moylan

Interview to ‘spill the tea’ on all aspects of hit Bravo franchise

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Join the Washington Blade for a live interview with Brian Moylan, a former Blade staffer and author of the new book “The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives.” The book explores the origins and ongoing popularity of the franchise. Moylan will be interviewed by his former boss, Blade editor Kevin Naff. The two promise to “spill the tea” Housewives-style about all aspects of the hit Bravo franchise, including whether or not the shows are scripted and just how controlling Bravo is when it comes to marketing the Housewives.

The interview will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 24 and will stream on all Blade social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The interview will be uploaded to Instagram after it concludes.

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Out & About

SAAM celebrates drag culture, American art

Virtual bingo night hosted by KC B. Yoncé

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The Smithsonian American Art Museum will host “Virtual Drag Queen Art Bingo Night” on Friday, June 18 at 7 p.m. The event will be hosted by DC drag diva KC B. Yoncé.

Event attendees are encouraged to register now and request 1 to 4 printable bingo cards featuring artwork by American artists who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

D.C.-area registrants are eligible to get 10% off Red Bear Brewing’s official 2021 Pride Helles lager, Smash Me With A House. This offer is available for pick up only while supplies last. Must be 21+ with proper ID and show SAAM coupon to Red Bear Brewing staff to apply the discount.

For more information, visit the museum’s website.

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