OPW INTERVIEW -- Sep 15, 2007 -- Michael Alvear is the 'cruise director' for Manhunt and a sexpert. He's also the co-host of the TV show 'The Sex Inspectors' in which couples reveal their bedroom problems and are then filmed, yes filmed, in their bedroom. The program pushes the envelope for English TV. Here's my interview with Manhunt sexpert Mr Alvear. - Mark Brooks
How did you become a sex expert, Michael?
Seven or eight years ago, I was writing quirky op-ed columns. The syndicate for sex-advice columnist Dan Savage wouldn’t sell his column to gay newspapers and the editor was really angry about it. So, the editor came to me and asked me if I’d like to write the column. I picked up Savage’s book and thought it was brilliant. I started writing, the column was a hit, and I just kept expanding and syndicating it until it was in about 14 different gay newspapers. Then, it turned into a book called Men Are Pigs but We Love Bacon. That’s basically it.
What do gay guys need the most advice on?
Believe it or not, I get more letters from people who want to have a relationship than from people who have any kind of real sexual problem. That’s been the biggest surprise for me. I get letters from people who don’t understand why they don’t have a relationship or why they’re not dating. You wouldn’t expect it from a site whose slogan is “Get On/Get Off”, but Manhunt can produce some really heartbreaking letters. I think Manhunt has become this all-purpose place whether you’re looking for a quickie or a long-term relationship. If you go to any city on the site and put in “LTR” (long-term relationship), you’ll get hundreds and hundreds of profiles. And if you put in something absolutely sexual, like “hung” or “bottom” or “top”, you’ll get about as many.
From a strictly sex standpoint, the biggest questions are about anal sex. Also, a lot of the “problems” in the bedroom tend to actually exist outside the bedroom. I get a lot of questions about how can I get my boyfriend to do something, how can I get my boyfriend to stop doing something, how can I get a boyfriend period. I’ve written advice columns for both straight women and gay men and I noticed how much more graphic gay men are when phrasing their questions. A lot of their questions are a little X-rated, but at least you get to the heart of the matter very quickly.
What do straight women need the most advice on?
The top two sexual issues for women are lowered libidos and a loss of sensation. With men, the two biggest issues are premature ejaculation, if you’re under 30, and impotence after 40. In terms of the relationship questions, there is almost no difference between men and women. The absolute biggest relationship issue is what I call desire discrepancy. That’s when you’re hot for sex and your partner’s not and the person with the low desire feels harassed and pressured and the person with the high libido feels rejected and abandoned. It creates a real dilemma for couples.
Any other interesting questions?
Some people ask how they can use the site better to attract people. I don’t think it’s that much different than going to a bar. If you have a picture of nothing but your body and your body parts, then you’re making it really hard to interest someone, unless you’re just looking for anonymous sex. Some people want to date someone, but they’re not willing to put up their face picture. Others put up face pictures, but they’re not smiling. Would you go up to somebody in a bar who wasn’t smiling and not looking at you? I think the same rules apply.
What’s the craziest question you’ve ever had?
The most interesting question I’ve gotten was from a guy with two good friends who had never met each other before. One of them was HIV positive and the other was HIV negative. They all went out one night and sparks were flying. It was clear the two friends went home together and the guy felt guilty and wanted to know if he should have told his HIV negative friend that the other one was positive. I’ve gotten HIV questions before, but they’re about how to tell, when to tell, those sorts of things. This was the first time I had gotten a question from a guy in the middle, and so I thought that was very interesting. It was all about divided loyalties.
Alright, as for the craziest one. This white guy goes home with a black guy. The black guy gives him a condom and the white guy freaked out when he put it on because the condom was black. He thought the guy had put ink on his dick or something. So, he freaks out and rips it off and the black guy gets all insulted and thinks he brought home a racist. But, the white guy just didn’t know that condoms come in darker colors.
I think every online dating site should have a sex-advice column because when you’re dealing with romance and dating, you’re dealing with sex. And there is so much ignorance out there. There is so much fear, alienation, and isolation. People will ask me medical questions because they’re not “out” to their doctors yet. One guy wanted to know if his hemorrhoids where from God punishing him for having anal sex.
In the beginning, Manhunt was divided about content. Would people really read the content? But, it’s been a phenomenal success. Six months into it, every two weeks I get an aggregated list of questions and the last one filled up 31 pages of a Word document. And this was on a site that never had content before. Unlike other sites, where you have to go through nine layers to even figure out where their column is, Manhunt puts me in a very prominent position and does so in a way that doesn’t interfere with the basic premise of why people are there. They’ve designed and marketed it well, and that’s part of Manhunt’s brilliance.
What other sites do gay guys use? Match, Yahoo! Personals?
We use everything. I think absolutely there’s a stronger preference for the gay sites, but you have to cover all your bets. Most people I know belong to more than one online dating service. I haven’t looked at the statistics, but I’d be shocked if there weren’t a very significant number of people who belong to more than one.