How do you act in a gay bar?
June 22, 2008 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Just out of the closet. Little bit socially clueless. Teach me how to behave at a gay bar.

Ok, there's no rules, just be yourself, etc. but I could use a few pointers. Picking up guys I can handle. It seems like not picking them up is the hard part. I've dated women, so I can handle pursuing people, but I don't know how to put on the brakes without acting like a jerk - I've never had to!

How do you make friends without looking like you're cruising? I would love to meet a few guys I can hang out with, and I'd rather not just screw my way into a social circle. What's the signal for "Hey let's talk more and maybe hang out sometime but I don't want to sleep with you"?

How do you deal with physical contact? I've noticed there's a lot more friendly touching than I'm used to, and I LIKE THAT JUST FINE as a friendly thing, but how do you respond without inviting more?

What if you want to get to know a guy better first? Do you get his phone number? Buy him dinner? I know this sounds ridiculous but all my dating experience is with women and this seems so completely different that I don't know where to begin.

Sorry if this is long winded. Really, any tips you've got on navigating the bar scene would be awesome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, first things first: bars aren't exactly the best place to carry on conversation. There's a reason that they are cruisy locations - nobody can hear themselves think of the gay thumpa thumpa that is ubiquitous in gay bars. So it's hard to tell you how to go about navigating a conversation that you probably wont hear half of anyway.

You might try looking for people with similar interests on a dating site. You can set your goals as "just friends" on most dating sites, and then give a list of things you enjoy doing. Then, when you email people, it should be fairly simple to say, "Hey buddy - looks like we'd have a lot to talk about since we both like x, y and z - let's get together sometime."

That's a little tough, since those things tend to feel like dates no matter how you phrase things, but luckily, after one or two "dates" usually the vibe is established as either "friend" or "more than friend." And you can probably do a good job of setting the tone for where you want things to go by being polite and friendly without being overly affectionate or fawning.

As for PDA, I don't know what to tell you, except that the traditional kiss on the cheek seems to be pretty typical and not really something that people read much into. So if people are just coming up to you to give you a light hug and a short peck on the cheek, I don't think you have to worry that they want to sleep with you. If someone gets fresh and you don't like it, usually a cocked eyebrow is enough to tell them to lay off.
posted by greekphilosophy at 5:09 PM on June 22, 2008

This is one straight guy's idea from going to one gay bar, but when a friend took me to a gay bar in Indiana, the most approachable guy there was the bartender. Obviously Your Bartender May Vary, but I wonder if it'd be a good strategy to go to the coolest looking bartender and let rip with, "Hi, I just came out! Got any advice? Who here can show me around?" Be prepared for assholery but I bet you get an interesting conversation out of it.
posted by mindsound at 7:44 PM on June 22, 2008

A lot of gay bars have trivia nights and other social events, which is a good way to facilitate meeting people, but in general I disagree with your premise that gay bars are especially cruisy or hook-up oriented. Unless you're specifically at a meat-market place (and you can tell that the minute you walk in the door), they're more of a general socializing arena, since there generally aren't a wide range of places us gays can get together and not be a conspicuous (or worse, inconspicuous) minority.

Strike up a conversation with someone. Don't put on your predatory eyes. Talk about stuff you'd talk with your other friends about. Maybe there'll be mixed signals, but chances are nothing embarrassing will happen. (And if it does, well, that's an amusing story for later.) Oh, also: for some people, mentioning early on that you already have a boyfriend gives them license to act flirty with no expectation of anything to follow.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:37 PM on June 22, 2008

Hi. Straight guy here-- but I lived for a while with a gay guy and learned a great deal, and I only mention it so that if I say anything off, anyone should feel free to contradict me.

I think one thing that might help "put the brakes on" so to speak would be mentioning early in a conversation that you have just come out of the closet. If someone is cruising at a bar, inexperience will count against you. But, most people will have a lot of empathy for someone going through the coming out process and might take an interest in helping you out in a friendly way.

If you are looking for places to meet people that are not bars, I could suggest liberal political activist groups, and gay rights lobbying groups. If you are on a college campus, there are also gay-straight alliances, and things like that. With any suggestion, you might think "the people that go to the 'gay social group' events aren't exactly the crowd I'm looking for" (like, for example, if you are more into straight-acting guys) but if you can get a foothold into a critical-mass of gay people, then you can move via cross associations into crowds that have the vibe that you are looking for.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 8:46 PM on June 22, 2008

Make sure it's not a meat market-style bar.

If it is, find your local nearest coffeeshop.
posted by mezamashii at 11:38 PM on June 22, 2008

Part of the difficulty in answering your question, beyond vague generalities, is not knowing where you are. For example, in NYC, it's quite easy to advise: Go to neighborhood bars. They're the kinds of bars without dancing, without ear-splitting music, and without crowds so thick you can masturbate by squeezing between the bubble butts. (I'd name the place I'm thinking about, there, but that was in the 80's). These sorts of places are good to meet people and talk. Unfortunately, you have to be in a heavily queer city to get that kind of variety (NYC, SF).

Otherwise? Still depends on your locality. Some places have more, some less. Volunteer organizations? Gay activist groups? Gay plays? Just about gay anything, as available where you are. Campus groups are really good.
posted by Goofyy at 2:45 AM on June 23, 2008

Maxwell_Smart -- I think one thing that might help "put the brakes on" so to speak would be mentioning early in a conversation that you have just come out of the closet. If someone is cruising at a bar, inexperience will count against you. But, most people will have a lot of empathy for someone going through the coming out process and might take an interest in helping you out in a friendly way.

Fresh meat! I'm sure for some that could be a turnoff, but the new kid on the block is going to at least be the subject of some curiosity. I would suggest not dwelling on the women you've dated, though.

Yes, you want a quiet bar, and perhaps some sort of non-bar activity full of gay people. Outdoor club? Social games league (kickball, dodgeball)? Volunteering? If you're in a big enough city, you should be able to find the "gay versions" of all of these. Then people will go out for drinks afterward and you'll not only know where to go, you'll have drinking buddies, too.

Good luck! Keep us posted :]
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:18 AM on June 23, 2008

if I say anything off, anyone should feel free to contradict me.

OK: to a lot of guys, "I just came out" = "fire sale on fresh meat."

To a lot of other guys (I'd probably include myself here, to be honest), "I just came out" = "I'm going to spend the next six months to a year talking about insecurities and 'new experiences' that you worked through years ago and will now find really boring."

That said, try to find guys in your age group who are likely to be in the same stage of the coming-out process. Also, most social groups tend to have at least one member who's really outgoing and welcomes new people easily and will probably be a gateway to meeting other friends. It's just an inexplicable rule of thumb and you'll usually run into them by accident. Just go out and meet people. Something will stick.
posted by kittyprecious at 7:21 AM on June 23, 2008

Go to Pride, if you haven't already missed your local one for this year. Check out the booths for various groups -- outdoor activities, gay youth, pets, religious orgs, etc. Strike up conversations with people. Daytime at Pride is a great time/place for meeting potential friends. Nighttime is better for the hookups.
posted by notashroom at 9:49 AM on June 23, 2008

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