The 3 Dating Challenges for Gay Men

Dating is a subject that all individuals can relate to – gay or straight. Dating can either be perceived as an exciting, fun experience, or it can be perceived as a dreadful necessity in order to pin down a relationship. Even though straight couples have dating challenges of their own, dating in the gay world may have its own unique set of challenges.

gay dating

1.    A Smaller Dating Pool

Like I have mentioned in my previous posts, the gay dating world is extremely small compared to the heterosexual dating world. Because gay men represent a smaller percentage of the general population, gay men’s potential dating candidates are very limited. This may create a sense of anxiety for many gay men because the “plenty of fish in the sea” analogy no longer applies. This may be true especially if gay men inhabit a very small city or town where there is a limited amount of homosexual individuals to begin with.  In addition, because the gay dating scene is a small one, gay men may encounter other gay men that they have dated on a regular basis.

2. Distinguishing Gay from Straight Men

Although straight individuals can go up to an attractive member of the opposite-sex and them out on a date, gay men may have a more difficult time doing this.  In general, gay men must distinguish their potential mating partners (gay men) from other men that are only sexually interested in the opposite-sex (straight men). Some gay men may be skilled at doing this, however some gay men may not be. In the latter case, gay men may find it troublesome to approach a man that they find attractive due to the ambiguity of the man’s sexual orientation. This may be why some gay men prefer to frequent the same gay bars instead of venturing to other bars that are seen as “straight.” If there is a greater concentration of gay men in one establishment, there will be a greater likelihood that gay men may meet a potential dating partner.

dating dilemnas

3.    A Date is also a Rival

Another unique distinction between the dating worlds of gay and straight is not only are gay men attracted to one another, but gay men are also in direct competition for dating partners. This poses a very unique dating dilemma for a gay man that is completely absent in straight dating. For instance, straight men are obviously sexually attracted to women, however straight men do not compete with women because they both desire mating partners of the opposite-sex. Conversely, because gay men are only attracted to members of the SAME-SEX, gay men can compete with one another because they share the same dating pool. Ultimately, this may create initial barriers and feelings of untrustworthiness between gay men as evidenced by recent research1.

For the most part, straight individuals are completely unaware of the unique set of challenges that gay men face in their dating world (at least in my experience). This is not surprising given that straight and gay individuals usually focus their attention on their own dating issues.


1. Russell, E. M., DelPriore, D. J., Butterfield, M. E., Hill, S. E. (2013). Friends with benefits, but without the sex: Straight women and gay men exchange trustworthy mating advice. Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 132-147.


  1. I found the part about dating as concurrent competition really interesting — could you do a full post on that sometime? As a pansexual person, this raises intriguing ideas.

  2. GradStudentX says:

    I very much liked this article. One thing that I did want to inquire about was: did you consider intrasexual competition as it is conceived of by evolutionary psychology? What I mean is the idea that men and women do compete in areas of romantic life where gay men might not? The dating pool concept you brought up was spot on (in my opinion), but it’s also interesting to consider in what ways gay men (or lesbian women) are on a similar page (from the get-go) with other aspects of dating. Just to leave one example, access to physical intimacy tends to be a greater focus (on average, based on sexual behavior strategies) for men than women early in relationships, whereas women generally (based again on behavior strategies) try to elicit more “commitment” (defined by the individual and context) before engaging in physical intimacy. But since men have more similar goals in mind regarding other men and desires for less inhibited physical intimacy, in some ways certain behaviors are facilitated, I suppose is the main point of this example. Sorry for the TL;DR post.

    • Thank you for your interest and reply! You raise some important and interesting points. It may be the case that gay men have a different brand of intrasexual competition when it comes to competing with one another for desirable men. Granted, there is not much literature out there currently that suggests that gay men compete with other gay men for partners, however, intuitively, it would make sense. I do see your point though that gay men may be on a similar page regarding aspects of dating. Because, on average, men tend to place a premium on physical intimacy earlier on (like you suggest), they may not need to compete to the same degree that women do for the “commitment factor”. With this being the case, it would be interesting to see whether there are individual differences among gay men who desire and pursue long-term romantic partners. For instance, because women value commitment earlier on, they also may compete earlier on. On the other hand, there might be more “intrasexual competition” among gay men who value this commitment earlier on in dating.

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