Gay Dating 101: Key First Date Dos and Don’ts

It goes without saying that gay dating isn’t exactly a cake walk. Not only do gay men deal with many of the same pitfalls and concerns straight people do, but there are plenty of additional concerns to grapple with for good measure. This is especially the case when it comes to first dates. Doubly so if you’ve either been off the market for a while and aren’t quite sure you still understand how gay dating works or are fresh out of the closet and just getting started for the first time!

The bad news is gay men as a community are still in the process of figuring this whole dating thing out. Unlike straight people, gays don’t have years of established social blueprints and dating traditions to default to if things get confusing. That means we borrow a lot from straight folks and that doesn’t always work out. The good news is that it’s not impossible to figure things out and get a good groove going. The following dos and don’ts can help you take the guesswork out of the process.

DO establish a short time frame for your date.

When you’re meeting someone new with the intent to actually get to know one another, as opposed to just hook up for sex, it pays to do what you can to take the pressure off yourself and limiting the duration of the date is a really easy way to do that. (An hour or two is plenty of time to start with!) If things aren’t working out, you won’t feel obligated to spend an entire afternoon or evening with the person. If you really wind up clicking, you can always choose to keep things going.

DON’T go to the movies.

Movies are nothing if not popular itineraries for first dates, but maybe they shouldn’t be. On the one hand, pretty much everyone loves movies and would have a blast checking out the latest blockbuster. However, movies offer zero opportunity to actually get to know each other if that’s your objective. Choose an activity-oriented destination for your date instead – something that will give you plenty of chances to chat and interact on a potentially meaningful level (e.g. a trip to the local coffeehouse or a local festival).

DO rehearse if you’re nervous.

Even the coolest among us can get super nervous about a first date for any number of reasons. Sometimes it’s been a while since we’ve dated at all and we’ve got a case of the jitters. Other times, the guy in question really is gay man looking in mirrorhot enough to leave us tongue-tied. As much as it may sound like something out of a 90’s sitcom or a teen rom-com, it helps to roleplay a little bit with a friend before the big day. It’s definitely a good way to try out some possible conversation topics in advance. Just don’t overdo it too much or you might wind up sounding over-scripted.

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DON’T have too many expectations.

More often than not, nerve-wracking events like first dates go more smoothly when you don’t go into things with unrealistic expectations. Instead of thinking of it as “a date”, try thinking of it as a simple meet-up with someone you find interesting – an opportunity to maybe make a new friend or even just pass an afternoon. Sometimes that makes it a lot easier to just let things unfold organically. If something more comes of it, great! If not, appreciate it for the fun afternoon it was and leave it at that.

DO be careful not to overshare.

First dates are all about getting to know someone new to see there’s anything worth pursuing, serious or otherwise. It only stands to reason your date will have a lot of questions as to who you are and you’ll most likely to be eager to answer them. Just make sure you exercise some discrimination when it comes to what you do share. Definitely enlighten your date as to the basics (e.g. your occupation, your hobbies, and where you hail from). However, it’s best to steer clear of information that’s overly personal for now. No one needs to know how much your rent costs or what your salary is on a first date.

DON’T overdo it on the alcohol.

Don’t worry. We’re not about to tell you that you can’t have a cocktail before dinner just because you’re out on a first date. We are going to strongly suggest you limit yourself to just one drink for a couple of reasons. First of all, the last thing you want is to unintentionally overdo it and wind up making an ass of yourself in front of a really great guy you were excited about going out with. Second, you don’t want him to think you’re one of those people that doesn’t feel they can have a good time without also getting drunk. One way to avoid the issue altogether is to go somewhere alcohol isn’t even served, like a coffee shop or the park.

DO limit the number of questions you ask.

Don’t get us wrong. You absolutely should ask your date about himself. Not only is it polite, but it’s the best way to get to know him and see if it’s worth pursuing things further. You don’t want to give him the impression he’s at a job interview though. So how do you avoid that? Think of a couple of key questions to ask in advance. Choose topics that are likely to spark more conversation like where he’s from or what he likes to do with his spare time. Do not ask him anything overly personal (like how much he makes or what his credit score is).

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DON’T focus too much on sex.

Unless the two of you have already established that you’re meeting to see if you should hook up later or not, it’s probably best to keep the conversation from revolving around sex too much. For instance, this is not the time two gay men in bedto ask him if he prefers bears to twinks or if he’s more of a bottom than a top. If you’re getting together for a casual hookup, you should really already have discussed those things. If you’re not, you’re definitely running the risk of making your date think all you care about is sex. There will be plenty of time to discuss more intimate details of who you are and what you’re looking for a couple of dates down the road if all goes well, right?

DO be yourself.

Most of us have been on a first date where we went home knowing we went overboard trying to impress a date to the point of not even acting like ourselves. Maybe we took him to a restaurant we couldn’t really afford, or we spent the whole evening name dropping and telling lavish stories that were really only half true at best. Maybe we pretended to love football just because he loves football (when actually we hate it). Keep in mind that while it’s great to have things in common with someone, most guys would rather date someone who’s different, but 100% comfortable in his own skin. That said, just be yourself and see what happens. You won’t be sorry!

Rob West

Rob West

I worked with Matt to build several hookup apps for gay men, including Guyhop.

I've been in the scene for several years now. Eternally single until I find "him".

My background is in marketing and psychology, which gives me a unique perspective on the LGBTQ dating and hookup scene.