By Mark Rush @markrush61
Photo ©

The Dating Game: Trust VS Attraction

OPINION: For Mark Rush, monogamy is a deal breaker.

Dating, whether you love or loathe it, seems to be an ungainly two step we all have to tread these days. And with the proliferation of dating apps – Grindr, Tinder, Scruff – the possibility of meeting any number of guys is literally at your fingertips. From my own experience, the casual nature of dating can be really quite fun. You get to meet new people, go out, have a bit of fun, and go your separate ways; or intertwine your ways – it’s entirely up to you.

But have you ever gone on a date with someone that you knew wasn’t right for you? But despite these feelings you continued to see this person, someone that you didn’t actually trust? You might be attracted to their self- confidence, their appearance, or enjoy the thrill of the game. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to articulate why we are attracted to one person and not another – arguably someone who we might feel is better suited to us. 

It may seem unromantic but, at its base level, attraction stems primarily from chemical and evolutionary factors, sadly not from your shared love of Kylie Minogue. Our brain runs a complex series of calculations involving our five senses to find our perfect mate; nowhere does it take into account sociocultural factors such as religious beliefs, political opinions, family values or questionable music tastes. Instead, we evaluate facial symmetry, the distance between your eyes and mouth, the pitch of your voice, etc. Ever fancied someone that you otherwise thought was a bit of a tit? Does this sound familiar? Yes he supports UKIP but check out his symmetrical face!? My facetious example aside, it pays to be discerning about who you choose to see and why you choose to see them. 

So what makes someone untrustworthy? I find it easier to start with this quote about trust: “The authentic feeling you have in the presence of a person whom your body senses is safe.” The key words here, for me, are authentic and safe. I’ve gone out with guys, and I’ve intuitively felt that they’re not seeing someone else. How could I possibly know for sure? I don’t, unless I had round-the-clock surveillance on them. I only know that the way they act makes me relax and feel safe. They don’t just seem genuine, they feel genuine. Ever gone out with someone who looked at other guys? Who made you feel, through his actions and words, that he might be hooking up with any number of people? How could you relax around that person? You wouldn’t know when they were being authentic, and you certainly wouldn’t feel safe around them. 

The problem is that we know that this guy is most definitely a tit. We don’t trust them, but we fancy them anyway. I dated a guy who made casual and seemingly innocuous remarks that made me feel bad about myself, my career and just about everything. Whenever I tried to kiss him, he would subtly put me down, asserting that he was setting the agenda. It infuriated me beyond belief. I complained to my friends about it, and then I complained to their friends. I seethed about it daily and ruminated on all the faults of this human being. But... and this is a big but, I was still hugely attracted to him, and wanted to see him. I was angry at him whilst longing to see him at the same time. I was well aware that this person was no good for me, at all, and yet I still pursued him. Why? Because emotions are hugely powerful forces in our lives. We cannot ignore them and often when we try to rationalise our emotions and use logic, we still fail. 

Traditionally, there is this belief that men can disconnect their emotions and enjoy casual sex with multiple partners. This is a skewed idea based on outdated stereotypes of gay male promiscuity. That doesn’t mean to say we’re all angels, far from it. Sex can be fun and it doesn’t always involve emotions; however, in the dating game it can assume a new level of importance, and if it doesn’t – to appropriate that popular film’s even more popular title – you’re just not that into him. 

A little known hormone called oxytocin comes into play here. It’s the trust or love hormone that instils in us a need to bond. Oxytocin can be released through touch, a hug and, you guessed it, sex. It makes us want to attach to our partner. Ever felt an insatiable desire to cuddle after sex? To hug, to spoon, just to be in contact? Chances are that you have felt the effects of this hormone. Of course this does not mean that every man you sleep with will fall in love with you, or vice versa. But it’s good to know that, without realising, sex can bond us to someone; it can arguably happen against your will. 

Dr Helen Fisher, anthropologist and sex expert, says: “Don’t copulate with people you don’t want to fall in love with, because indeed you may do just that.” This is an extreme statement, but, a pertinent one for me. I’m not prudish about sex, and I think it can be a lot of fun. All I would advocate is a bit more discernment and a bit more judgement before diving in with a prospective partner. Basically exercise our brain before it gets overhauled by our biology. 

Of course there is a huge array of benefits to be derived from sex: endorphins which fill you with a sense of well-being and relaxation; phenylethylamine (also found in chocolate) releases dopamine into system, peaking at the point of orgasm, which leaves you blissful, excited and with a deep attraction to your partner; serotonin floods your body after sex, an essential hormone for our emotional well-being. So, as we can see, there’s a lot going for sex and plenty of reasons to have it. You feel more confident, relaxed, your stress levels are reduced and you are generally left with a greater sense of overall contentment.

Consequently, it’s important for us to engage in sex regularly – and plenty of it. That’s not up for debate, but what is on the agenda is the people we choose as our sexual partners. Humans generally don’t choose untrustworthy people to be their friends, so why would they choose them as their lovers? What separates us from other mammals is this wonderful thing called free will: the ability to make the right choice for you, a happy marriage of trust and attraction. So in your quest for the love of your life, or the dating game if you will, be selective. Choose the kind-hearted guy who, just as importantly, gives you the tingly feeling in your stomach. Scratch that. The kind-hearted guy with the tingly stomach feeling who also loves Kylie. You’ll be happier in the long run.

This article was taken from FS issue 146. 







Pretty Hurts - a feature looking at body image issues and gay men

Body image and the gay media - FS asks what you think

EDITOR'S LETTER: Flawless - did you wake up like dis?

Like a virgin - do you remember the first time you had sex with a man?

Dear 16 year old me - Kristian Johns pens a letter to himself

Sexy and I don't know it - one man share his experience of being HIV-positive and not feeling attractive.

Cheap date - can you go on a date and only spend £20? 

5 year plan - where do you see yourself in 5 years?

"My boyfriend raped me" - a true life story 

Speedo Obsession - we interview a gay water polo team

Chemsex is a sex problem - David Stuart looks at what gay men are actullly addicted to.

My big gay sex problem - GMFA answers your sex questions.

Why HIV is a gay disease (kinda) - Matthew Hodson has the last word on this issue.