Coming Out by Staying In: Men Who Have Sex with Men in the Niagara Region and How They Represent Themselves Online
In regions without a gay enclave and limited traditional gay venues, the Internet has become an important space for men who have sex with men (MSM) to connect. Understanding that socio-spatial relations govern gendered and sexual subjectivities, this study examines how the personal advertisement site, Craigslist, and the dating website, PlentyOfFish (POF), regulate the representations of MSM on those sites in the Niagara Region. Relying on two hundred fifty personal advertisements collected on Craigslist and one hundred dating profiles collected on POF, I develop two case studies that explore how website design and policies, performativities and notions of privacy contribute to the production of MSM representations. Using a queer theoretical approach, I deconstruct processes in these sites which produce gendered and sexual subjects. This study finds that heteronormative discourses embedded in the complex geographies of the two sites of study govern the gendered and sexual representations of MSM. The MSM representations examined in these case studies typically present particular intersections of masculinities that attempt to resemble hegemonic understandings of masculinity. These heteronormative discourses limit the queer expressions. The limiting of queer expressions challenges the utopian understandings of the Internet as a space for MSM to explore their gender and sexuality.