Zachary Woolfe joins us from The Awl:

The headquarters of, a website that, as Wikipedia puts it, "facilitates same-sex introductions," are located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a worldwide center of learning and racial profiling. And other types of profiling as well! Coursing through the Manhunt servers are the profiles of the service's 1.5 million users, which rush towards each other at about twenty-three miles per hour, the speed at which fluid may be propelled through the male human urethra into whoever or whatever one desires, in whatever manner one desires it.

Those tastes—for safe sex, bareback, rimming, kissing, S&M, nipples, PNP!, no PNP!, and oh so much more!—are enumerated in your profile. There are photos of you which anyone can see, and also photos you can selectively lock or unlock. You can email, you can chat, you can (oh, can you ever) block. You can say if you're looking for "Right Now." You can see the particular people who have looked at your profile, and therefore the people who have looked at it, thought about it, and made the choice not to contact you, which can lead to agonizing minutes of self-doubt. Agonizing minutes turn into dull hours, and there goes your evening.

Part of the, how shall we say, charm of Manhunt for many of its users has been its resistance, since its early days in 2002, to any kind of substantive redesign. Yes, there have been a few tweaks here and there (ha!), but as other cruising sites like and regularly updated their look, adding more features and more flash, Manhunt has remained stubbornly the same: familiar, modest, even cozy. And staying the same in this case meant surging ahead: by December 2006, Manhunt said it surpassed as the Web's largest LGBT-targeted site.

Well, yesterday that charmed time came to an end, and all of us lost a little bit more of our innocence than we had previously lost. has been redesigned.

It has been given, says the site, "a slicker look and feel." Did they really have to bring lubriciousness into it? For shame. Because the old design was, for us gays (who may like change even less than other people), kind of treasurable. The old design was goofy and even a little comedic, a little ironic. You got so used to it! There were stubby little words in white and orange, and sometimes they flashed. The edges were rounded. There was so much blue! The backgrounds were so blue!

Now the backgrounds are a scary gun-metal grey, like the space ship in Alien. Little bits of blue poke out here and there, but a darker blue than before, a shamed blue. It is all very dark, dark and impersonal. The blown-up logo looks like an Aztec rune gone wrong (Arrows! A question mark! What does it mean?!). And the page is divided into many small boxes with very pointy edges, for things like Links, New Mail, Online Buddies, Blogs, Shopping, and Party Pics. It is hard to imagine that there can be this many small boxes on a single web page.

There is no goofiness, no irony. This is Sex, the new site says, and you are Going To Have It. Or, not: the palpable chill of the new design is something of a buzz kill. Just as the Internet got people off the streets and into each others' apartments in the first place, so the new Manhunt design discourages even going to each others' apartments. With the introduction of their video chat, and their spin-off, launched in 2008, they have directly and indirectly been encouraging users to create porn when they could be searching for partners. There's not even a need for in-person interaction at all. You're tired! It's raining! Why take that train up to Hell's Kitchen when, instead of being on the hunt, you can be OnTheHunt? Virtual performance in lieu of performance anxiety! Ah, Manhunt! Ah, humanity!

Well, though it upset me, and may momentarily confuse some guys looking for after-work action tonight, chances are the redesign won't be as effective as precious, precious marriage in outraging the gay community. Emailed for comment, one user gave a typical answer: "eh its ok, liked it a bit better before, but just getting used to it. whatre u up to? wanna fuck?"

Zachary Woolfe writes Annals of Narcissism for The Awl.

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