Do you screw on a first date? Says one fellow in his mid-20s, “I know there are a lot of men out there who just want to hook up and get off, but I’m not one of them. Sorry, I can’t leap into bed with someone five minutes after I meet him.”Still—heaven knows—lots of other queer dudes do.One guy who cruises online speaks for many men when he says, “If I get together with someone and we’re not fucking within a few hours, I figure there’s something wrong.”The world of male/male courtship differs from its het counterpart in some important ways. Despite recent developments on the gay marriage front, there’s no automatic expectation that an ongoing relationship will lead to the altar. And there’s no fear of pregnancy (though HIV sure plays its part). Most of all, perhaps, there’s the matter of gender differences. To the disappointment of many hetero dudes, women are typically less willing than men to play the “find ‘em, screw ‘em, and forget ‘em” game. And queer men, already a bit beyond the pale, often are unworried about being tagged as “bad girls.” So when two men first meet, effing is often in the offing.But not everyone is so impatient. “I guess I’m just an old-fashioned boy,” says our mid-20s guy. “I enjoy the whole dating thing: dinner, maybe a movie, getting to know somebody. There’s nothing wrong with delayed gratification. It just makes the eventual sex, if any, even hotter.”Of course, going on a first date has its dangers. A guy can try too hard or be too demanding, or the interpersonal chemistry can be a total flop. And when lust is in the air, small talk can be tough. Says our online cruiser, “When I do go out on a date-type date, I can be sitting in some cafe spending all my time wondering what my date’s meat is like. Better to just whip it out, and get all that tension out of the way.”But does putting out on a first get-together make a second one less likely? One observer of gay relationships says it depends. “Certainly, there are men who get it up, stick it in, and then lose interest. But it’s hard to say that holding out on a first date would be a way to keep them. And then there are men for whom even casual sex is a powerful bonding tool. In that case, a fellow can fall for his date when the dicks come out…though sometimes a man can fall too hard, too soon. Regardless, I’d say that expecting to find the love of your life on a website where guys go to find tricks is just not very realistic.”When it comes to crotch, it may not be an either/or. A 40-ish guy who’s been around the block says, “My sex life and my love life certainly aren’t separate, but they’re not identical, either. That’s one good thing about being a gay man—I can bring a romantic interest to a nice restaurant, but if I get horny, I can head for a sex club. I have the best of both worlds, and either way, I get my mouth filled.”So, is doing it on a first date a destructive thing? Says our observer of gay dating mores, “I think that gay men get a bad rap for being sex-obsessed. We understand that sex is a really major part of romantic compatibility, and many of us would rather not spend time and effort cultivating an ongoing relationship with someone who eventually turns out to be lousy in bed. Yes, there are those men who fuck as readily as they shake hands, but I bet most of them would say it doesn’t devalue sex—or romance—as long as they don’t feel that their genitals are all they have to offer. Hey, I met my boyfriend at a bar, we ended up in bed within an hour, and eight years later, we’re still together.”Bottom line? Whether you bring flowers or a condom—or both—going on a first date can be a nerve-stretching ordeal, or a joyous meeting of hearts and minds. If crotches get together, too, that can be lovely. On the other hand, you might want to leave something to look forward to, on the second date or thereafter.And either way, ain’t love grand?Simon Sheppard is the editor of Homosex: Sixty Years of Gay Erotica, and the author of Sex Parties 101, Kinkorama, and In Deep: Erotic Stories, and can be reached at SexTalk@qsyndicate.com. Visit Simon at www.simonsheppard.com.