The mating dance of the 'technosexual'

Got gadget cravings? Love Star Trek? Chances are there's a man or woman out there who will find those leanings highly attractive.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
5 min read
BlackBerry Pearl. MacBook Pro. Slingbox. Palm TX. WordPress. TrueCrypt. Squeezebox.

To many, those are yawn-inducing tech terms. But to people like Eric Jordan, they're sexy talk. Jordan, 34, is the kind of guy who will take apart a new $300 cell phone so he can upgrade its software, or wire his vintage car with an old laptop. As a kid, in fact, Jordan liked to wire his Lego village with LED lights.

Jordan has found that when it comes to women he dates, they must be computer geeks. His last girlfriend hated the homemade digital video recorder, and it was just those kinds of differences that split them up. "The Internet-wired, remote-controlled coffee maker and lights did not go over well," said Jordan, who lives on Long Island, New York.

Nerd Passions

Now, he says he dates only "nerdly" women, having recently joined a science fiction dating site called Trek Passions "Anyone I date would have to be as into tech," Jordan said, adding, "Nerdiness is just sexy."

Sure, people bond over any number of things: politics, environmentalism, outdoor sports, food. But a decade-long boom in technology and gadgets has opened the closet door for many tech lovers, or "technosexuals," if you will. With the many special-interest sites on the Web, sparks can fly between two techies who wouldn't have otherwise found each other.

In the last year, specialized dating sites like Trekpassions.com (for sci-fi fans who want to hook up), Nerd Passions and Gaming Passions have emerged, and more offbeat sites like Consumating (which is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of News.com) give people an avenue to find someone who shares a taste for tech. Hard-core techies even joke that the boisterous tech site Slashdot should run personal ads, but its founder, Rob Malda, said he has no interest in that--even though Malda proposed to his wife on the site.

On Consumating.com, where people "tag" their profiles with various descriptive words to describe their interests, visitors can find more than 1,600 people with the tag "computers." (Granted, they're mostly men.) More than 500 are tagged "tech" or "technology," and more than 1,200 are self-described "geeks."

At general dating sites like Match.com, it's even possible to find a technosexual or two. One 26-year-old man said on his profile that he's looking for a woman who shares interests like playing video games and toying with new gadgets.

"If you can talk geek, thats (sic) a plus!," he wrote.

Still, the joke is that it's 100 techie guys to every one woman, given that the technology field is so dominated by men. Earlier this year, Conan O'Brien even poked fun at the dating site Trek Passions on his late night show on NBC. "Any month now they hope a girl will join," O'Brien said.

Yet that kind of exposure drove hundreds of new members to the site, according to Michael Carter, the founder of the Passions Network, based in New York. Given the more technical nature of its membership, Trekpassionistas have started to blog from the site and often categorize themselves into affinity genres like "Star Wars," "Star Trek, or "Battlestar Galatica."

"In the last year, it's started getting its legs," he said.

Still, others are dubious. Nicholas Baker, a San Francisco executive, musician and gadget hound, said his gadget love can be marriage-damaging. "Every man-geek with a phone on their belts like a male Batman--they all dream of meeting a hot babe who's totally like them, but women are much more practical," said Baker.

Yet gadgets don't have to get in the way of love. Marcus Colombano, a managing partner at a San Francisco tech consulting firm, is also a self-described gadget hound. He's set up his home media center so he can control his music streaming with a Palm TX. On a recent trip to Napa Valley, he watched the Italy-U.S. soccer game on his Treo 700w by streaming the video from a Slingbox at home--which streams media to any number of devices via the Internet. (For the record, he was in the passenger seat.)

Thankfully, his wife shares some of his passion, but she's more of a practical user of technology, he said. They each have a blog, and share a blog of their 2-year-old son, with almost 1,600 photos. They also constantly send music files to each other's iPods over AOL Instant Messenger or via AIM mobile, through a music server installed in the basement. When his wife, Kristin, recently traveled to Asia, they stayed in touch via videoconferencing from a video camera connected to the Apple Powerbook.

"She's a technoimplementer. I'm one who finds technology, finds ways to use it, and then rolls it out into the family like a (chief technology officer)," he said.

Nonetheless, Kristin still occasionally threatens to throw away his gadgets sometimes "because I spend more time with them than her."

Yet the dream is out there.

Annalee Newitz, a San Francisco writer, is particularly attracted to geeky men. She met the man she is now dating at a robot show, where he was wearing a T-shirt with the name OpenBSD (an open-source computer operating system) on it. The two struck up a conversation, and he was attracted to Newitz because she knew about the operating system. It was kismet.

"If they don't run away screaming when you start talking about Dr. Who," that's a good sign, she said.

Newitz, 37, used to weed out her dating prospects with a bit of tattoo gate-keeping. She has a tattoo on her arm of a transistor schematic, and years ago, she would date only guys who understood what it was. "That became very limiting so I stopped," Newitz said, laughing.

Newitz believes technosexual relationships are based on ideas and intellect more than others. "I personally don't know if I'm attracted to someone until I've talked to them," she said.

Or it could just be a subconscious thing. Tarik Ono, a computer engineer at Sun Microsystems, said that although she doesn't have a "requirement" to date techies, those are just the types she's dated. For example, she's dated a mechanical engineer and an airplane engineer, and she's now married to a computer engineer.

"Disturbing, now that I think about it! It's not like I want to have someone I can talk 'geeky' stuff with," Ono said. "Maybe I just have a good understanding of geeks, since I am surrounded by them all the time."