Online Dating Beyond Dating Apps: An Exploration of Self-Presentation of Chinese Gay Men Dating on Zhihu

Longxuan Zhao, Jiacheng Liu, Zhanghao Li


This study uses mixed methods to explore how and why Chinese gay men disclose themselves for dating purposes on Zhihu, a Chinese question-answering platform accessible to all. Through a content analysis (N = 413), we found a notably content-rich self-presentation in gay men users’ answers. In considering the potential stigma and threats toward gay men in China, we then conducted semi-structured interviews with 30 gay men who use Zhihu for dating to better understand this counterintuitive phenomenon. Three themes are identified: stratified privacy concerns, separating ideal audiences, and quantity matters. The findings suggest the emergence of a polymedia environment of online dating beyond dating apps and, through these Chinese gay men’s dating practices, an alternative queer space has formed on an open platform. Unlike the more secluded queer spaces shaped by gay men’s dating apps, the presence of queer spaces on Zhihu exhibits the potential of challenging heteronormativity.


imagined audience, mixed-methods research, online dating, polymedia, self-presentation

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