The Daddyhunt app and website have become one of the fastest growing social networks for men seeking a different approach to meet guys of disparate generations. The site now boasts more than a million members. But unlike other dating sites, Daddyhunt has employed a new tactic to engage a broader audience: Entertainment.
The founders created Daddyhunt: The Serial, a three-season series which chronicles the budding relationship between a middle-aged man and his younger paramour. Through ongoing vignettes – each with its own juicy cliffhanger – the series captures the promise and pain of relationships and romance. And, with each new season, the videos have begun to inject public health messages about HIV and AIDS, safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases.
“I recognize that people are turned off by safe sex public service announcement messages,” says Carl Sandler, CEO of Daddyhunt. “In today’s day and age, people have to get something for their time, and entertainment is a wonderful way to educate — if it’s done right.”
In the first season, neighbors Ben and Graydon meet and share a mutual attraction which quickly hits the skids through some humorous obstacles. Season Two subtly inserts a public health component into the storyline with messages about condoms, undetectable viral loads, PrEP, the importance of routine testing and safe sex practices.
Daddyhunt GM and executive producer Casey Crawford that the next season is more diverse than ever. It also points out that HIV disproportionately affects African American men while it also sends a message relating to partner notification and PrEP. “It was important for us to touch on those topics in a way that was authentic,” he says.
“We want the Daddyhunt community to be accepting but we also want people to be more accepting in the gay community at large,” Crawford says, “and not to stigmatize people based on whether they are short or tall, skinny or fat, black, Asian, Latino, HIV positive or negative. We want this to be an all-inclusive community.”
Those messages were driven home in a collaboration with Dan Wohlfeiler, Director and Co-Founder of Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC). Call it a public/private partnership between dating sites and apps and HIV and STD prevention organizations.
“We were talking with Carl and said, “Why don’t we try to incorporate a plotline into a second season where Graydon and Ben are clearly building a relationship, and Graydon wants to use condoms and Ben wants to use PrEP, and how do they work that out?” Wohlfeiler says. “What’s a better place to reduce risk than where guys are meeting, and that’s online, and take advantage of the apps?”
When the actors were assembled to shoot the series, they also taped short PSAs in which they spoke directly to the camera to discuss such topics as dating someone who is positive, condom use, partner notification, navigating relationships, undetectable viral loads and making safe sex choices.
Jim Newman, who plays daddy Graydon, was captivated by the beauty of a budding relationship. “It struck a chord,” he says. “We all just want to meet a nice guy who respects us and fall in love.”Find LGBTQ-Friendly Resources
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At 54, Newman recently joined the ever-fluctuating lineup of the Village People (Newman was the cowboy). When he was called in to audition for this Daddyhunt serial, he learned they wanted him for the older partner. “Now I’m a daddy,” he laughs. Just the same, he says, “I get a lot of messages from kids who say this helped them come out. Because of this series, we have reached a lot of people who didn’t have positive images of gay men.”
The series strives not to be preachy, but to educate through entertainment. “The reality is it’s very hard to tell a story in a few minutes,” Sandler says, “People see themselves in the characters and perhaps they change their behavior as a result.”
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Last modified: July 8, 2019