A professor at Salford University has accused Gaydar and other online community websites of using “Village People clichés” to categorise gay men into stereotypical groups.

Professor Ben Light has called for changes to the way in which sites group their members into narrow profile types on the basis of their sexual identity.

However, Gaydar has dismissed his assertions and said that their customers do not have to define themselves by group or category to use the site.

Professor Light is examining the way technology influences perceptions of gay masculinities.

“Internet dating is one of the most profitable businesses on the web and sites like Gaydar are a valuable resource for gay men,” he said.

“However, the site’s narrow ‘types I like’ categories can reinforce stereotypes and clichés.

“There is a notable absence of camp or effeminate categories – these are perhaps seen as less preferable in relation to ‘stronger’ masculinities.

“While these relatively anonymous sites are especially good for people who are not yet ‘out’ there is the issue that certain members refuse to respond to messages from those who do not post pictures of themselves.

“This could also isolate users who are not openly gay and who don’t wish to be identified.”

David Muniz, commercial director of QSoft Consulting, who own and operate Gaydar, told PinkNews.co.uk:

“There is no need for us to change the way in which we offer categorisations to our members.

“They are based upon extensive research into what our users say they want us to provide. If users felt marginalised by the system, rest assured they would be the first to tell us so.

“We are constantly researching the views and requirements of our community of users via focus groups and research programmes such as Outright 2006.

“This was conducted in association with Channel 4 and OMD and is the biggest research project of its kind. We also work closely with the likes of the National Aids Trust, City University, London and the Terrence Higgins Trust.

“We are surprised therefore that an ‘academic’ should chose to go public with the findings of his study without asking us for access to our primary research findings first.

“We would be more than happy to share them with him.”

Since it was created in 1999, Gaydar has become an internet phenomenon with more than three million users in 23 countries.