In this age of technology, meeting people can be as easy as the click of a button. Recently, after a breakup, I joined an online dating site for fun. I met a few awesome people and a few creeps. I even had a few messages from potential wealthy “sugar daddies,” which I, of course, considered (but alas, I decided to get a real job). Some I met for coffee, some I met for drinks, and these awkward first get-togethers often resembled the first real date with someone you met while drunk at a party: slightly forced as you try to avoid awkward silences while subtly analyzing if they were really as hot as that one photo they posted from high school.
Was it weird to meet people from online; did I ever feel in danger? Sure, it was kind of awkward at first, but I followed all of the safety rules: met them in a neutral public place, didn’t consider going home with them until after a few dates. I never felt in danger. When I received a creepy message at 2 a.m. from a profile saying something like, “hey hottie wachu up 2 2nite?” it was easy to ignore it and block said creeper from contacting me again. But what happens when you are looking for these 2 a.m. booty calls?
In comes Grindr, marketed as a smartphone app, predominantly for gay, bisexual and curious men. Grindr describes itself as “quick, convenient, and discreet. And it’s as anonymous as you want it to be. Grindr is a simple app that uses your mobile device’s location-based services to show you the guys closest to you who are also on Grindr.” On Grindr, you can skip the small talk, find a guy close by and meet him somewhere for sex.
How is an application like Grindr different from online dating? Intermission interviewed a few different men about their experiences with Grindr.
Intermission (INT): How did you find out about Grindr?
Student 1: I got an iPhone, and all I had to do was type in “gay” into the app store and then Grindr came up. So I downloaded Grindr, and it was just a giant list of guys. I [actually] found my first boyfriend on Grindr senior year. I had a secret relationship [with him] for two months.
INT: Why do you or did you use Grindr?
Student 1: I started using it in the first place just to meet people, not necessarily sexually, but just to have someone to talk to [because] I had never had that before. The majority of guys on Grindr are there for quick hookups, but I am on Grindr to try to meet some decent people to hang out with. There are definitely less of those people on [Grindr], though. It’s a way for other gay people to find each other.
Student 2:I joined because I didn’t know how to meet other [gay] people. If you want to get laid, it’s easy. It’s as easy as texting somebody. I am always using a condom and always being safe, but I had some definite health scares because of it. [Grindr really showed me] an image of the underside of the gay community.
INT:Can you tell us a little about your experiences with Grindr? Best and worst experiences?
Student 1: My best experience was finding my first boyfriend on [Grindr]. I never had sex with anyone on Grindr when I was in high school. It was always just oral or playful sex experiences. But sometimes it would get really sketchy; they would want more from you. It was always really dangerous, though; you are meeting up with a stranger, and you are [often] lying about your age. I was 17 at the time. I started being afraid of seeing these people in public. There was that feeling of being with my family and seeing someone I had been with secretly, but I just shoved these feelings under the rug.
INT:How is something like a Grindr meet-up different than meeting a random person at a bar and going home with them?
Student 1: On Grindr, there is a natural understanding for guys on the site that if you say “hi” to them, you are attracted to them because you can see their picture. A quick conversation will usually consist of, “Hi. Stats? What are you into (sexually)? And where are you<\p><\_><\p>let’s meet up?”
It’s so much easier to do. You can just go online. You can do it in five to 10 messages back and forth. It has made everyone more superficial.
INT:What is it like when you go to meet up with someone on Grindr? What kind of places do you meet at, and how do you decide who plays what role sexually?
Student 1:I haven’t met up with a lot of people, maybe like two or three. It took a long, committed relationship for me to trust someone enough to have the experience of being a bottom<\p>…<\p>The weirdest place I ever met up with someone [from Grindr] was a church parking lot.
INT: Do you have any advice for people who want to start using Grindr?
Student 1: I think Grindr is not talked about, ever. If someone is coming out, there are probably so many kids out there like I was who don’t have anyone to talk to. And they find Grindr and experiment with guys from a hook-up app. It is not a good way to come out. I can see that happening to thousands of kids around the country. Honestly, now I think Grindr is a modern-day vector for HIV. A lot of people are not even protective on it.
Student 2: I think it’s fine to be sex positive and want to have casual sex if you are interested in it, but you need to know what you are getting yourself into. Any of those men could have given me HIV or killed me; I had some great times, but it wasn’t worth it. It was profoundly unhealthy. I think [Grindr] could be used as a way to meet people, but you have to know what you are getting into. Just because you are using a condom every time doesn’t mean you are protecting yourself in all circumstances.
For the people that I spoke with, Grindr seems to be, for some, an introductory outlet for young, gay men to experiment with other men for the first time. But what if you don’t know what you like yet? It would be safer, it seems, both physically and emotionally, if there were more easily searchable resources out there where you could talk to someone first before looking for answers by having sex with random people. If you do want to be having sex with random partners, make sure you really consider if the possible negative outcomes are worth a short-lived good time.