How Grindr Hurts Gay Men


By: Charlie Westrick

You’ve probably heard of it. Grindr, the “social networking app for gay and bi guys to connect,” has become infamous for accelerating hookup culture in gay communities.

At first glance, it seems pretty harmless; the app lets its users do everything from make a friend to find a lover. Vice actually ran a comedic article in 2012 entitled “How Grindr Can Get You Everything You Need, Except Butt Sex.” However, Grindr has damaging effects for gay culture, in the same fashion that Uber is ruining the taxi industry and Airbnb is ruining the hotel industry. Your gay friend might have a cute story that came from the app, but Grindr hurts more than it helps.

Let’s begin with the lack of safety precautions. Unlike Tinder, where you can restrict the age of potential matches, there is no way from keeping men twice your age from messaging you. This means that anyone can blow up your phone and men on Grindr, like in real life, may not be able to understand boundaries. Speaking of which, the amount of blocks you can use is limited to 10 a day. If you need more, you’ll have to pay for Grindr Xtra. One account in particular has been messaging me since I returned from winter break. While it might seem trivial, a 48-year-old man in Aurora, Colorado was utilizing Grindr to lure victims into a sex trafficking ring he was running. Considering that this app can lead to real-life repercussions, profiting off the safety of your users is of poor taste.

What’s most concerning is the way Grindr is directing the flow of gay (male) culture. While Grindr is advertised as a gay social networking site, it’s predominantly used for hookups. A study done at Wayne State University in 2014 shows that while gay men use Grindr for “multiple need-based gratifications,” casual sex is the strongest factor for Grindr users after relationships. This shows how Grindr contributes to the hypersexualization of gay communities. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: gay men, gay clubs and gay social apps emphasize the “sex” aspect of queerness. Gay teens see this generalization and therefore grow up to view themselves as sexualized.

This can especially be seen in the “twink” denomination. The second a young gay man comes of age, he becomes a twink, already categorized as a sex object before even being able to consent. Correlation isn’t causation, but this is a possible explanation for why the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) reports that adolescents are at a higher risk for sexual abuse from men than any other age demographic. The HRC reports that gay and bisexual men experience sexual assault, harassment and rape at higher levels than their heterosexual counterparts.

Furthermore, Grindr makes its money off of giving gay men an online space to meet and set up sexual encounters, which is an inherently temporary affair. There’s already a stigma where men can’t hit on other men; the fast-paced, lust-filled interactions that come with setting up hookups don’t mirror real-life flirting in the slightest. Also, there is no emphasis on dating and building long-term relationships. Dates and relationships are just options that a person can say they are looking for on their profile, and it doesn’t help that “looking” generally means looking for sex. It’s why gay men say “I love you” too early and move in together prematurely. Gay men never learn to take their relationship at a reasonable pace. They take the principles of quick hookups and apply it to the real world, and they spit out unfavorable outcomes.

A recent personal experience can explain why the way Grindr acts a force of cultural change concerns me. I recently hooked up with a 24-year-old. He came over to my residence. When he left, he kissed me in the lobby of my dorm. He was the 31st person I had sex with, and yet was the first person I had kissed, or on a larger scale, was the first person with whom I openly expressed my homosexuality with in the public sphere. Grindr might teach you how to explore your sexuality, but it doesn’t teach you how to be gay.

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