To Grindr / Not to Grindr

A Back-and-Forth About a Homo-App

People have long dreamt of having a better, more technological means of picking up than awkwardly approaching someone in a bar.

The real world is fraught with the possibility of rejection, and… well, that’s about the only thing it’s fraught with. But there’s a solution to all that nastiness: Grindr.

Grindr, for all of you living under a big sexless rock, is one of the earliest gay male dating applications for the iPhone and the first to successfully incorporate GPS technology into their system.

This free gay app locates local users on the scene and asserts that, “No matter where you find yourself, Grindr is the go-to app for socializing in seconds with the guys right around you.”

But, as with all convenient methods of obtaining sex via the Internet, with popularity comes some controversy. 2B Mag Online Editor Jordan Arseneault posted an anti-Grindr screed on Facebook recently, sparking a discussion with The Link News Editor Julian Ward.

“I boycott Grindr,” read Arseneault’s post. “It is a serophobic, transphobic, misogynist idiot-trap made for fucked-up, American, middle-class homo males who have to assert their sexual prowess using a Macintouch or Mandroid prosthesis.”

The two queer journalists sat down to hash out the good and bad of the mobile manhunt.


Jordan Arseneault: You weren’t very happy with my Facebook post the other day about Grindr. Can you tell me why?

Julian Ward: Your comment got my back up. Not only is it offensive to everyone who uses the app, but you fail to explain any of your ridiculous assertions. I know there are assholes aplenty on Grindr, but I don’t think it’s inherently evil.

Arseneault: Grindr is inherently misogynistic in that women and female-bodied people are excluded, and transgendered and genderqueer people are routinely banned from the service. These are just a few ways in which the masculinist approach of Grindr is used as a tool for sexual encounters amongst men—it is patently misogynist.

The latent misogyny it espouses is further evidenced by the number of profiles whose users—douchebags—state they are “Masc 4 Masc,” and want “No fems/fats/etc.”

You are delusional if you do not acknowledge that these are misogynist attitudes writ into the functionality and ‘rule-making’ of this corporate communication application, buddy.

Ward: This is a product designed to help men hook up with men. If you’re not such a person looking for such a thing, why would you use the product?

As for the exclusionary language used by Grindr-guys, I’m uncomfortable with the sometimes-offensive way in which it is worded, but then again, who are you to speak to the sexual desires of others? In your world, everyone should want to sleep with everyone so that we’re not discriminating. That’s ludicrous.

As for Grindr banning transgendered female-to-male people, which I wasn’t aware of, it just doesn’t make business-sense. They should leave all banning to the users who have the freedom to block people that don’t appeal to them.

Arseneault: First off, you wouldn’t be aware of the banning of F2M and female-bodied people because, a) you’re a nice guy and you would never ‘report’ them, and b) you’re probably not looking for those people as potential sex partners—just saying.

Secondly, what I’m getting at is that, like all communication products in our age, Grindr is not neutral. It seems neutral to you because you are a (presumed HIV-negative) white, male-looking gay man seeking sex with other male-looking men.

Ward: I never said anything about Grindr being ‘neutral,’ but I don’t really see how it isn’t—except for when it comes to blocking certain people, which I’ve already addressed. I also don’t see how being a white, HIV-negative person who looks male and seeks sex from other male-looking individuals has anything to do with anything.

Arseneault: You have just proven how incredibly naive you actually are. You also seem unable to acknowledge that your comfort level with Grindr comes from you being a non-racialized, non-effeminate, non-HIV-positive person.

Let me tell you about Grindr’s World AIDS Day message, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me: “It’s World AIDS Day! Grindr supports safe sex. Everyone should get tested regularly and stay safe!,” said Grindr.

Essentially, their message was, “Everyone stay negative!,” instead of recognizing that World AIDS Day is a day when most humane organizations focus on the plight of HIV-positive people. The delusional, oppressive message was serophobic because it erases the fact that between seven to 25 per cent of North American urban gay males are HIV-positive.

The Grindr message essentially fed into the denialism that in order to be sexually active in an open way, you should be, and remain, HIV-negative. This is simply not an accurate reflection of its own target demographic: urban gay men with iPhones.

Ward: Are you suggesting that ‘racialized’ and ‘effeminate’ people are uncomfortable using the service? Then why are there so many people of different races and ‘levels of masculinity’ on the service? It sounds like you’re offended on their behalf because they’re too busy getting laid to care.

As for the World AIDS Day message, I agree it’s insensitive, but I don’t think it was malicious. It sounds like they just need to get themselves educated and also realize the power that their messages wield.

Arseneault: Why do you continue to defend this app? Is this a focus group? OMGay, you are so not getting me.

Ward: No, this is not a focus group. You can’t possibly ignore, though, that Grindr is incredibly popular among millions of people in nearly 200 countries, and that simply willing it away will do nothing. If something more popular and more inclusive comes along, I can only hope it does to Grindr what Facebook did to MySpace.

Actually Grindr is, in fact, a lot like Facebook—the same medium through which you posted your initial message. Like Facebook, Grindr is just too popular for people to stop using. And, like Facebook, the policies of Grindr can be changed if enough public pressure is applied. But until that happens, Grindr as we know it is going nowhere.

In Closing

Arseneault: In the end, my friend from The Link indicated that he was not intending to engage in the infinite apologetics of Grindr, but instead expressed the belief that somehow, a critical mass of more inclusive people would yield a new, friendlier, less ‘evil’ sex app.

My approach of boycotting Grindr was dismissed as a fringe attempt to resist the monolith and its enduring popularity. For Ward: it is now up to some enterprising queer to make a better version in order to free us from the application that gets us so laid, so locally, so quickly, but at such great cost to our ethical self-worth.

Ward: As for Arseneault, who so boldly defended promiscuity and the right of people to get laid as often as they please, jumping ship is the only way to escape the everything-phobic Grindr world.

There is no sleeping with the beast, waiting for it to evolve or be taken over by a friendlier Monstr. Choke the lizard! How, though, Mr. Arseneault, do you plan on getting laid? I’ve never cruised otherwise.