The mobile app Grindr has achieved infamy since its release in 2009. The website describe it as a ‘gay social network’, however most users will know that this is far from the reality. Upon logging on to Grindr, you are presented with a plethora of faceless profiles and pictures of various parts of the male anatomy. There are also a few profiles with face pictures that tend to belong to those people who, perhaps misguidedly, attempt to use the app to find a potential long-term relationship.
In my experience, the students of Durham University who use the app tend to look for casual sex, and I have been shocked at the speed at which such meetings can be arranged. Without much conversation you can find yourself in bed with someone within half an hour of the first message being sent.
Despite the overwhelmingly matter of fact vibe of the Grindr scene, the app certainly has its place in our university environment. For those students who are not ‘out’, it provides a good platform on which to arrange discrete encounters to act on what may be suppressed sexual desires. Throughout my first year I concealed my sexuality and began using the app in this way. I was initially surprised at the diversity of men I came across whilst maintaining anonymity; I spoke with people ranging from members of the DU Rugby team to university staff all looking for discrete sex. There was a noticeably formulaic process involved in arranging these encounters wherein both parties would establish that there was no chance of knowing one another or being connected by mutual friends. Following the confirmation that you were in different colleges and studied different subjects, photos would be exchanged and, if you deemed each other attractive enough, the meet-up would swiftly be arranged. Through these sexual encounters, Grindr certainly helped me become less afraid of my sexuality, and eventually stopped my perpetual concern with hiding it.
Naturally the abundance of anonymous profiles and students looking for discretion gives rise to a number of problems when considering the usability of Grindr. Users have to place a lot of trust in the person they are messaging, in that they have to believe that their potential sexual partner is in fact who they say they are, and that their choice of photos are an accurate portrayal of them. I was on the receiving end of deceptive behaviour on the app shortly after joining. Having conversed with a fellow student for around an hour and having exchanged photos we had agreed to convene for a ‘netflix and chill’ style night. When he arrived it immediately became clear that his photos were in no way grounded in reality. I was faced with making the awkward decision of whether to be polite and continue with the arranged meeting or to send him on his way; I chose the latter.
I acknowledge this was a harsh move, however in the context of the agendacised environment of Grindr in the remit of Durham University, such displays of bluntness are not uncommon. ‘F*** and Chuck’ is the assumed eventuality of the majority of Grindr liaisons and so if users send messages with the intent of finding a committed relationship, they can often end up being dismissed and taken advantage of.
For these reasons I would urge caution to gay or bisexual students who are looking to network with each other when using Grindr. In my opinion, those who wish to find friends of the same sexuality or to start dating should look to Tinder where there is a less intense atmosphere and where conversation is valued far more than ‘d*** pics’.