There's a time and place for asking a guy about his favorite Britney deep cut, and it's not when he's just sent a totally earth-shattering nude.
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Sometimes a guy will recognize me on a sex app and message me to say he enjoyed an article I wrote. I'm always flattered, but then slightly disappointed that he didn't also ask me to bang. Hey, I'm human. Even on a hook-up app, it's definitely possible to let someone down gently. If he doesn't take the hint, tell him your mom's in town and insists on vetting every guy you meet.
Just like that, he'll be up out your face. These days, straight-up racists aside, more insidious forms of discrimination can and do creep in.
Are Gay Dating Apps Doing Enough to Respond to User Discrimination?
When someone asks, "Where are you from? Similarly, think twice before putting something like "Venezuelan guys to the front" on your profile. You may think you're playfully expressing a preference, but really you're fetishizing someone for his ethnicity.
Does being "masc" make him better in bed or a more loving potential boyfriend? Of course not. And in my experience, he'll probably end up doing a Miss Vanjie impression after his third drink, anyway. Look, no one can tell you what should or shouldn't turn you on. We all have different tastes and that's what makes sex and dating so exciting.
But some of my most epic hook-ups have been with guys who don't resemble the "type" I think I'm into. There was an older doctor whose bedroom had a mirrored ceiling and Sure, youth can be intoxicating, but so is a guy who's been to a few rodeos and knows how to handle a bucking bronco. Whether you're young, old, or somewhere in between, it's always sexier when you own it. He analyzed hundreds of randomly selected Adam4Adam profiles, noting that discriminatory language in gay dating profiles seemed at the time to be trending toward more coded euphemisms.
He suggests that this context gives license for men to express more overtly biased sentiments. They do so through the content of their profiles and by using filters that allow them to segregate who they see. Of course, gay dating apps have come under fire many times in the past for allegedly tolerating various forms of discriminatory behavior. For years queer men have called them out using websites like sexualracismsux.
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The specific traits people—both queer identified and not—desire in their partners is a complex issue, one surely influenced by conventional notions of beauty as well as highly contextual personal bias. Dating technology—starting with websites in the 90s and mobile apps in the 00s—did not create such bias, thought its mass adoption has made it increasingly visible. Online dating is also the number one way same-sex couples meet.
Might that give dating apps themselves the power to change a culture of discrimination? In one view, this is a question of free speech, one with pronounced resonance in the wake of the US election as tech giants like Facebook and Google also grapple with their power to regulate all manner of content online. In opaque terms, that means Grindr expects a high level of self-moderation from its community.
According to Sloterdyk, Grindr employs a team of plus full-time moderators that he said has no tolerance for offensive content. Nearly every app asks users to report profiles that transgress its terms and conditions, though some are far more specific in defining the kinds of language it will not tolerate.
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Such policies, however, still require users to moderate each other and report such transgressions. But dwelling solely on issues of speech regulation skirts the impact intentional design choices have on the way we behave on various platforms. Some have already taken these steps. Users must register with their Facebook account rather than merely an email address. Grindr, intentionally or not, also leverages a psychological concept called variable ratio reinforcement , in which rewards for clicking come at unpredictable intervals.
You may find a hookup immediately, or you may be on your phone for hours before you find one.
We need to talk about how Grindr is affecting gay men’s mental health
Variable ratio reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to reinforce behavior , and it makes stopping that behavior extremely difficult. Slot machines are a classic example. They hold out hope that the next pull will give them the pleasurable sound of coins clanking against a metal bin, and they end up pulling for hours. Now imagine a slot machine that rewards you with an orgasm at unpredictable intervals.
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This is potentially a powerful recipe for addiction and may explain why one user I spoke with stays on Grindr for up to 10 hours at a time, hoping to find the perfect partner for casual sex. Early research on app use and health has focused only on sexually transmitted infections, for instance, rates of HIV among Grindr users, using Grindr to get people tested for STIs, etc. Just last week, Grindr announced that it will start sending users HIV testing reminders and the addresses of local testing sites on an opt-in basis.
In less pleasant news, BuzzFeed revealed on Monday that Grindr has also been sharing the HIV status of its users with third-party companies. The company later said it would stop sharing the information. Though there is this new attention to sexual health, both Grindr and the research community have been silent on mental health.
Yet since , more gay men have died from suicide than from HIV. Other dating apps, like Tinder, for example, are now the subject of early research looking at mental health implications.
For some users I talked to, the allure of Grindr was not just the rush to feel good. It was to stop feeling bad.
Users told me they log on when they feel sad, anxious, or lonely. Grindr can make those feelings go away. The attention and potential for sex distract from painful emotions. A staggering number of gay men suffer from depression, with some estimates as high as 50 percent. Unfortunately, these messages are typically only skin-deep: A recent survey of , iPhone users by Time Well Spent , a nonprofit focused on the digital attention crisis, showed that 77 percent of Grindr users felt regret after using the app.
The users I interviewed told me that when they closed their phones and reflected on the shallow conversations and sexually explicit pictures they sent, they felt more depressed, more anxious, and even more isolated. Some experience overwhelming guilt following a sexual encounter in which no words are spoken. And yet they keep coming back for that temporary emotional relief.
One user told me that he feels so bad after a hookup that he jumps right back on the app, continuing the cycle until he is so tired he falls asleep. Every once in a while, he deletes the app, but he finds himself downloading it the next time he feels rejected or alone.