My gripe with Grindr

David Matos, Arts & Life Editor

Graphic by (Alex Kendall)

After opening the Grindr app on your phone, you’re probably met with several captivating habitual gay dating app niches.

If you’re lucky enough to find a profile that isn’t a blank face with an ominous biography, the headless torso paired with a forward display name such as “looking?” or “masc 4 masc” is typically the alternative.

For those who don’t know, when a man says they’re looking for something on Grindr, they’re most likely not looking for a relationship, they’re looking for sex.

Those with a “masc 4 masc” profile are typically men that identify as masculine but are only “looking” for another man that fits into that masculine label.

You’ll learn an unbelievable amount of gay lingo the more you’re on the app, trust me.

You might have perceived Grindr as just a popular dating app catered to gay men if you’re not in the LGBTQ community. Think in the same vein as Tinder or OkCupid, but for men who have a preference for other men. Though you’re not completely wrong, I’m here to tell you, as a gay man, that the app has grown to be so much more than that since its launch in March 2009.

Based on my experience, the app has become a haven for members of the LGBTQ to connect with other app-goers to solicit sex. I mean, what can you expect from an app called “Grindr?”

My gripe with Grindr doesn’t have to do with the fact that the app is more sex-focused than dating. If anything, I applaud there being an app where gay people can safely and consensually connect with other people in the community in this regard.

I can’t just go up to any guy I’m attracted to and flirt my way to the bedroom. Even straightforwardly asking for someone’s number or complimenting another guy’s appearance comes with a safety risk. Two men can’t even be seen in public performing typical couple things like holding hands or giving a kiss goodbye without the potential of some homophobe enacting a hate crime.

The app is an easy way for gay men to find sex locally and has its benefits, however, its faults can be emotionally draining. For one, Grindr reinforces skin-deep ideals prevalent in the gay community due to the app being sexually-driven.

Like many people in the LGBTQ community, I don’t look like most gay guys’ close-minded perception of what a man should look like.

Many app-goers, from my experience, condition their ideals after the hyper-commercialized look of the porn stars they regularly watch on Pornhub. From pale skin, ripped bodies and jawlines so perfect you would think they’re a Greek god personified, I’m none of it.

I’m overweight, under six feet, feminine and a person of color. These qualities are things I had to learn to tolerate or love about myself, and my time on Grindr only makes the process longer.

Not to mention being compared to Lovely Peaches and Jackée Harry on the app, though sometimes humorous, you can imagine my continuous frustration with Grindr.

Aside from the occasional shady comment, racism on the app is also an ongoing issue that has yet to be completely resolved. I often find profiles on the app with discriminatory language in their bio like “I’m not into Black guys” or “White masc guys only.”

Amid the Black Lives Matter movement, Grindr eliminated a filter that helped users riddle out ethnicities that did not meet their preferences. Though this was a step in the right direction, the pain it has caused is still fresh. The idea that some gay men still excuse their racism by labeling it as a preference is disheartening.

Not only is there a clear preference for only certain ethnicities on the app, but I have also frequently experienced dated body image ideals frequently into play.

My freshman year of college was pre-pandemic and before I discovered the world of fast food delivery services like DoorDash and UberEats. I was about 100 pounds lighter. During this time I found myself getting a lot more action on the app than I do now. When I was thinner, it was customary for other guys on the app to send unsolicited photos of their genitalia or to make inappropriate comments about my body.

Now, my encounters usually start with another guy asking if they can see a picture of my stomach, being told they’re not into chubby guys or blocking me after simply saying hello.

Seeing how I was treated then versus now is undoubtedly eye-opening. It’s apparent how different body types on the app are perceived by some of the LGBTQ community.

It can be upsetting for fit men that are primarily looking for love than a sexual encounter to be objectified or for men who don’t fit the ideal body standard to not be given the time of day in any regard. It’s understandable to simply not be attracted to certain people, but there are less demeaning ways to approach it.

What’s supposed to be a safe space for gay men to find their soulmates has turned into a digital circus. If you’re looking for love, good luck, because all you’re going to get is an offer for meaningless sex from user “sugar daddy for young” or blocked by another user who doesn’t have a “preference” for Latino men.