All posts edited by Madeline Ricchiuto.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Grindr Series: Are profiles on Grindr discriminatory?

As a quick refresher, Grindr is one of the most popular gay social apps out there. It is often portrayed as an app for getting quick, anonymous sex, and is typically used as an example of everything that is wrong with the gay community. That being said, there are many different kinds of people who fill the virtual halls of Grindr and all of them seem to have different goals for the use of said app.

Mathew Rodriguez's blog post on the Huffington Post follows the trend by demonizing the idea of anonymous sex and singling out Grindr as the epitome of everything wrong within the gay community. Describing the original intent of the app - the original use was apparently for gay men to consult Grinder to muster up the courage to talk to someone across the bar - Rodriguez describes the app as 'running afoul' because of us 'mere horny mortals', and calls it a place where there is limited space for self-expression, and complains about the rampant 'flattening' of personalities.

This kind of flattening of personality can be seen all around the internet. On sites like Twitter, tumblr, and dating sites, the slim character limits for a self-description make it impossible to accurately convey all of what makes you who you are. Of course we are flattened when we try to put ourselves into words in a limited amount of space. Particularly on dating sites, this means that we start to say the things we feel are most important for other's to know - so as to not waste time. This means we will put things like 'prefer someone with decent jobs' or 'People who read a lot welcome!' or 'Overly negative people need not apply'. We start to set up our own personal filters, in addition to the ones that already come with whatever website we're using.

When all is said and done Rodriguez's piece says that people should either not have preferences on race, size, HIV status (or anything else really), or at the very least should not be expressing them because that is racist, fat-shaming, and discriminatory. In his piece Rodriguez makes parallels to the 1% in our economy, cyber bullying, and social construction as the basis for his complaint.

The 1% of Grindr, much like in the greater gay male community, are the men who are masculine, white, cisgender, and generally have defined abs. Individuals with these traits are seen as the most desirable, not only the sexual, but also political and social spheres. If you have all of the above traits and are on an app like Grindr you are more likely to get messaged, hook-up, etc. Rodriguez has taken this likelihood of getting messages and hooking up as a privilege, describing it as "the privilege of determining who has access to them and when and where they will get serviced."

Similarly, Rodriguez feels that users stating their preferences for potential partners has become cyber-bullying. Having the self-awareness to know what you want and to express it openly is not same as the young teen who is targeted and harrassed for being different, quiet, and in many cases part of our LGBTQ community. Yet, to Rodriguez, these things are one in the same.

None of these preferences are really new ideas and the most common response is that these are just preferences and they can't be helped so why are they bad? Rodriguez is quick to point out that these are are social constructions of what we have been told we should be attracted to and so are obviously changeable and therefore can be demonized as discriminatory. What is failed to be realized is that while these are socially constructed wants and desires, they are not consciously decided upon. Unless this preference is due to or gives rise to the thought that someone with one of the not preferred characteristics is less deserving or somehow inferior, then its not really discrimination is it?

Rodriguez's analysis seems to fall short on all of his points. When talking about 'the 1%' of the Grindr community it is important to keep in mind that of course they should have the ability to determine who has access to their bodies! To say otherwise is to say you should be able to have sex with whomever you want despite their own desires, and that my friends is known as rape. Do white, cis-men, with abs have more pickings? Probably but that is really only true on Grindr, there are many tailored apps for people who prefer different things.

When writing things like "no fats, fems" etc. I can understand the natural recoil. Saying such things is abrasive to many (myself included). I would call these phrases rude and sometimes almost derogatory but I wouldn't say that by expressing the preference that the people are being discriminatory. Online interactions are unique because we can tailor who we interact with, and online dating/hookup sites are different from trolling the bars because they allow you to weed out whom you have little in common with or whom you aren't attracted to relatively quickly. If we start shaming people for having a preference for race, or size, or masculinity, where do we make a line? Why shouldn't we also be shaming preferences of hair or eye color? Why shouldn't we be shaming gay and straight people for not liking people of all sexes? Should people find better ways of expressing their preferences? Probably, but don't conflate being derogatory and rude with being discriminatory.

You can read more of my thoughts on Grindr here and here.

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