Psychology Today had an interesting post on its website in honor of June being Pride Month: Pyschotherapist Melissa Ritter laid out the argument that Grindr, the ubiquitous geo-social hookup app, is a wonderful example of how far the gay-male community has come.
How extraordinary that wherever a gay man lives or travels, he can instantly find other gay men. He need never feel alone, that he is the “only one.” He’s not forced to search out the often marginalized gay ghettos that continue to offer much needed comradarie and support.
The Grindr screen display is a riotous grid of various photos of men—smiling, open faces, as well as lots of body shots–arranged from nearest to farthest away. Tap on a picture and the user receives a brief profile, including the precise distance from that person provided in increments of feet or miles. There are options to chat, send pictures and share location.
There is an immediacy and intimacy this app offers that distinguishes it from internet sites providing gay men with access to one another. A few taps and you’ve got a whole group of guys who are hanging out in both your cyber and actual neighborhood.
Sure it’s nice that gay men no longer have to hide in shame, but has Ritter actually seen how most men use Grindr? We’re not meeting up to play trust games or form a drum circle.
In her essay, Ritter shares anecdotes from her patients: One who checks Grindr on a road trip with his partner, just to know “they were not the only two gay men around.” And another who told her about a board-game night where everyone logged on, just to see who was “cute.”
“No one had any intention of leaving the gathering to hook up and no one did,” she explains. “But they were able to feel part of a larger gay community, and to talk playfully and frankly about sex.”
Thanks Dr. Ritter, but gay men have been able to talk playfully and frankly about sex long before hookup apps came on the scene.
Look, we enjoy Grindr as much as the next ‘mo, but its hardly a shining example of how much we’ve accomplished. Not to mention we kind of suspect Ritter’s patients aren’t being totally honest with her about when and why they check the site. How many of us have felt ignored as our buddies stared blankly at a screen checkered with ab shots?
And with all of her talk of the “furtiveness and fear” surrounding homosexuality—and the supposed impossibility of courtship and marriage—it kind of sounds like the good doctor is trapped in the 1970s, when even having gay sex was a political statement.
Today, it’s pretty much just sex.
Grindr is about many things. Sex is one of them, an important one of them. But it is also a place to make friends, combat loneliness, diminish shame and to celebrate gay male identity. Sadly, a part of that identity sometimes includes some self-reproach. Nonetheless, a defiant openness and optimism prevails. And that’s what Gay Pride is about.
Sorry, Doc: There’s nothing wrong with using Grindr—or Manhunt, any other tool to help you land a guy—but as we approach full equality on all fronts, we’d like to think gay men have accomplished more than figure out how to hook up faster and more often.