Gay dating app Grindr has unveiled a new range of custom emojis dubbed "Gaymoji" designed to make it easier for its users to convey and share their sexual preferences. Going beyond the usual eggplant and peach emoticons, the new trademarked collection features 500 emojis with everything from a rose, gaming controller and unicorns to a watch showing the time "4:20" and a wide variety of aubergines for users to incorporate specific lingo in their digital messages.
"Partly, this project started because the current set of emojis set by the international board were limited and not evolving fast enough for us," Grindr founder Joel Simkhai told the New York Times. "If I wanted to say something about going dancing, I would always have to use the red-dress dancing woman. I thought, 'Why isn't there a guy dancing?' It was weird to me that I always had to send that woman in the red dress."
A selection of 100 Gaymoji symbols are available for free, but users can unlock an additional 400 emojis for $3.99 (£3.89). These icons are divided into six categories: Mood, Objects, Body, Dating, Sex and Holiday.
People quickly took to social media to voice their thoughts, approval or disapproval of Grindr's new feature.
"The Grindr emojis are simultaneously the best and worst things to happen," one Twitter user wrote.
Although the new emojis have only been out for a few days, Grindr was already forced to take down one emoji - a capital "T" - after sparking backlash online with users pointing out that it could stand for "Tina," a popular slang term for crystal meth.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Grindr said: "The 'T' Gaymoji was intended to follow the 'D' and resemble the acronym 'DT,' also known as 'down to' followed by whatever it is that the user is down to 'do'." The company said the tweaked "DT" gaymoji will be available in the next update.
Other users noted that the keyboard also had multiple other drug references including depictions for poppers and marijuana.
"The core of what's happening with emojis, or Gaymojis, is that they take some of the pressure off coming up with something to say in the windowless box that is an online conversation," linguist Gretchen McCulloch told the Times at the SXSW technology conference in Austin, Texas. "It's, 'Here's some clever images so I don't have to come up with a witty pick up line.' You're not trying to communicate anything in particular so much as signaling your desire to continue the conversation."
The collection also includes multiple icons depicting variants of same-sex families as well as diverse hands holding. Advocate also noted that the collection includes an icon of a blue pill imprinted with "701" to depict Truvada, a pre-exposure prophylaxis that has been shown to be up to 99% effective in preventing HIV through sexual or needle-based contact.
"There's this shift going on culturally and we need to follow the users where they're taking us," Grindr creative director Landis Smithers said.