Grindr dating app HIV
Grindr is increasingly being used as a platform for HIV preventionDaniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A journalist for the Daily Beast has written what pretends not to be an exposé on the huge amount of athletes in the Olympic village in Rio using dating and hookup apps. However, because straight people are, by default, normal and nothing interesting ever happened in a Tinder conversation about boxsets, the focus of the piece is on Grindr, the most popular hook-up app for gay men.

As any LGBT person will tell you, the so-called safe spaces we exist in, such as gay bars or clubs, Pride events and dating apps, can be a contradiction in terms. Issues and infighting within the community, which plays out in these spaces with alarming regularity, increasingly unpleasant each time, makes them "safe" for only a small chosen few. So it is even more wearisome, heartbreaking almost, when a straight person enters the fray, whether we like it or not. Temporarily distracting from our own woes it may be, but, hold up, this guy's got a lit rag and accelerant – he's not here to help.

This mysterious and glamorous world of hedonistic gay sex, where we're having it whenever we want, all at the mere swipe of our finger, holds such allure that, occasionally, straight people can resist no more. Into our so-called safe spaces they barge uninvited, brandishing their cop badge of heterosexual authenticity and swishing their cloak of straight privilege like Cruella de Vil showed off her furs. Gay bars, LGBT Pride, clubs and now apps – nowhere is off-limits. They're the brazen picnickers who step over the chain fence and ignore the "Keep off the grass" sign because that's where they want to sit and who needs rules anyway.

In the Daily Beast piece, acts that are perfectly standard in the arena of gay sex – being direct, being available at any time during the day, exchanging photos, sharing stats and desires – are held up to the magnifying glass like curios at an antique fair. Dangerously, the piece talks about some of the guys in great detail, despite the fact they're probably closeted and, in some cases, from countries where LGBT people are killed for their sexual orientation.

There's no suggestion it's wrong, as the homophobia here is stealth, it is a vapour. But it's all presented as slightly odd, weird, mildly titillating, and dripping with bemusement. So we start to question ourselves; we begin to feel ashamed and embarrassed.

This is the thing with the way some straight people treat gay sex and our methods of acquiring it. They don't understand that they, in fact, created this environment. If straight people didn't clutch their pearls and cover their infants' innocent eyes every time a gay person reminded them they had sex too, there'd be no need for us to hide on apps.

We are direct on apps because we spent such a long time not being able to ask for what we wanted. We use apps and hook-up sites because we were tired of approaching the "wrong" sort of guy, of being threatened for showing affection in public places, or trying to pick someone up in a gay club who was just there "for the music". We need to know our audience is a receptive one.

We do it during the day because it's available then; we have a freedom we never had before, and we are revelling in it. You give it the cutesy name of "afternoon delight" when straight people do it, but for us there's the suggestion it's dirty and shameful and perverted. If our courting rituals are unconventional or weird to you it's because you denied us the luxury of normality, of being able to be ourselves in public, for years.

That's why we can only breathe freely in our increasingly cramped safe spaces, in dark corners – you pushed us there, told us there was no room in your world. You won't educate yourselves or your children about gay sex, so we're forever doomed to be the most depressing exhibit at your freakshow, chained to you and your dim prejudices for all eternity.

If you want to know why Grindr exists, and why gay sex seems so shady and furtive, and why we get defensive when you question it, don't fire up your smartphone, log on to Grindr and lead us a merry dance to get your answers – just walk calmly and slowly to your nearest mirror and take a good, long look. We couldn't have done it without you.


The Guyliner is a writer from London who talks about dating, relationships, LGBT issues and popular culture. He writes regular columns for Gay Times and GQ.