Most gay men have had some experience with dating apps. There is no shortage of them: growlr (for bigger guys), scruff (for the hairy lumber sexual sort), and the infamous Grindr, the granddaddy of gay dating apps. The struggle of dating apps is very real. There can be all sorts of problems using these apps ranging from unconscious body shaming to racism.
When Grindr arrived on the scene it offered a new feature by showing you the guys nearest you using the app and your distance from them. This soon became a game. If you saw a cute guy on the train in New York City you could casually open up the app on your phone and see if he was on the app. It also provided some hilarious stories in the gay community because it was discreet in a way that allowed men who were not necessarily out or might even be married to a woman with children to quietly look for gay sex on their phones. Just because the cute guy you saw in frozen foods at the grocery store was deciding on pizzas with his wife and 2 kids in tow doesn’t mean you can’t connect with him for some anonymous gay sex later.
One of the downsides about gay dating apps but Grindr in particular is how it can often warp the perceptions of young gay men. It’s very hard to think of oneself as attractive when it seems like the popular guys don’t look like you or have a bigger dick. Even the profiles can often marginalize members of the community. The trope of “no fats, no femmes” is a trope because it was based in great truth. This can make gay men feel even more ostracized in the one world where they should fit in. These apps can often leave gay men with the idea that the only way to find a great guy is to be traditionally attractive, in great shape and preferable white (at least in America) which brings up a big problem in the gay dating world: racism.
“Not into black guys” or “No rice, no curry, no blacks” can be a common thing to find on Grindr profiles. A whole twitter account is dedicated to posting racist remarks that people find in their interactions on Grindr. As one might imagine, much of this racism is from white people towards people of color. The idea that choosing a race is a sexual preference is dubious. There are plenty of reasons not to date someone but their race should not be a factor. People of color in the LGBTQA+ movement face enough uphill battles, they shouldn’t continue to face those battles into the community. The blatant way in which people feel comfortable with being openly racist in their profiles and even in personal interactions reveals a terrible truth: gay men can be racist too. Being gay does not absolve them of other areas of privilege and other biases including race and class.
It can be argued that gay dating apps are really just digital meat markets and don’t offer any real dating possibilities, just a chance to get your rocks off if you can wade through all the problems or happen to be the kind of guy that’s popular on those apps. However, these apps have often not made dating for gay men any easier than it was in the days before apps. Although, it does reveal guys that are near you, there isn’t a greater chance of getting a connection that leads to authentic dating beyond the mutual masturbation of a hookup. There’s a place for fast and easy sex when you just want to get off, but often more is desired and often an app like Grindr is about the worst place to find that. This has led to a new wave of apps and websites dedicated to real dating and not just hookups.