GRINDR IS AN APP that men can put on their phones to find other men to have sex with. Grindr bills itself as the largest “all-male, location-based social network in the world.” But it automates the work that once made a subversive and politically potent world.
A milestone was reached on Thanksgiving in 2011, when more men logged onto Grindr than on any other day of the year. Somehow, Grindr managed to tout this fact without mentioning stuffing. On its official blog, the makers of the app suggested a few possible holiday uses for Grindr: You could “find out where your crew is and dance off that gravy,” or, more strangely, you could “ask your neighbors on Grindr” to pick up a forgotten ingredient from the grocery store. No reminders were given to use protection; nor was there even an acknowledgment that Grindr is overwhelmingly used for hooking up for sex.
Bluntly stated, Grindr is an app you can use to find guys to fuck. It uses GPS-enabled smartphones to triangulate a potential mate’s location in real time, without requiring any eye contact. Since launching in 2009, it has claimed the title of the world’s largest gay social network, mostly thanks to word of mouth, though it has also enjoyed more than a few breathless trend articles. Joel Simkhai, Grindr’s youthfully handsome CEO, is as virginal as his company’s PR. In interviews, he demurs when pressed and insists that all his app wants is to help men find out who in the vicinity is gay. This self-neutering is partly explained by Grindr’s need to conform to the decency guidelines of Apple’s walled garden. The user agreement for Grindr stipulates that no “offensive or pornographic” materials be included in a profile; violation leads to profiles being disabled.