Words || Jasmine Phillips
This issue, the challenge was to download Grindr, upload a profile, and catfish some unsuspecting (yet simultaneously pretty damn presumptuous) men.
I’ll admit that I’ve had my fair share of time on dating apps. From Tinder to Bumble to OKCupid, I’ve been there. And while it’s been a year since I was actively on the prowl, as such, back in the day I quite enjoyed a little harmless dating app flirtation.
Which is to say, I was a dating app hoe with a rotation of people I hit up for sexting or banter whenever I felt like it.
I never really used these apps to hook up with anyone, but I definitely engaged in some level three flirtation.
To be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with hookups, but they’re definitely not my thing.
Firstly, because I’m a love-at-first-sight, head-over-heels kinda gal by nature.
Secondly, because during this time I was still supposedly interested in men, and the general occupational hazard of being a woman made random hook-ups seem dangerous.
That aside, I can definitely say that I was keen for this challenge.
Banter is honestly just so much fun. The back and forth of it all, the tingly feeling that sits in your chest and makes you feel all light.
The heightened tension between two interested and potentially DTF young people is so delicious, and the anonymity of the internet really does make it extra spicy.
Needless to say, I was delighted from the moment the suggestion was made by our editorial team.
I found myself giddy with glee as we cropped a generic gym selfie into a close-up of “my” abs, artfully skewing the angle.
With all of this pent-up anticipation I felt like Amanda Bynes in She’s the Man.
I can do this – I am a dude! I am a hunky dude!
Of course, the central aim of this experience held greater significance. I vowed to examine the way in which unique markets use technology to create intimate spaces- okay, fine, I wanted to see how many dick pics I could get in one go.
I let James navigate my profile settings, guiding me through the hidden underbelly of my (sort of) community.
I’d thought top, bottom, and twink were all I would need but discreet? Otter?
Fun Fact: Grindr makes Tinder look like christianmingle.com.
Lesbian dating apps were all about conversation. Every other profile I saw on HER was a taken couple looking for mates, or a woman looking for a pen pal – or, you know, a weed dealer, but still.
It was about the social and the personal.
Women wanting to make connections with other women, women searching for a community. All stereotypes aside, this was an online space where people were just looking for genuine connection. Someone to talk to.
Trying to engage in any sort of proper banter with any of the girls I spoke with was therefore a struggle.
I could be sexting with a straight dude within thirty seconds, but lesbians? Absolutely not.
In my experience, it seems like this has come from butch women feeling the need to separate themselves from the male gaze.
This is not my struggle, so I have no real place in saying this, but as a femme and a lesbian: you are not objectifying women by appreciating them. It is okay to feel attracted to women, even in a sexual way.
But back to Grindr.
It’s clear to see that the gay male community has dealt with internalised homophobia and sexism in the opposite way to the lesbian community. That is, it is all about sex, with nothing about feelings.
The difference between profiles on Grindr and profiles on HER was huge and stark.
Forget conversation and connection. People don’t even use names on Grindr. They use initials, emojis and arrows.
That is, my profile was: M, ^ ;)
And M was a real hit with the boys.
In the six hours that I existed in the world as a hunky masc top, I received “hey”s, pics and numbers from more than 75 men in my area.
(If only my fourteen-year-old self had known that becoming a gay man was all I had to do to acquire instant popularity).
For the straight people in the room who think that this influx of interest isn’t absolutely bonkers, here’s a friendly reminder that same sex attracted people make up less than 9% of the population altogether.
Like, back when I was using lesbian dating apps, I acquired less than 60 matches over two months. (Granted, I acknowledge that to the average app-going lesbian I come across as a Becky from Kappa Kappa Pi who kisses her sorority sisters for funzies, but even so).
I scrolled through page after page of bumps and messages, giggling as my phone vibrated off of the table when I stopped for dinner. The sheer number of people messaging me was mind-boggling, and the attention (while deceitfully acquired) was gratifying.
And then, I received a message from someone I knew.
It wasn’t a dick pic (thank goodness) – it was a simple “Hey!”.
But I recognised his face, and it made me pause.
Grindr might be a platform that is primarily used for hook-ups. And, sure, unsolicited dick pics are an entertaining problem to highlight.
But I had missed the fact that this app was also one of the only platforms that gay men have when it comes to dating.
And I know personally how overwhelmingly bleak your love life can seem when you’re a queer kid staring at a sea of straight people.
I am not a party gay. Because of my meds, I barely drink, and I’ve never tried drugs that my psychiatrist hasn’t specifically prescribed.
But I’ve spent a good handful of nights dolled up and scantily-clad at GirlThing or Empire searching for someone I knew was out there, but didn’t know how to find.
When your dating pool is limited to less than 4% of the population, finding The One gets much more complex. That’s part of the reason why most gay kids don’t date as teenagers.
After less than six hours, I deleted my profile off of Grindr and signed out forever.
This is a grapeshot challenge I’m satisfied with only partially fulfilling.