In Psychology Today, psychotherapist Melissa Ritter, Ph.D., writes about about Grindr, a gay hook-up app that is certainly ripe for analysis. But Dr. Ritter clearly hasn't used the service for what it's intended: various forms of penis play.
Based on anecdotes from her friends and patients, though, she reads the online bathhouse as a sex-positive conduit for gay pride. Her final paragraph sums it all up nicely:
Grindr is about many things. Sex is one of them, an important one of them. But it is also a place to make friends, combat loneliness, diminish shame and to celebrate gay male identity. Sadly, a part of that identity sometimes includes some self-reproach. Nonetheless, a defiant openness and optimism prevails. And that's what Gay Pride is about.
She's right about the openness and optimism – at least in part, Grindr is a display of the self-empowerment that comes from disembodied communication. Plenty of people who step to you on Grindr never actually would in real life because of any variety of insecurities or biases. That seems more like foolish pride than gay pride, but hey, pro-activity beats wallowing.
But because Ritter's post is tied to LGBT Pride Month, and because gay pride during Pride Month is all about public displays, Ritter misses the mark. Or, at least, she misses my mark. I don't feel the invigorating breeze of a Pride float when I use Grindr. All of the hookups I've had through the app have taken place in the privacy of a bedroom. My sex is personal, one-on-one and as tucked way from heterosexual society as it would have been were I having it in an actual bathhouse in the ‘70s. (I'll allow that my current lack of curtains may diminish my argument. But still.) To hook up is not to interface with heterosexuality. In fact, sex is the gay man's vacation from the straight world. And in an all-gay venue, particularly one in which the inhabitants are stripped to their most carnal existence, gay pride is just pride.
The pride derived from Grindr is entirely selfish. It is the pride that comes from catching a guy's eye, gay or straight, and then charming him into spending time with me. Not me the gay, but me the me. Though Grindr appears to be a communal experience, its home screen a sea of gay eyes and abs, the app exists to further compartmentalize a compartmentalized world, as its technology only allows for one-on-one chatting – it's what Gay.com was 10 years ago, just trimmed of the fat of a main room consisting of faceless text-soliciting chats. It cuts the shit and allows its users to, as well. It takes out all of the guess work that comes with cultural signifiers like fluttering eyes, lingering glances, handkerchiefs, pink triangles, Edmund White novels tucked under arms, and earrings in right ears. By providing a far easier route to sex, it even threatens the necessity of gay bars. Grindr is to cruising what Duck Hunt is to hunting. There's barely any thrill in pursuit. Because of that, I derive more pride from bar pick-ups. That's work. Button-pushing isn't.
Ritter points to Grindr's use as a bonding tool among platonic gay friends, which I can certainly relate to – I'll text friends screenshots of pictures that are amazing for any number of reasons or relate stories about hilariously out-of-step chats. But that's not pride, it's just living. It's not like I ever need an excuse to talk about being gay with other gay guys, and having sex is actually a great way to facilitate that type of discussion, anyway. (This is why Andrew Haigh's Weekend hit me so hard last year. Talking ad nauseam about being gay with the guy you just got extremely gay with is a life pattern that I love.) And of course, Grindr is a great way to facilitate the type of sex that facilities that discussion.
There is one source of the LGBT Month-type of pride that I derive from Grindr that's inherent to Ritter's piece, although not accounted for as such: telling straight people about it. This is some streamlined, cultural shit created by a few gays and supported by many more. Show a straight guy or girl a Grindr tutorial revealing the ease with which you can hook up, the level of directness that's become socially acceptable, the efficiency in your fluidal transactions, and you will blow their minds. I've heard nothing but admiration from the people I've shared my Grindr experiences with. As a gay man, that kind of acceptance makes me proud.