Technology » Personal Tech

How Grindr Changed the Landscape of Gay Sex and Interaction

by Ryan Dixon
Monday Nov 26, 2012

What's yellow and black and full of raging hormones? No, not the campus of Georgia Tech. If you're a gay man, and a few straight women who love their gays, it's most likely a little app on your phone that has revolutionized the way gay men do anything.

Grindr co-founder and Senior VP of Product & Design, Scott LeWallen, dreamed up his self-funded smart phone application with Joel Simkhai while living in New York City.

"We thought, 'how can we make it easier to meet and find each other?'" LeWallen told SFGN.

LeWallen, whose department is tasked with design and dreaming up the cool new features for Grindr users, said he and Simkhai had high hopes for the app when it launched on March 29, 2009. "When it started to snowball, to me that's a testament as to how tech can help people."

Three years later Grindr now boasts more than 4 million users, representing 192 counties with 1.5 million in the United States alone. The smart phone app launched on the iPhone, but is now a cross platform app compatible with Android and Blackberry as well.

Eryx, a 28-year-old gay Brazilian now living in Miami told SFGN that even though there were always gay bars and clubs, those are closed environments and some people just aren't into it.

"A guy that is in his 30s without ever having sex can now check into Grindr and find a fuckbuddy at his gym, class or any other scenario where figuring out a person's sexuality isn't that easy or exposed" said Eryx. "There's also the targeted violence deal (straight homophobes and groups that make profiles to find and interact with gay guys they lure from these apps), the risks of finding someone you know or from your family, and the higher rate of infidelity because of the apps making it easier for a cheater to find an occasional or recurring lover."

Not everyone is as high praising or optimistic about the app.

David Rameaux is 26 and originally from New York like LeWallen. The Fort Lauderdale resident was quick to offer this thought when asked how Grindr has changed the way he interacts with other gay men and sex: "Grindr destroyed the idea of meeting a guy at a bar. Hookups are now at the tip of your fingers; tucked away in your pocket. You can find sex while you sit on the toilet."

Robbie Smith, a writer for the Melbourne, Australian gay news site SameSame, thinks Grindr is to blame for the "death of gay strips in our major cities."

"Once havens that attracted a 'liquorice all-sorts' in the gay fraternity are now seen as desperate and dateless dance parties littered with ageing drag queens," Smith said. "Instead of waltzing to the local pink palazzo, stacks of guys are powering up Grindr at any hetero nightspot and scouring the talent, discreetly of course."

LeWallen knows you can't change who a person in in this day in age.

"People will live in the virtual world. By doing so, it opens up the chance for them to connect to people they never would meet."

He also believes that gay men shouldn't have to go to obviously gay places to meet other gay people like Smith suggests. "Places where being gay is criminalized, Grindr helps those people find one another" LeWallen said. "What we at Grindr found is there are a lot of gay destinations, and Grindr offers an alternative way to meet and greet people."

Dennis Sundquist thinks Grindr is just a tool to help the egos of gay men. "I don't think it really changed sex," Sundquist said. "It pretty much just built itself on the foundation of other online personal sites like Adam4adam, Manhunt and Outpersonals." Sundquist thinks Grindr has added a new level of ageism and narcissism.

"Some 20-year-old without a face pic, sent me one of his anorexic, yet somehow flabby torso, hit me up to tell me I was fat; that he was glad he wasn't a whale like me" Sundquist said. Sundquist did add that he believes that apps like Grinder and Scruff, and sites like Adam4Adam can be helpful in places that don't have the benefit of a prominent gay community.

Contacting another gay person in remote areas of America, or anywhere in the world, can be difficult. "We get testimonials from guys in remote areas who have no way to meet people" LeWallen said. At least with Grindr you know someone is close. We're creating lasting relationships, whether they are in person or over our app because you're separated by hundreds of miles."

Everything in life has its pros and cons. LeWallen promises exciting new changes to the app including a new communities section and a more advanced filter option. He summed up all his thoughts with this: "No matter what, your experience, the outcome of anything is all up to you."

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