Content warning: Mentions of assault and harassment
Sex is something that most humans crave; in this new age of technology, an app to make hooking up easier was destined to come to fruition.
Grindr is an LGBTQ+ app that mostly is used by gay and bisexual men for hookups. This app is accessible for anyone to download, and use, no matter what age they are.
Of course, there is an age requirement for the app. You have to be eighteen years of age to have a profile, but Grindr lacks the security it needs to enforce that rule; there is no required proof of age to make a profile, so the requirement is more of a loose suggestion.
Having underage children is a problem their app faces, since almost anyone is able to lie about their age to become a user. In fact, many underage gay teenagers make a Grindr profile to have their first sexual experience, trying their best to match the experiences that their straight peers around them are having.
As a younger teenager, I knew to avoid Grindr for as long as I could; I did not want to be sucked into the murky water of that app.
It wasn’t until I started to get older, and everyone around me was talking about their sexual experiences, where I finally caved in and downloaded the app. I was determined to recreate the same experience as some of my peers.
At first, I was surprised to find it was not all bad. Without a profile picture and bio, there was not enough information to lure a large crowd. My blank profile really did not have anyone interested in me, so I stayed under the radar on the app until I uploaded a photo of 16-year-old me, which is exactly when it all seemed to change.
Older men know how to prey on people who are younger than them, and this was an experience I witnessed firsthand while using the app.
Mostly, it would be the older men messaging me first, saying how they would “treat me right” for the first time; trying to manipulate me into being with them.
The whole thing never sat right with me. I did not enjoy any of the older men messaging me in this way, having these types of interactions, and feeling pressured to reciprocate in some way.
Worse was being the person responsible for stopping it. I kept blocking and blocking, but the aggression and threats would only get worse.
I received death threats because of saying no. I was made to feel guilty for saying no. I was attacked for my looks for telling these grown men no. Ultimately, after being worn down by all the hate, I ended up sending things I didn’t feel comfortable doing in the first place.
Receiving this type of treatment on the app forced me to sit down and question why I even downloaded the app in the first place. I started distrusting a whole generation older than me by questioning why we are told to look up to our elders and respect them when they are the ones ruining the younger generation for their own benefit.
It is hard to describe this experience that I have faced. Never did I want to send my naked body to these men, or be sent by 40+ year old men without my consent, but I felt like if I spoke up about not wanting either of these things, my life would be in danger.
What is Grindr doing about these types of experiences young LGBTQIA+ youth are facing on the app? How is an app supporting all of this trauma that young gay men deal with?
The one and only hookup I have ever done on that app was with an older man. The pressure I felt from this man was so overwhelming, I feared for my life if I did not go on this hookup.
I never gave consent to anything, and I wish I had set boundaries before walking into his house. Walking through the door, I wanted to run right back out. He grabbed me and led me into his bedroom. Then, he started doing what he needed to do for his pleasure; I stood there still in shock at what was happening to me. Once it was over, I never had put my clothes back on faster in my entire life.
Walking out, I noticed a picture of what I assumed to be his wife on the end table. Did I know this fact about him? Absolutely not, and I felt even more guilty for what had just gone down.
On the drive home I just sat in silence processing what happened to me. At that moment I deleted the app and have rarely been on it since that day.
I know I am not alone in this experience. Ingroup members are aware of all taking place, and given that it is a common experience on the app, I am sure the creators are aware of this too.
Yet, many still keep themselves on this app, age restrictions still remain loose, and men are still given the power to assault and groom younger men on this type of platform.
It saddens me that this is currently taking place in our world, and on an application meant to be more inclusive of all sexualities.
The reality is the many lives ruined by the app and the lack of repercussions taken for the consequence that many have to live with.
At the time, I already had sexual experiences with people my age. I really did not need to be on this app, and why I was still on it was a question going through my mind every day. I knew I was going to hate the experience going in, but I wanted to have a story to share with my peers; I wanted to fit in. What happened to me, however, is a story that I never could have imagined happening.
I am not saying this entire app is awful and everyone who uses it is doing so with ill-intentions. Actually, I have made some amazing friends thanks to this app. However, how justifiable is it to have this platform still running when it has done so much harm to a group that already goes through so much?
There needs to be a change with this app, starting with protecting younger LGBTQ+ members more. Having an actual age requirement check can save so many from sharing the experience that I had to go through.
Every day on social media I see screenshots from other gay men sharing the exchanges that they go through on the app; it is horrific to see but important. We must be aware of the problem that is happening.
People are addicted to this platform, validation from complete strangers at times can be the biggest form of comfort. While not everyone has gone through what I have, being aware of this and bringing attention to the issues that this app has caused is important.
I am not ashamed of having gone through this experience, it only makes me stronger in sharing my story. I know that not everyone is like this, but I am hoping by sharing this, no one else will have to go through what I experienced. Going forward, hopefully we can be more cautious and protect ourselves from the harm this app has caused many gay individuals.