Apps / The Problem Guests

The Problem Guests: Grindr and Consent

Written by William @willmlemos


I have had a tumultuous relationship with the social media app in the 8 years that I have been an openly gay man. The app advertises itself as “the worlds #1 FREE mobile social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people to connect.” However, its unofficial brand is a casual hookup/dating app filled with faceless torsos and profiles. Nevertheless, I like so many of my queer friends, use the app.

Why we using dating apps is very personal. I, in a current moment of uncertainty and turbulence in my post-grad school, unemployed life, use it to build connections and maybe, just maybe, engage in the act of courtship with one or two lucky individuals. This is a harmless objective that has been well received by many that I have had the brief honor to chat with.

Except for one, whose interaction with me sparked an internal dialogue and question about the culture that Grindr has created. One thing in particular that has come to mind in the culture of unsolicited explicit photos and what seems to be the non-existent culture of consent on the app.

The culture of the unsolicited eggplant emoji is one that, from my point of view, is toxic to both the app and the community as a whole. Consent has been, for the betterment of society, a hot topic and focus in recent years. But has it been in the queer community? How often do queer people, specifically gay men, discuss and engage in not only conversations around consent but the actual practice itself?

This thought came about after a fellow Grindr user found no qualm with sending me, without any other formal greeting such as “Hello.” “Hey.” “Sup?”, one of these unsolicited explicit photos. Instead of blocking him (which is my usual response) I proceeded to call him out for such an act without my consent.

The response: “This is Grindr. What do you expect?” and “If you don’t want to hook-up, get off the app.”

First, my existence and usage on an app is my business and my right. I do not need to justify my place on it to anyone who thinks otherwise. Second, this interaction is the point that I made above. In no way, shape, or form did this individual think that it was a problem to just send me an explicit photo without my consent. Simply being on Grindr seemed to be consent enough.

But that is NOT the case. Consent has to be asked. It has to be given. Be it in person or behind the comfort of a screen, individuals have the right to choose what they receive from other people. As a close friend of mine said once, “You wouldn’t just whip your junk out in public. Why should an app be any different?”

Grindr has made…some…progress over the years to address and improve this culture. Now, at the very very very bottom of your profile, you can state whether or not you accept NSFW pics. While it’s a step, it’s clear that this is ignored by most users and the culture continues. Consent is not just a heterosexual topic, it’s a human topic that we all need to be involved in and PRACTICE!

Consent is sexy. Unsolicited pics are not!

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