First launched in , it now claims to have four million users worldwide. In fact, so successful has Grindr been that it recently spawned a lesbian version, called FindHrr. Is this what passes for gay culture these days?
An app which offers the quickest, easiest way to arrange sexual hook-ups? If Grindr really is an example of gay culture then is dogging an example of "straight culture"? And if not, why not? Britain's lesbian and gay community has made massive strides in recent years. We have an equal age of consent, employment rights and a whole raft of legal protections we didn't have a decade ago. Soon the UK will even follow in the footsteps of countries like Spain and South Africa and grant same sex couples the right to marry. So where does that leave gay culture? For many people, gay culture begins and ends with the gay scene.
There are gay magazines devoted to it, and gay people who devote their lives to it. And compared to many countries, we have a gay scene we can be proud of. But all is not well in this rosy pink world. The impact of drugs like GHB has led to numerous deaths on the London gay scene. Next month, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in the capital is hosting a panel discussion to address the problem. The fact that it's presented by someone called Sleazy Michael gives some idea of the target audience. Of course, gay culture isn't confined to the scene. There's also the mainstream.
Take television. A decade ago, people said that Queer As Folk had changed everything. But creator Russell T Davies was the first to admit that it hadn't.
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We still have the familiar line-up of camp comedians we've had since the s. The names have changed, but the mannerisms haven't. Once, gay men were associated with the wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde.
It also employs sociological and historical elements to reflect upon the social aspects of desire that fuel this search and the new visibility regime in which these men live. Finally, it analyses the moral, symbolic and material restrictions that mold an economy of desire demanding their discretion and secrecy.
Not long ago, in the midst of an ocean of similar profiles on apps that allows the search for same sex partners, I found one that asserted the following: Well guy, here's a tip for you You got the ideal profile for that! Why is the online search for a partner guided by a demand for discretion and masculinity and the refusal of that which is openly gay?
Sup? Looking? Party? A Guide to Gay App Lingo - WEHOville
What are the continuities and, most importantly, the changes that the terms of this type of search represent, if we seek to understand the social and historical context in which these users are situated? In order to answer these questions, we must listen and try to understand those who explain their search in such terms:.
I use all these applications [laughter] I started with Grindr, and then went on to Scruff and Hornet. More recently, Tinder. Applications are programs that are available through online stores in free and paying versions - the latter, of course, are the most complete. To begin to use them, a person has to download them into his device, create a profile with a photo and begin to visualize other users according to how far away they are.
Thanks to the GPS, applications are able to show just how close one is to potential partners. The first page of an application usually shows a series of photos of different users. By simply touching someone's photo, one gets access to a profile that provides data such as age, height, weight, self-description and what kind of person he is looking for. There is also a way to send private messages to other users or make a date, when both parties so desire.
Sup? Looking? Party? A Guide to Gay App Lingo
The first application of this type was Grindr, created in by Joel Simkhai, a 38 year old businessman born in Israel and based in Los Angeles, a city famous for its lack of a downtown, that is, for urban sprawl and lack of reference points for daily social intercourse in public space. In an interview that he gave, Simkhai explained that the application was developed in response to the frequent query, "where can I find other gay guys? Grindr was his technological answer to a problem that, for other men in other contexts, was to serve different ends and undergo re-appropriations.
Researchers Rice et alli , looking into how Grindr was being used in Los Angeles, produced a quantitative summary of the main reasons given for its use. Lucas, for example, concluded that he prefers to use Tinder because:. It's not that I'm trying to hide, but I'm not totally out either. I don't go around waving a banner and so forth. I mind my own business. That's how I've chosen to live. I don't want to always be exposing myself. So the least number of people I have in common with someone, the safer I feel about a date.
Some of my interlocutors, those who were over 45 years of age, stretched this line of digital media use backwards, reminiscing about the use of IRC and MIRC programs, telephone services which work like the Brazilian " Disque Amizade " [Dial Friendship] or even classified adds published in magazines and newspapers. Well, in addition to their practicality, using applications is safer than going out on the prowl, where everyone is interested in someone else. And you don't have to expose yourself the way you would if you went to some gay hangout.
I hate the gay scene! There are men such as Lucas who combine their use with physical presence on the gay scene, while others, like Tiago, use them as an alternative to the latter. Notwithstanding different ways of using these applications and the need to treat categorical affirmations about them and those who use them with caution, I seek to bring historical and social elements together to explain the use of these technological tools as well as factors that structure the interaction they permit.
My research focuses on the experiences of men who use these applications to look for same-sex partners, whether or not users actually consider themselves to be homosexual. The major question that I attempt to answer is why they came to prioritize digitally-mediated contact.
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I use two articulated discussions to explain my findings. The first one has to do with the emergence of a new regime of sexual visibility in which sexualities are distributed along a spectrum of recognition that goes from the most socially acceptable heterosexual, and in particular, monogamous couples with kids , to those who have begun to negotiate their visibility such as socioeconomically privileged gays and lesbians to those who have been kept within or relegated to abjection. The second discussion has to do with how this new regime of sexual visibility is intrinsically related to the centrality of work and security, shaped by what I refer to as a new economy of desire which encourages the search for sex without commitment with "discreet" partners.
Through these discussions, I seek to deconstruct the hegemonic representations and social practices that engender subjects within a specific socio-technical context. Finally, I present some theoretical and political reflections on how hegemonic heterosexual masculinity has presided over the context within which these historical changes have been negotiated. The progressive separation of sexuality from reproduction that began during the second half of the twentieth century brought with it political demands such as the feminist assertion that the personal is political.
The different movements that sprung up around homosexuality introduced demands that enable us to recognize today forms of inequality that were once ignored: Although feminisms, homosexual movements and gender dissidence have gained greater social visibility since the sixties, it is in the aftermath of the Sexual Revolution and of the sexual panic triggered by AIDS that their demands have achieved wider dissemination in Western societies. With specific regard to same-sex relations, there are historical and sociological elements that enable us to recognize that as of the second half of the s, media representations of gays and lesbians begin to define models for their social recognition.
It is as if homosexuals came to be recognized as a particular life style related to market interests, new forms of communication and political demands for the erasure of differences in relation to heterosexualities. This becomes evident in the emergence of what has been coined Pink Money , and marked in Brazil by the popularization of GLS "gay, lesbian and sympathizers" business. A segmented commercial circuit comes about, meant to serve a socioeconomically privileged homosexual public with integrationist aspirations, that is, that seeks services that enable them to socialize with heterosexuals, thus galvanizing a process of "un-differentiation" of sexual desire.
With regard to emergent political agendas, the year marked a profound change in homosexual activism.
It was also the year in which federal representative Marta Suplicy presented her proposal for a legal amendment recognizing civil partnerships for same-sex couples. The centrality of this political demand, a battle partially won through Federal Supreme Court recognition of same sex partnerships in May of , is one of the cornerstones of a new visibility strategy that seeks rights and citizenship through adhesion to traditional relationship models Beleli, ; Miskolci, At the same time that the social movement and its political agenda began to follow this course, more news columns and publications geared toward a homosexual audience started to appear, creating a new media image - one that was more positive and more commercially integrated.
The worldwide computer network that is so much a part of our daily lives today enabled this new anonymous and relatively safe form of socialization for people that feared social retaliation. It allowed them to a chance to overcome loneliness and permitted effective and modulated contact with potential partners and friends. In turn, the Gay Pride March consolidated a new type of activism and visibility for those who gradually came to be known as "LGBT subjects". Public distribution of anti-retroviral drugs worked to slowly change previous public perception that being HIV positive was a fatal condition, now considered a kind of chronic illness that can be effectively treated with readily available medication.
These transformations, whose effects were gradual and more consolidated in the 21st century, changed social understandings of homosexualities and the characteristics that they were associated with. In sociological terms, a new regime of visibility emerged, one which re-negotiated the levels of social acceptance of homosexuality in our country.
As I have observed elsewhere a: Within the realm of sexuality, "visibility regime" is a notion that seeks to produce a synthesis of the way societies confer recognition and make certain love arrangements visible while other forms of relationship are controlled through moral vigilance, public constraint and, in short, efforts to maintain those forms of love and sex relationships in a situation of relative discretion or invisibility. A visibility regime translates into sophisticated forms of power relations, since it is not based on direct prohibition; rather, on indirect yet highly efficient forms of management of what is visible and acceptable in everyday life.
Thus, when I speak of a new visibility regime, I am not speaking of something that should necessarily be seen in a positive light, nor of the general public display of homosexuality in everyday life.
Quite the contrary, this regime has involved the construction of a "correct" form of visibility, related to the circulation of media images and to the internal division of homosexualities in which some forms become visible and recognized - even taken as models to be followed - while others are considered reprehensible even when not always or necessarily kept invisible. Within a regime of visibility, hypervisibility - rather than covering - can actually become a major pitfall. Homosexuality continues to be seen negatively in feminine men and gender benders and associated in mechanical and dubious ways with transsexuals and crossdressers.
This reveals continuity in relation to the social rejection of a homosexuality that is understood as a form of gender dislocation, particularly when it is manifested publicly, and is corroborated by the evident valorization of socially recognized "masculine" types on the social platforms that I have studied. The majority of my interlocutors reproduce naturalized perspectives of gender.