A break from the politics and religion. A venture into sexual sociology (or, Matt got bored and started over-analyzing things). Note to parents, kiddies and folks who work for employers-masquerading-as-censors-and-big-brother: A somewhat mature conversation and questions, as well, though it’s almost purely academic.
Each of the following are headlines or bio lines from Grindr profiles I’ve seen in the past few days (obviously, I’m not sharing names, photos or locations of users; that would just be tacky, wouldn’t it?):
- “no hook ups, send me a face picture if you don’t have on ur profile”
- “Please have convo instead of ‘sup’ and expect me to carry the convo…friends only…sports lover here!”
- “chilled laid back guy loves to have fun .. not into hookups at all”
They all seem innocent enough. Good guys looking for friends and chat. The ironic thing is that each of the guys’ Grindr profile photos are shirtless. And, even without the ubiquitous shirtless photo, the last bio just seems ironic in and of itself, given “fun” is usually hookup-site lingo for “sex.”
Seriously, how many times have you had someone walk up to you on the streets without a shirt or other piece of clothing on and say hello? How is that any different than your bare-chested photo being a person’s first impression of you online?
Your profile bios and profile pics are sending mixed messages, dudes.
(By the way, if you don’t know what Grindr is… research…)
Two important caveats: (1) I’m certainly not passing judgment. I’m in absolutely no position to do such a thing. Do your own thing, peeps. Your life, your body, your decision. (2) There’s no doubt in my mind that there are plenty of people who use online dating or hookup sites for chatting and friend-making. I’ve used them for finding friends and new acquaintances, too, especially when new to Charlotte or when I’m traveling.
I’m just confused over what seems to me to be a disconnect between the way people present themselves in their profile bios and photos. So, I’m posing questions. I’m sure sociologists and other researchers into LGBT life might have already asked some of these and, if not, might find them interesting:
- Given the nature of gay male hookup sites and apps (e.g. Adam4Adam or Grindr), what’s behind the few guys who use it for “friends” and chat?
- Of those who say such things, why does there seem to be such a high number that use shirtless or other provocative profile photos?
- Again, of those, how many are really only looking for friends?
- Is the anti-gay prejudice that teaches us to hate ourselves and our own desires so strong that, even in what should be a safe space for sexual expression, some gay men find themselves too uncomfortable to admit what they’re really after?
- To what extent do differences in slang and lingo (e.g. “hookup” as seemingly innocent, flirtatious playfulness or “hookup” as casual sex, and “fun” as in amusement or “fun” as in sex) play into the intentions of online dating and hookup site or app users?
- To what extent do issues of self-esteem or self-image (50% of us would give up one year of our life for the “perfect” body, and one study found eating disorders disproportionately higher among men who have sex with men) play into how gay, bi or queer men present themselves online? (On a slightly related note this body image question and to the immediately preceding question, are there significant differences in how men who have sex with men define body-type descriptors like “slim,” “average,” “athletic,” “fat,” “height-weight proportionate” and so on?)
- How many true, sex-free and lasting friendships have been initiated on hookup sites or apps?
- How many long-term, or even slightly long-term, relationships have begun through a sex-free, friendly chat?
I think these are phenomenal questions for a study or survey of some kind, especially considering the number of couples today who are meeting online (23% according to one 2010 study from Stanford). If couples are using dating or hookup sites to meet, could it be that people are using them for “just friends,” as well? And how do individual users’ profile descriptions or bios and how they present themselves via profile photos match up with their true intentions?
If anyone knows of a study or a survey (even a survey of its own users by Grindr or another hookup or online dating site or app), I’d love to see it.