Grindr: The dark reality (Part 2)
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I’ve previously argued that Grindr is theoretically unethical and problematic. But some of you may ask: Why does this matter? What is so wrong with Grindr in the real world? What practical problems does it cause and how are we to see these through the eyes of ethics? The reality is the practical worries blacken Grindr even more than the theoretical ones, as it has the potential to become a hotbed for racism, the pimping of vulnerable teenagers and a platform for the unconsented exposing of hundreds of men. One emerging trend is for profiles to denote the kind of men users want to contact, using phrases such as “No Asians”, “No Blacks” or “No Over 25s” to become commonplace. Sex-expert Samantha Allen said that: "If you’re a gay man, phrases like ‘no blacks’ and ‘no Asians’ aren’t just words that you’d find on old signs in a civil rights museum, they are an unavoidable and current feature of your online dating experience. This form of ‘Grindr’ speech has virtually crippled the self-esteem of many of these popular hookup app’s users." (It’s simply sexual racism.) Grindr’s response to such a worry is that expressions such as “No Asians” denotes a preference, rather than a racist slur, and the app’s creator, Joel Simkhai, said: “It isn’t his job to police such things”. As one anonymous blogger put in, “if I am gay I openly say I don’t want women, does that make me a misogynist? No.” Such a comment hinges on this ambiguous distinction between racism and preference; it may be someone’s preference not to sleep with Asian men, and evidence shows that some white men are not sexually attracted to Asian or Black men naturally, but in the nature of expressing it as “No Asians” it becomes an attack on a group of people who you ask not to talk to you (which would certainly be considered racist if publically spoken). If Grindr promotes itself as not simply a sex app, then Asian men could talk to you for friendship and rejecting them would be tantamount to prejudice. Evidence from a new leading Australian study, which correlated survey results from Grindr with our natural QDI (Quick Discrimination Index), found that: “Racial discrimination on gay dating apps can be attributed to racist attitudes and not, as so many maintain, to benign aesthetic preferences. Sexual racism, it turns out, is probably just plain old racism disguised in the language of desire.” (Dr Denton Callender) This seems to show that such expressions, as Allen believes, are fundamentally racist: they pretend to have a different agenda but are really the racism of the 1950s and 1960s re-introduced. I think it would be a tad extreme to claim it is always intended racism (the QDI can work on impulse), but it is racism nonetheless that apps like Grindr are promoting (such phrases are hardly ever, if ever, seen on Tinder).
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