Texas Sexes Column: Grindr may be the death of romance

Ethan Lumus

My college experience has been one of exploration and experimentation — especially in my relationships. 

Many people use their college years to explore their sexuality and to find out what they like and don’t like in a significant other. I can attest that this sexual exploration can be especially difficult as a gay student. It is hard enough to discover individuality during college, much less figure out what we want in a partner.

In my own experience, dating apps, such as Grindr, have provided a surplus of sexual partners, most of whom assumed that, during any potential hookups, we wouldn’t use protection. Even users I did not physically engage with were sexually aggressive in their messages, assuming that I would engage in unprotected sex with them. Experiences like these encouraged me to delete Grindr and seek relationships that are emotionallybased rather than those rooted in unsafe sexual encounters.  

This week, however, I returned to Grindr, which now has more than 4 million monthly active accounts, and messaged UT users about the way apps like these have changed dating culture on campus and impacted the conversation surrounding sexual health. 

Grindr culture can often enforce anonymity in sexual encounters. Users who are bi-curious or not openly gay may create anonymous profiles to disguise their identity throughout their sexual exploration. 

One user — who asked to remain anonymous — said he feels that the selection these apps provide is something that helps usher in the growth and change of the college experience for him.

“Being in college is about exploring and finding out what you really want from life,” the user said. 

Part of that exploration for some students is about hooking up, and these apps enable hookups.

“While I don’t mind the hookup culture that much on here, it can be annoying sometimes,” the same user said. “I’d say about 25 percent of the people in here only want to hook up, and another 30 to 40 percent aren’t opposed to it.”

Andre Pena, biochemistry freshman and Grindr user, feels that, while the app does allow him to become familiar with the gay community in a given area, users can ruin the entire experience for anyone looking beyond a one-night stand. 

“Honestly, it’s not the app that is changing romance. It’s the people using it,” Pena said. “The app is what you make of it.”

Most people who responded to my message said that they weren’t sure what they were looking for on Grindr. This isn’t the case for everyone, however. Biology sophomore Nicholas Gore feels this uncertainty is an excuse for people who are afraid to be honest.

“It’s cut and dry: You want a hookup, or you want a relationship,” Gore said. “People just beat around the bush. When I was using the apps, I was always honest, and that’s how I met my boyfriend.” 

Gore and his boyfriend met on Jack’d, another dating app for gay users, and have been together for the past six months. While the two did not have any symptoms, Nicholas said that they were both tested for STDs at the start of their relationship.

“Those apps do increase the chance of hookups, so the fright of disease was always there,” Gore said. “All couples should get tested. It’s safe.”

Regardless of one’s decision to engage in a hookup or pursue online dating, these apps truly are what users make of them. Practicing safe sex and maintaining healthy relationships are imperative to successfully navigating the pitfalls of dating and hooking up in college.