When I'm on Grindr and I come across someone I know who has a boyfriend, I usually giggle. And after I stop giggling, I usually take a screen shot. I do that not because I am going to tell this person's boyfriend or post it on Facebook but because I just want to have evidence for just a moment and think about all the "what ifs." What if I did send this photo and they were to break up? What if he's really on Grindr just to pass the time and not to hook up? After thinking about these questions and many others, I usually delete that screen shot and go on my merry way.
Recently, I received an email from a guy who'd discovered that his boyfriend had been episodically visiting Grindr and various other sites. When caught, the boyfriend had stated that it was because he enjoyed being a voyeur and was just looking at photos. The guy who emailed me was wondering, "Is it OK if my boyfriend is on Grindr?"
I have been asked this question a ton, and my answer has consistently been "yes, no and maybe." Let me break it down.
Do you go to gay bars with your boyfriend? How about movies in gay parts of town? Do you go to Pride parades during the summer? Does your man go to work, go to the gym or even go outside? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then why not let him on Grindr? At the end of the day, Grindr is just a different way of seeing and experiencing the world. All those floating torsos and photos of faces are connected to real people in real places that are really only 500 feet away. Being on Grindr isn't too different from being in the real world, so all those worries you have bottled up about him logging on need not apply. Out in the real word, your boyfriend is just as likely to do all those things that you are scared of him doing on Grindr.
Grindr has been called the world's scariest gay bar and a digital bathhouse, but it can also be the neighborhood coffee shop, a venue for a kiki with a new friend, an amusement park or even just a train ride to work. Grindr is what you make it. It's really up to the user and what he decides to do. Grindr isn't going to magically put a man in your bed; you choose that.
Let's see what users do on Grindr, anyway. A recent study by Eric Rice of the University of Southern California, Ian Holloway of the University of California (Los Angeles) and colleagues, published in the Journal of AIDS & Clinical Research, gives us some really interesting data on how people are using Grindr in Southern California. The researchers found that 84.3 percent of users use Grindr to just "kill time," while 78.7 percent are on to make new friends and 64.5 percent use it to connect to the gay community. Of course, some may not like hearing that their boyfriend needs to "kill time" or wants to make new friends if you're in his life, but look at it this way: At least he isn't hooking up. But speaking of hooking up, according to the same study, 64.5 percent of users reported having used Grindr to facilitate a recent hookup.
If someone were to ask you to describe your boyfriend by comparing him to a celebrity who's most like him, whom would you choose? Would it be someone like Ryan Gosling, Robin Thicke or Denzel Washington? Or would it be someone like Tiger Woods, Hugh Grant or Jude Law? The latter celebrities were all cheaters, so a boyfriend like them probably wouldn't be trustworthy on Grindr if you are in a monogamous relationship. The former celebrities are considered amazing partners, specifically Gosling, so maybe you would let a boyfriend like them log onto Grindr.
"No" applies to relationships where trust isn't very high and things are at least a tad stressful. It applies even more if your partner has a habit of stepping out on you. You wouldn't take someone to a buffet if they were on a liquid diet. You wouldn't go a peanut store if you were allergic to peanuts. And hopefully you wouldn't stand in traffic if you didn't want to get hit by a car. It's not too crazy, then, to think that you probably wouldn't want your boyfriend to be hanging out on Grindr if he has a high chance of hooking up with someone else.
"No" also applies to boyfriends who wouldn't be willing to let you see what they're doing on Grindr if you were to ask. When and if your boyfriend brings up the Grindr conversation, look at him and say, "Sure, babe! You get an account, and I'll get an account, and we can talk on there, too! It will be so much fun. I will be able to see where you are at any time of the day, down by the feet." Reverse psychology can be fun sometimes.
This is what you should say when you haven't thought it through all the way. You say this over lunch or in bed one morning when the topic comes up. You don't want to seem either too controlling or too free, and by saying "maybe," you allow yourself to occupy that middle zone and take the rest of the day to really think about it. If you don't need to think about it, and the answer is really easy for you, take the time anyway. This time may force your boyfriend to think deeper about his own intentions on Grindr.
After you've thought about it for a little while, sit down with your boyfriend, maybe with cocktails, and ask him why he wants to be on there and what he hopes to gain. Talk about whether your relationship is monogamous or open or isn't defined, but just talk. Use Grindr as a point of departure to really talk about your relationship and what the boundaries are. Once those are defined, then you can talk about Grindr. Like I said before, Grindr is really just like the real world, and all those opportunities and desires are there both digitally and physically. If the idea of your boyfriend being on Grindr freaks you out, maybe the problem isn't Grindr but your relationship.
As for me seeing people's boyfriends on Grindr, giggling and taking screen shots, I will probably continue doing that, and then I will continue deleting them, because it's really none of my business. That's between you and your man, and maybe some folks from the Grindr community in a square-mile area around your boyfriend's apartment.
So is it OK for your boyfriend to be on Grindr? I'm still sticking with "yes, no, and maybe." It's really up to you.
Follow Zach Stafford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zachstafford