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July 22, 2013 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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Grind With Me: My Week on Grindr

The first thing you see when you open the Grindr app on your iPhone or Android smartphone is men. Or, more accurately, parts of men. Headless chiselled torsos abound, but that’s as raunchy as it gets on the homepage – Grindr’s terms of use prohibit full-frontal nudity in display pics.

Click on a person’s profile, and depending on the amount of information that person has decided to divulge, you can learn their age, ethnicity, height and weight. You also get to see a bigger version of their display pic. Pictures range from the above-mentioned Greek busts, to smiling-face pics and in-the-mirror phone selfies. Some trippy artistic types have pictures of landscapes like the sky or the ocean. Yet more grindees, either because they’re ugly or don’t want to be identified, choose to have no picture at all.

Equally, many choose not to write anything in their description box. Some of the braver men write a short summary of themselves, or choose a verse from a poem. Others write in code; simple acronyms describing what they’re after. ‘NSA’ means no strings attached, ‘DTF’ is down to fuck, ‘DL’ or ‘d-lo’ means the guy is air-quotes ‘straight’, but has sex with guys on the down-low. ‘B for T’ is Bottom for Top, and vice versa, and so on and so forth.

Bizarrely, also included in the profile settings is the ability to indicate your current relationship status. I didn’t understand this at first. Surely if you had a boyfriend, you wouldn’t go on Grindr, or at least you wouldn’t advertise that you had one if you did. But then it dawned on me that all men, and gay men in particular, are into all kinds of fun sex, threesomes being one of those kinds. Good on the kinky buggers, I say.

There is an option to show what you hope to get out of Grindr – chat, dates, friends, networking, relationship. Husband isn’t yet included on the list, but that’s presumably because Grindr is an international app with over a million subscribers, only a fraction of whom actually have the right to marry. For shame.

The central plank upon which Grindr has built its success is its unique geolocational technology. Men’s profiles on the homepage are ranked in order of the distance between you and them. The closer they are to you, the higher up the list they are. A grindee’s individual profile also shows the approximate distance, down to the metre, between you. One (hetero) Salient staffer remarked that the accuracy was so good that he and his flatmates were thinking of downloading the app and using it as a tool to keep tabs on where the others are.

As a result of the GPS capabilities, travelling with Grindr is a breeze – each new city you visit brings a new lineup to your homepage. In fact, when the athletes of the world descended upon London for the 2012 Olympics, Grindr couldn’t cope with the strain from the extra demand and its servers crashed.


Anecdotal evidence suggests that 95 per cent of the time, you will have made up your mind about whether you like the guy or not based solely on his profile. The next step for those who make the somewhat unfair and brutal cut is to chat. A green dot shows that someone is online. Clicking the chat button opens a window in which you can send messages, as well as photos.* ** You can choose a photo from your albums, or take one and send it.

Depending on your mood, you’ll either login to Grindr and wait to be chatted to or actively initiate conversation. Chatting usually goes something along the lines of “Hey”, “What’s up?”, “Not much”, “Want to fuck?”, “K”, or similar. After all, a majority of guys on Grindr are using it to hook up with people for sex. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of guys who are on Grindr seeking someone to date. Plenty of guys are keen to meet in person for a drink or a coffee or a movie.

Some use it for other reasons. A lot of guys, some of them new to town and looking to make connections, use Grindr to find out where to buy drugs. A simple “looking for 420” in your description will enable you to get your hands on some green. One guy I chatted to in the course of research for this feature was looking for P, and when he found some he offered to do it with me. In the interests of investigative journalism I very nearly accepted, but in the end I pussied out.

The motto “don’t drink and grind” applies to chatting in Grindr. For some reason, alcohol invariably turns you into a horny chatty Cathy and you end up sending embarrassing messages to everyone on your list. The block feature allows you to keep a shred of dignity intact, but even so, it’s annoying having to go through your list and actually do the blocking on a hungover Sunday morning.

*The dearth of dick pics in display pictures is more than made up for by this feature.

**The girth of dick pics sent to you by random shrivelled old men sharply diminishes the novelty of this feature.


#1 – Friday:

A few after-work drinks diminished my inhibition enough to give Grindr a crack. A guy who I had recently brought home from town was online, and he asked me if I wanted to go for a date. We went to The Grand Steakhouse on Courtenay. He had the chicken parmigiana and a cider, I had the stone-grill steak and a Heineken. He was 22 and studied Architecture at uni before his current job working at a bank. Over dinner, he told me about his recent trip to Australia and how he wanted to move there to further his career. He also told me he bought a house with his last boyfriend, which they are still paying off together. He owns two cars. Conversation came easy and things went well. We shared a laugh or two, and decided to skip having a drink in town in favour of having one at his. He paid for everything and drove me back to his. After meeting his roller-derby-playing flatmate and having a nightcap, we retired to bed. In the morning he took me to work, and I said I’d text him. I haven’t. It’s not that I didn’t like him, he just seemed like he was at a much different stage of his life than me. I like to think that money hasn’t consumed me just yet.

#2 – Sunday

Storm night. After going for a run in the freezing cold and howling rain, I went on Grindr in the hopes of finding someone I could cuddle with to keep warm. One guy took my eye, and after exchanging photos and flirty chat, he invited me to his. His house turned out to be a little artist’s studio in Island Bay. He was bald but it suited him. He had an incredibly toned body, like a dancer’s, or a gymnast’s, or a person who does lots of yoga. Turned out he did all three. He was quite the artsy type. We shared a bottle of wine and a joint and watched some indie festival film that didn’t really have a plot. We both fell asleep on the couch. I woke up in the middle of the night, and because I had work early the next morning I took a taxi home. By far the most interesting date of them all.

#3 – Monday

Between work in the morning and uni in the afternoon, I squeezed in a coffee with a Law-School student who I vaguely knew through friends of friends. We talked about Grindr and he seemed like quite the pro. He was very frank when I asked how many sexual partners he had had. I like to think that I’m no prude, but the high number shocked me. I asked him whether that made him a slut and he said maybe it did, but he was always safe and always had fun. He said emotions weren’t an issue so long as both partners were clear beforehand that there were strictly no strings attached. Fuck the haters. That made me realise that maybe I was a bit sex-negative, and that people who have a lot of sex, regardless of their sexuality, shouldn’t be scorned because of their choices. He offered to give me a blow job before class in the toilets and I think he was only half-joking. In any case, his immense experience intimidated me a bit. I politely declined and we went on our separate ways.

#4 – Wednesday

In the afternoon, I met up with a high-powered lawyer who was closer to 30 than 20. I knew him through friends, and his occasional drunken Grindr messages at 3 am on Sunday mornings. He bought me coffee and we talked for an hour, mostly about Grindr. He spoke openly and frankly, on occasion being outrageous or jokingly offensive, and with the kind of upper-class cadence that is the mark of many gays. He drew the line at talking about what kind of sex he was into (on reflection it was pretty bad form to ask him that on the first date). He said he never experienced any degree of homophobia in his job, and that he knew of a number of his colleagues who are gay. He was confident, successful and comfortable in himself. He said that although he didn’t chat with that many guys on Grindr, he was always online. It’s a bit seedy and a bit shit really, he reckoned, but everyone likes to be complimented.

#5 – Thursday

He was beautiful; tall, lean, fair. He was cute, had blue eyes and long hair. He had lips the size of Jagger’s, which frequently broke into a wide grin. He was easy-going and peaceful. He liked to joke, and wasn’t afraid to have one at his own expense. He was open to ideas and, while quiet in a large group, would engage in deep conversation when I got him alone. He had a knack of giving perfect answers to questions. He told me ‘autumn’ when I asked if he preferred summer or winter. He was crazy-talented. He was one of those people who are blessed with an eye for fine detail and fine art and fine living. He had a beautiful family and a beautiful life story. He was everything. I was nervous. We’re going to meet again.


I was surprised by the sheer number of uni students using Grindr. Sitting in the Hub or in the Law School common room with Grindr on produces a homepage full of university students. It’s interesting to note the differences and similarities between the two campuses: Kelburn
has a wider ethnic spread, with more Māori and Pasifika users. It also has the more artsy/alty/hipster/counterculture types, while Pipitea almost exclusively features middle-to-upper-class white gays.

It’s a slightly disconcerting experience bumping into a guy in the hallway of uni or in public and recognising him from Grindr. After a while you get used to it. It’s kind of cool that without speaking a word and without knowing each other, you can share a look that says, “We both know the other is gay, and we’re the only ones in the room who know”.

One faux pas I made while using Grindr at university was to forget to put my phone on silent. Unless it’s on silent, Grindr plays a distinctive notification sound every time you get a message. In one of my lectures, I was bored and decided to check my Grindr. When I opened the app, the tone played and my heart sank. Strangely though, it was more awkward for some of the other males in the lecture theatre, who gave themselves up by the way they reacted to the sound.

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