Outside India’s gay community, no one ever speaks about Grindr. Within the community, it’s the most popular app for hooking up. Interestingly, 69,000 of Grindr’s 5 million global users in 2015 were in India, according to a News Minute report, and as smartphone prices plummet, that number’s likely shooting up.
The app works like Tinder, which lets both straight and gay people connect with each other; however, Grindr exclusively targets gay men. But while Tinder focuses more on relationships and dating, Grindr is unabashed about its purpose: sex.
Logging in gets you a mosaic of profile pictures of users around you. If you like what you see, simply tap a picture to initiate a conversation. There’s no swiping left or right.
Grindr users we spoke to described the app as a “lifeline”, and “the ultimate thing”, but they also pointed out that it has a dark underbelly if you’re not careful.
In edited excerpts of conversations with some Indian Grindr users, we have changed some of their names to protect their privacy (indicated with an *). Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises homosexuality.
Grinder’s addictive. You fire up an app, scroll through a grid of pictures, and chose the one you want to have sex with. It’s so easy that I know people who can’t go without meeting somebody new almost every day.
Having this wealth of options is definitely one of the best parts of being on Grindr. On some level, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. You get instant sex with almost anyone you want, and if you really like the person, you can take the relationship to the next level.
“On some level, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. You get instant sex with almost anyone you want”
That wasn’t why I got on to Grindr, though. I had a clear goal in mind: to find somebody for a longterm relationship. I was lucky enough to find someone with whom I have been with for two years now, and also made some very close friends who I have met on Grindr.
The days before Grindr were very different. You either chatted with people on PlanetRomeo (a website that let gay men find each other in the pre-smartphone era) and Yahoo Messenger, or you used to “cruise” locations in cities that were popular within the gay community as hookup spots (Bombay’s Azad Maidan was one such spot, and so was the second to last compartment on trains).
Grindr is definitely not niche within the gay community. I even know people who are in relationships who have it on their phones because lots of them are in open relationships where they sleep with other people.
I think Grindr is a lifeline for the gay community in India. It’s very difficult to meet like-minded people otherwise.
“Grindr reduced the whole experience of meeting someone down to the basics: what they look like, what they like in bed, and their physical stats.”
I stopped using Grindr a few months ago because I got increasingly frustrated with it. It reduced the whole experience of meeting someone down to the basics: what they look like, what they like in bed, and their physical stats.
Sure, having it on your phone makes getting laid way easier. And in some way, it made me more blatant about the act. In fact, it’s been quite revolutionary in that sense — your phone, unlike a laptop or a computer, is the most private thing you have, and you usually don’t share it with anybody.
I’ve never made any long-lasting connections using Grindr, and my experiences, both good and bad, have had a lot to do with the cities I’ve used the app in. Mumbai guys are much nicer and friendlier than Delhi guys (Delhi guys act much more entitled).
I love the the anonymity that Grindr offers. When you’ve been hooking up with gay men as long as I have, you sort of develop an intuition. There have been times when I’ve been chatting with someone on Grindr and something just goes off — pop! — in my head that tells me something isn’t right. Every time that happens, I instantly block the person. That’s the best part about Grindr.
“Grindr has done in India what it has done all over the world: it has set in stone the idea that that only a particular kind of male body is desirable.”
I have used, hated, liked, and loved Grindr for the last two and a half years. It has transformed the way a lot of people in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community look at meeting other people, and has changed the way a lot of middle and upper middle class people look at the “hooking up” culture.
On the flip side, it has also done in India what it has done all over the world: it has set in stone the idea that that only a particular kind of male body is desirable. It’s very common on Grindr to constantly come across guys that say “oh no, you’re too feminine, or fat or old,” and that’s a problem. The demand for the well-toned, gym-bodied 20 to 25-year-old is very high.
That’s bad enough, but worse stuff also happens on Grindr. A lot of my friends feel depressed or upset about the kinds of comments they receive on the app. A friend of mine was once told “Oh, you’re lower caste, how can I sleep with you!” It’s incredible to see these prejudices still seeping in on a platform like that!
I’ve also seen lot of cases of people getting mugged through Grindr. Somebody will typically invite someone they like home; they will have sex; and then the person who was invited will proceed to mug the person who invited them and steal everything valuable in sight.
A friend of mine once invited a stranger off Grindr into his house, who promptly turned up with another “friend” and threatened to “out” my friend unless he paid up some cash. Naturally, nobody wants to go to the police in such cases.
So Grindr’s been amazing for people in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community who had limited access to other people before — but there’s also a lot of horrible things that happen on the platform.
Illustration: Nikhil Raj
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