By now, you should have heard that the gay dating (hook-up) app Grindr has created a new initiative and website to combat the rampant racism and discrimination on their popular site. The Kindr campaign is built around a combination of new community guidelines, stricter enforcement of non-discriminatory policies, and videos that highlight users experience of discrimination on the app.
“Sexual racism, transphobia, fat and femme shaming and further forms of othering such as stigmatization of HIV positive individuals are pervasive problems in the LGBTQ community,” said Landen Zumwalt, head of communications at Grindr. “These community issues get brought onto our platform, and as a leader in the gay dating space, Grindr has a responsibility to not only protect our users, but also to set the standard for the broader community that we serve.”
The new community guidelines for Grindr state, “We have a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination, harassment, and abusive behavior. We want you to be yourself, but not at the expense of someone else. Anyone found bullying, threatening, or defaming another user will be banned.”
It continues, “We will also remove any discriminatory statements displayed on profiles. You’re free to express your preferences, but we’d rather hear about what you’re into, not what you aren’t. Profile language that is used to openly discriminate against other users’ traits and characteristics will not be tolerated and will be subject to review by our moderation team.”
“If you see someone breaking the rules, please report them using the button found in the upper right corner of their profile. We’ll take it from there. You may also encounter people on the app who upset or offend you without necessarily violating our guidelines. In those instances we recommend using the block feature, which will prevent you and the other user from seeing each other or having future contact.”
“Kindr is not going to solve racism by any means,”
As seemingly “woke” as this new campaign is, the real issue is that it cannot address the problem in any meaningful way to change the immediate experiences of the user or the long term effects within our community. Even the creator of this project admits this. “Kinder is not going to solve racism by any means” Zumwalt says. “These issues have been present in our community long before Grindr, but we hope to increase conversations around it and have a dialogue about what constitutes sexual racism.”
What we see on Grindr and other social media apps is a combination of a long history of racism, which highlights a perceived superiority and desirability of white skin, as well as a platform which allows anonymous interactions with users who chose to express their “preference” in the most negative ways.
Racism: We all know what it is, means and does. We know who the victims are (no, white people, it is not you!) and we know who receives the benefits of these actions and beliefs (yes, this is you, white people). In the dating world, the phrase of the week is “sexual racism”. It has been described in many ways, but the consensus is that it is someone, almost always white but sometimes a person of colour, who states a preference for white gay males AS WELL as racist statements such as: “no blacks, no Asians”. Sometimes, men even use foods as metaphors for entire ethnic groups: “No rice” to deter Asian men, “no spice” to keep the Latinos away, and “no curry” to tell Indians they don’t have a shot.
The decades long backlash against asking people to refrain from making such statements shows that many white gay men have a very strong commitment to sexual racism. Our favourite retort is that “because I am gay and don’t want to have sex with women, does that make me sexist?” This is a great example of gas lighting, but it is made the worse because this narrative paints the profile writer as a victim of his circumstances (e.i. born gay) and not one who has created the mess we must all endure while on line with his chosen racist behavior.
A new Australian study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior entitled “Is Sexual Racism Really Racism?” suggests that the answer to that question is probably “yes.” Sex researchers Denton Callander, Christy Newman, and Martin Holt asked over 2,000 gay and bisexual Australian men how they felt about race and dating through an online survey. These men also completed a region-specific version of the Quick Discrimination Index (QDI), a standard survey instrument that measures attitudes on race and diversity. After putting these two data sets together, the trend was clear: “Sexual racism… is closely associated with generic racist attitudes, which challenges the idea of racial attraction as solely a matter of personal preference.”
- Sixty-four percent of the men said it is acceptable to state a racial preference on an online dating profile and 46 percent said these preferences do not bother them. Men who had experienced racial exclusion in the past were, predictably, more likely to report being bothered by it than men who hadn’t but, still, a staggering 70 percent disagreed with the argument that sexual racism is “a form of racism.” A majority of them perceived racial exclusion as “a problem” but were reluctant to attribute it to racism.
- “Almost every identified factor associated with men’s racist attitudes was also related to their attitudes toward sexual racism,” the researchers reported. Or, phrased in a more optimistic way: “Men with more positive attitudes toward racial diversity and multiculturalism (on the QDI) tended to view sexual racism less positively.
- ”This correlation strongly suggests 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.
- The study also found that certain independent factors were associated with higher QDI scores and a more critical stance on sexual racism: a college education, past experience with racial exclusion, identifying as gay, and living in a more sexually diverse neighborhood. Other factors like being white and using online dating services more frequently were linked to lower QDI scores and a more favorable attitude toward sexual racism.
- In fact, men who used online dating services more frequently were generally more likely to register as racist on the QDI, which might explain why a full 96 percent of the men in the study reported having seen a racially discriminatory profile over the course of their online dating experiences.
- Many gay men, the authors note, will be reluctant to perceive sexual racism as “racist” because that term is “a strong label imbued with heavy social condemnation.” Indeed, one of the most common online strategies for shaking off accusations of sexual racism is appealing to the severity of that term.
Social Media: With a few moments and clicks on your laptop, you can be anyone you want and say anything you feel. There is no real Internet police force for racism or discrimination in The United States. In Europe hate speech laws help to slow down the flow, but nothing can stop humans from finding new and interesting ways to harm and hate each other.
For gay males, sex, and the hunt for it, is a time honoured tradition that many believe should be free of judgement. “Whatever get’s your dick hard” has been the mantra for many. But over time, this simple phrase designed to tell people what you want, like a modern day hanky code, has morphed into letting certain groups of people know not to waste their/your time messaging you, in the most negative and mean spirited ways. The word “preference” is thrown around like it somehow absolves the user of any racist intent. Even if this is so, the outcome is more important than this alleged intent. But, let’s be honest, at this point, we all know which codes mean what and to whom, so let’s stop pretending and admit what is going on. Race is a major issue within the gay male community and the Internet is a major breeding grown for hatred! Full. Stop!
Experts say this in part due to the “disinhibition effect,” a phenomenon that encourages otherwise unacceptable social behavior (i.e., outright racism) because of the physical separation smartphones provide. Without having to engage face-to-face, some people indulge inappropriate urges and voice otherwise unacceptable opinions, simply because they’re not forced to deal with the in-person aftermath of their actions. It would be considered outrageously rude, hateful, and discriminatory to walk up to a minority group and say, “I find you unattractive and don’t wish to see or interact with you romantically or sexually.” But on apps, that kind of behavior has become commonplace, and been rebranded as a simple expression of sexual preference.
If you think that a few bad apples are the cause, you would be very wrong. The concern is not about one or two individuals’ poor humanity skills, rather a culture which supports white gay males feeling of superiority to such a degree that they are allowed, to not just state their desire to be with other white men, but also to shame, disgrace, and debase those of other races, all without comment or pushback. But online practices have also been shown to reflect real world attitudes and actions.
Studies have shown that among gay men, those who are tolerant of sexual racism — defined as the sexual rejection of a racial minority — exhibit tolerance of general racism, which challenges the idea of racial attraction as solely a matter of personal preference. In other words, sexual racism and general racism come from the same place. Fed by the same biases and stereotypes as outright discrimination, sexual racism doesn’t deserve qualification as a misunderstood preference.
“Sexual racism is a form of racism because, quite simply, it is the use of racial stereotypes to include or exclude groups of people,” the study’s author Denton Callander told VICE. He said he’s caught a lot of heat for this theory because people view it as an “attack” on their sexual freedom.
“The reality is that our desires—like all of our thoughts and behaviours—are as susceptible to broader social and political trends. At the end of the day, we live in a world rife with racial inequality, so it is not at all surprising that racism should permeate our desires as well.
”The experience of seeing words like “No Asians” or “No hispanics” in a space meant to celebrate and connect the queer community can be exclusionary and dehumanizing, leading to users of color feeling less valued within the LGBTQ community and having fewer romantic and sexual prospects. This isn’t just a matter of moral opinion — statistics back it up. For every 100 messages sent on these apps, white men receive approximately 45 responses; black men get about 36. This may be because white users deliberately filter out minorities, or because users choose not to respond or reach out because of skin color.
Back in 2015 MIC.com published an article about what it is like to be on Grindr as a person of colour. These experiences are so common place that there is a Twitter page dedicated to discrimination on Grindr and, our personal favourite, The Douchebags of Grindr website.
Before you ask:
- Yes, there are people of colour who prefer sex/dating other people of colour. (but how often have you seen “no white guys”?)
- Yes, there are people of colour who prefer white men.
- Yes, it it totally fine to state that you would prefer someone of your own race.
- No, it is not fine to state that you don’t want guys of other races.
- No, claiming “I’m not racist, its just a preference” is no longer working.
- Yes, saying negative things about other races is probably making you look like a racist and even turning off other white guys!
There is an easy solution to this problem on hook-up apps: JUST SAY WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR AND AVOID TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE NOT.
To quote our managing editor, “Just because you like dick, doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole”.