Cruising Redefined: Grindr

Calling all gay, bi-sexual, and curious men! Want to get laid tonight but you still haven’t showered and don’t feel like leaving your apartment? There’s an app for that! Grindr- For those looking for a quick rendezvous, whether it be a date or something much raunchier, or perhaps just a night of sexting and an adequate, though temporary, fix for loneliness.   grindr2Ah, yes. Grindr. Today’s modern version of cruising.

Technology has reached an ultimate high. Available on smartphones, Grindr is the first and leading app of its kind. So brilliant yet elegantly simple, It is an all-male location-based social network. Using the GPS function of a smartphone, users can locate other gay men within a relative proximity, scroll through their pictures, read some information about them, and send a message, photo, or location.

“Grindr is a very, very visual experience. I’m not really a big believer in words.”- Joel Simkhai, CEO, Grindr

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“Outside the gay community, people would probably say it’s just a hookup app, and absolutely, sex is going on. But it’s more than that, because there’s always the possibility you will hit the jackpot and find someone who will move you. It has this potential for making a huge impact in your life.”- Joel Simkhai, CEO, Grindr

Joel Simkhai, Grindr’s mastermind, was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and moved to New York with his family when he was 3-years-old. He graduated from Tufts University with degrees in economics and international relations. With $2,000 and the help of a Scandinavian software developer, Simkhai began working on Grindr, an app he had “rattling in his mind” for awhile. When the technology became available, he jumped on the opportunity to make Grindr his baby. Launched in 2009, Grindr today has an estimated 4 million users and is available in 192 countries, including places where being openly gay can mean death.

What’s with the Name and Mask Logo?

Simkhai says that the word Grindr comes from a coffee grinder. Mixing people together. “It is a little bit rough – not to mix, but to grind.” It is tough, and masculine, and sexy. The logo is a mask because they wanted to create something primal, like an African tribe mask, since socialization is a primitive, basic human need.

Simkhai has also created a program called Grindr For Equality, as a way to reach out to this huge global network of gay men and encourage them to get involved in the gay rights movement, by providing them with contacts and information about politicians who are struggling with interfacing the gay community.

Grindr is today’s cruising. In William Friedkin’s Cruising we see Al Pacino hanging around New York City’s grimiest S&M bars. In Interior. Leather Bar., we learn about James Franco’s fascination with the underground gay cruising culture. Although Grindr may lack the eye contact and boldness that cruising entails, it is a safe and comfortable way for gay men to meet other gay men.

Though it may seem funny or trivial from an outside perspective, Grindr has, and will continue to have a huge impact on gay male culture. Instead of hanging around suspect urban areas, Grindr provides males with a safe platform to explore their own sexuality and text other gay males. From the safety and comfort of their own homes, I believe that most gay young boys today will begin their sexual journeys on Grindr, at their own pace. If the narrator of Torres’s “We the Animals” had Grindr, would the ending have been any different? Maybe instead of furiously writing about his darkest and deepest fantasies in his diaries and secretly hanging around mens’ bathrooms, he could have connected with other young gay boys in his area who are like him. On page 111, he says, “Maybe it was true. Maybe there was no other boy like me, anywhere.” If Grindr was available to him, I think we could have seen a drastically different ending. Perhaps he would have broken away from his suffocating, tight-knit, yet destructive family unit, and connected with someone who understands him.

I am excited to see how Grindr will change and enhance gay culture in the future to come. Though people may scoff at Grindr as being nothing but a hook-up app, it is a way for gay men to get to know people around them who they may otherwise have never known. I believe that connecting humanity with each other, regardless of the platform, is a true benefit to mankind.

Appropriate Behavior

Appropriate Behavior is a film written by, directed by, and starring Desiree Akhavan. The film tells the tale of Shirin, a bisexual Iranian American women in her twenties, finding her way after breaking up with her first girlfriend, Maxine. Trying to bounce back from the broken relationship, Shirin attempts to move on with her life by finding a new job, exploring new sexual experiences, and finally buying a bra. Deciding whether or not to come out to a strict and traditional family contributes to Shirin’s daily struggle of moving on and finding happiness. The film jumps from present moment to flashback every few minutes it seems, but the catch up you play as scenes change put you in the same jumbled mindset Shirin is in. The flashbacks also make you feel as if you are going through the break up with Shirin. The opening scene show the lover’s separation, then as the movie goes along, Shirin remembers the good times she and Maxine had together: the first time they met, Maxine meeting Shirin’s parents, attending a Persian New Years party. And then the bad memories come flooding back: Maxine pressuring Shirin to come out to her parents, Shirin catching Maxine making out with a man at a bar, and actually breaking up. We see that Shirin has finally moved on when she tosses the strap-on dildo (the only item remaining from the relationship) away and can now handle seeing Maxine.

Desiree has been continuously compared to Shirin. They are both bisexual Iranian American women in their twenties/thirties raised by Iranian immigrant parents.  When Desiree wrote this screenplay she had just gone through a horrible break up and had just come out to her parents, two events that Shirin goes through in the film. It is easy to claim that Appropriate Behavior is autobiographical, but as Desiree points out in this interview, there is a difference between Shirin and herself.

“I think Shirin is all of my most absurd impulses explored, a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure. It felt like a heightened, absurd version of everything you would hope to do, but definitely know better than.”

Shirin represents Desiree’s id. Shirin is everything that Desiree would choose to do if it wasn’t for her superego telling her not to. Throughout the movie you can see that Shirin is the girl that does whatever she wants without worrying about the consequences. She asks a woman out right in front of her ex-girlfriend, randomly meets up with men from okcupid, and makes a movie about farts starring kindergarteners. While Desiree claims to be very shy and reserved. Desiree’s film id is Shirin, so Desiree’s film superego is Shirin’s brother, Ali. According to their parents, Ali has done everything right. He became a doctor, found a beautiful Persian doctor girlfriend, and is planning his wedding. In the article mentioned above, Desiree explained that she feels as if she does not belong in the groups she is a part of, yet she is still a part of them. The depiction of Shirin and Ali as the id and superego place Desiree as the place in the middle, the ego.

The sex scenes in Appropriate behavior help tell the story. You see Shirin in a variety of sexual encounters and Desiree’s goal was to show realistic and honest sex in her film. The match cut between Shirin and the okcupid man and Shirin and Maxine directly compares Shirin’s emotions and feelings in each different sexual experience. Shirin is obviously more into sex with Maxine and feels a stronger connection with her. Shirin’s emotional involvement is also visible in the threesome scene. When Shirin is with Marie they feel connected and enjoy each other, but with Ted, Shirin loses her interest and backs off. The sex scenes show Shirin’s desires (id) and her interest in embracing her sexuality. Through these scenes, we also see how Shirin connects with people and the relationships she has with them.

This film is thought-provoking and full of life. The deadpan humor is continuous throughout the entire film. The hilarious one-liners will stick with you. The storyline is relatable and keeps you hanging on to see the outcome of Shirin’s adventures. Desiree Akhavan tells this story beautifully and she is surely an artist to watch out for.