Life Advice



Sex apps for gay men join forces to fight online insults

David Tuller, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Dating Advice

In subsequent responses on questionnaires, the men exposed to the dismissive comments reported greater emotional distress and expressed more skepticism about the benefits of condoms. They were also more likely to choose riskier options in a card-playing game.

Given that the app environment is the source of stress, Pachankis said, it makes sense for BHOC and other public health organizations to try to influence it

Some respondents quoted in the BHOC report dismissed the initiative as silly or unwarranted. “If someone does not meet the preferences specified by the user for being ‘fat,’ ‘too old,’ or not the right ‘race,’ then too bad,” wrote one. “I find this overreach in striving to be PC as offensive and ridiculous.”

But most respondents recognized that apps could support better online behavior and reduce unnecessary pain, Hecht said.

“It’s a society-wide problem, and I do agree that gay men’s dating apps are not going to single-handedly address it, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play a role,” she said. “To the extent that the users get to control and customize, that will increase their positive experiences on the apps and decrease the likelihood that they’ll have these negative experiences.”

One popular recommendation from respondents was to allow all users, and not just paying customers, to block anyone they feel is being abusive. Another was to allow users to restrict who can see profile fields with potentially sensitive information, such as HIV status or gender identity. Respondents also believed apps could help diminish the pain of rejection by providing neutral, pre-written messages for users to send, such as “sorry, it’s not a match.”

Grindr, one of the participating apps, does not include standard rejection statements but is exploring this option to help users on both sides of what is inevitably a “high-intensity moment,” said Jack Harrison-Quintana, the company’s director of equality.

“It’s very easy to feel very rejected because you are getting rejected,” Harrison-Quintana said. “People experience a lot of hurt from things that are said to them online, and that is what we are trying to address.”


Jehangeer Ali Syed, an international development consultant in Washington, D.C., said he has been disturbed by being treated as an “exotic element” in online exchanges. Although he is not from the Middle East, some men “sexually objectify me as an ‘Arab stallion,'” said the 36-year-old Pakistani. “I have been called a ‘sand-[N-word],’” he added.

This sort of encounter, he said, “makes you doubt yourself, makes you feel insecure and makes you question if I’m doing anything wrong.”

BHOC noted in its report that many respondents were unaware of existing app features that could help them customize and control their experiences. The report called for apps to expand their educational efforts about these possibilities.

That suggestion resonated with Grindr’s Harrison-Quintana. Grindr already includes some of the options recommended in the report, he said, but it could do a better job of communicating with customers. “It’s not just about implementing features, it’s also about maybe letting users know those features are available to them,” he said.


This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

©2021 Kaiser Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.