The premise of Friday Morning Tho(ugh)ts is simple: a space for queers to think critically about our identities, sexualities, and sexual experiences together as a community. Every Friday I will leave a post that ends with an open ended question. Throughout the week you should feel comfortable emailing your thoughts on the question I pose – no limits, no restrictions except this: you have to end your thoughts with a question. Each Friday I will pick a thought, and I will post it alongside my answer to your question. It’s kind of like if Dear Abby meets Dr. Ruth meets your mom’s knitting Midwestern knitting circle. And at base, the hope is this: the creation of a space where we can engage with each other about aspects of our experience that demand critical thought. I don’t have the answers, but writing together, perhaps we can try out some answers until we find the ones that fit.
Grindr has been in the news a lot lately for some seriously problematic reasons, but in light of this there is no denying the role that this app, and its app-based predecessors, plays as a cornerstone of gay culture and of contemporary queer experience. Undeniably, Grindr shapes the experiences of gay men both in terms of dating and relationships and in terms of sex and hooking up. But the question a reader asked this week – and I believe it’s a question many people who use hookup apps have asked – is important in considering how we can navigate the threshold between meeting someone on Grindr and then navigating that hookup into something more ‘serious’:
“I know that Grindr is basically a hook up app, but I have always wondered what I am supposed to do when I meet someone I actually like on Grindr. If I hookup with someone on Grindr who I really like or who I have feelings for how do I take the steps to pursue this? Is this even possible to find someone on Grindr or should I just let Grindr be Grindr?”
Grindr, with all its pains and problems, is still, nevertheless, a tool that makes hookups and sexual encounters easier. This tiny app quite literally puts cruising (something that once happened only in discrete areas in parks and on the streets) in the palm of your hand. But in this, much in the same way our gay forefathers would find connections with the men they met cruising, it is certainly possible to meet someone with whom you share some sort of connection on the basis of a hookup or two.
I am a firm believer that it's important to not shut off the possibility of finding meaningful connections anywhere – even on hookup apps. So often I hear gay men denigrate Grindr and “grindr culture” for making it difficult to find “real connection.” But this perspective is quite frustrating because it shuts you off from the possibility of finding connections through sex and hook ups – something that is not only possible but happens more often than we think.
One of the strongest connections I have had with a partner actually came through a sustained series of hook ups following an initial Grindr meeting. Even to this day, I joke about the fact that I wasn’t especially impressed by anything about his profile besides the picture of his ass he sent along. That single picture resulted in me inviting him over for a hook up, and it ultimately led me into a now defunct, but still significant, relationship. Our hookups – and the conversations we had during them – helped me explore and eventually embrace the connection we shared.
But, and I think this is paramount to finding connection in a hookup, I didn’t approach my Grindr hook up hoping that it would result in a boyfriend – and in fact a large majority of my hook ups do not (obviously?) – but at the end of the day I also didn’t shut off this possibility either.
If you meet someone through a hookup – either from Grindr or from a bar or from anywhere else – if you share a connection with them then a relationship or friendship can follow, if you are, in the first place, open to it and, as a result, let it happen.
It can sound a bit cliché, and perhaps even a little naïve, to hold this seemingly optimistic outlook on hooking up, but I honestly believe it to be true: connections flow naturally from people who share them. And you can absolutely hookup with someone and recognize that there is something “real” or “meaningful” between you two. It’s then up to you to explore what that means, but I don’t think the fact that you met “hooking up” or met on Grindr should deter you from exploring the connection you feel with someone.
Just because you met someone through sex, does not mean your experience with them or connection with them or even feelings for them are illegitimate.
Nevertheless, I feel like I must add that there will inevitably be shady people you meet on Grindr who do shady things (one time a guy with whom I had felt some sort of connection ended up having a boyfriend he had been hiding from me for months!) But this isn’t exclusive to grindr or to hook ups. You could very well meet someone in a traditional manner, go on a few dates, feel a connection, and then find out they’re horrible. Hookup culture isn’t to blame for this: people being terrible is.
But, nonetheless, if you find yourself really having feelings for someone you meet through sex then talk about it and see what happens. If the person shares your feelings, then something really beautiful could happen. If not, then that’s okay too! The most important thing is to always remain open to the possibility – don’t close yourself off from what could possibly happen with someone just because of your initial encounter took a less desirable form.
Hook up culture can be really intimidating, and it is absolutely not for everyone – this isn’t what this post is meant to insinuate. But I believe hookups can be seen as another way, among many others that the queer community has to offer, to find connections with other people – be it friendships or relationships. What do you think though? Is it possible to build meaningful connections from hookups? Or does hookup culture forbid the possibility of finding relationships? How do we navigate the threshold between sex and love? Can a Grindr hookup become something more?