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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Grindr for the Healthy and Clean



Firstly, before I continue with my blog can I plug a link to the photo exhibition which I did a shoot for a few weeks ago and mentioned in my last installment:


I hope you can make it along to the exhibition or maybe even take part somehow?

I would like to talk about the power of language. The words that we use define us as individuals. Some of us fucking swear excessively. Some of us, like,  use the same word, like,  in sentences all the time, like,  even when it like has no context, like. Some of us are very obtuse, brash and wield words like a sledgehammer, whilst others are highly diplomatic and conscientious of the impact of what they say.  Words have destroyed businesses, like Gerald Ratner of Ratners High Street Jewelers saying how the decanters they sold were so cheap because they were “crap”.  Words can highlight the sheer stupidity of supposed great men in places of immense power such as George W Bush and his fool me once shame on you fuck up speech. As a result of manipulated and inaccurate words in a scientific paper published in the Lancet in 1998, tens of millions of pounds were spent on litigation cases and thousands of children suffered needlessly from measles and mumps. Yes, words can have dire implications indeed.

The nineteenth century school playground rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” was conjured up to try and minimize the negative impact of name calling and taunting. However, Having suffered from physical, emotional and psychological traumas at various points over the 36 years I have walked the earth I have to say that it is the words, the emotional and psychological assaults and injuries that have caused the most significant scarring. If only I was a stoical as some of those Victorian children eh. The wrong words can lead to depression, self doubt, self loathing, self harm even suicide. We are all aware of Bullying and the impact it can have on individuals and in our modern era of multiple methods of communication, bullying can be inflicted as a multi faceted attack. Facebook, text messages, smartphone applications, emails and phone calls. I have to agree that the pen is very much mightier than the sword, but the keyboard is even mightier! Anyway, enough of this rant, I need to say where it is going.

Something happened to me today. Something which really gets up my nose. I logged into Grindr on my iphone while I was on my tacho Break. Grindr is one of  several social networking app’s for gay men to chat, swap photos and hook up.  The app consists of many different guys profiles which contain a “family safe” photo of choice, basic stats and a brief paragraph of their own choosing.  The app then searches for all the other guys who are logged on or have recently logged on in your vicinity and displays how far away they are from you. It is elegantly simple and effective, in theory. The interesting thing about these kinds of app is that they seem to have evolved their own social etiquettes outside the realms of normal social communication. The fact that you have literally hundreds of guys at your fingertips kind of opens up a limitless opportunity to virtually cruise for gratuitous sex.

Some guys initiate a conversation conventionally with a “hi” or a “how’s it going”. This kind of conversation has the potential to blossom into something interesting. A drawn out tennis game of small talk or become a convoluted waltz of flirtation, platitudes and direct or indirect personal questions and answers. Others start the conversation with single words such as “Hot”, “Fit” “Woof” or “Oink”. These openings are meant to pander to your narcissistic side and elicit a response of thanks and potential reciprocation. This type of direct approach indicates that the guy is less likely to be looking for a chat and more likely to be feeling horny and wanting to empty his balls. Amazing how you can read so much information from the first word of a conversation with a complete random stranger.  Some guys open a conversation by sending you a dirty pic. One of their cock, or arse or of them being fucked or sucking a cock. Personally I find this approach a bit offensive. I mean, as nice as it is to be sent a random photo out of the blue of something filthy, I actually like the art of conversation and am a lot more turned on by what is going on inside a guys head than how big his cock is.

Another opening approach the single word: “Pix?” or “Cockpic?” or “Arsepic?” I find these opening lines both unbelievably rude and seriously immature. Yes I have pics. I have loads. However, I also have manners. I also have a personality. I also have a bit more about me than just a pic of my anatomy. It is not my job to educate these lads on their social skills but sometimes I cant help myself and launch into a tirade of questioning their upbringing and dilution of the genetic pool from their geographical place of origin and if they had managed to obtain a GCSE in English. Most of the time it just goes over their head and they just come back at me with the same question but with a please on the end. “Ok I get you, cockpic please?” At which point I am usually screaming at my phone screen.
There are also the 3 most predictable questions that invariably 95% of guys will always ask:

1.     What you into?
2.     What you looking for?
3.     You Top or Bottom?

These questions are now so predictable that they have almost become a cliché!

 I dunno what I am into. It is different depending on who I am playing with. With some guys I might be into snogging, with others I may be into Piss…. How on earth am I meant to answer this question to a complete stranger? My usual answer is “everything” which throws the ball back into their court.

What am I looking for? Well I am on a gay hook up app on my phone… I can pretty much guarantee that I am looking for the same as 95% of all the other guys logged into grindr at this present moment!

Am I top or Bottom? See the answer to question 1!

Some guys are completely hypocritical. They have a blank photo or one of just their torso or a big toe or their cat or their car or of a sunset or something fluffy and yet they have written on their profile page “No facepic: No chat”. What the fuck? What is this ‘Do as I say not as I do’ bullshit?

There was a bit of an incident several months back when a buddy of mine in Canada had his Grindr profile censored because he stated his HIV status on his profile page. This caused uproar amongst many groups on the internet and created a lot of negative publicity for Grindr. Many guys were outraged. Many emailed Grindr directly, including myself and many guys simultaneously started to put their HIV status onto their profile pages. Personally I never heard anything back from Grindr but I have not heard of any other cases of grindr censoring a profile that is stating the owners status. This kind of discrimination by a large player in the gay dating business like Grindr is seriously unacceptable. Hopefully they realised that it is irresponsible of them to not allow somebody to advertise their status.  Not to mention the fact that, at least here, in the UK, HIV is covered under the disability discrimination act. Being open and honest about your status on such profiles reduces stigma and allows guys to make informed choices about the kind of sex they want to have. I think we are most definitely at a point in the HIV epidemic where we are very aware that secrecy and hiding behind fear is one of the contributing factors to the proliferation of the virus.

One of the features of Grindr is that you can block somebody if you do not like them. This means you can no longer see their profile and they can no longer see yours. This is a handy feature for if you are, for instance, being stalked or a guy doesn’t get the message that you are not interested. To block somebody because of those reasons is perfectly reasonable. However. Some guys use the block button to end a conversation if you don’t quite measure up to their expectations or are not precisely what they are looking for in a shag.

Q. Are you Top?
A. No. I’m vers m8… like to get as good as I give
BLOCK

Q. Are you hung?
A. about 7” uncut
BLOCK

Q. You looking to fuck m8?
A. Not right this minute. Maybe later…
BLOCK

I find this so unbelievably rude. I mean you wouldn’t do this in a bar or a club so what makes it acceptable in an app? However, I am guilty of doing this very thing today. But I think I was justified in my action.

The conversation went something like this:

Him: Are you Top?

Me: I’m Vers

Him: So you like fucking?

Me: I am not averse to it….

Him: Do you fuck bareback?

Me: I prefer to yes

Him: Are you clean?

Me: What do you mean?

Him: Are you healthy?

Me: Oh, Yes, I shower regularly and I go to the gym often

Him: But are you free from disease.

Me: are you?

Him: Yes. As of 2 weeks ago. I didn’t mean to offend.

Me: Yes I am poz and clean (undetectable) and healthy. And yes you have offended me.

BLOCK

I don’t think it would have served any greater purpose to have continued the conversation. Was I right to just end the conversation with a BLOCK? I was so fucking angry! I hate it when people refer to HIV positive people as unclean, unhealthy or diseased. These words are very powerful, deeply offensive and stigmatising! Yes I have a blood bourn virus but it is well managed with medication and I am physically healthier than I have been since I was in high school! Is he free from disease? Yes he may have had a recent full STI screening but is he free from cancer or heart disease or Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s? Ok, I rarely wear deodorant because I personally hate the smell and kinda like the smell of my own manly body odour. However, I shower once or twice or sometimes 3 times a day. I also douche if I think I am gonna be fucked… Cleanliness is quite high on my agenda.

We are free to choose the words that we use when we interact with others. But please be aware of the potentially negative connotations associated with certain words. Freedom of speech is something we hold in high regard. But using language responsibly takes more effort than you might think. 

9 comments:

  1. Wow you really hit the nail on the head with this one! It's always kinda jarring to me how basic communication skills are lacking on some of those apps. (I have Grindr but use Scruff lol) Alot of the time the way someone approaches me is enough to turn me off completely to them regardless of what they look like.

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  2. The killer sociale and conversation. I feel you have done it wrong, remember in life we would converse together. This is the way people now speak on APP's, a whole new way of 'getting to know. I think if anyone should have been offended it should have been him. I think you knew what he meant but you where just been defensive with this app.

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  3. I was offended and I don't think i am being defensive when somebody is inferring that I am unclean or diseased or unhealthy. Yes I knew exactly what he meant from the beginning, but it is not my place to teach people how to interact as an adult.

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  4. The points I am making is that firstly, I am not sure why this rude way of communicating has evolved on apps and secondly that as a grown man (he was 45) he should understand a little bit about political correctness. Would he describe somebody as diseased in a club? Or as a retard? Or as a Ponse? Just because you are hiding behind your phone screen does that entitle you to speak and interact however you want? I know about internet trolls. I know about the idiots who stir up heated trouble in chat rooms just for their own amusement… but really, am I asking too much for people to think about what they say a bit more before they say it? Yes, I do feel a bit annoyed with myself for blocking him. But i did think it was the best thing to do considering how angry I was.

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  5. Honestly, you're making a few logical errors here if you're wasting your time giving the slightest hint of a shit about this man. Do you think he's likely to show a shred of respect for other people when he's living in a whirlwind of denial and blithely barebacking on the basis of what his HIV status was weeks or months before his latest test result? If he has that level of ignorance about his own sero-status, it's not your job to educate him otherwise, and if he's got so little self-respect that he's burying his head in the sand and making false judgements about what's safe and not, it's unreasonable to assume he'd show any respect for anyone else.

    He's ignorant, and he's wilfully so, but that sounds like it's targeted towards himself more than you.

    How many people would he sleep with who don't know their status, or it's changed since their test, or they're in denial about what's happened?

    I think we've all been there at some point - I wouldn't feel angry with him, just a little sad that he's at a different point on a path to self-acceptance to you. If you're reconciled with how and how you are, then how other people live and think is their business, were you really that bothered about sleeping with him that you're going to lose sleep about it?

    Yes, there are people who are prejudiced about HIV and there are people who make different choices to each of us about sexual behaviour and acceptable levels of risk, that's fine. That he expressed it clumsily says a lot about his lack of insight into how other people live, and into how it might colour people's behaviour towards him, but it's his call in the end if he wants to make (ill-informed) judgements about sexual partners.

    'Clean' isn't a great term, nor is 'disease-free' but sero-sorting either way is emotionally tricky, so once someone's making different decisions about acceptable safety to you, you're not getting anywhere, regardless of the terms you use. If he'd used different words but said the same thing, you'd still not have slept with him because he sero-sorts, so is it just that you don't like the words he used or that you don't respect the judgement he was making?

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  6. Hi Pirate.. Don't get me wrong here. I was not angry with him because of his lack of judgement or sexual naivety. I had just reached a critical mass of hearing the same old questions regarding my status.

    Am I clean
    Am I healthy
    Free of disease….

    99% of the time i am civil and correct the guy without being rude or getting offended. But this was the one time I had just lost patience and kind of saw red. In context, I was working as an outreach officer in a gaydar chatroom last night and was being asked questions by a guy for 45 mins about "AIDS" tests and catching "AIDS"… and no matter how many times I corrected him to HIV tests and acquiring HIV he wouldn't change how he was phrasing it. I feel that in 2012 people shouldn't be this ignorant about HIV but they are. So this guy, today on Grindr, going straight into this conversation just tipped me over the edge a bit. I am not saying that I give a shit about him or if I have offended him. What does concern me is that I had such a strong reaction… I am usually so chilled and rational so having a strong emotional reaction like this is kinda out of character for me.

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  7. I had someone contact me a few weeks back, who I've played with before, I suggested a threesome, and told him the third guy's profile name on Recon, the profile states clearly his HIV status (positive) and that he is fine playing safely with guys who want to do that....

    The first guy then asked me "is he clean?", I played dumb and asked what he meant, so he asked "does he have any diseases?", at which point I told him how rude and immature he was being, and not to bother contacting me again as I wouldn't be interested.

    The saddest thing is that I know the first guy is well educated, in fact he educates others, but he is obviously not educated about HIV. He has played with me previously without finding out my status (negative as it happens, but that's only ever as accurate as my last test) and then he didn't even bother to read the other guy's profile which openly said he was HIV positive.

    Personally I will not ask anyone's HIV status, if they want to tell me. that's fine. It's not that I don't care, it will just make no difference to what we do together.

    Unfortunately the world is full of people who are ignorant of how to behave in polite (or even impolite) company

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  8. I think the way we communicate on apps is because it's less personal - text speak - we wouldn't interact with one another like that in a bar. Not being face to face has some advantages (I hate the potential rejection) but it does become more faceless, impersonal and just looking for whatever the person (and I include myself) are after.

    I do really object when guys say "clean" and they mean disease free, to be honest I assume they are naive, young, stupid or just twats.

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  9. As one person has posted, I am as Negative as my last test.
    After experiencing the ongoings for 33 years, I suddenly find myself one of the people who know has to say, Hi, I'm HIV+. It is confusing at times and it hurts as well but I have informed; after that the ball is in their court. Needless to say, I'm alone. Personally, it is easier to deal with the loneliness than it is to deal with the ignorance. Anyone who is barebacking and believes that everyone else is Negative is a fool. Just saying.......
    Hugs,

    Rick

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