By: ZACH LARIMER
“Vanilla and spice, no chocolate or rice. Just my preference.”
While this may read like your friend’s extremely vague contribution to the lunch order it’s an actual description from a Grindr profile, the popular gay dating app with over six million members. Translation: the guy is interested in only white or Hispanic men and doesn’t want any black or Asian guys to message him. The phrasing itself is pretty tame compared to some other profiles on the app. “Douchebags of Grindr” is a popular blog where users post offensive profiles that vary in their potentially racist, ageist, and homophobic comments. Scrolling through the site you see profile sections filled with things like “Not into queens, chubbies, or old guys,” and “straight-acting only I don’t want a girl.”
When you create a profile on a dating app it’s common to list your preferences in a potential partner. Qualifications like “non-smoker” or “must be vegan” are common deal breakers but it’s now normal to see potentially discriminatory posts as well. Having a “type” is not a new thing but more dating apps now like The League, Once, and Scruff are letting users search by ethnicity which gives them the option to filter out a particular ethnic group. Others, like Bro, are designed to exclude gay men who fit into the effeminate gay stereotype. While this may seem harmless, some studies say this behavior may be a sign of more serious underlying prejudice and discrimination within the gay community.
Gerardo Sanchez, a 20-year-old Hispanic man, said that he receives hateful messages on dating apps based on his appearance. Sanchez describes himself as a smaller guy with “a typical gay voice” but said he looks and dresses like your average college student. “I once said ‘hi’ to someone and they typed back ‘lol no. I don’t talk to girly little faggots on here,’” Sanchez recalled. “It completely took me off guard because I just didn’t get what I did to deserve that much hate. In the gay world it seems like you have to be a muscular white jock for anyone to be nice to you online.”
Some gay men like Joel E, a 24-year-old white man, don’t hesitate to make their preferences known. Joel explicitly states that he is only interested in hooking up with other white males in his online dating profiles. “On any dating app you’re literally judging people based solely on their looks. So if I’m only physically attracted to white guys I don’t see the problem with putting that into my profile so people know what I’m looking for,” Joel said. “Nobody bats an eye when a girl says she doesn’t want to date a guy who is shorter than her so I don’t see what the difference is here.”
“Sexual racism,” is the term used by academics, which refers to the discrimination between potential sexual partners on the basis of racial identity. This “discrimination” is common among gay men according to “Is Sexual Racism Really Racism?” a 2014 Australian study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior. In the study, researchers interviewed over 2,000 gay and bisexual men online and found that “…many men do not view racial discrimination between sexual partners as an expression of racism.” In fact, the majority of participants in the study believe that expressing a racial preference online is preferred because it saves time.
Octavius Williams, founder of “Cypher Avenue” a blog dedicated to gay culture, wrote in a post that sexual racism is a two-way street. He said that for every white guy on Grindr who only wants to date another white guy, there is an equal amount of men of color who say they only date white guys too. “A Black gay’s preference for seeking white, Asian or Latino is ok and not racist but a white gay seeking another white gay is? If these white gay men need to broaden their dating preferences, maybe these ‘seeking whites only’ Black, Asian, and Latino gay men need to do so as well,” Williams wrote.
Double standards prevail throughout gay dating culture most notably with the “masc for masc” phenomenon. “Masc for masc” or “straight acting only” are by far the most common terms on apps like Grindr, meaning that someone is only interested in a guy who “doesn’t seem gay.” The stereotypical gay man, with a high voice and a flamboyant flare for fashion and drama, is not as high a commodity in the gay world as an ultra-masculine man with a deep voice and chiseled abs. In “Straight-Acting Gays,” a 2014 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, looked into masculinity and anti-effeminacy in gay culture and found that gay men generally place a very high value on masculinity and that the more value they placed on masculinity, the more negative their feelings were towards being gay.
Nate Velasquez, a 21-year-old gay Hispanic man, said he once was messaging someone on an app who agreed to meet him until he told him about his love of Beyonce. “It’s so stupid. Most guys on these apps are so afraid of seeming gay or feminine that they will refuse to talk to anyone who seems to fit the stereotype. If you have a picture of yourself at a Broadway musical or wearing a fashionable scarf then be prepared for some hate,” Velasquez said.
The consensus among gay men seems to be that while it isn’t wrong to have a type, it is wrong to use hateful, racist, or discriminatory language when expressing it. Stephen L, a 28-year-old white man, said that the problem arises when guys use derogatory and harmful language in their profiles. “You can’t please everyone. I have white friends who only want to date young Asian guys without any muscles and black friends who are only into feminine guys. We all have our thing but I think it starts becoming a problem when you start being overtly rude to people who don’t fit that type. There’s no right or wrong answer here but I don’t think that should give someone an excuse to verbally harass someone based on their appearance. We’re all adults here lets stop acting like petty children,” Stephen said.