Downloading Grindr – then deleting it before downloading it again, only to delete it again – has become a modern day rite of passage for queer men. The hook-up app revolutionized dating and sex when it launched in 2009, inspiring people like Tinder and today’s digitized, swipe-heavy dating world. Grindr also changed gay culture forever: it created a visual map that proved that gay and bi men are literally everywhere (sometimes just yards away!). The app quickly became the most popular gay app in the world and had seven million users worldwide in 2014. It has also been featured in many television shows and films, from Glee to How to Get Away With Murder, The Real Housewives, and, perhaps most appropriately, Trainwreck.
So much of the discussions about gay culture eventually revolve back to Grindr, from body image to sexual racism, “chemsex” and bottom shaming. In the app, users often behave differently than in “real life” and gay Twitter is often inundated with screenshots of men who behave badly, brutally and straightforwardly bizarre. There is a whole glossary of emoji-driven codes and even visual “tribes” – like “Otter”, “Daddies”, “Clean Cut” and “Twinks” – which would take a long time to explain for most straight people.
One trend I’ve noticed – and one that has interested me for a long time – is men looking for a “gym buddy” on Grindr. It is very common in user profiles to list the desire for a “gym bud” in addition to their favorite drink (usually gin), height, physique and preferred sexual position. But why?
At first glance, a gym buddy is just a friend to hit the gym with. Some people use Grindr for platonic connections, especially when they’ve just moved to a new place, but it’s still a fascinating place to look for a fitness companion. Michael, a 24-year-old gay man who enjoys doing group exercises and going to the gym with friends, thinks this trend makes sense. “Personally, I used to find the gym an incredibly difficult place. It was like hyper-masculinity at speed, with this immense pressure to be fit and strong and ultimately to know what you were doing, ”he tells GQ. “I think working with someone can break that intimidation because they are a) someone to support what you do and b) possibly someone to guide or coach you. It’s security in numbers in a potentially frightening place. “
“You have more time figuring out if a guy is hot in the gym than on files he probably worked on”
Personally, I get the idea of being sweaty and exhausted around someone I don’t know very well (especially if they’re also a gay man who I’m not going to unpack right now!). But that’s not Michael’s experience. “In the age of athleisure and boutique gyms, the gym doesn’t have to be a gross and sweaty place,” he says. “People look good in the gym. They can also suck each other in the steam room or have sex in the shower. “
After speaking with Grindr users in London, I can confirm that Michael is right in suspecting that finding gym buddies sometimes goes beyond platonic friendship. There is obviously a reason men in particular use Grindr this way (there are already gym buddy apps like GymBuddy and SportPartner). Some guys, like 26 year old James *, sincerely used Grindr to find a buddy to train with because “Hete men might think I turn them on or are not comfortable training with me. Or, even if they don’t think so, the feeling that it could be them would make me feel uncomfortable. “But others, like 28-year-old Callum *, hoped for” a little more “if the attraction were there, because “you have more time to find out if a guy is hot in the gym than in files he probably worked on. or just before a meeting, and there is less pressure than meeting somewhere else. “