There’s a sevenfold increase in crimes related to hook-up apps, but are the targets simply victims of their own horniness, asks Rob Buchanan?
Grindr. The same depressing identity parade of torsos and desperate rent boys, dotted with the occasional island of genuine normality. And yet where any sensible adult sees the potential for danger, deception and disappointment, many lads are more than willing to risk their safety by meeting up with shady characters, throwing caution to the wind to do the no-pants dance.
A report released by UK authorities shows a sevenfold increase in crimes related to Tinder and Grindr in the last two years. Over 400 incidents were reported, ranging in nature from theft and rape to child grooming and attempted murder. While these figures are for the UK, from my own experiences on the scene in Dublin, I’d hazard a guess the situation this side of the Irish sea is pretty similar. And let’s remember that sevenfold increase is only the reported crimes. You can imagine how the embarrassing nature of these incidences might make the victims very reluctant to report. The real figure is likely far higher.
On the increase in crimes gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “Closeted gay and bisexual men who use Grindr may be especially vulnerable to targeting, because criminals know they will be less likely to report problems to the police. I suspect these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.”
The most surprising thing about this increase in criminality is that people are actually surprised. I’m not victim blaming in all instances, especially in ones involving rape and child grooming, but I do think that a huge amount of these crimes are the result of crazy levels of irresponsibility on the part of sections of the gay community. We all know lads who are more than willing to go to any randomer’s gaff at all hours, pissed or high, solely based on a dodgy pseudonym and a couple of dick pics. And I have no doubt whatsoever that for some it’s the very danger of this risky behaviour that holds a particular excitement.
While queers of a certain generation would be no strangers to things like blackmail, younger Irish men may be blissfully unaware of the type of stranger danger and dark machinations they can become intertwined in when they enter in to the realms of closeted married men. There are also the heartless hucksters who see blokes as an anonymous, disposable resource; hustlers who see vulnerability and neediness as a cash cow to milk.
We’ve all heard the horror stories on the grapevine, of gays going back to weirdo’s flats filled with Madonna manikins, of getting lost in their boxers in labyrinthine apartment buildings after a swift exit. Or excursions through burnt-out car ridden estates that would rival a Mad Max set. Or tales of inviting men to come over to yours only to discover a few hours later that your wallet has disappeared into thin air. I recently heard of a lad who opened his front door to what he thought was a Latin fly-by-night, only to find that Romeo decided to bring a few of his heavily muscled and tattooed homeless mates to join the party, whether the householder wanted to or not.
So does the possibility of a bad experience mean you should delete the apps and jump in to a cold shower? Certainly not. Crimes are still comparatively rare. But they would be rarer still if gays exercised some common sense.
It’s easy to lose the run of yourself when you’re thinking with your mickey or you`ve had a few sherries, but it’s play safe and plan ahead, like your Uncle Rob here. Ensure that at least one mate you trust knows who you’re meeting and where. Make sure your booty call also knows that you`ve let your mate know. If possible rendezvous with them in a pub first for a few jars.
Perhaps the most important measure you should take is to reframe the reality of the situation. This is a social transaction as well as a fluid exchange. Why are you meeting with this stranger? Why is he meeting you? The answers aren’t as simple as you assume. Often naive rookie gays who are too young, too skint or too inexperienced to go out to bars and clubs to socialise see these apps as a type of Dial-a-Dick. But there are also people with mental health issues or just really bad reputations, including physical health issues, which are causing them to go outside the mainstream of the scene.
We`ve become accustomed to apps providing convenient, guilt-free services at the touch of a button, but common sense is needed to overcome the disconnect we feel when we use apps to select human beings as if they were commodities or snacks on takeaway menu. Lulled in to a false sense of security it’s easy to forget these people have their own motivations beyond providing you a knee-trembler on a rainy Wednesday night.
Reading the descriptions on even a handful of lads profiles where I live (purely for research purposes, of course) clearly shows how social media seems to reduced self-awareness to an all-time low. There are lads practically begging people to rob their houses, advertising their vulnerabilities like a badge of honour.
Can you encounter a lad in a bar, think he`s safe enough to introduce to your granny, then go back to his house only to find it looking like Jeffrey Dahmer does Grand Designs? Certainly. But at least you’ve had ample opportunity beforehand to follow your instincts. That initial transaction, taking place as it does in public, at least gives you a chance of getting the vibes and the body language cues about whether you really want to be naked and alone in that stranger’s bedroom.
Maybe you get lucky and the bloke turns out to be a diamond, a lifelong friendship is made, or at least a memorable roll in the hay, but within the many misadventures there is real danger. Assault, rape and murder do not amusing anecdotes make.