Vencill, from the Mayo Clinic, said that it’s important for users to be sensitive about identity and power in spaces designed for particular communities. “It’s very important for straight cis people to be aware [that] they bring a lot of power and privilege into those spaces that oftentimes they’re not aware of, and they can cause a lot of harm without intending to,” she said.
Not everyone thinks women, particularly cis women, should be on Grindr. Is it the digital equivalent of drunken bachelorettes stumbling into gay bars, invading one of the few spaces available to queer men? While other apps like Scruff do have women users, there are far more cis women on Grindr, according to the men I spoke to who use both. “I can’t remember seeing a trans woman or a cis woman on [Scruff]. Scruff is a different kind of feel and clientele,” said Christopher McKenzie, a bisexual man who serves on the board of the Bisexual Resource Center. “I definitely saw more cis women and probably trans women too, on Grindr, because Grindr is kind of your garden variety app,” said Rich Juzwiak, who coauthors Slate’s sex advice column. Scruff is “kind of hairier and bear-ier and more (in heavy scare quotes) masculine.”
Jesse said she was “not hesitant at all” to join Grindr. “When I’m in male gay spaces…gay dudes are drawn to me without any effort on my part… It’s not unusual for somebody to come kiss my boots, kiss my hand, buy me drinks, sometimes sneaky grope me,” she said. “I thought Grindr would just be like a virtual version of a gay bar and they’d welcome me with open arms there as well.” But she wondered what gay men thought, so recently she posted a question on the Grindr subreddit: “How do gay men on Grindr feel about seeing cisgender women on the app?” Reactions were mixed. “I’m a bisexual man and love when I see women express an interest in that part of me,” one user replied. “Many women respond to bisexuality with attitudes of disgust.”
But many responses were hostile. “Get the fuck off our app,” one user told her. “Stop invading our spaces.” “I’m not your fetish, nor do I want to be pegged…by a woman,” wrote another. Jesse told me these reactions have led her to disable her account on Grindr.
“I think women should be encouraged to seek the app for sex and romantic relationships because for guys that are openly bisexual it’s kinda hard to find girls that are okay with this sexual orientation,” one bisexual Grindr user from Bulgaria told me. Still, he said he’s tried to find cis women on the app but the “cis women there that I’ve seen go there to find a ‘gay best friend,’ which as a bi guy I found really annoying.”
McKenzie, the Bisexual Resource Center board member, remembers the first time he saw a cis woman on the app, about a year ago. “It was almost a strange novelty on a website that has plenty of strange novelties,” he said. “But I also did get that feeling…that somebody has invaded the clubhouse.” He told me inevitably the tenor of the site changes when women come into the mix.