The First Time User’s Guide to the Ins and Outs of Grindr

Grindr can be intimidating and confusing to use for anyone. Here’s all the information you need to know to navigate it effectively.
December 11, 2019
6 mins read

Launched in 2009, Grindr is “the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people.” The app even preceded the advent of Tinder, the most popular dating app in America. However, “social networking” on Grindr can only be taken in the broadest sense. People don’t go on the app to professionally network with others or chat with people, and if they do, better places exist.

Grindr is a gay hookup app, regardless of what someone may tell themselves when they enter this unfortunately notorious world. Most people are on Grindr for one reason and one reason only — to have sex.

While Grindr revolutionized the gay community, its reputation is marred by a history of racist bios and unsolicited abuse. If you’ve been on the app, you have probably seen “No Asians, no blacks” or other exclusionist and outright racist sentiments, which is grossly justified under the pretense of “preference.”

What happened to that timeless saying: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all? Andrew Londyn, a blogger who wrote a book about how to survive Grindr, said “We’re dehumanizing each other… we just view them as a picture.”

While there are obvious problems with Grindr, the fact remains that the app is the easiest way to find immediate gratification. Gay people don’t have the privilege of assuming that people are straight; wondering whether someone is also into guys or not is a daily struggle most people don’t have to consider.

There is no shame in partaking in hookup culture, nor should there be any pressure to have sex. So, for those who want to use the app for the first time but are anxious about its reputation, here’s your guide to Grindr and its less-than-obvious aspects.

What do all these terms and phrases mean?

When you log in for the first time, you have to acclimate to Grindr’s lexicon, starting with your profile. The process is very flexible — you can choose what you want to include or leave out. The more information you provide, however, the more somebody has to judge you upon, whether positively or negatively.

Most of the profile section is self-explanatory identity information, but then you come across the “Accepts NSFW Pics.” While NSFW literally stands for “Not Safe For Work,” just read that as “Accepts D-ck Pics.” Adding pictures and more details to your profile correlates with more messages and “taps,” a mysterious mechanism to get someone’s attention without sending a message.

Messaging people is not quite the same as everyday texting. “What’s up” is now less a greeting and more of a check to see if somebody will be responsive or not. “What are you into” is still getting to know about your interests, but don’t be naive about what kind of interests (most people do not waste time on this app).

And then, there’s more lingo about people’s preferences and how they would like to go about pursuing those. Femme or fem means more feminine-presenting people, while masc is short for masculine. Discreet or down low, often abbreviated DL, means that person wants to maintain a level of anonymity for whatever reason. Finally, you may encounter people looking for “NSA” fun, which stands for “no strings attached.” They’re looking for sex but without the emotional attachment.

Which “tribe” do I belong to?

The profile also has different tribes, which allow users to identify themselves within a group and narrow their search to find that “type” of person. The labels are not all-inclusive and are conducive to stereotypical associations. Because of this, there are mixed responses whether they are useful or problematic.

Bears are larger, hairier men; Otters are thinner, hairier men, while twinks are typically also thinner men but with little to no body hair. Clean-cut and rugged are simply ways of grooming. Daddies are older, often dominant men, perhaps “sugar daddies” seeking a “baby” to pamper in exchange for favors.

Jocks are athletically built and inclined towards sports, while geeks more generally have a deep interest in one area. Leather refers to a sexual fetish for leather, such as suits or whips. Trans refers to the transgender identity, and poz refers to someone who is HIV-positive. Finally, sober means the person is not looking to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol if they hook up with someone.

How do I know if I can trust someone? 

This is a tough question. Often, as with any stranger, meeting up with someone requires taking a little bit of a risk. The answer varies depending on what you are comfortable with. For example, if someone refuses to send an additional picture some might respect that choice but others might not trust that person.

However, a good rule of thumb is to follow the common sense you learned as a child. Just as you would with spam emails, don’t click on links that are messaged to you. Don’t enter strangers’ cars or homes without at least one person knowing your whereabouts. Having a buddy to text when you leave and return never hurts.

There’s no checklist that can ensure someone is completely trustworthy, but trust your gut. Ask questions until you feel satisfied, and if they can’t or don’t want to answer the questions that you need to feel comfortable, then move onto another person.

Grindr is a place to advocate for yourself and not worry about what other people think or want until you actually meet up. If a potential partner isn’t willing to meet you where you’re at, then it’s probably not going to be a good experience anyway. Along those lines, don’t take any actions or sentiments expressed by others personally. You are so much more of a beautiful human being than can be conveyed on Grindr. They only know your pictures and your profile, after all.

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