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The dark side of gay hookup apps

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Based on an ethnography conducted in San Francisco between January and Augustthis paper explores how adult gay The dark side of gay hookup apps use dating apps to find sexual and romantic partners. The city passed from being a center of the counterculture to a gentrified haven for hipsters and techies in a process that has also transformed its sociability.

The search for gay partners has shifted from cruising to hookups, as the use of apps reinforces a progressive selection of partners based on moral criteria. In San Francisco, in one of my first interviews with users of dating apps, I encountered the criticism that this technology supposedly facilitates fast and risky sex, an observation that was echoed in other interactions.

Dan, 1 a young technology professional who lives in an upper middle-class neighborhood of the city, affirmed that he uses the apps only for conversation and to get to know people. Grindr simply broadens the mentality on uncompromising sex.

So I decided not to use it that way. This should be part of your research. But people have been using social media as a new digital bathhouse, as unsafe as the original, and all over town.

Paradoxically, the same user who criticized the practice of hooking-up, a local term for sex without commitment, revealed that he only had sex without condoms. When I commented that his negative judgment about the app and its users did not make sense and that the risk was sex without a condom, he tried to explain:.

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The guys on Grindr will let me fuck them without a condom. In fact, guys everywhere let you fuck them without a condom. So I avoid hookups.

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The long interview that I did using the app on my tablet raised elements to help understand the use of these apps in San Francisco.

There is a clear association between their use and sex without commitment, which in the United States today is called hooking-up. But in the negative moral judgment of this user it is associated to the old practice of cruising, the search for sexual partners in public spaces such as parks, bathrooms or saunas.

I will begin by presenting the urban environment of this hub of a new economy focused on technologies. My objective is to reveal deep changes in the economy and the urban structure, without which it is not possible to understand how and why digital media are The dark side of gay hookup apps today, particularly the mobile media.

I will then show how I entered the field ethnographically, between January and Augustto understand how gays are dealing with these changes. Through co-existence with various interlocutors, readings and observation, I offer some reflections about how the mobile digital media are associated with and give potential to hookups. I also present some considerations about the reality of San Francisco that points to the configuration of a new economy of desire, in which not only sexual and romantic contacts come to be digitally mediated, but in which the criteria for searching for and selecting partners has been sanitized in relation to the past.

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Finally, I critically return to the reflections of this first user who judges the applications and hookups as morally condemnable. This history created the still widely disseminated image that San Francisco is a type of U. Gamson affirms that alternative lifestyles spread through neighborhoods closest to downtown, particularly the North Beach region, and began to head to the other side of Market Street: Site of the University of Delaware.

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Map of the city of San Francisco with its main neighborhoods. Little by little, gays and other queers began to live in Haight-Ashbury until in the next decade, the center of the Sexual Revolution had become the nearby Castro neighborhood, whose aura of liberation spread throughout the city. The relationship between the hippie culture and the rise of the homosexual movement is even geographic, given the proximity between the old hippie neighborhood of Haight-Asbury and the Castro.

It is also visibly seen in how the image of a rainbow was transposed to create an alternative flag, inspired by the U.

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BySan Francisco was for gays and lesbians what Israel was for Jews, only with fewer wars and more parties. It was known as the gathering place of the exiled, the land of milk and honeys.

Not surprisingly, a lot of people did just that; at the very least, liberation seemed to promise less shame, more love, and better sex. It also, of course, often meant being suddenly reviled by nearly everyone who had thought you were straight. Locals give many reasons for this, including the amenable climate by U. Since the s, however, San Francisco has undergone a deep process of transformation linked to the emergence of a new economy based on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

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Professionals in the region began to move from the cities of Silicon Valley to San Francisco and one-third of U. According to urban geographer Neil Smith cf. The change in the economy to services, recreation and consumption made these downtown spaces attractive once again both for commerce The dark side of gay hookup apps for housing for youth linked to the new economy. A new geography thus emerged of centrality and marginality, in which the white middle class returned to the city and the urban proletariat, much smaller in number than in the past, were pushed to the periphery.

The children of the affluent suburbs — many in professions linked to technology — have taken the route opposite to their parents and grandparents and have returned to the city. This return has been marked by a renovation in urban space, a process called gentrification, a term created by British sociologist Ruth Glass and that designates an articulated set of transformations in areas that come to the interest of real estate developers and municipal authorities, which tend to take measures to restore the urban infrastructure and make the area more expensive.

This tends to drive out old residents and open space for real estate projects that attract affluent classes Solnit; Schwarzenber, As in other parts of the world, policing came to be a strategy to The dark side of gay hookup apps members of the popular classes from areas that once again had rising real estate values.

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Despite visible and accelerated gentrification, the incredible quantity of homeless people remains. Any visitor would perceive that although blacks are a small portion of the Bay Area population, and mostly concentrated in the cities on the other side of the bay such as Oakland and Richmond, they form a considerable portion of the homeless living on the streets.

Map of the Bay Area, the San Francisco metropolitan region. In summary, San Francisco shifted from the counterculture to gentrification, and today, spaces that were dissident have become increasingly mainstream.

If in the past the city was seen as a haven for outsiders, its current residents are better known as hipsters, a term that ironically alludes to the urban cultures of the past to refer to middle or upper class people who have moved to areas previously considered degraded and cheap, making them expensive and part of a sophisticated circuit of consumption and leisure. In San Francisco, a portion of them have located at the border between Mission and Castro, therefore, between the traditional Latin and gay neighborhoods.

Halperin reflects on how hipsters have incorporated aspects of queer culture and avalia:. Hipsters are descendants of the favored classes who abandon the cities for the suburbs in the mid twentieth century and who, nearly half a century later, return to find relics of the counterculture and assimilate it in an apolitical manner. Despite their conformist character, their existence proves that the lives of much of an emerging generation of Americans no longer revolve around the values and life style of a mass society in which standardized consumption is key, or in an economic model closely related to other social and political ethics that are based more on inflexible family and national values.

Hipsters and people with similar lifestyles have new desires and aspirations and even if heterosexuality is not characteristic to all of them, it tends to be predominant. In terms of lifestyle, unlike their parents and grandparents, they are more inured to leisure, a bohemian lifestyle and consumption habits.

No longer that of the masses, but the highly sophisticated and segmented that an urban center like San Francisco offers. Hipsters, therefore, appear The dark side of gay hookup apps be morally more flexible and less prejudiced than their The dark side of gay hookup apps, given that they live in contexts that require — The dark side of gay hookup apps greater or lesser degree — coexisting with people of different ethnic-racial origins and non-normative sexualities.

Nevertheless, the new urban context created by gentrification is not as democratic as it may appear, because among other reasons, it is based on renewed forms of social inequality that involve the emergence and dissemination of mobile digital media. In terms of sociability, they facilitate the formation of selective relational networks. Thus, even in the urban perimeter that is more accessible and democratic, it is possible to coexist with differences while remaining apart from them.

Since relational space cannot be defined by essential attributes or inherent and stable qualities, it assumes significance primarily through the interconnections established between different nodes and sectors.

Such interconnections are characterized above all by their variability and impermanence. Moreover, there are the daily interpersonal relations in a city in which cell phone and Internet services are very cheap and nearly universally available in comparison to other parts of the world.

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Despite the predominantly positive evaluations of the city and its residents, they recognize that between the image of a type of paradise reinforced by tourist interests The dark side of gay hookup apps the daily reality in which they live, doubts, tensions and uncertainties emerge about the future.

Probably, the majority of those who I met did not remain in San Francisco because of economic difficulties, and I accompanied the moves of some of the people I interviewed to neighboring cities.

I also met many who were trying — most of them with great difficulty — to move into the city.

I interviewed various gay men who came to the city during a period of hiring of technology companies from Silicon Valley. Ori, a professional with high qualifications in Israel who had also worked in Denmark, helped me to learn a little about the migratory wave of this type of professional to the Bay Area.

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In this wave, education, talent and competency are not the only qualifications that open doors at large companies. At the same time at which I accompanied his stress in marathon hiring processes that seemed more like tests of physical and psychological resistance, I met and interviewed an Apple employee of Mexican origin. During one of our interviews, I learned he had connections with rich and politically powerful families in his country and how a friend arranged the contact that led him to the powerful company based in Cupertino.

Ori wound up being rejected at all the companies and returned to Israel. The Brazilian was not even able to participate in various selections and wound up using his stay for tourism. If for these professional youths from the technology field it is difficult to find a job and establish oneself, it is much worse for those who do not have the same educational and professional level. Paul, a man from Seattle who immigrated a few years ago to San Francisco and worked as a salesman in a clothing store of an elite brand, told me how, he gradually decided to go back to university, whose high cost required him to reduce his spending and move to a neighboring city.

People who once composed the predominant profile in the city have begun to become strangers there. Among the people I interviewed, only one who had a high position in a bank and another who worked at Apple were able to finance their own The dark side of gay hookup apps in the near future.

The others were able to stay in the city with some degree of difficulty, and watched friends move due to the high cost of living that made San Francisco similar to centers such as New York, nodal points in the new economy which regularly attracts, but also expels residents. It is clear that those who stay have a higher socioeconomic level and not by chance, are mainly tied to the technology field, and are locally called techies.

As the gentrification of San Francisco became consolidated, I moved to the Mission District and began my fieldwork, making contact by digital means. I met more than one hundred men through cell phone apps and conducted in-depth interviews with at least 23 of them.

In ethical terms, I sought to present myself from the start as a researcher and kept profiles that explained my condition as a Brazilian sociologist conducting an investigation about the use of mobile digital media in San Francisco.

I was able to achieve a diverse and expressive group of interlocutors, even if my body and my corporality had also impeded or made it difficult to obtain proximity with some profiles such as trans people and men with a heterosexual social life, but who secretly look for same-sex partners a practice called DL, or on the down low.

Little by little, I was able to perceive that because I am white I was seen to be closer in class terms to my interlocutors in the United States than in Brazil and — in a certain way — my corporality is seen as more masculine in the U.

Moreover, I found that nationality reinforced my masculinity and, at times, attributed a certain sex appeal to me linked to the American erotic imaginary about Brazilians. I tried to have face-to-face meetings with all those willing to give interviews, always The dark side of gay hookup apps in a public place according to their schedules.

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The best and longest interviews took place after their work The dark side of gay hookup apps or on a day when they were free, which also allowed me to accompany them on some daily activity such as shopping or laundry Americans often wash their clothes in automatic laundries outside their apartments.

Of the 23 people I interviewed in person, I had closer and more prolonged contact with three of them, who I present to reflect on their lives in the city, how they use the mobile digital media in their sociability and their various experiences in romantic and sexual relations with other men. My objective is to articulate, based on the experiences situated, the economic, cultural and technological phenomenon that I have presented and that I also found upon making contact with them by means of the apps: The first lives in Noe Valley, the second in Hayes Valley and the third in the Castro, three different neighborhoods, but not very far from each other and with a gentrified profile.

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Parker is 24, black, was born on an Air Force base in the American Midwest, and grew up in Sacramento, the capital of California, he said it was a sprawled city of nearly one million people with a very conservative lifestyle. His mother separated from his father when he was young and he was raised by only his military father in a Baptist family; a religion that he distanced himself from during adolescence when he said that he discovered he was gay.

He has a degree in accounting.

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When he told his father he was gay, this created a great distance in their relationship. He then moved to Silicon Valley, in San Jose, where he shared an apartment with friends and began his professional life. He currently lives in San Francisco, works at a startup in SOMA and looks for older partners for a serious and monogamous relationship. Juan, 29, comes from a city on the southern California coast.

Unlike Parker, Juan is not looking for dates and says he is happy with only fuck buddies and that San Francisco provides this in abundance.

The son of a black mother and white-Mexican father, his racial status is difficult to classify, even for North Americans. Are dating apps destroying men's self-esteem?