Posted Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010, at 1:29 PM
Clark Harding's essay in the Daily Beast today calls attention to a most wondrous and entirely inevitable development in the world of virtual dating: a GPS based hook-up service. Grindr, as the smartphone app is called, is for gay men only (as of now, at least). Gone are the often-messy complications of Craigslist posts or dating sites: You download the app, create a profile, and upon login up pop the profiles of men seeking men, their distance away listed in feet. My friend has the app, and just by logging in at work once or twice he's discovered there are at least two other gay men in his office. Just from using the app with him, I've seen more abdominal "situations" in a 15-minute span then I have over the last five years.
The upside: It makes everything so easy. But as Harding points out, there's a potential downside to always being seen, and water-cooler awkwardness is the least of it:
The problem with casual sex with people in close proximity is that they never really go away. And though Grindr allows you to block profiles for various reasons (check out GuysIBlockedOnGrindr.com ), it doesn't change the fact that they are still 30 feet from you. It sounds shallow, but as I was quickly learning, being a few feet from someone isn't always a good thing.
If the virtual world has been good for anything besides the spread of grammatically disabled cat photos, it's been forging a new utilitarianism for sexual relations. There are already Web sites for casual hookups and forums for finding someone to play out your sexual fantasies. You don't have to take off your wedding ring at a hotel bar Don Draper-style to have an affair-you can just log on to AshleyMadison.com and find another, no-strings-attached, willing adulterer. When I was 16, a girl in my math class asked me what "blue balls" were. I thought it was an ice-cream brand. (I was thinking of Blue Bell, obvs.) Now teenagers outfitted with iPhones are hardly misinformed about anything anymore. This isn't wholly good, but it's definitely not wholly bad, either. There's going to be a Grindr-esque app for everyone sooner or later, and it's going to rock boatfuls of social-moral milieus. It's just inevitable.