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Grindr: immoderation vs sin in the global virtual gay bar


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Presentation given at Digital Cultures conference, Manchester, July 2010

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Grindr: immoderation vs sin in the global virtual gay bar

  1. 1. Grindr: Immoderation vs Sin in the Global Virtual Gay Bar Dr David Kreps, ISOS, University of Salford July 2010
  2. 2. Agenda
  3. 3. Agenda ✤ Introduction - Sexual Social Networking ✤ Foucault’s History of Sexuality ✤ Queer theory ✤ Grindr ✤ Conclusion
  4. 4. Sexual social networking research
  5. 5. Sexual social networking research ✤ Participant observation ✤ Member of Gaydar (since 2000), Fitlads (since 2004), and Grindr (since 2009), as observer and conversationalist ✤ Time on ChatRoulette (since January 2010) meeting people from around the world ✤ Post-structuralist approach to concepts of identity, gender, sexuality - specifically Foucault, Butler, Deleuze (since 1995) ✤ Queer theory since 1990s, challenging hetero-normativity - Weeks, Halperin, Warner, Sedgwick, Butler - all heavily influenced by Foucault ✤ ‘Masculinities’ - Whitehead’s Foucauldian ‘masculine discursive subject’ ✤ Situated within the broader phenomena of online social networking and of sex and the internet
  6. 6. Sexual Social Networking publications
  7. 7. Sexual Social Networking publications ✤ Kreps, D (2009) “Performing the Discourse of Sexuality Online: Foucault, Butler, and Video- sharing on Sexual Social Networking Sites” - focussing on Gaydar and Fitlads - at AMCIS 2009, San Francisco ✤ Due to be published as book chapter in Warburton, S (ed.) “Social Media and Digital Identity” IGI Global, early 2011 ✤ Kreps, D (2010) “My Social Networking Profile: Copy, Resemblance, or Simulacrum? A Poststructuralist Interpretation of Social Information Systems”, European Journal of Information Systems 19 p104-115 ✤ Kreps, D (2010) “Foucault, Exhibitionism and Voyeurism on ChatRoulette” - at CATaC 2010, Vancouver ✤ Kreps, D (2010) “Introducing Eco-Masculinities: How a masculine discursive subject approach to the Individual Differences Theory of Gender and IT impacts an environmental informatics project” - at AMCIS 2010, Lima ✤ Working towards a journal paper on sexual social networking
  8. 8. Home porn
  9. 9. Home porn ✤ ‘The Swinger’ - Polaroid Camera ✤ 70s phenomenon “instant photography and instant pornography” ✤ Production of pornography -> from broadcast mode to distributed mode
  10. 10. Sex on the internet
  11. 11. Sex on the internet Saucy Polaroid now almost indistinguishable from professional pornography Naked photos and videos on Internet dating sites
  12. 12. Sexual Social Networking
  13. 13. Sexual Social Networking ✤ Adult Friend Finder - some 20m users ✤ “the world's most successful online dating site” (Guardian 2009) - over 3 million members [QSoft] ✤ Niche sites continue to grow while larger ones stagnate [TechCrunch] ✤ Subscriptions worth almost $1bn in US, €0.5bn in Europe
  14. 14. Foucault’s Scientia Sexualis
  15. 15. Foucault’s Scientia Sexualis ✤ History of Sexuality vols 1,2 and 3 ✤ what appears as a "repression" of sexual drives is a huge increase in the discussion of sex ✤ Discourse on sexuality - confession > consultation ✤ from the Christian confessional box to the sexologist’s, in the 19th century, and then in the 20th century the psychoanalyst’s couch Michel Foucault ✤ Consultation + Web2.0 = Chat: sexual discourse now the domain of all
  16. 16. Scientia Sexualis Videre
  17. 17. Scientia Sexualis Videre ✤ More than just self-advertising ✤ Competitive sexual exhibitionism ✤ more to do with communication about sex – albeit that that communication is visual rather than oral or textual – than it is about sex itself
  18. 18. Video-discourse
  19. 19. Video-discourse ✤ As Nakamura (2008) has described, digital images are as open to interpretation as Foucauldian visual “discourse-objects” (Foucault 1995:140) as are vocal and written statements. ✤ the exchange of imagery online becomes a confessional sexual activity in its own right, quite apart from the physical meetings that may or may not be arranged through the website
  20. 20. The Use of Pleasure
  21. 21. The Use of Pleasure ✤ Christian taboos on non-procreative sex ✤ Anything non-procreative considered a transgression of ordained ‘natural’ activity ✤ Homosexuality intrinsically sinful ✤ Classical pagan concern with moderation ✤ Anything goes but best approach is ‘all things in moderation’ ✤ Homosexuality institutionalised, ‘normal’ but subject to subtle restraints
  22. 22. Queer Theory
  23. 23. Queer Theory 1. “a conceptualization of sexuality which sees sexual power embodied in different levels of social life, expressed discursively Sexuality and enforced through boundaries and binary divides” 2. “the problematization of sexual and gender categories, and of identities in general. Identities are always on uncertain ground, Identity entailing displacements of identification and knowing” 3. “a rejection of civil-rights strategies in favor of a politics of carnival, transgression and parody which leads to deconstruction, Carnival decentering, revisionist readings and an anti-assimilationist politics” 4. “a willingness to interrogate areas which normally would not seen as the terrain of sexuality, and to conduct "queer" readings of Queer ostensibly heterosexual or non-sexualized texts.” Stein and Plummer 1996
  24. 24. Queer Theory and reality
  25. 25. Queer Theory and reality 1. Radical deconstructionism - Sexuality and Identity “superimposes a postmodern self-concept onto the homosexual subject, thereby glossing over the enduring institutional organization of sexuality….” 2. Radical subversion - Carnival and Queer readings “superimposes a politically marginal self-concept onto the homosexual subject, thereby grossly oversimplifying complex developmental processes attendant to sexual identification.” Green A, “Gay but Not Queer: Toward a Post-Queer Study of Sexuality” Theory and Society, Vol. 31, No. 4 (Aug., 2002), pp. 521-545
  26. 26. Grindr
  27. 27. Grindr ✤ Location based service - ‘Gay GPS’ ✤ 500,000 members worldwide ✤ iPhone, Blackberry, Android ✤ Who’s online, how many metres away from you... ✤ Very simple personal profiles ✤ Chat application
  28. 28. Restraints
  29. 29. Restraints ✤ Steve Jobs April 2010 ✤ “You know, there’s a porn store for Android. You can download nothing but porn. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That’s a place we don’t want to go – so we’re not going to go there.” [Seeking Alpha] ✤ New Guidelines issued by Grindr shortly afterward - subject of some discussion online
  30. 30. Vancouver attack This is NOT the boy in question
  31. 31. Vancouver attack ✤ Grindr condemned the attack on a 15yr old boy by a Vancouver 54 yr old.  ✤ Police blamed the geo-tagging iPhone app Grindr available on Apple Itunes for a sexual assault on a 15-year-old boy.  ✤ Bren Tynan, 54, from Vancouver was charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching. ✤ “Grindr strongly condemns the inappropriate and criminal use of our service and actively cooperates with local authorities on any alleged illegal activity on our service,” Grindr spokesman ✤ Inter-generational sexual contact becomes an ‘attack’ when the boy is under the ‘legal’ age. At different times in recent history this age was 21. In Holland the age is 14, where in this case no ‘criminal’ act would have taken place. This is NOT the boy in question
  32. 32. Promiscuity
  33. 33. Promiscuity ✤ Does Grindr ✤ promote promiscuity? ✤ facilitate promiscuity? ✤ encourage promiscuity? ✤ celebrate promiscuity?
  34. 34. Anti-normalisation
  35. 35. Anti-normalisation ✤ Promiscuity one of several ‘kinds’ of sexual activities, including inter- generational sexual contact ✤ Both outside of hetero-normative behaviours and outside of assimilated ‘gay’ coupling - the healthy economic unit ✤ Associated with closeted individuals: ‘men who have sex with men’ ✤ Associated with AIDs ✤ Liberated or libertine culture? ✤ Anti-normalisation post-queer theory simply attempting to allow space for such non-assimilated behaviours
  36. 36. Conclusion
  37. 37. Conclusion ✤ Grindr epitomises activities outside heteronormative, assimilated gay coupling, and attracts opprobium because of it ✤ Neither the Christian concept of non-procreative ‘sin’ nor the more liberal classical pagan focus upon ‘moderation’ would seem to approve of the contacts and activities Grindr facilitates ✤ The AppStore iPhone platform contrains at the same time as allowing Grindr ✤ Niche Sexual Social Networking moving off the web into mobile location-based services pushing at the boundaries of social acceptability
  38. 38. Contact
  39. 39. Contact ✤ Dr David Kreps ✤ Director, Centre for Information Systems, Organisations and Society ✤ ✤ ✤