You wake up in the middle of the night with a glorious boner, feeling rather in the mood. You fumble for your phone in the folds of the duvet to look at the time. It’s 2:47am… Now what? If you were George Michael you’d probably slink into your tightest jeans, commando style, and go outside, to the nearest park. The mere thought of sex in public places, the thrill that you might get caught… I wonder if he used a condom?
Okay, so there you are. All worked up and nowhere to go. After all, this is Africa and it’s shrinking cold out there. The next best thing; you tap your favourite app. If you’re just looking for visual stimulation you might go to Pinterest or Tumblr (the latter being a gateway to a world of saucy). But if you want something interactive and connect with like-minded guys, you’d probably choose Grindr. Given that you know how to take a good selfie, maybe do a little bit of photo editing; your profile pic will have your phone singing in seconds… Vrrt! Vrrt! And the guys start queueing for your attention. Grammar is hardly ever a priority but who cares, right?
Hi how you
hii how r u handsome
U up for meet?
I’ll massage you and pay you to let me.
And so forth… The beauty about Grindr is that, unlike Whatsapp or Manhunt, there is no indication or notification that you’ve read someone’s message. So, there is never any expectation, unless you create it. You can read and delete or respond as you see fit. What boggles me is that guys without profile pics send messages, obviously expecting a reply. But because men are visual creatures the secret to a buzzing profile is your pic (that exclude pictures of sunsets, your poodle or dirty slogans). If you don’t feel like leaving your warm bed; with a bit of luck, and the exchange of a few personal pics, you could order in and have a quickie before sunrise. Or better yet, line up a few dates for the week.
I’ve learnt a valuable lesson about profile pics just last week. I stumbled across this really attractive guy with a great profile on Manhunt. No nude pics, just clear face pics. My profile pics, on the other hand, were randy. Not slutty, just randy. And to make matters worse, my profile name was rather skanky. The last image it could possibly conjure up was a white picket fence. Although I never took my profile seriously this guy did, and rightfully so. His into’s: LTR, Friends, Dating. Here I was trying to make a meaningful connection, but to no avail. My loss. Make sure your profile reflects who you are and not who you think you are or want to be. It doesn’t only have to be about sex.
As far as gay chat apps go; I’m much more into Grindr these days than Manhunt or Jack’d for that matter – to mention a few. Jack’d, in my opinion, has not taken off all that well and Manhunt, sadly, has been experiencing endless problems with their mobile site – and that has been carrying on for months. Send their support team a complaint and you get an automated reply with a complimentary two weeks free membership. Whoopee-doo. I’ve probably spent more than two weeks staring at my cellphone screen waiting for someone’s unlocked pics to open, and if they do, then it’s an erection displayed next to an energy drink can, or worse a can of toilet spray. The Manhunt culture has become somewhat staid and stale. And now having to pay a subscription makes Manhunt even less appealing.
One thing Manhunt and Grindr have in common, though, is rentboys. The same ones appear on both sites, only, they’ve bleached their hair and changed their poses. But their approach is very much the same – aggressive marketing. I’m not dissing the fetish of paying for sex; it just seems more viable to spend that bucks on drinks during a few speedy dates with various guys. Or you could hook up with a regular via Whatsapp.
How are you sexy?
cool and u sexy, what r u up to?
Just got home. Horny.
What are you up to?
just about to drive to you lol
Let’s do this
I’m horny as f***
Wanna come f*** me?
Would love to.
I’ll see you in twenty… Okay?
Sweet. On my way.
Social media and apps in general have improved our lives vastly since the smartphone. Everything is conveniently at your fingertips – especially sex. Whatever your kink or taste – you can easily get it. The constant ululation of smartphones and tablets around the world is not only arousing more (technological) frisson than ever before but it is also luring more predators and makes it a lot easier for people to lie online. We build bridges to new people with the tap of a finger and burn them just as easily. But do we realise how many we are letting (back) in under false pretenses? The high concentration and user-friendliness of connectivity makes it increasingly difficult to control what we bring into our homes. But we need to be diligent and responsible and ensure that we keep up to date with malware, spyware and viruses – as is the case with our hook-ups.
We all, at some point, wish that we could change something about ourselves, be it a better physique, thicker hair, an engaging personality; the list is endless. But when it comes to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) it gets a little bit trickier as it is wrapped up in many social constructs. People fail to disclose positive STI results for a number of reasons. Probably the most common one is shame.
Sexually transmitted diseases are highly stigmatised in many cultures, and it can be extremely difficult to have a discussion about an STI infection when you’ve just met somebody or in the early stages of a relationship. It doesn’t help that talking about sex can be extremely difficult for many people, even without the baggage of an STI diagnosis. Figuring out when it is the appropriate time and place for the talk to take place is also not easy. Too soon, and it may feel like the sex conversation will interfere with the process of getting to know each other. Too late, and there is the risk of causing resentment or feelings that someone has been put unnecessarily and unfairly at risk.
It’s also important to mention that punishing people for failing to disclose an STI diagnosis is not actually a terribly effective way of reducing STI risk in the general population. Individuals can and do remain unaware of asymptomatic STIs for years. Many doctors do not reliably and regularly screen their patients for even the most common bacterial STIs – let alone the highly stigmatised infections such as HIV and syphilis – and as such the majority of people who are infected with STIs are probably unaware of that fact.
It’s a tricky thing to try and figure out fact from fiction in cyberspace. Versatiles are bottoms, sporty body types are average Joes and the few that are brave enough to disclose their status (even with an undetectable viral load) get shunned in favor of the so called ‘negative’. We shouldn’t be conditioned by online disappointments to the extent where we become sceptics because we all have our fantasies – but keep it honest, as long as your interactions don’t harm anybody.
Just remember, we all have feelings. We do what we can but at the end of the day the onus lies with ourselves to be informed and to make responsible choices. And if you don’t like condoms, try the bubblegum flavour.
Johann Vermeulen is a contributing writer for Health4Men, a project of the Anova Health Institute NPC, funded by USAID through PEPFAR. This article represents Johann’s personal views.