Receiving the news update from fellow writer Topher yesterday about the recent arrest of a 54-year old man who met an underage boy for an inappropriate sexual encounter through the smart phone application Grindr, I immediately rushed to my comp to type of a response to the ridiculous Vancouver Sun (clearly run by mom’s and straights) article. Unfortunately, my best friend and owner of Homorazzi, Patrick, had beat me to the punch. Scanning through his editorial, I realized that he had essentially agreed with the demand to “make changes” and “find out where things went wrong with this app” and unfortunately- like most of the commenters on the article- I have to disagree. Realizing that I could have simply posted my two cents at the bottom of the article, I decided to do a full post instead as I’m the birthplace of things Grindr on this site and since my first article about it has seemed to place me in a “representative role” for them (see huge string of comments on past article).
Let’s start off with this issue of “any kid can be raped on here” insinuation from the less-than-informed (again, clearly mother of 4) Corporal of the North Vancouver police department: come on! Topher explained away the “loophole of anonymity” offered by the app by explaining that in order to download an app you first must offer up a credit card number to enable your iPhone to access them so right there you’re either old enough to be on Grindr or your parents trust you enough to give you their’s or to co-sign for one with you. Right there you’re either clear of any underage issue or you have permission of your parents to make decisions for yourself, and if those choices end up with you cruising gay sites then they’re partially to blame as well of course. Second is this notion from the Vancouver Sun that GPS location software in the app is the reason predators can hunt our children down… bitch please. What most people don’t know is that Grindr fully allows you to deactivate the distance approximator on the app so you fully control if others can see how far from them you are. Furthermore, the distance quoted when you do allow others to see it is at a plus/minus of about 250 feet so unless your hanging out in mowed cornfields, no one can tell which house/apartment/building you’re in from the distance mark alone. You have to make the decision yourself to send them a google maps location of your exact locale- no one can access that without your permission.
What this is is a backlash to technological advances that has targeted gays as an easy scapegoat. This type of “who’s around you” tech has been around for years for straights to meet and even hook up themselves, but for the homos this is the first huge mainstream push for it on such an accessible medium: smart phones. The Vancouver Sun’s quotation from North Vancouver Cpl. Marlene Morton is that “advances in technology and social networking make it easier for our children to come into contact with individuals who may try to harm them or take advantage of them.” I call bull. You know what makes it easy for “individuals looking to harm our children” to come in contact with them? Parks… parks are these somewhat less than recent invention where kids like this article’s 15-year old can be found walking by themselves and any older man can just walk up to them and… :S Come on. Hell, taking the comparison to a more level ground, the invention of the phone is a “predators best friend” in tricking kids to saying where they are to dirty old men. The internet and chat sites certainly endured this type of criticism when they came out and like them Grindr will survive the storm. We have disclaimers on all our “adult sites” and apps that inform it’s illegal to be on if you’re not of age and parents now have the ability to control what their kids can see on the net- or on their phones if they wish. But, in this case, the kid made the decision to go on an adult networking site and chat a man he knew to at least be of an age that sexual discussion and contact was illegal. I’m struggling to see where it’s the apps fault?
Basically, what I’m calling for is a hold on the knee-jerk reaction to blame the neutral party in this case. This kid and his parents absolutely have a role in how this all played out and to clamour that deleting this app will cure or even lessen in any statistical way the amount of statutory sexual abuse is ridiculous. This 54-year old man is completely to blame for his actions and that’s where the Vancouver Sun should have focused their anger. In my opinion.