Feds Spent $432,000 Studying Gay Hookup Apps

NIH project studied ‘arousal’ of gay men when using Grindr

January 22, 2015

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spent nearly a half a million dollars studying gay hookup apps such as Grindr.

The government awarded $432,000 to Columbia University to interview gay men who use GPS dating apps and determine whether it increases their likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behavior.

"Smartphone technologies have provided a new venue for sexual partnering among men who have sex with men (MSM)," the grant for the project states. "Indeed, there are a rapidly growing number of smartphone applications designed to facilitate sexual partnering among MSM."

The project argues that dating apps that use the Global Positioning System, or GPS, has "accelerated" the rate that gay men can find sexual partners, compared to online.

"Furthermore, given the expediency with which men are able to arrange sexual encounters using these applications, there is cause to question if, when, and how sexual negotiation and serostatus disclosure occurs," the grant said. "The overall study goal is to understand how sexual risk behaviors among MSM may be facilitated by the nature of GPS-enabled smartphone applications, the way they are used, and the process by which sexual partnering occurs via smartphone applications."

Karolynn Siegel, a professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia, is leading the study. Siegel said she is in the process of analyzing the data in an email to the Washington Free Beacon. Funding for the project expired in December.

The project conducted interviews with 60 gay men who had used mobile apps to meet sexual partners in the past three months.

The study is examining "how and why smartphone applications are used for sexual partnering," how gay men "present themselves," communicate, and what they look for on apps like Grindr.

The project is also studying the sexual arousal level of gay men when using the apps.

As explained in one of the study’s aims: "Investigate the sexual and emotional states (e.g., more/less urgency, arousal, impulsivity) that MSM experience when seeking or meeting sexual partners using smartphone applications and gain insights into how these states may contribute to sexual risk behaviors."

Finally, the project looked at a possible "smartphone-based sexual risk reduction intervention."

The most popular gay dating app is Grindr, where users can chat, send photos, and find men in their area.

The app allows men to "search by Tribe to find your type of guy," and "grind more efficiently with a slide-screen menu."

"Grindr, which first launched in 2009, has exploded into the largest and most popular all-male location-based social network out there," according to its website. "With more than 5 million guys in 192 countries around the world—and approximately 10,000 more new users downloading the app every day—you’ll always find a new date, buddy, or friend on Grindr."

Similar apps include Scruff, which tends to "attract the bears and jocks crowd," GROWLr, which "focuses on finding gay bears near you," and Manhunt.