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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Another Attempt At a Grindr For Straights

Posted by Dan Savage on Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Vice's Kat George—doing her best impression of a Jezebel writer (and I mean that as a compliment (I read Jezebel every day, Vice not so much))—interviews the founders of Bang With Friends, a new app that allows you to, well, let Kat explain:

Do you click through your friends' Facebook photos furiously masturbating? No? Well friend, get with the times, because according to the new app “Bang with Friends” everyone has a secret hard-on for their pals, and moreover, a burning desire to, as the moniker would suggest, bang with friends. Bang with Friends allows you to peruse photos of all your Facebook friends, and anonymously select who you’d like to fuck. The friends you chose will only ever find out that you want to bone them if they want to bone you too.... And nevermind that you’re not even consenting to have your image used on this glorified whorehouse (the founders’ email is simply “Online Pimp”), because being sexually objectified is “flattering,” just like being catcalled in the street.

The guys who created Bang With Friends explain what they were thinking:

How do you think people will feel about having their image used as a sexual object without their consent or even knowledge?

Flattered? This happens all of the time offline and online via Facebook. We're all adults here. Let's be honest about our sexuality!

You talk about wanting to take the "awkwardness" out of sex. How is your app doing that?
It can be awkward to breach the subject of your sexual interest in a friend unless you know it's mutual. We take down that barrier. It should be something that is celebrated and open, not something anyone should feel awkward admitting is their goal.

As a woman, I find the homepage image you guys use on your site quite disturbing. An inert, faceless woman on a bed with a dress pulled up over her head doesn't exactly scream "equality for the sexes." Why did you choose a woman and not a man?
We liked the erotic, laid-back, and whimsical nature of the photo. But rest assured, we'll be updating it for the ladies and gents who swing that way.

When I log on, I'm only able to see males from my friends list. Why the heteronormative standard?

To be honest, we built this in two hours and never expected it to take off. We built the most basic version we could to keep it simple and get to the result of getting people bangin buddies! We are working on expanding it to help everyone.

Two things:

1. When did Vice start tossing around Queer Theory lingo like "heteronormative standards"? I thought Vice was proudly heteronormative. And some of the most disturbing images I've ever seen were in Vice.

2. This new attempt at a Grindr for straight people... just might work. A previous attempt, Blendr, didn't take off because it was designed to help people hookup with strangrs. Lots of gay men are into anonymous hookups, and lots of straight men would like to have anonymous hookups, but not that many women are willing to risk 'em. Which is why I predicted that Blendr wouldn't work:

More after the jump!

Unless the new Grindr-for-straight-people app—Blendr—is some sort of mashup of Grindr, Angie's List, and Don't Date Him Girl, I don't see it catching on. Men are great, I love men, but the potential negative consequences of hooking up with strange straight men—even if you're just meeting up to discuss your shared love of knitting or French literature (or that's your excuse to meet up)—fall disproportionately on women: unplanned pregnancy, sexually-transmitted infections, rape and other acts of sexual violence. Women are at much greater risk for all of that—particularly those unplanned pregnancies—and women aren't going to be meeting up with random, anonymous guys for random, anonymous sex conversations about knitting and French literature if there's not some feedback/accountability component that essentially vouches for the unknown straight guy trawling Blendr looking for sex or knitting tips.

By definition the guys a woman meets through Bang With Friends aren't strangers. These are guys that the women on the site know. (In theory at least—some people are Facebook friends with strangers.) And while a woman can certainly be victimized, infected, sexually assaulted, or knocked up by a guy she knows, a woman is more likely to... know something about a guy she knows. She's likelier to have some sense of whether this guy is a good guy or a bad guy, she may know other women he's been with (or, ahem, she may know the woman he's currently with), and she may have some friends in common. That last bit is especially important: a sexually impulsive act with someone in your social circle comes with a degree of social accountability. Anonymous hookups do not. And it's that degree of social accountability that's key, I think, to making a Grindr for straight people work.

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