Magazine article The Spectator

Sex by Sat-Nav

Magazine article The Spectator

Sex by Sat-Nav

Article excerpt

Theo Hobson is depressed by the media's rapturous welcome for Grindr, a new software device that helps gay men locate each other for impromptu sex

I am not a homophobe. But I suppose I might be a pinkophobe. I do not think that homosexuality is wrong, bad, inferior, hateful in the eyes of God. And yet I find male homosexual culture objectionable. I think, especially in the last decade or so, that it has come to have a corrupting influence on sexual culture generally.

The heart of the matter is the fact that male homosexuality has a special relationship with promiscuity, and gay culture fails to be ashamed of this. Instead it glories in it. And because it is (rightly) seen as wrong to discriminate against homosexuals, there is a huge fear of condemning gay culture, though it has promiscuity at its heart. The ancient taboo has reversed, and criticism of the practice, rather than the practice itself, is forbidden. So strong is this new taboo that all of sexual culture is affected. Thanks to gay rights, sexual licentiousness in general finds itself protected from public criticism;

it even has a sort of righteous air.

My argument only makes sense if I dare to put my Mary Whitehouse hat on and say it straight: I think that the celebration of promiscuity is a bad thing. I think that a flippant attitude to sex, one that separates it from committed relationships and treats it as a hedonistic opportunity, is to be condemned. I also think that pornography is a fairly serious evil. There. I am, if you like, a pornophobe, an objector to the culture of hedonistic sex. Gay or straight.

My thoughts on the issue were clarified by a couple of articles in the Observer this week.

A report on the Gay Pride event in London noted with alarm that no senior Tories were present this year - as if this camp jamboree were Remembrance Sunday, a cultic event that could not be shunned without serious repercussions to one's reputation. (In fact, Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, did attend, but the outrage remains telling. ) I then moved to the Observer magazine, where there was a long article about Grindr, a new device for mobile phones that lets you know if there are any up-for-it gay people in your vicinity. It is a sort of sat-nav cruising tool. When you activate the 'app', your phone fills with little thumbnail pictures of other men - often naked - who've signed up to Grindr, a list of their vital statistics, and their current distance from you in feet. Sometimes even half-feet. Testimonies from users made it quite clear that Grindr has transformed their sex lives. There are 700,000 users worldwide in 162 countries, even in Iraq, Albania and Ethiopia. 'Wherever you are, there's bound to be a Grindr guy near you!' promises the website cheerily. Grindr has turned the world into Hampstead Heath.

I'm not criticising the technology, which is clearly thrilling - you can imagine it being used to connect individuals with all sorts of different shared interests: people looking for an impromptu game of Frisbee, for instance, or fellow trainspotters, or mums with children the same age. But in this case, the technology is simply being used to enable impromptu sex between total strangers.

Is that progress?

What's so interesting about the first wave of publicity for Grindr is the utter absence of disapproval. The more I've thought about it this week, the more I've realised that the liberal press in fact demands that we give our enthusiastic approval to Grindr and to gay culture generally; that we actually rejoice in the fact that it is openly and wantonly promiscuous. …

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