Skip to main content


Log in

Gay Men’s Construction and Management of Identity on Grindr

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Sexuality & Culture Aims and scope Submit manuscript


This study explores gay men’s construction and management of identity on Grindr. A sample of gay men was interviewed and the data were analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. The following themes are outlined: (1) constructing and re-constructing identities on Grindr; (2) bolstering sexual self-efficacy; (3) managing online and offline identities. Despite the apparent social psychological benefits of geospatial gay social networking applications, the pressures of coercive norms on the application as well as perceived “addiction” to it can result in threats to identity, thereby challenging social and psychological wellbeing.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1., Accessed on 15 December 2015.

  2. Some individuals digitally enhanced their profile photographs using features on their mobile device, such as by adding a “chrome” effect, adjusting the colour setting etc.


  • BBC. (2015). Grindr users targeted by armed gang, say police. BBC News, 18 December 2015. Accessed on 28 September 2016.

  • Bérubé, A. (2003). The history of gay bathhouses. Journal of Homosexuality, 44(3–4), 33–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Birnholtz, J., Fitzpatrick, C., Handel, M. & Brubaker, J.R. (2014). Identity, identification and identifiability: The language of self-presentation on a location-based mobile dating app. Proceedings of Mobile HCI 2014, Toronto, Canada, September 23–26.

  • Blackwell, C., & Birnholtz, J. (2015). Seeing and being seen: Co-situation and impression formation using Grindr, a location-aware gay dating app. New Media & Society, 17(7), 1117–1136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Breakwell, G. M. (1986). Coping with threatened identities. London: Methuen.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brubaker, J. R., Ananny, M., & Crawford, K. (2016). Departing glances: A sociotechnical account of ‘leaving’ Grindr. New Media & Society, 18(3), 373–390.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Castañeda, J. G. M. (2015). Grindring the self: Young Filipino gay men’s exploration of sexual identity through a geo-social networking application. Phillippine Journal of Psychology, 48(1), 29–58.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dodge, M.T. (2014). Investing in Grindr: An exploration of how gay college men utilize gay-oriented social networking sites. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, US.

  • Duggan, S. J., & McCreary, D. R. (2004). Body image, eating disorders, and the drive for muscularity in gay and heterosexual men. Journal of Homosexuality, 47(3–4), 45–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goedel, W. C., & Duncan, D. T. (2015). Geosocial-networking app usage patterns of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men: Survey among users of Grindr, a mobile dating app. JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, 1(1), e4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grov, C., Breslow, A. S., Newcomb, M. E., Rosenberger, J. G., & Bauermeister, J. A. (2014). Gay and bisexual men’s use of the Internet: Research from the 1990s through 2013. Journal of Sex Research, 51(4), 390–409.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gudelunas, D. (2012). There’s an app for that: The uses and gratifications of online social networks for gay men. Sexuality and Culture, 16(4), 347–365.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hennelly, S. (2010). Public space, public morality: The media construction of sex in public places. Liverpool Law Review, 31(1), 69–91.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jaspal, R. (in press). Coping with ethnic prejudice on the gay scene. Journal of LGBT Youth.

  • Jaspal, R., & Cinnirella, M. (2010). Coping with potentially incompatible identities: Accounts of religious, ethnic and sexual identities from British Pakistani men who identify as Muslim and gay. British Journal of Social Psychology, 49(4), 849–870.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kahn, K. B., & Fingerhut, A. W. (2011). Essentialist thinking and the expression of homophobia. Psychology and Sexuality, 2, 137–146.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lehmiller, J. L., & Ioerger, M. (2014). Social networking smartphone applications and sexual health outcomes among men who have sex with men. Plos One, 9(1), eB6603.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Licoppe, C., Rivière, C. A., & Morel, J. (2015). Grindr casual hook-ups as interactional achievements. New Media & Society, Online First. doi:10.1177/1461444815589702.

    Google Scholar 

  • Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41, 954–969.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marques, J. M., Yzerbyt, V. Y., & Leyens, J.-P. (1988). The “Black Sheep Effect”: Extremity of judgments towards ingroup members as a function of group identification. European Journal of Social Psychology, 18, 1–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Peterson, J. L., & DiClemente, R. J. (Eds.). (2000). Handbook of HIV prevention. New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schwarzer, R., & Fuchs, R. (1995). Changing risk behaviors and adopting health behavior: The role of self-efficacy beliefs. In A. Bandura (Ed.), Self-efficacy in changing societies (pp. 259–288). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Shaw, D. F. (1997). Gay men and computer communication: A discourse of sex and identity in cyberspace. In S. G. Jones (Ed.), Virtual culture: Identity and communication in cybersociety (pp. 133–145). London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shernoff, M. (2006). Without condoms: Unprotected sex, gay men & barebacking. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, J. A., & Osborn, M. (2008). Interpretative phenomenological analysis. In J. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods (pp. 53–80). London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Snyder, S. (1989). Cruising: The semiotics of S&M. Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, 8(1–2), 102–114.

    Google Scholar 

  • van de Wiele, C. & Tong, S. T. (2014). Breaking boundaries: The uses and gratifications of Grindr. Proceedings of the 2014 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (pp. 619–630).

  • Vannini, P., & Franzese, A. (2008). The authenticity of self: Conceptualization, personal experience, and practice. Sociology Compass, 2(5), 1621–1637.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weinrich, J. D. (1997). Strange bedfellows: Homosexuality, gay liberation, and the Internet. Journal of Sex Education & Therapy, 22(1), 58–66.

    Google Scholar 

  • WHO. (2006). Defining sexual health. Geneva: World Health Organisation.

  • Wolitski, R. J., Jones, K. T., Wasserman, J. L., & Smith, J. C. (2006). Self-identification as “down low” among men who have sex with men (MSM) from 12 US cities. AIDS and Behavior, 10(5), 519–529.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Young, S. D., Szekeres, G., & Coates, T. (2013). The relationship between online social networking and sexual risk behaviors among men who have sex with men (MSM). PLoS One, 8(5), e62271.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rusi Jaspal.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Jaspal, R. Gay Men’s Construction and Management of Identity on Grindr. Sexuality & Culture 21, 187–204 (2017).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: