Why the Feds Were Right to Spend Thousands Studying Gay Hookup Apps

The Right is up in arms this month about the fact that the federal government gave researchers hundreds of thousands of dollars to study the behavior of gay men using smartphone hook-up apps — but not only was this a proper use of funds, it is vital for understanding modern sexual health trends.

The National Institutes of Health awarded Columbia University a $432,000 grant to study whether men who use GPS dating apps like Grindr are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, it has been revealed.

The study, which has now concluded with the data being processed ahead of its release, involved interviewing men who have sex with men (MSM) who use GPS-based dating apps for sexual encounters in order to assess the kinds of sexual behavior they initiate, and what risks might be involved.

Specifically, the research is also designed to look at how gay men “present themselves” on these apps — for instance, did the men in the study who had HIV disclose this fact in their profiles — and what they might be seeking from a prospective partner, whether that is a one-night stand or the possibility of a more long-term relationship. The researchers were also trying to determine whether these apps, by virtue of their being able to connect people based on their location, encourage sexual impulsivity and whether this drives up STI risks.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that gay men in general are afflicted by a higher than average rate of STIs, and in particular higher rates of syphilis and HIV are particularly concerning. In the past, there has been some research to suggest that GPS-based dating apps may drive up sexually risky behavior, such as not knowing someone’s health status and having sex without a condom, but that research has tended to look only at the blunt fact and not the reasons why these apps might change or encourage certain behaviors and what we can do to try and ensure greater sexual health safety.

Various media sites have reported on this story with passive-aggressive titles, including Fox News’ article reprinted from The Washington Free Beacon, saying “Feds spent $432,000 studying gay hookup apps.”  The implication, of course, is that this is a waste of money, but it clearly isn’t. As we’ve discussed numerous times here, due to discriminatory rules, homophobia and the government simply overlooking this part of the population, there is a distinct lack of data on LGBTs in terms of wider health trends and also in terms of sexual health. Add in the relatively new phenomenon of GPS apps that allow for casual sexual encounters, and the need to understand how gay men using these apps might affect sexual health and what we can do to manage an increased risk also becomes apparent.

The researchers have said that if they can understand the precise risk factors involved here, they can probably design programs to help gay men take proper health precautions, such as working with the networking apps to include sexual health messages and how the apps can market themselves responsibly.

So the Right can keep on being outraged: this was a responsible investigation and one that doesn’t just stand to benefit the LGBT community but potentially help to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases for everyone by creating timely and appropriate interventions.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

30 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah H4 years ago

Such a complete waste of our hard earned tax dollars!

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Amanda Wright
Amanda Wright4 years ago

Am I missing something here? If they can investigate what people do by using these apps doesn't that mean there's no privacy? How can anybody know what they do without having access to... and reading...the messages that are being sent and received?

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Danielle Esau
Dani Elle4 years ago

Good work!

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Janis K.
Janis K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Terry Wheeler
Terry W4 years ago

Personally , I think it was a good idea. And I'm not gay.

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan H4 years ago

Noted

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heather g.
heather g4 years ago

Hope they don't get too excited doing this job//////////////

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Donn M.
.4 years ago

Anyone with any sense would be up in arms over this waste of time and money. If these people aren't aware yet of the risks and how to protect themselves, I see no hope for them.

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John chapman
John chapman4 years ago

I'd hate to think I agree with the neo cons.

But these are big boys, & if they don't know the risks.

They must have been living under a rock.

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