Friday, August 26, 2011

Open Forum Friday: Douchebags

I was listening to the radio last week and heard one of the interns on OutQ mention a web site from which he'd been getting a lot of laughs, lately—douchebagsofgrindr.com.

Okay, perhaps I should've postponed sharing the address until I'd talked about the site, some. Are we all back? Settled down? Focused once more?

Grindr, of course, is the ubiquitous smartphone application that utilizes GPS to identify other Grindr users in the vicinity, so that one can cruise hot men from the comfort and safety of the H&M men's room. It's not really a comprehensive sex profile site. The owners allow one to post a PG-rated photo and a few words about oneself. After that, it's up to the users to message each other, decide if they're close enough, and to connect.

I avoided the app like the plague back in Michigan. In that state, the popular bar sport (any bar, any night) was for cliques of gay men to stand around with their phones glowing upward in the dark, illuminating the owners like some Georges de la Tour painting, while they giggled at men's Grindr photos. Woe betide the guy on Grindr who actually happened to be in the bar at the time, because the Grindr game turned packs of what I assume were fairly nice guys and turned them into gaggles of bitchy queens who sniggered and quipped wise as they compared the inevitable naked chest cheesecake shot on their phones to the somewhat embarrassed victim standing (according to the app, anyway) twenty-seven feet away. It's like watching a live enactment of Blondie's "Rip Her to Shreds." With Freddie Kreuger on had for a demo.

No thank you.

I gave Grindr a try last month, since it's taken much more seriously in the northeast. Quickly I found out that I only draw two types of Grindr responses. The first demographic would be shy older gentlemen who, instead of an actual face photo, opt to present themselves as a verdant landscape, a lighthouse in the mist, or a brightly sunlit waterfall. The second, and more abundant, population is that of barely-legal Latin boys, who purr and growl at me as if they're horny felines and I'm a big ol' sack of catnip-spiked chorizo. You'd think that instead of the bland profile I'd constructed, I'd advertised with Re-forming Menudo. Apply within.

Then my monthly subscription expired and I couldn't be bothered to download the free version, and I haven't used it in the last three weeks.

Now, douchebagsofgrindr.com struck me as a potentially fascinating website, because Grindr certainly does have its share of irritations. Foremost among mine were the men who would write something like, Here to look at the studs. If you're not one, block me so all I see are hotties. Like I want to do all that work for you? If you don't want to look at my face, block me yourself, fucker.

The site's administrators certainly zero in on some of the other most prevalent Grindr crimes of civility, take screen shots of the offenders, and present them to the public for mockery. They capture the men who brusquely insist that they will only speak to others with face photos, yet whose profiles show a murky shadow or a fuzzy close-up of a nipple.

The site rigorously chases after the racist profiles in which cruisers state, politely or less-than-, which colors of the rainbow can 'step to the front of the line.' The administrators have a special vendetta against the men who post handsome photos of themselves and state "VGL UB2," or that they'll only speak to other 9s and 10s. And god forbid you be one of the fools who dares to insist you're straight, and just looking.

It's kind of fun to look at the site and the silly men and their stupid antics and think to myself, "Yeah, that's guy's a douche, all right." But my mistake—and I make it on a lot of internet sites, admittedly—is that I feel compelled to read the comments on the photos from other readers. It's a mistake because whenever there's an anonymous comment system in place, there are always assholes who misuse it. They see an opportunity and a weakness and leap onto it in a way they would never, ever contemplate doing in real life; they type out vile things to which they'd never commit a syllable if it actually had to cross their lips and be uttered. I don't have a high opinion of these guys; it seems pitiful to me only to feel powerful when hiding behind the safety of miles, an anonymous comment box, and a computer screen.

Basically, it's ugly. And I find the site distressing to read, after a while.

So on any typical douchebagsofgrindr post, there'll be a couple of guys pointing out the obvious ("Wow! That guy is rude!"), and a whole lot of men dogpiling on each other to say the nastiest things possible. If a guy's handsome, he's 'not all that' or 'that dude looks like a girl.' If he's muscular, he's suddenly a steroid user. If a guy doesn't like feminine men, the commenters look for any sign of femininity (Are his eyebrows too neat? Is that a purse in the background of the photo? It must be HIS!) and engage in name-calling that makes the gay community's detractors seem timid-tongued in comparison.

The commenters rip on the men's clothing, their hair styles, their appearances, their teeth, their ages—anything they can find to shred the guy to pieces until there's nothing left. It's a little bit like the old Michigan Grindr game, only even more vicious.

And, in its own way, even more repellant than the profiles being mocked. Douches of Grindr these called-out men may be, but the commenters of douchesofgrindr.com are even douchier.

I'm curious about what you guys think. Do the commenters go too far on this website? Or is it all just good fun to you, with no one getting hurt? At what point does mockery and pointing the finger at hypocrisy and bad behavior turn into worse hypocrisy and an appalling spectacle of its own?

Let's discuss it in the comments.

22 comments:

  1. Cyberbullying is a huge problem in schools right now, and as we know the gay community has also had it's share of problems with online forums to ridicule or expose people in very, very uncomfortable ways. There is an adolescent streak the never seems to leave the gay community. Maybe it is because we are not allowed the normal developmental milestones that most straight high schoolers get, and are destined then to live it out in our adult lives. I have been around the gay scene long enough to have become immune (just like I was in high school) to all the nasty talk, backstabbing comments and dressing downs that are thrown around. While we all have a certain type we look for in a partner, be it sexual or otherwise, the nastiness that a site like douchbags perpetuates just makes us look like a silly, immature subculture. Perhaps now that being gay is more accepted and students in school are even more able to be open about it, this will alleviate some of that nastiness. Maybe it is just the young 20 year olds who do this and need to get it out of their system before they reach their 30's. I don't have the answer. All I know is that when I come across someone with manners and civility, that is the type of person I want to spend time with, be it for sex or friendship, and if I'm lucky enough for both!

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  2. Tom,

    I'm not really convinced it's a gay issue. It might be tempting to believe so because we've seen it happening within our population many, many times. However, if you go to any web site featuring women presented in a similarly sexual manner, you're going to find the exact same sorts of comments.

    Nor is it a guy-only thing. Hell, go to YouTube and read the comments on a typical video and you'll see that the sniping, the cutting-down, the mean-spirited comments, and the outright nastiness isn't limited to any gender or sexuality. It's part of the mean-spiritedness of our culture, but most particularly of an online culture in which anyone with a browser can let loose anonymous salvos at will.

    I don't think it's bad to mock douches, necessarily. I think it's an issue when the mocking is more douche-y than the original crime.

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  3. Things posted in cyberland will be over the top since the person saying something negative can be on the other side of the planet from the person they are attacking so don't care. It's like people who call their credit card company or some other business that uses a call center. They will say all kinds of things since they are on the phone.

    But both types of people would never say or act the way they do if they were face-to-face with the other person.

    So cyberbully/cybermean/cyberdoucebag if very much alive and becomming the norm for no many people.

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  4. For me, the worst is when the commenter (undeservedly) thinks he's being witty for rudely commenting what is to most folks blatantly obvious. It's one thing to be a dick, it's a whole other thing to think you're being cool...while being a dick. It's a form of cretinous smugness that deserves multiple smackings of the hand (as opposed to the cock).

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  5. I find the comment sections of online sites frequently display the worst in human nature. I mean, there are a few places on the net that are tightly policed and most of the commentors are working toward the same goal as the posters, but there are always the few people who find comfort in anonymity and let their venom flow. It happens time and time again.

    And like you said to Tom, I don't think it is just an issue in the gay community. Their are immature people who try to throw bad one-liners in every form of society. However, I think the gay community is one of the few where there is an entire sub-group of social interaction involving trying to be the most campy and catty of the other queens in the room. We promote wit to the point where tearing someone apart can be sport.

    But we aren't the only ones. I've witnessed heterosexual women do the same thing to supposed friends plenty of times. And the drama just escalates if the victim learns of her "friend's" behavior. It is like a live-action version of the grindr game.

    And it is really childish. It is petty jealousy and schadenfreude to use other people as a cutting block for your own personal issues. But it is also easier for the human psyche to take out aggression on some random person than to try and solve one's own problems. The human mind actively tries to be perfect when it isn't.

    And I agree, pointing out someone for being a douche isn't really a huge issue. It is when you are doing THE EXACT SAME THING in mocking them that it becomes hypocritical.

    -Ace

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  6. Most posting on the web are over the top regardless of the subject matter. Reading comments made on regular news articles, sport figures, political stories are as bad as grindr, but not as bitchy. I believe it has more to do with being anoymous in that they can do more huffing without being called. hal

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  8. I haven't read enough comments on DoG to comment on it in particular (the whole concept of DoG is one that gets old real fast). When it comes to a fairly anonymous site like DoG though, I think the boundary of web-decency can be stretched a bit further than a more personal site, such as YouTube (where comments are generally directed at the uploader, who has taken the time to make a video and put him- or herself out there in the public square). The guys hung out on DoG probably did not put themselves out there and probably don't check it out to see if someone else has uploaded their profile pic (and if they do, then they're walking toward their own trainwreck and should take some responsibility for seeking their own harassment).

    I'd guess that the DoG commenting largely isn't fun, but rather a venting of frustration and a social activity of ganging up with others against a (virtually non-existent) third-party.

    I am far more bothered by similar sniping on YouTube. There the comments are no longer a social group activity, but an anti-social attack against the uploader. There the seemingly endless comments along the lines of "he is fitter than my lazy-ass, so he must be on steroids; I am not on steroids, so I am superior!" and similar bitchiness degrade the social activity of uploading videos and interacting with people across the world.

    Maybe that's the difference for me: the general purpose of the site sets the stage for whether I am bothered by twattish commenting. If it's intended for largely pleasant interaction, the bitchy comments are spoilers; if it's intended for mockery and derision, bitchy comments are the raison d'ĂȘtre (and comments denouncing the bitchiness become the spoilers).

    [PS: I deleted the previous version of my comment as it included the questions you ask that I then tried to answer; sloppy on my part...does that make this comment "sloppy seconds"?]

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  9. Heya Rob, I posted a longer comment, then deleted it (it included the questions you asked, which was sloppy on my part), and posted it again without your original questions.

    Now that second posting has vanished. Please tell me that you receive these comments via e-mail as well as on your blog. I'd love to put it up here again, but re-writing it from scratch would be an exercise in frustration.

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  10. Wow...the comment returned. Well, this is enough commenting excitement for me today. G'nite!

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  11. Nick,

    You posted several similar comments pretty rapidly, so Blogger assumed you were spamming. All I did was take it out of the spam box.

    The gang mentality on YouTube is distressingly easy to predict—if the person doesn't like a man, he's a fag. If he doesn't like the woman, she's ugly or a bitch. People of color get called by epithets. It's not even creative insulting; it's finding the lowest common denominator, hurling a stone at it, and hoping others follow suit.

    If you look at a site like Lurid Digs, you'll find that its comments, by and large, follow the tone of the original posts, which don't go for the jugular with its nude models, but viciously mock, in designer language, the background against which they pose. Perhaps the elevated tone of the site's administrators keeps the discussion following in kind?

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  12. Hal,

    I am almost obsessively drawn to reading comments on news and technology sites—I always hope they won't be as bad as I suppose they will—and yes, they're just as bad there. Like I said to another commenter, it's not just a gay thing. It's an issue with incivility in our culture, and the lack of self-control and entitlement of many anonymous commenters.

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  13. I think it quiet funny really and little entertaining. It shouldn't be taken seriously. Funniest thing would be to find a friends or your own profile listed as a doucebag.

    I pretty much think grindr is doucebag tool and we all are when we use it.

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  14. 10:12 Anonymous,

    I don't think the site itself is bad--the parade of douches is somewhat accurate.

    It's the comments that bother me. I wish I could let them roll off my back the way you seem to be able!

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  15. I think the major issue with people that post ugly comments on any site anonymously is that for some strange reason they use this activity to mask some pretty deeply held insecurities. There are more underlying anger issues that these folks need to be aware of and deal with. I am not on Grindor or DOG so I can't speak to the sites specifically, but it is no different on out blogs, YouTube etc.,. What a waste of energy.

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  16. These nasty queens do this shit when they're huddled together in the clubs and other gay gathering places too. It's age old and I've witnessed it for 30+ years. I hate to admit it but in my younger years I participated too. I'm convinced, no matter how cliche it is, that they only do it to make themselves feel better about themselves. Some grow out of it and some don't. I like to think that I did.

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  17. steve in vancouverAugust 27, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    Hi Rob
    I could not agree with your sentiments more. I try (though sometimes do not succeed) to remember what my mom used to say 'If you nothing nice to say, then do not say it'. A douche is a douche and hopefully at some point they may come to that realization. A person stooping to the douche level is also a douche. The internet has created a large group of people that feel comfort in the anonymity to say what they wish unnecessarily. I cannot see a greater good that comes from any of it and honestly wish people would stop. Reality says they will not and I will attempt to steer clear of the unnecessary comments. There are tactful ways of saying what you want, how you want it and from whom you want it, hopefully they will learn.
    PS(Hope you are feeling better)

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  18. People in comments sections on the internet (from CNN down to the Douchbags of Grindr, apparently) can be some of the most mean spirited and just plain assumingly small minded people around. I've heard them called combox warriors. I call them keyboard cowards.

    If I have to call out a difference between the general population and gay sites, it would be that while all can be mean, the gays tend to be more catty.

    I'll admit a guilty pleasure of reading (and occasionally commenting) the dos and don'ts on Vice, but at least there everyone has a half of a sporting chance. I even saw some people on it I know!

    As to Grindr (or Scruff) itself, I thought it was great in theory...like...who's at the fair, who's at this bar, etc. But it doesn't seem to work out that way. It's just the same people on 24x7, and who knows where they are, or if they're even paying attention. I'm not into email tag.

    Seph

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  19. Loki,

    I agree with you. I cannot personally imagine getting to a place in my life in which the only method I had of making myself happy--or at least, of making myself less unhappy--would be to write vile comments on someone's blog or website to blow off steam. I don't really get what the fuck these people are doing so that their lives are otherwise so unfulfilling.

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  20. 2:50 Anonymous,

    I think we all of us have had our bitchy moments. But like you said, we grow out of it, most of us, and we certainly don't turn it into sport, like a bunch of those guys seem to.

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  21. Vancouver Steve,

    We couldn't be more in agreement. I think the internet enables a certain small group of people in spewing a nastiness they wouldn't dare voice in other circumstances. Standing up and calling names is always ugly, though there's a certain honor in sticking enough to your convictions to do it with your name or face attached. Anonymously, though, is just a coward's game.

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  22. Seph,

    Yeah, unless you're in a densely populated place, the faces on Grindr (or especially Scruff) rarely change. I've met nice guys on Scruff, but once I've had a couple of conversations with the close-by locals, there's not a lot more incentive to log in.

    I think the gays tend to be more catty because we've been educating ourselves that particular venue of communication is how we score with each other. I just don't play that game any more.

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