By Simply Duma
These days organizing hook-ups can be as easy as ordering food on delivery apps. We’ve been able to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh simply by exchanging details on our phones with little concern for safety. Lately, however, hooking up via ‘dating’ apps (especially ones that are targeted at queer people) has become a playground for criminals who take advantage of the privacy that comes with being active on queer platforms such as Grindr.
As an adult entertainer, I’ve always been aware of the dangers that came with being part of the industry, especially in the context of operating online. Sex workers remain vulnerable to crimes that can be prevented if we were offered more protection by legislature, not only in South Africa, but throughout the world as a whole. Unfortunately, that isn’t a reality. This is especially the case for queer sex workers, who suffer the cost of being robbed and attacked by supposed patrons, but do not report the crimes out of fear of ridicule from law enforcement. Coincidentally, this is also one the main reasons that victims of Grindr (and other dating sites) crime do not report their cases.
One such victim would be my friend Walter*, who was held hostage for 6 hours and was only released after his captors extorted R10 000 from him and his family. He and the perpetrator spoke on Grindr, with the latter refusing to send his picture on account that he had a wife and kids. Once they were acquainted, they had organized to hook-up at the latter’s house, and once they arrived, 4 more Zulu-speaking men came into the room and threatened to kill him if he didn’t produce the money. He managed to gather the funds, and was let go unharmed. He chose not to open a case of kidnapping because he was afraid of what the police might say, and how his family would respond if they caught wind of how they lost such a large sum of money.
There are more victims of this new trend than we know, and because of how the community is treated and how secretive some of the members are, the best thing we can do is advise each other on how to stay safe. Here are my tips on how to stay safe on Grindr hook-ups, based on my own professional usage of the app:
*Note: I’m currently no longer on the app anymore because they do not allow for sex workers to be professionally active on the platform.
– Share your location with someone you trust. This can be done via WhatsApp, iPhone and even Google Maps.
– Protect your drink. Make sure all the drinks you are offered are prepared right in front of you.
– Trust your intuition. I’m very big on spirituality and I’ll be more than glad to suggest it. Our gut feelings are the closest thing we have to the truth during times of uncertainty.
– Inquire about your hook-up’s sexual health. If you’re not comfortable asking the person you’re sleeping with about their sexual health, you shouldn’t be hooking up in the first place.
– Ask for their picture. They can even send disappearing photos if they like. It may seem small but it plays a huge role in the safety of the hook-up.
– Ask for their numbers. I’ve used my IT background to my advantage quite a few times to make sure a person is real. You don’t need to hack a person, just dial their number onto True Caller and you’re sorted.
I would also like to add tips on how to heal after going through such an experience. Regardless of age or race, surviving such a life threatening event can leave you traumatized and that trauma can manifest in many different forms. Feelings of anxiety, distrust and possibly depression are valid. However, it is important to work through them before they start negatively effecting your life.
– Open about what happened to you. Yes, there is a stigma attached to being on Grindr and you may be afraid of shame, but staying silent hurts you and reinforces the trauma. Reach out to the people you trust, but take care to not feel pressured to do so.
– Confront the feelings of guilt and shame. We often question ourselves about the traumatic events we experience, and somehow, it makes sense to blame ourselves.