Staying safe on Grindr
There’s tons of general advice for how to date online safely— don’t leave your drink unattended, don’t give out your home address, meet in a public place, tell a friend where you’re going and when you’ll be back... you know the drill.
But a lot of the standard-issue online dating rules just don’t really apply to the way that people actually use Grindr.
I mean, yeah, your safety is going to be drastically increased if you tell a friend that you’re going to share a chaste afternoon latte with a man you’ve:
- exchanged real names with
- thoroughly vetted
- and waited three dates to start taking clothes off.
Good for you!
But what about those of us with a taste for the after-hours NSA flavours? Read on!
1. Clear your photo metadata
Whenever you take a photo, your camera automatically stores metadata in it— little tidbits of information that could put your privacy at risk in a big way. Upload a picture with metadata attached and a savvy viewer can tell what date and time a photo was taken and, most distressing, the GPS coordinates that might show where you live or work. Not ideal.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to remove the metadata before you send along the racy pics you snapped in the break room. In the new iOS update, you can tap any image in the Photos app and click the Info button (the circled little i), and the metadata will appear and let you erase your deets.
Or if that’s too much hassle, the ViewExif iPhone app will erase your invasive deets with the click of a button.
Or suppose you know you’re never going to use the location services metadata function in your photos. In that case, you can simply turn them off in settings > privacy > location services. Turn it off, and you’re good to go (Android users, you’ve got a similar function, but y’all gotta be different).
Also, it should go without saying, but do a check before you send for any identifying information that might be visible in the pic itself.
2. Reconsider the pics you send
We ALL send pics of ourselves. It’s part of dating, flirting, and hooking up today. (Plus, you’re hot AF, and the people wanna see what the people wanna see!) But you want to make sure that you’re never giving a stranger any fuel to blow up your life if your pic gets into the wrong hands.
Blackmail and revenge porn are very real and you gotta be on your toes to keep yourself protected.
Until you know that you can really trust someone, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself how bad it would be if your boss/mom/church/school/constituency got ahold of this photo.
Cheeky shirtless selfie? Probably not the end of the world.
Full moon butthole pic with your smiling face in the background? Might be a problem.
Dick pic with no visible identifying features? That exquisite penis could belong to anyone!
If this does happen to you, remember that the person leaking your photos is the perpetrator at fault, not you.
3. Have your transportation planned out
When it comes to the first meeting off Grindr, don’t wing it. Have a clear plan of how you’re getting there and a clear plan, with a contingency for getting home. You never know how a wild night on the town together can evolve.
If there’s any chance you’re going to be too drunk or high to drive, don’t risk it. Have a plan for calling a car, taking the train, or even getting a last-minute hotel room. Pretty much any plan is better than no plan.
4. Be smart about showing your distance
Night on the town? You shine on in all your geolocation glory! At work or walk home alone at night? Don’t give out information about your location to strangers if it doesn’t benefit you.
Luckily, it’s super easy to toggle your privacy settings on and off. Just open up the settings tab in Grindr and slide the “Show Distance” option to disabled. When you’re ready to go, slide it back on over and boom, your exact distance is on the map again.
5. Hide your valuables
Of course it’s safer to meet somewhere neutral like a hotel. But that can really rack up in expenses, especially if you’re in a big city and the seedy motel vibe doesn’t do it for you. So for most of us, that leaves it up to hosting or not hosting.
There is something to having a home turf advantage— you know the lay of the land, you can provide the drinks and snacks, reduce anxiety over hidden cameras, etc.— but you can make it even safer by putting any valuables out of sight and out of mind. This is the obvious stuff like laptops, credit cards, cash, but also any prescription medication.
Even if it’s nothing fun, feel free to put it out of sight and out of temptation if that makes you feel more comfortable.
6. Always bring safer sex protection, just in case
Even if you don’t think that a date will go anywhere, do yourself a favour and have your preferred method of protection on hand. Condoms are the gold standard but consider gloves, single-use lube packets, or anything else you and your partner might want for safer sex. It’s way better to come home with unused protection than to be caught in a situation without it.
7. Get tested regularly
Look, I know that making the time for getting STI testing can be way easy to put off. It’s so easy to justify it! You’re not having symptoms of anything, you haven’t had THAT much sex lately, you’re sleeping with partners you know pretty well, maybe you’ll just wait till after this weekend ‘cause who knows what you might get off to and you don’t want to waste it… it’s easy to put it off.
But you know that it’s gotta get done, and there’s no such thing as being tested too regularly. Have a chat with a trusted physician, safe sex hotline, or any professional where you feel like you can be totally honest about your sex life and figure out what works for you for a safer sex testing schedule. The recommended frequency is every 3-6 months if you’re sexually active with multiple partners.
8. Consider going on PrEP
Whether you know you have a partner with HIV and detectable viral load, you’re not sure about a new partner’s current status, or your condom use has been, uh, not always 100%, PrEP medication could be a game-changer for you.
PrEP, Pre Exposure Prophylaxis, taken once a day in a little pill (Truvada or Descovy), can reduce your risk of contracting HIV by up to 99% when taken daily. The pill stops any virus that gets into your bloodstream from replicating, so once that virus dies, it exits your body without infection.
Whether you’ve got insurance or not, programs can help to reduce or eliminate the cost of your PrEP prescription wherever possible. 90% of Freddie’s PrEP users get their prescription for free, including offering three months of free PrEP while waiting for insurance coverage to kick in if need be.
You can fill out your HIV risk assessment here. We also provide specific information on where to obtain PrEP by city. We’ve included the links below:
9. Consider the HPV vaccine
Nope, not just for women! The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine can prevent not only several virus strains that cause penile and anal warts (which are generally not harmful but are nobody’s idea of a good time) but also certain anal, penile, and throat cancers.
When the vaccine first started, it was only recommended for teen and pre-teen girls, but recommendations now cover it for both men and women up to age 45. Since HPV can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, including oral sex, it’s wise to get the poke even if you use condoms.
10. Plan out your safe sex talk
It can be super awkward to pry into a stranger’s business, but the peace of mind is absolutely worth it. If you know you get anxious about it, try a few practice sessions with yourself, just to get used to saying the words. Or, my favourite, write it out and keep it on the Notes app on your phone, ready to copy and paste when the time’s right in a chat.
Not to harp on it too much, but also be wary when someone describes their sexual health as “clean.” Does that mean HIV negative? Full panel negative? What about things like HPV and HSV, which can be long-lasting but generally asymptomatic? When was the last time they were tested? Are they expecting to use a condom or not?
Not talking about expectations & sexual history can lead to miscommunication, harmful assumptions, and a poor sexual experience in general. Make sure there is open communication surrounding STI history, testing, and your safe sex strategy so that you and your partner(s) can spend less time worrying about the unknown and more time getting down to business.
11. Trust your instincts
If something just doesn’t feel right, follow your instincts. Maybe what they’re telling you just doesn’t add up, or they’re not listening to what you’re saying, or you just get plain ol’ bad vibes. It is okay to pull the plug! For example, maybe they're a little too into degradation for your personal taste and you'd rather avoid hearing any additional f-slurs for the night. It's always your decision based on how comfortable you feel!
You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but it is absolutely within your rights to exit a situation at any time. Even if they thought they were going to have sex with you, even if you agreed to have sex with them, hell, even if you are in the middle of having sex with them, it’s okay to remove yourself if you don’t feel right about it.
Your safety is your number one priority, and you deserve to enjoy a sex life that makes you feel secure and comfortable.
If you enjoyed this piece, consider checking out the other articles in our Grindr series: