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Scruff, which leans just a touch toward the “bear”—or husky, hirsute—crowd, has started helping host parties and Pride events across the planet.From the French Alps to New Delhi, it’s encouraging revelers to use gayness as an entry point through which they can traipse to faraway places.Especially for people who might be deeply closeted or marooned in bigoted communities, these services offer keys for investigating what may initially seem like errant feelings of homosexuality.In many respects, this isn’t too different from the late 1990s, when online chatrooms cracked open a universe for curious queers that had previously been mired in mystery.With open events and publications, these companies get to put their brands on a wider variety of gay connections.And, in doing so, the likes of Grindr, Hornet, and Scruff are re-creating queer sociability in significant ways.What perhaps sets these new brands apart from their predecessors, then, is their push to expand the visibility of the queer community.For instance, one user might not know much about another offline, but he might know little things about him from having scrolled through his geotagged social media page.
We can cruise furtively through rows of profiles, eking out a string of flirty chats or just going for some unembellished, anonymous sex.
The company also participated in a University of California, Los Angeles, study that showed using the app to push banner ads and notifications for free HIV home test kits was an effective way to reach high-risk populations.
It’s a fitting role for apps whose original purpose unquestionably (and unavoidably, given that stigma still forces many men into silence about their health status) contributes to sexually transmitted disease transmission.
Grindr, too, has been tapping its extensive user base for public health awareness campaigns.
In 2015, it conducted a survey with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Centers for Disease Control to gauge its users’ awareness of Pr EP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a daily regimen that can protect users from contracting HIV.
The companies are activating their networks for political action, too.