Leaving the Apps Can Be Good for You

Hi queens. I’m Alexander Cheves, a sex writer, worker, and educator. Friends call me Beastly. To ask a question, email AskBeastly@gmail.com or send me a message via the Ask Beastly contact form.

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First off I really like your website a lot! I’m a nonbinary person that goes by they/them pronouns. I’ve been struggling to meet guys on the apps for sex because I often feel I don’t meet any of these requirements I keep running into. I’m always asked how masculine and hung I am. I’m not very masculine at all and am somewhere around 6 inches. But I honestly find those questions really boring and don’t know how to meet guys who aren’t obsessed with those things.

An enby with no luck meeting people


You’re absolutely right, those questions are boring. But they are unequivocally the commonest questions on those apps. The apps have created a bizarre layer to queer culture, not a great one, but one that is here to stay. Consider queer life like a multitiered dance club, like Berghain in Berlin or something like that. There are real clubs like this where each floor caters to different tastes — a hardcore BDSM party might be on one level, and another might simply be a standard circuit party. One floor may be playing an old-school disco while another has a DJ spinning house. The apps are a floor. They have their own dress code to get in, their own clientele, and their own standards. The skills one must develop to enjoy them maximally are not necessarily the skills one must develop to enjoy the other floors (in fact, I think they are often a detriment). The apps have created “app speak,” a language unto itself, which changes depending on where you are in the world, but the information shared is pretty standard: are you top, bottom, or versatile? Are you masculine or not? Are you hung or not?

There’s no way to change the apps or the culture they’ve built. But it is a mistake to think app culture is queer culture. It is, as I said, one layer, one floor of the magical disco that houses us all. (Often when gay men say they’re “not in the scene,” what they really mean is “I don’t enjoy apps or gay bars.” Those same men often willfully overlook all the other awesome levels of queer life.)

The great thing about that disco is that it has a place for everyone, even proudly femme, nonbinary folx. Anyone who tells you otherwise has no real grasp or conception of the disco — they only see (and want to participate in) one floor.

The multi-floor club analogy helps me because it tells me two things about the apps: by entering them — by entering that floor — I’m agreeing to their terms, their standards, their boring questions, and headless torsos. If I ever feel frustrated or out of place there, I must simply leave or at least exert less time and energy trying to fit in there. I should put that time and energy into other levels of queer life. On one floor of the club are queer sports teams, on another are the queer elders who’ve settled down in long-term relationships, live quiet lives, and no longer need to go out and be seen all the time. On another floor are the weirdos — the punks and anarcho-Queers and Marxists jamming to their new wave and death metal. On another level are the HIV activists and social workers and public health workers, people good at organizing and politics. I find that when I’m most unhappy with my app life, it’s a sign that I need these others, my older queer folks, my tatted punks, my friends I can philosophize with and talk about books with. My tribe, if I have one, is really not on the apps. I do okay there because I meet some of the requirements, largely written by toxic masculinity, to be successful, but app interactions rarely feed my soul. And lately, they rarely produce my best sex.

You are a beautiful and essential part of the queer disco of us, and collectively we are some of the most interesting people in the world, living on the fringes, making art, redefining sex, and trying to be happy. You might be spending too much time and energy on a floor that is ill-fitting. You might need to spend that same time and energy cultivating sexual and social connections fully outside the apps. That effort requires work and creativity, but it’s very possible. I know many, many people who share your frustrations, and many of them have scrapped the apps for now — they’re happier without them.

Love, Beastly

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