Connecticut Voice

Your LGBTQ+ Voice

Grindr and Tinder and Scruff, Oh My!

Hookup apps—everyone’s on ‘em! Well, maybe not everyone, but they are more popular than ever. They are an easy and convenient way to meet people, and swiping sure can be addictive. However, if you’re doing more than browsing (or cruising), it’s important to note that there is a level of risk involved with using hookup apps. The best way to protect yourself is to know what the risks are and take measures to reduce them. After all, sex is more fun when you aren’t worried about safety, right?

Now, I must include the usual disclaimer: there is no way to eliminate risk completely when it comes to sex. Sex—especially with people you don’t know well (or at all)—is an inherently risky activity, but there are ways to reduce those risks.

When you meet someone from a hookup app, you are meeting a stranger. Try to meet in a public place, like a coffee shop or bar. You may have talked for a while online before meeting, but there’s no way to be sure that they are telling the truth about who they are. Meeting them in person helps you get a better read on them. If you feel your danger senses going off, listen to your instincts and don’t go anywhere alone with them. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

When you do go meet someone, let a trusted friend or family member know where you are and when you’ll be back. In this situation, having someone know where you were is incredibly important, should something go wrong. Some people even go as far as to ask their date for a photo of their driver’s license before meeting up! I’ll leave that one up to you, but I have to admit, it’s a good way to verify that the person is who they say they are.

Whether you’re going on a date or casually cruising, sexual protection is paramount. Bring condoms, lube, and whatever other protective gear you’ll need to stay safe from STI’s and HIV. Don’t assume the other person will have them. And remember, condoms only work if you use them! Think about how you’ll bring up condom use ahead of time, so that if your partner declines, you’re ready with a response. It’s your body, and you are not obligated to forego condoms just because your partner might not want to use them.

If you are having sex with people you don’t know well, are with multiple partners, or otherwise could be at risk of STI’s and HIV, remember to get tested regularly. Syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are all currently very common, and rates of infection are rising. Getting tested can give you peace of mind, and if your test comes back positive for an STI, you can get treatment right away. Not only does this protect your health, but it also protects your partners.

PrEP is another method for reducing your risks. PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a daily medication that prevents HIV transmission. It is 99 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission via sex. In situations where you don’t know your partner very well, you may not know what their HIV status is, and while many people are forthcoming, others may not be honest. Using PrEP will only protect you from HIV. PrEP does NOT prevent other STI’s like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Therefore, it’s recommended that you use a condom along with PrEP to prevent other infections.

I’d also like to stress the importance of protecting your emotional safety. No matter what, sex involves feelings, whether it’s love, friendship, or just plain old horniness. Yep, horny is a feeling. For many people, hookups are a positive experience. However, for lots of others, they can be more complex. Sometimes you may have a bad sexual experience. Other times, you may have unexpected or surprising feelings. It’s important to be honest with yourself about what your feelings are, communicate about them to your partner, and proceed in a way that is best for both of you. This can mean anything from entering a relationship to not seeing each other again. If you are feeling emotional distress that you feel you can’t handle alone, talk to a trusted friend or family member, or seek help from a mental health professional.

When it comes to your sexual health, it’s important to put YOU first. Your health and wellness should be a priority, and, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are so many ways to enjoy your experiences. Find the ones that work for you—and above all, stay safe.

—Kim Adamski