How Hookup Apps Changed The Way I Travel
Sex with strangers is the ultimate indulgence abroad.
BY Sean Santiago | Jul 20, 2016 | Travel
I am lost on my way to a threesome. It is about 4 am in Dublin and these dim, drizzly streets are all that stands between me and the guy whose name I forgot to ask. I pray I don't look as suspicious as I definitely do. I am here because of Grindr, the "gay social network app" that has become a required travel tool thanks to its exhaustive global footprint—192 countries in total—and my crippling urge to see all the penises. Thanks to this hyperconnectivity, men have usurped food as my ultimate indulgence abroad.
At best, the app can make it easier to navigate foreign terrain as a queer person, turning each city into a map of latent romantic potential. At worst, it is an unchecked distraction. Interactions are necessarily limited by a lingua franca composed primarily of "sup?" and "into?" and intimations made less intimate by their baldness. Every conversation is a barter until each party gets what he came for. Most of the time, I end up alone.
Men have usurped food as my ultimate indulgence abroad.
Another trip, another hotel. I wander down to some guy's floor and ask myself: How does a top knock? I knock softly. Footsteps approach the door and then gently pad away; I guess not like that. I send him another message, but he is already offline. This is not exceptionally different from the way this sort of thing plays out at home, but apps are a weird way of mitigating distance, which can intensify longings and, worse, make you feel perpetually unfulfilled. It's not the way you want to remember, say, Paris.
Of course, sex factored into my travel plans prior to the onset of app culture, but each encounter is now tinged with a particularly desperate strain of insatiability. Before Grindr, I was just as likely to want to fuck random people, and bars could be a great facilitator of that. So could sites like Couchsurfing or Facebook. Really, so could anything through which a determined millennial might express his frustrated sexual self. But now, a better meal is always just out of reach. It's hard for those of us who can't always stomach it—or without the six-pack to lure it in in the first place.
It's just before midnight in Sweden and I can't fall asleep; the gentle blue glow of lowered expectations washes over me. After too long, I finally find a man who agrees to meet up. He seems normal enough, which is to say that I don't mind the way his dick looks in low lighting. I throw on my shoes and head for the movie theater where we agreed to meet. I am pleased to find that it is brightly lit and on a busy enough street. He arrives on a bike and my fears dial back; we chat amicably, finding things in common, even a few tangled threads of people and places with which we're both familiar.
After we sleep together, he asks me how he should arrange the furniture in his apartment, and I consider the question in earnest, half-clothed, trying to imagine the best position for a new sofa. It looks and sounds like intimacy, a conversation I could have with someone I've known for more than half an hour. The world contracts the smallest bit. I feel like I've bitten into something slightly sweeter than expected.
And I eventually find my way to that threesome. I walk into the couple's messy living room to find porn playing on the TV. They've just gotten back from a long night of clubbing. The boyfriend is in the shower and will remain so for most of the time that I'm there. I sit on the couch with the other guy, who is on drugs, but I forget which ones. We chat aimlessly about anything but sex until half an hour later, when his boyfriend emerges from the back, not in a gimp suit or holding a massive dildo, but in an unassuming t-shirt and jeans. We retreat to their tiny deck to smoke in the drizzle and watch the sun come up, if you can call it that. We talk about where I'm from and what I'm doing there. I don't know what I'm doing there. One of them admits he's ready for bed and the other sees me out.
I end up alone, but that's okay because they have surprisingly good coffee in Ireland. I treat myself and wonder what I want for breakfast.
From: Esquire US