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Soliciting on dating apps

Gay dating app Grindr is often misused as a platform to sell sex. Men here use the term ‘paid guys’ to openly state their intent and even straight men are involved in providing services for a fee

When Pankaj Rathore (name changed), 26, was sitting without a job at home in Indore, little did he know that a day will come when he will work to earn illegal cash that he can splurge on fancy things.

“I never really thought much about what to call it and how to take it,” says Rathore about his sex work on Grindr.

Speaking on the condition that neither his name nor his photograph will be published, Rathore is a regular guy-next door. His chiseled chest, 6’1 height, David Bowie-like cheek bones and fair complexion — which for a lot of people “is a plus point,” — does wonders for him whenever he goes online on Grindr.

Rathore says that just as he hits the yellow skeleton icon of Grindr, his chat box is flooded with “messages from 20-30 people” who are interested in meeting him. The constant nagging exasperates him at times.

Although there are people on the app who are willing to pay to have sex with a guy who fits their type, much of the attention received by Rathore is because of his profile picture. Something he hasn’t changed, since he joined the app five months ago.

In this picture, he can be seen lying in a bathtub of a fancy hotel room, wearing yellow swimming trunks, his legs folded, his hands resting behind his head.

For Rathore, the drill is pretty simple every day — he comes online, stays on the app for not more than an hour, finds a new man, or is approached by someone he has already hooked up with and proceeds with the conversation on a phone call.

“Then we discuss how and when the person wants me to come. We also talk about what he likes in bed and the kind of expectations he has from me. And once everything is discussed, I leave for duty,” says Rathore.

Once he reaches the doorstep of his client, he asks for 50 per cent of the amount in advance, and only then he enters the space.

“That’s how I like to work. It keeps things easy. And the person also takes it seriously,” says Rathore. Once the business is done, he asks for the rest of the amount and leaves.

In recent times, Grindr, has seen a mega influx of men joining the app to earn money. As one screens the profiles on the app, about two out of 10 men will be “paid guys.” the term is used quite actively on the app, by the men who charge for sex. And also for video/phone sex.

The interesting thing here is — that some men do not identify themselves as part of the LGBTQI+ community.

There are some profiles where users have mentioned that they’re straight and are only on the app to earn money by providing sex services.

While some profiles  avoid the clutter and are direct, supported by minimal details, for instance — “I’m paid and don’t meet free,” others mention things like, “looking for rich young high-class teenager,” on the profile.

The prices charged by such people vary. And to make things simpler, some have also mentioned it on their profiles.

It’s not Grindr alone which is becoming a breeding ground for paid sex, but Locanto too — the online classifieds network, where one can look for anything, fromjobs to vehicles.

After much scrutiny, we found out, that if one enters the right keywords, a whole listing comes up, showcasing profiles where a lesbian can call a woman for sex.

One such profile we came across had “Hi am a Provider Lesbian girls” written on it. This also shows that the market for online prostitution is huge, and for lesbian women too, services are available. It’s only a matter of the right keywords.

The money that one needs to shell out to obtain services on Grindr starts from as low as Rs 500 and goes up to Rs 15,000 (for a night) and in some cases, where the men have put their relationship status as “exclusive.”

Rathore adds that “most men try to seek pictures and aren’t really up for meeting. So, they ask for pictures and the price, and later, they either hit the block option or leave the chat in the middle.”

Another thing about these profiles is that some exist for a selective group of men — for those who enjoy erotic practices — like BDSM and group sex.

For most of these men, the focus is pretty much on a specific kind of clientele, who enjoy these practices equally as much as they do.

Customers are provided a range of options to choose from, in terms of sexual activities.

One can also come across profiles where the business rules are flexible. For men who want to have sex, but do not wish to pay, there are profiles which have mentioned, “free sex for young guys,” wherein the prostitute will not charge young men.

This is not for some greater good, but only to give those who generally charge for sex, an option to find someone they are actually attracted to. This is when the service turns into lovemaking for free.

While some prostitutes are clearly irritated with “time-passers,” (who only want photos and are not interested in paying or meeting) the regular users too, have written “no paid guys,” to send out a clear and friendly message.

Grindr can have a different purpose and meaning for different people. Providing users with hookup opportunities or letting them find their own way to a nice date. But the rise of prostitution on the app also leaves space for illegal activities, and in some cases, for poppers as well (a slang term for a chemical-based drug) too. For now, the app remains abuzz with prostitutes who are willing to offer their services at a good price.