Both the journalist and publication are under fire today for publishing an article titled The Other Olympic Sport in Rio: Swiping, positioned to measure how dating and hook-up apps were being used during the Rio olympics that are currently underway, effectively outing several gay olympians. Nico Hines from The Daily Beast, a journalist and a straight man (married with children), downloaded applications including Grindr and Jack’d, documenting his unquestionably unethical pursuits in the olympic village. Nico makes it clear that whenever he would actually meet with an individual from one of these apps we would reveal his identity, admitting that he was performing this work for journalism purposes only.
As a result, several gay olympians were unfortunately outed, some of which come from countries in which homosexuality is a crime. The publication has since taken down the article and made edits, removing specific descriptions in attempts to make the read less incriminating. John Avlon, the editor and chief of the publication, even added an editor’s note, writing “…readers have read Nico as mocking or sex-shaming to those on Grindr. We do not feel he did this in any way.” John went on to apologizing for the upset the original article caused, most of this distress coming from LGBT-oriented publications, other gay olympians, and gay public figures who have tweeted about their own discontent with Nico’s “research” methods.
The article currently online (edited version) no longer directly points fingers at specific olympians who could be outed and potentially harmed by the implications of being openly gay in their home country (although the original article did, and there is no taking that back). However, the edits and editorial note currently on display makes one thing even more apparent to readers: The Daily Beast has no regard for the discrimination the LGBT community faces in how they ostracize LGBT sexual behavior, “normalizing” Grindr hookup culture and making our community appear to be perverted and sexually deviant.
The article focuses on Gay Hookup Apps
The intent of the article is framed such that it would reveal the apparent hookup culture specific to the olympic games for both gay and straight sample groups. Nico even defines his methods of measurement, deciding to use what he calls a “range” of dating apps, including Grindr, Tinder, and Jack’d. However, it becomes apparent to the reader early on that the primary app discussed is Grindr, mentioned over 5 times more than any other app in the article. In his own words, Nico writes “…Grindr proved more of an instant hookup success than Bumble or Tinder…”
Nico contrasts between “normal” and “deviant” sexual behavior
In one paragraph Nico feels it necessary to point out that he is a straight man, married with a wife and children, in order to show that he wasn’t lying to anyone about who he was. Two paragraphs later in reference to a grindr profile, Nico writes that one grindr header (unique phrase on a grindr profile) read “…In village ready for action! Let’s make an athlete’s orgy!”
Given that The Daily Beast is not an LGBT owned or oriented publication, the average reader will likely look at this behavior (defined as gay-specific due to the fact it was on Grindr) and find it unusual. It’s readers trust Nico, a straight married man with children, and are probably going to read this article with an interest motivated by perverted confusion. Whether the average reader has emotions of disgust, excitement, or concern for what they will likely classify as unusual and unfamiliar behavior, the fact remains that they will attribute this behavior to the gay community, separating us further from what people think is “normal.”
John Avlon (editor) made it worse
John Avlon is entirely oblivious that the article he has reviewed and approved is classic discrimination. Although he writes that the intent of the article was not to sex-shame or mock the olympians who use these apps, he completely ignores the fact that sex-shaming and delineating sexual deviancy are not mutually exclusive. The edited article that is currently available online does the latter- it identifies gay hookup culture on these applications as sexually deviant, and this is easily just as dangerous to the gay community.
What should be done?
The article should be taken down and a REAL apology should be issued to those directly outed, and to the gay community as a whole. It is unnerving to see such a large, seemingly reputable news source be incapable of recognizing the harm it has really caused, and editors like John Avlon should know better.
Update 8/12/16: The Daily Beast Takes Down Article, Issues Apology
In the same evening of the day the article was released, In a Note From the Editors, The Daily Beast issued another apology, stating that it has taken down the controversial article. In one passage the note reads “The article was not intended to do harm or degrade members of the LGBT community, but intent doesn’t matter, impact does.”
Although nothing can be done about the harm already caused to the Olympians and the gay community as a whole, the decision to take it down will help reduce any further harm. The note also directly addresses the fact that not taking the article down in the first place was a poor decision, and it seems that they take ownership of this wrongdoing.
Yes, taking the post down will help prevent further damage that The Daily Beast put into motion. However, it is still concerning that this wasn’t the first decision they made, and perhaps they decided to keep the article up to continue to gain web traffic and free publicity from social media shares and tweets.