Canada: Weight stigma affects gay men on dating apps

Weight stigma is an issue for queer men using dating apps, says a new University of Waterloo study.

The study found that Grindr, the most popular dating app for gay, bisexual, two-spirit and queer men, had a negative effect on men’s body image, especially when it came to weight. Three out of four gay men are reported to have used Grindr. “Dating apps have skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade or so and have radically transformed the ways individuals connect with one another,” said Eric Filice, a public health doctoral candidate and lead author. “We were surprised to find that weight stigma is perpetuated by individual users and embedded within the app’s information architecture.”

For example, because Grindr facilitates anonymity more than other apps (it doesn’t require a name or link to other social media platforms), and because its pre-set body descriptions don’t acknowledge being overweight (you can be ‘toned,’ ‘average,’ ‘large,’ ‘muscular,’ ‘slim’ or ‘stocky’), most participants in the study perceived being overweight as a stigma.

“Participants recalled their body weight or shape being scrutinized for allegedly being incompatible with their gender expression or preferred position during intercourse,” said Filice. “We think this points to the importance of locating weight stigma within and alongside other intersecting power relations.” 

The study also found that apart from weight stigma, body dissatisfaction stemmed from sexual objectification and appearance comparison. “It doesn’t help that because Grindr exists to connect users for dating or sex, physical appearance bears greater cultural salience,” Filice said. “People often compare their candid, in-person appearance to the meticulously curated or digitally altered appearances of others they encounter online. Read more via University of Waterloo

Filice, Eric, et al. "The influence of Grindr, a geosocial networking application, on body image in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men: An exploratory study." Body image 31 (2019): 59-70.


Recent evidence indicates use of geosocial networking apps is associated with body image-related issues among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. The current study aims to elaborate upon these findings by investigating how Grindr, the most widely-used dating app among this population, impacts users’ body image and body satisfaction. Using an exploratory, qualitative study design, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 current and previous Grindr users and analyzed thematically. Our findings suggest Grindr affects users’ body image through three primary mechanisms: weight stigma, sexual objectification, and social comparison. In each case, normative user attitudes and behaviours interact with the app’s constitutional elements to affect bodily perceptions in a way that differs in form or intensity from social influence via offline exchanges. These interactions are often enabled by features shared with traditional social networking sites, like asynchronous, text-based communication and technology-assisted appearance augmentation, but certain features unique to Grindr may also play an important role. Moreover, participants identified several protective factors and coping strategies which suggest the relationship between Grindr and body image is dependent on a number of complex interactions between technology, user, and environment. Limitations and suggestions for future research are also discussed.

Our findings suggest Grindr’s relationship with body image is embedded in a complex web of causation that reflects the situated and emergent interactions between technology, user and environment. As such, efforts to minimize the role information technologies play in maintaining sexual orientation-based disparities in body image disorders must be equally adaptive.