From fist bumps to fisting: Can ‘Bro’ really blur the boundaries between gay and straight?

I’ve never been a fan of labels when it comes to sexuality. I’ve always said that, despite the fact being gay would never be one of the first things I mention about myself when I meet someone new, if asked to detail the lay of the land in my bedroom I identify as homosexual, purely because that’s the word people understand.

To date, all of my romantic experiences have been with men and, while I can’t see that changing, I’m neither cocky enough nor insecure enough to throw all my eggs into one basket for the sake of wanting to fit into a little box. I’ve not met every woman on the planet yet, so who is to say there isn’t one out there I could fall madly in love with? I’ve always said, you’re attracted to the person, not the genitalia that sits in their pants.

You might think, then, that the launch of Bro – a part social network, part dating app aimed at men who want to hang with men of no particular sexuality – would be right up my street. The rush of promo around Bro makes big play of the developer’s attempt to launch an app aimed at men that makes no judgement on why they’re seeking out other ‘bros’ to spend time with. Maybe they’re meeting to have sex, or maybe they’re meeting to watch football in their local pub. The theory behind Bro is, you don’t have to be looking for a shag to want to enjoy the company of other men, but nor should it be unusual if that’s where it leads.

I have long hoped to live in a world where I could approach a man I find attractive and ask him out without fearing I’d get a punch on the nose. Ideally, any knock backs (and I get plenty) should focus on the idea that I’m simply not their type or that’s not what they’re looking for, rather than “I’m not fucking gay mate”. Sexuality is a complicated beast, and I’ve had sexual encounters in the past with men who rightly identify as heterosexual. What so many people fail to grasp is, sexual activity revolves around a far wider catchment than simply fancying the other person and wanting to jump their bones.

Sometimes it’s about power. Sometimes it’s about love, in any of its many forms. Sometimes it’s about immediacy. Sometimes it’s about exploration. Sometimes it’s about alcohol. I’m lucky enough to say that, living in the centre of Manchester, it’s entirely possible to flirt with men who turn out to be straight without getting a pop on the nose – though I’m aware that this isn’t the case nationwide.

bro_app

Bro, then, might seem like the perfect response. A place to befriend chaps who, while they may identify as straight, bi, or gay, don’t let their sexuality define them and are happy to mingle with other chaps who don’t place where they like to dip their willy front and centre. Despite now being a long time absentee from gay ‘dating’ apps such as Grindr and Scruff, I decided to give it a download. In truth, the way the app works is far closer to Tinder than it is Grindr, though the ability to ‘fist bump’ a fellow Bro does feel suspiciously like a Scruff style ‘woof’. (For the uninitiated, think of it as a Facebook ‘poke’ where the ultimate intention is to, quite literally, poke the chap in question.)

The sign up process is fairly straightforward and, aside from an optional question that asks about your coming out experience (if you have one), the profiles that result make no reference to what sexuality you identify as, unless you look to enter that into the text manually, which would kind of fly in the face of why a user had downloaded the app in the first place. So far, so good then, right? The problem is, being well versed with Manchester’s gay population – at least in a digital sense – I’m aware when flicking through the men in my area that I’ve seen almost all of them before. Almost all of the faces I come across as those I browsed a year or so ago on the likes of Grindr and Scruff.

Of course, I’m not here to judge – I’m a gay man who has used such apps and here I am planting myself on Bro. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely at this point that all too many straight men would see Bro as a valid space and, even if they did, what appears to be the overwhelming proportion of gay men already using Bro could mean an opening fist bump and chat about the latest City score could quickly descend into casual requests for knob pics.

Now, I’m not saying that such conversations are in any way bad or would be entirely unwelcome for the straight men taking a punt at Bro, but if the app becomes little more than a tool for the gay men who have exhausted all the homos in their area to make a play for the ‘Holy Grail’, the inquisitive heterosexual, then I think Bro’s reputation for being a free, and open place for chaps not defined by their sexuality to quickly fall by the wayside. In fact, it’ll fast gain a reputation for being little more than a hook up app, and we’re not exactly short of those.

I hope to be proven wrong. In the same way there’s currently a drive not just for gender equality but to do away with gender distinctions altogether (I’m a big fan of unisex toilets, for instance), I think the world is definitely ready for platforms that similarly blur the lines between straight, bi and gay folk. Bro’s unlikely to be the app that finally breaks down those barriers, but I tip my hat to those behind it for trying.

Now, what straight guys out there want to see my cock?

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