A photo of the olympic rings.

Bodies Where They Don’t Belong: On Nico Hines, Queerness, and the Olympics

Thursday’s summer Olympics news consisted of standard fare: Simone Biles smashed competition to achieve an all-round title in gymnastics; Katie Ledecky broke yet another record in swimming; and straight men, once again, decided they were chronically incapable of staying in their lane.

In an article that was posted, edited, and then swiftly removed from the internet all within the space of a daycredit to The Daily Beast for eventually removing the shambles from the internetNico Hines wrote a bizarre account of scoring three dates on Grindr in the Olympic Village at Rio.

The litany of issues with the article were shocking, and easy to attack from any angle: the most appalling issue being that Hines had glibly included identifying information of the gay athletes he had encountered on Grindr, including heights, weights, event and country information. Mark Stern of Slate claims he found five of the athletes that Hines was referring to within minutes of basic Googling; Hines himself admitted that some of these athletes would face homophobia in their home countries. News sources have reported that Hines risked lives by the information he had divulged.

Hines’s central thesis, or motivation for writing the piece, remains unclear: the first account, detailing with voyeuristic glee the various athletes he had encountered on Grindr, seemed to be an unashamed ogling at the spectacle of queer people at the Olympics. Hines himself described his purpose as examining how the “Average Joe” can “get an invite” to the “bacchanalia”—the partying and hookup culture of the village. Fair enough—a tired trope, but the article’s pre-apologetic-edits title, “I Got Three Grindr Dates in Less Than an Hour in the Olympic Village” is reminiscent of the Vice Magazine trope of irreverent, clickbait-y articles about unusual experiences, such as “I Did Everything Siri Told Me to for 24 Hours”, or “I Ate Frozen Fast Food So You Don’t Have To.” Except Vice usually publishes escapades of their correspondents doing things that interest the reader because they are gimmicky, provocative, or plain weird: going on an all-alcohol diet for a week and nearly dying; trying to get drunk of Kombucha; or trying to get violent diarrhea from eating sugarless gummy bears (I know).

Using an online platform to meet members of the same sex to go on dates or hook up with is not on par with self-induced diarrhea. There’s absolutely nothing interesting about Hines’s explorations—where he sees some profiles, gets three dates, gets asked for a “sex foto” and concludes (shockingly!) that gay men, like straight athletes, are having a lot of sex during the Olympics. The only information that could even be generously construed as new or interesting is how athletes identified themselves to fellow athletes as legit – through photos of bedrooms or dining halls known to be inside athletic halls or with Olympic bedspreads.

Other than that, Hines spends most of the piece with his binoculars out. There is a “tall black guy with a perfect six pack” out on Grindr, he tells us gleefully (not fetishizing at all!). There is also a man who sent his address to Hines without prompting (the slut!) and had “I’m looking for sex” in two languages (saucy!) on his profile. Hines reminds us, emphatically, that he himself is “a bit of a prude” and would never send a dick pic to a stranger—besides, anyway, he’s married with a wife and child (no homo!), and only pulling this brave act of journalistic espionage to tell us how there are “dozens of eligible bachelors” in the village, and some of them are event deviant enough to want orgies while they should be focusing on their game.

Of course, straight sex lives at the Olympics get interrogated too. The fascination with sex at the Olympics, condom use at the Olympics, and the sex lives of attractive sporting heroes, is well documented. But Hines’s piece wouldn’t make sense, or ever receive authorization to get published, if it was about, say, Tinder. Not when Hines’s only insight is “people are on Tinder, and I saw them, and they were a bit sexual, and sometimes they wanted to hook up, but I did nothing, talked to none of them, and have no insightful conclusions whatsoever except that they exist.” Indeed, the only expert Hines does talk to is an employee of Tinder—he doesn’t talk to any athletes about their experiences with queer sex or queer dating in the Olympics; he doesn’t attempt to give us any cultural or psychological insight of sex at the Olympics. While those would be iffy too, if done in a way that is not nuanced, at least it would have shown some incentive to humanize the characters in Hines’s narrative, beyond the sex hungry, six-packed shadows (even depicted as such in one of the article caption pictures), who have no dialogue except for excerpts he seems to have chosen for their broken English (“muscular athlete for meets, ”and “sex fotos”).

The article has been taken down, and Hines has received a roasting on twitter, as well as on several online publications. But it isn’t enough to take Daily Beast’s apology under pressure (Hines himself hasn’t said anything on his twitter account, or apologized). Why are non cis, straight, white male bodies always a spectacle? Why is the presence of women, the LGBT community, people of color, something that always gets commented on, leered at, and put on display? Why are “deviant” bodies never safe even when in an event aimed to highlight sporting prowess and skill? Why are queer communities using exclusive same-sex apps not open to prying eyes carelessly barging into their space, outing them with impunity, and then boasting of the spectacle? When will queer intimacy be protected? When will queer safe spaces be respected? When will queerness stop being viewed as a freak-show, even by ostensible liberals, even in ostensibly liberal publications, in an unsafe, delicate, dangerous post-Orlando space? What will it take to be safe? Or is safeness out of the question in the masculinized, policed space of sports —will it forever be out of the reach for women and for queers outside of the traditional narratives of the Games?

Header image via.


Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

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