Warning: This article contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some readers.
On Christmas day, the family of a 25-year-old gay man reported him missing after he left the night prior to meet a stranger he talked with on the gay hook-up app Grindr. Police soon discovered his body, mutilated, hanging from the rafters of a Michigan farmhouse owned by 50-year-old Mark Latunski, who confessed to the murder. The young man’s story gained media attention due to his name, Kevin Bacon, and his fascination with beauty icon Jeffree Star, whom Bacon had several tattoos honoring.
Before the details of the gruesome murder became public, Star made a public statement regarding the murder. Star even generously donated $20,000 to the family for funeral expenses. Bacon was a college student and hair stylist, and he did what millions of young gay men do regularly: He chatted with someone who sparked his interest and agreed to meet him for sex.
According to the Washington Post, Latunski was known for his bondage fetish, and several other men had fled during their encounters with him due to his threatening behavior. Bacon was not as fortunate, as Latunski confessed to stabbing him in the back then slicing his throat. At some unknown point, he hung Bacon upside down by his ankles from the rafters and cut off the man’s testicles. He then cooked and ate them. With his long criminal history and mental health concerns going back decades, prosecutors have yet to determine how they will proceed.
Apps Like Grindr Cause a Multitude of Problems
A report titled, “A Crisis of Hate: A Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Hate Violence Homicides in 2017,” organized by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, indicated that 45 percent of gay male murder victims in 2017 were the result of online hook-ups. It is not always clear when the cases involve gay killers or when homophobic predators use apps such as Grindr. In 2018, for example, four men aged 19 to 21 used Grindr to persuade gay men to give their home addresses and then proceeded to assault and rob the victims.
Grindr is an app that allows anyone to sign up, create a profile, and see any other online user who is geographically close to them. Used mostly by gay men, it has become synonymous with gay male culture. The app has 3 million daily users, and despite its popularity, a study of 200,000 iPhone users found 77 percent of Grindr users felt regret after encounters.
In 2018, a gay psychologist, concerned about gay men’s mental health in using the app, conducted a study. He said, “The users I interviewed told me that when they closed their phones and reflected on the shallow conversations and sexually explicit pictures they sent, they felt more depressed, more anxious, and even more isolated. Some experience overwhelming guilt following a sexual encounter in which no words are spoken. After the orgasm, the partner may walk out the door with little more than a ‘thanks.’” Estimates show upwards of 50 percent of gay men suffer from depression, and since 2007, gay men are more likely to die from suicide than HIV.
More disturbing is a study from the Journal of Adolescent Health that found more than half of sexually active 14- to 17-year-old gay and bisexual males use apps such as Grindr for hook-ups. Grindr, like all gay hook-up apps and websites, requires users to be 18 years old or older, but minors can easily bypass these restrictions. While Grindr has stated it does not condone illegal use of the app, it only requires users to enter a birth date and year to use.
LGBT Advocates Encourage Teens to Use Grindr
Despite the high risks involved and the illegal behavior, including the sharing of child pornography and sexual assault of minors by adult men, LGBT advocates have championed the use of the app for teenagers. Logo, an LGBT media network, published a study of use by teenage boys, saying, “Despite its age restrictions, the LGBT hookup app could be helping gay and bi teen boys come out and find community.”
A professor at Northwestern University argued, “We found that teens in this study were super excited that somebody was paying attention with what was going on in their lives, and how these apps played a role in their sexual development and coming-out process.” The LGBT advocacy organization concluded its study by stating, “Researchers believe that the app’s functionalities might appeal to closeted or newly out teens, who might be navigating same-sex dating or sexual relationships for the first time.”
As prior investigations show, an extremely high number of adult men feel regret after using the app, and studies indicate repeat daily usage is similar to cocaine or heroin use. The study indicated, “[W]hen a neutral action (clicking on Grindr) is paired with a pleasurable response in the brain (orgasm), humans learn to do that action over and over again.” Why would LGBT advocates believe usage of the app, even without considering the significant illegal activity and abuses involved, would be positive for emotionally and physically vulnerable minds in discovering their identity?
Parents Must Protect Teens. LGBT Activists Certainly Won’t
It all comes down to priorities. While LGBT advocates focus on hate crimes, discrimination, or other outside negative influences on the LGBT community, they fail to see the dangers within it. Extreme crimes such as the one Bacon suffered are rare, but without any security measures within the apps or the LGBT media response, those crimes become more likely to occur again. With boys as young as 14 using the app without parental knowledge, encouraged by LGBT advocates, the consequences of these dangers become even more profound.
Do parents realize that teenage boys, using only their phones, can sexually advertise themselves to any adult man several miles around them and find themselves alone in a stranger’s house before the parents even know their boys are gone? Do parents know that LGBT advocates are encouraging this behavior under the guise of it being a positive way for teenage boys to explore their sexuality? Do teens and their parents know the dangers involved?
Tragedies such as Bacon’s are not merely moments to pause and consider the consequences in risky adult behavior. They give us moral reason to protect the most vulnerable exposed to these risks. While adults can protect themselves in many ways, they must protect teenagers too. It’s clear the LGBT community has no interest in doing so.
Perhaps this unthinkable crime can be the final straw for lawmakers nationwide to hold companies such as Grindr accountable, but more importantly, to hold accountable the adult men exploiting teenage boys who have no way of understanding the danger they are putting themselves in and the LGBT organizations encouraging those boys.