“Into anon? Door is unlocked. Find me bent over, blindfolded, lubed up. Looking now. Can host.”
This is a message I received on Grindr yesterday, but it will look familiar to anyone who uses dating apps – particularly those that facilitate hook-ups between MSM (men who have sex with men). The terminology can vary a little – sometimes the door is “on the latch”, sometimes it’s “ajar” – but the proposition is pretty much the same. The sender is ready and waiting for a stranger to enter his home and – in time – him. In theory, if he keeps his blindfold on throughout, you can fuck him and leave without him ever knowing who you are.
“It is definitely a kink for me,” says Dan Thomas, a 32-year-old gay man from Dorchester. Dan is currently living with his parents, which means he can only arrange a “door unlocked” hook-up when they're out. But when he was living alone in Brighton a couple of years ago, he would sometimes schedule several a night.
“I started doing it a lot when I was regularly hooking up with a dom top who liked me ready for him to slip his cock straight in – I have always played the part of a slutty sub bottom,” says Dan. In time, this led to anonymous encounters with men he didn’t know. “First, there’s the excitement of hearing the door,” he says, “and then, when you’re blindfolded, the other senses are heightened, so the sounds and smells are what turn me on.”
Dan admits the thrill was more intense for him when he was living in Brighton – a city with a huge pool of MSM that made fully anonymous hook-ups possible. “Living in a small town now, my Grindr is usually [filled with] guys I’ve met before, or at least know of,” he says. Still, Dan says he never does anything to shatter the illusion, adding firmly: “The only time my blindfold gets taken off is if they take it off.”
Like all kinks, the door unlocked thing isn’t a monolith. Tommy, a 23-year-old gay man from east London – who asked to remain anonymous, as he doesn’t want his kinks to be made public – says that, for him and some MSM who enjoy so-called “open door meets”, anonymity doesn’t necessarily enhance the turn-on.
“Generally, I ask for [face] pics beforehand, but if they seem sane and only want to send body/dick/ass pics, then that’s fine,” he says. “I've worn a blindfold a few times, but it's more about the thrill of waiting for someone to come in and find you exposed, or vice versa.”
Though Tommy gets off on feeling exposed at his open door meets, he says he has never actually felt unsafe. “With the exception of a very tiny percentage, every gay hook-up has a screening process to figure out if the person is sane, serious and, mostly, if you’re into each other and have similar turn-ons,” he says matter-of-factly. “If all the pieces align, the hook-up is going to happen. The additional kink of leaving the door open doesn't add any risk, because by that point they already know your address.”
Still, Tommy admits that by generally steering clear of blindfolds and handcuffs, he is effectively minimising any risk to himself. “I've heard some guys like to be restrained at open door meets – they'll be waiting tied up on the bed,” he says. “But that's a bit too much for me.”
Before arranging any kind of door unlocked hook-up, it's absolutely vital to think about your safety. Ian Howley, CEO of the health and wellbeing charity LGBT HERO, says he has “heard of several sexual assaults happening due to this [kind of roleplay]”, but points out that it's thankfully “very rare”.
“It's important that both parties are aware of the risks and have a safe route out, should anything go wrong,” he explains. “Make sure you have your phone close to you, and possibly alert someone you can trust of where you’re going. If you’re the host, then have your phone close by in case you need to call for assistance.”
He also urges people to report sexual assaults that happen at door unlocked hook-ups to the police, “so we can stop it from happening to others”.
However, Howley also points out that there is absolutely no reason for this kink to be stigmatised. “Set your boundaries, talk openly and honestly about what you both want from it, and as long as you’re both on the same page, there is nothing wrong or shameful in what you are doing,” he says.
Indeed, door unlocked hook-ups can make sexual intimacy easier for MSM who are closeted or just beginning to explore their queerness. “Usually, if a guy says he is ‘discreet’ [about sleeping with men], I’ll suggest we do it this way,” says Dan Thomas.
This kink can also be empowering for MSM from marginalised communities. “This is weird, I know, but it makes my sub side feel very in control that this man is here for me and wanting to use my hole,” says Ali, a 35-year-old gay man from Leeds, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect his privacy.
Ali says his particular door unlocked kink is “complicated” because he is gay and “from a South Asian Muslim background”. “I will always be at war with how I feel versus how I was taught to feel by my family and religion,” he says. “And I don’t fit the generalised [white-centric] standards of beauty in the gay community, so for me that one act of being in control of my happiness feels liberating.”
However, Ali also concedes that this sense of freedom can be rather fleeting. “Later, though, I feel like I associate my happiness with the approval of mostly white bi and gay men,” he says.
Still, Ali has a message for anyone who reductively dismisses door unlocked hook-ups as “seedy” or a sign that “you basically have no morals”: “What people conveniently forget is that straight people do it too, every Friday and Saturday night,” he says. “They just add alcohol to the mixture and call it pulling, and then it's seen as fine. We just kinda skip that bit and get straight down to the act itself.”