Dating apps Antidate and Bumble let women take control

These services turn the ‘let him approach you first’ dating rule on its head

‘Once you’re connected, the woman has 24 hours to start a conversation before it’s gone,’ says a spokeswoman for Bumble. Photograph: Thinkstock

‘Once you’re connected, the woman has 24 hours to start a conversation before it’s gone,’ says a spokeswoman for Bumble. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

Someone once said that asking someone to love you is a bit like holding your beating heart out in front of them and hoping they won’t crush it in their fist for giggles.

Venture through the looking glass of online dating and things are complicated further still. In the great technological gold rush, dating apps are cropping up with metronomic regularity, and so too are the folks who highlight sub-par behaviour on them.

Most notably, the Bye Felipe Instagram account (instagram. com/byefelipe) highlights abusive, sexist or hostile responses by rejected men on dating sites such as OkCupid or Tinder. For example, one woman responds to a man’s request to meet up with “let’s not”. His response: “You’re a passive-aggressive crackerass bitch.”

Bye Felipe is humorous and entertaining, certainly, but something slightly more unsettling is afoot here. These texts reflect a larger malaise in dating, both offline and on: a man’s sense of entitlement, an undercurrent of aggression, his petulance at not readily getting what he wants, and women’s hostility and reluctance to engage.

The problem is that, in an online set-up, many women expect the initial approach to be made by men. Many of them are battle-weary, tired of being relentlessly pursued (no, really) and bruised by ham-fisted messages and overly forthright approaches.

They then shut down, leaving their would-be male suitors confused, addled and hurt. Adding insult to injury, well-meaning men, who have kept up their proverbial side of the bargain and put themselves out there in good faith, get short-changed too. It’s a no-win situation.

 

New approach

A number of dating apps have decided on a new approach, one that encourages women to assume the role of pursuer. These apps, already doing brisk business in Britain and the United States, are expected to gain traction and be available in Ireland in the coming months.

Bumble (Bumble.com) is rather like the dating behemoth Tinder. Users download the app and scroll through pictures of singles in their area. If you like the look of someone, you can endorse the person with a thumbs-up (by swiping right on the screen). If you don’t, you can give them a hands-down no (by swiping left).

“Once you swipe right and someone swipes right back, you become connected,” says Umindi Francis, a spokeswoman for Bumble. “But once you’re connected, the woman has 24 hours to start a conversation before it’s gone. The time constraint ‘game-ifies’ the app a bit, and people seem to really love that. For same-sex connections, either person can start the conversation but they only have 24 hours to do so before it’s gone forever.”

Antidate (Antidate.co.uk), an app that launched in the UK just last month, goes one further by removing the male gaze component altogether. Female users are “hidden” on the site, leaving only male users visible. Ergo, women are then encouraged to make the first move.

“Hatty [Kingsley-Miller, one of the founders] was doing online dating and having a horrendous time of it, so we knew we wanted to do a twist [on conventional dating sites],” says co-founder Mo Saha.

“Antidate works quite well for girls, who didn’t want to be ‘out there’ with their profiles. It gave them a little bit more control. Men, on the other hand, found the idea of not having to make the first move quite refreshing. Sixty-four per cent of our users are guys.” (Bumble reports a male-female split of 55-45, and 60 per cent of their swipes are turning into conversations).

Upending gendered expectations in online dating is likely to be problematic in its own way, but these app creators believe there is a real need for their services. The time is right, in other words, for a levelling of the playing field.

“Women are encouraged to take control of their lives in almost every aspect, yet when it comes to dating there’s this unwritten rule: let him approach you first,” says Francis. “With Bumble, he no longer feels like he has to send 100 messages to make the first move, with hopes of maybe only one or two people responding.

“Bumble also emulates a real-life scenario. When you go out at night with friends, you don’t take home 300 numbers with you at the end of the night.”

With women feeling empowered and safe, and men enjoying a dating experience without fear of rejection, Antidate, Bumble and their ilk could well be the shape of things to come.

It’s not that control has been taken away from male users and handed to women; rather, it’s that the choice is there for anyone who would like to avail of it. “This is not about giving one of the sexes the upper hand,” says Saha. “The men on Antidate are totally fine about being approached, and the women aren’t the sort who need their drinks paid for.”

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