The LGBT Health & Development Program

Youth Blog – Will There Ever Be a Lesbian Grindr?

Posted on June 6th, 2017 by IMPACT in Featured, Youth Blog. No Comments

A photo of a young woman lying on her stomach on a bed with a pillow in a flowery pillowcase under her head. She is holding and looking at the screen of an iPhone.

Sano Rin, “One Day; Normal,” October 24, 2014.

Written by [Car Jansen, Keep It Up! 2.0 intern]

Tinder is easily the most common smartphone dating app, with over 50 million users producing 12 million matches a day [1]. Similar apps with their own unique spin and target populations have emerged and succeeded to varying degrees.  J-Swipe connects young Jewish singles. Farmers Match is targeted towards “farmers, ranchers, and cowboys.”  Grindr is hugely popular among gay and bisexual men.

However, a dating app targeted specifically towards queer women has not had comparable levels of success. With at least 5.5 million queer women in the United States, more than half being Millennials [2], it’s not as if there’s no market for a women-centric Tinder. But every app made for lesbians and queer women—including Brenda, Wing-Ma’am, and Qrushr—has fallen flat [3].  Even Her, a recent app that made waves in the queer community upon its promising release, has had mediocre reviews and limited reach. Like me, you may be wondering why this is the case.

One potential reason for the failure of queer women’s dating apps is heterosexual men who invade these queer spaces [4]. In Her’s early days, app developers had to screen users to prevent a flood of heterosexual men posing as queer women [5]. However, the idea of policing these spaces presents problems of its own. It has the potential to spread anti-trans attitudes and exclude interested users who aren’t seen as “woman” or “queer” enough. There’s a tricky balance between maintaining a safe space and being inclusive.

Another possible reason is that Tinder and similar dating apps may be more suited to men’s dating styles. There is strong evidence to suggest that women, regardless of sexuality, handle attraction and dating differently than men. On average, men tend to be more visual and interested in casual hookups, while women are more likely to report wanting emotional connections [6].

These differences may reflect deep-rooted heterosexual gender roles and stereotypes. These gendered stereotypes reward male sexual freedom while shaming women for the same behavior and limiting female sexuality to the context of emotional intimacy. Apps like Tinder and Grindr that stress visual appeal and anonymous meet-ups are therefore more likely to appeal to male dating behavior. Stats show that men significantly outnumber women on dating apps [7], suggesting that the current app setups have a gendered bias.

Some of these women-centric apps may also be alienating to some members of the LGBT community by nature of their descriptions. Many queer people who fall outside of Grindr’s predominantly cis-gay male audience are looking for a new dating app, but don’t identify as women or lesbians. When an app calls itself lesbian or uses strictly female language (an example being the title of Her), it distances itself from these members of the community.

For me, the main problem with the apps for queer women is that there aren’t enough users to make the app worth it. I don’t want to log in to only find a handful of active profiles. This is the catch-22: people won’t download an app unless it’s popular, and the app won’t become popular unless people download it. Until a developer is able to create a likeable app that can overcome these problems, I’ll put up with Tinder. It may be riddled with unwelcome threesome proposals and men that I never asked to see, but it has the numbers.

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