Why are straight men using lesbian dating sites?
Lesbian online dating apps are increasingly on 'penis duty', according to website developers, who claim more straight men than ever are posing as gay women - in some cases just for fun. Joshua Hooper-Kay talks to those developers fighting back
Even the app developers admit this is a problem: so-called "catfishing" - where someone pretends to be someone they are not by setting up a fake online profile on Facebook or any other social media site - is alive and kicking, they say.
Whether it's out of curioristy, boredom or sheer spite, nowhere is the problem more astute than in the lesbian online dating community (my emphasis), say developers, where men pose as women to get to know other female users.
As many as one in 10 people signing up to lesbian dating app Dattch are actually male (my emphasis), according to founder Robyn Exton, who is fighting back against the nasty trend.
She believes that this has led to poor user experiences and a lack of trust in the platforms, which is deterring many women from signing up.
“Some guys do go so far as to set up fake Facebook accounts, but these are quite easy to spot.
Usually they will have been set up a few days before or have just a few ‘likes’ - such as Dattch or lesbian dating in London,” says Exton.
Dattch keeps a close eye on its user accounts and claims it can verify each one through Facebook, guaranteeing users a male-free environment in which to meet other gay, bi-sexual or bi-curious women.
Another lesbian matchmaking app, FindHrr, which has over 8,000 users since its launch in February, is also fighting back.
Applicants’ photos and emails are checked individually and the app has a report system that allows members to flag suspected male accounts. These are then investigated by FindHrr’s co-founders, Nicola Chubb and Rebecca Paisis. Chubb jokes: “Myself and my business partner often ask each other whose turn it is to be on ‘penis duty’, but it really is quite a serious issue and it takes up a lot of admin time.”
The FindHrr app uses geo location technology to help people find other users in their vicinity. This technology has meant Chubb and Paisis have been able to track where these men are based. “On the basis of their GPS signals, the vast majority of them seem to be based in the Middle East and Thailand,” says Chubb.
In her opinion, their interest in signing up stems from a degree of naivety and fantasy. “I think they just want to know what’s going on. Of course, some may have the idea of porn and scantily-clad females in their head, but I imagine they are pretty disappointed when they find our members are just everyday women.”
Men posing as lesbians
The theories about why men would pose as lesbians are many and varied. They range from male delusions about their sex appeal, prowess and ability to ‘convert’ the lesbians they meet online, to an interest in women who might be bi-sexual.
One 24-year-old man from Stockwell, London, who used to infiltrate online lesbian apps posing as a lesbian, said he did it simply to amuse himself. “It sounds stupid now,” he says. “But when I was bored I used to go on these chat sites for kicks.”
Ruth Hunt, deputy chief executive at Stonewall, a gay, lesbian and bi-sexual charity, says this is no laughing matter. “This issue of men lying to meet lesbians is as old as time, they’ve just found a new way to do it," she says. "While we can’t say for certain what is motivating this behaviour, we would advise caution when using the internet to meet partners and recommend that people always try to meet in a public place.”
What is clear is that there is a huge potential user base for lesbian dating apps and they could come to represent quite an attractive commercial advertising proposition. According to Hunt, 6pc of the UK population identifies themselves as gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. You only need to look at Grindr, the wildly popular hookup app for gay men, to get an idea of what success in this market could look like.
Lesbian apps have reached a tipping point. The false perception still exists that the world of online dating is the preserve of men looking for titillation and they may continue to struggle to attract their target audience. However, if apps such as Dattch and FindHrr are able to effectively root out imposters, they have the potential to flourish.
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