Dating is hard, but it can also be a lot of fun. By dating I mean meeting and getting to know people one is interested in sexually and/or romantically. Young people generally do this by going to bars and clubs, meeting people at work, at university or through shared interests and hobbies. However, this doesn’t work for everyone, for example those too shy to approach someone in public or those who feel they are too old to go clubbing. Some just don’t want to take any more chances when it comes to going on dates with people, and they’d like to have a bit more information about their object of desire before risking a tête-à-tête.
That’s when online dating became the latest fad. In the beginning people had a hard time admitting that they had a profile on one of those dating websites. The general belief was that only socially aberrant freaks and other hopeless cases would have to resort to such “desperate measures”. But lo and behold, online dating is more popular than ever and has lost much of its sad reputation. One of the most popular dating websites today, OK Cupid, claims to have 7 million active users to date; that means literally 7 million users to date.
But online dating also has its downsides, especially for heterosexual women. I would estimate that about 90% of the men who get in touch with a woman online are total creeps, sexual harassers and misguided “pick-up artists” (yes, I know, the latter is a tautology). And that is not based on the woman simply being not interested, but on the completely uncalled-for messages, for which there are many wonderful examples on the internet.
And so the French, no strangers to chauvinism and misogyny, especially when it comes to dating, came up with a great idea: Let’s have women decide who gets to contact them for potential dates. The concept is fairly simple: every man and woman on the dating site gets to check out the profiles of everyone else; however, while women can send the men messages to evince interest, men are only allowed to “launch a charm” (lancer un charme), to which women may react or not. The dating site is called AdopteUnMec.com (AdoptAGuy.com for Americans) and functions as a virtual supermarket where women can “buy” men by dropping them in their shopping carts. (Yes, the capitalist analogy is quite blatant.)
So far, so interesting. Even though the page’s pink design and supermarket idea are not exactly original, the concept of leaving women in charge of the pick-up may be very appealing to both men and women. Men have less to worry about finding interesting things to say to impress the women, because they already know that the woman who contacts them is at least interested in their profile. Women on the other hand will feel more at ease in an environment that allows them to be in control of who gets to interact with them. That is, not ALL women.
Unfortunately and quite surprisingly, Adopte Un Mec has failed to acknowledge that not all men and women out there are interested in dating the opposite sex. The entire concept is obviously designed for heterosexuals, but I don’t see why it has to insist on it exclusively. After all, users can search for non-smokers, vegetarians and bisexuals, just not of the opposite sex. Don’t get me wrong: it’s great to see women in charge, but why not try some more inclusive options? For example, men and women who identify as homosexual or bisexual could be allowed to message people of their own sex freely. I understand the difficulty of adapting a concept that is based on gender difference to a more heterogeneous clientele, but it seems to me that there has never even been the attempt.
The advertising is clearly directed towards men looking for hot girls, which appears to contradict the whole idea of inverting the objectification. What may have been subversive in the 80’s feels a little too “postfeminist” to me now. As a woman signing up to Adopte Un Mec, the first thing you are asked to do is decribe yourself and state what you are looking for in a man, the same way that you would describe what you look for in a new dress or a handbag you intend to buy. The idea of woman as customer and man as product doesn’t sit well with the feminist online dater, who is looking first and foremost for an egalitarian relationship. Perhaps Adopte Un Mec is not the best online dating service for the truly progressive single, but then again, if I was single I’d probably use it, if only for lack of better alternatives…