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I’ve never had Tinder, but it was always something that fascinated me, and whenever I met someone who used it I found myself asking a barrage of questions.
From the beginning, I picked up on the discrepancy between my straight dude friends who hated the experience and the straight girls who loved it.
I was around when two women created their accounts — within weeks, both had got exactly what they wanted out of the app. From casual dates to long-term boyfriends, it seemed the app was teeming with men for any kind of woman.
For straight men? Not so much. My one friend downloaded the app, received zero matches, and was left so disheartened he deleted the app within a day. When swiping for another, I found the match ratio far lower than whenever my girl friends let me swipe for them.
I found myself wondering why this could be, and what the ramifications are for the men and women who use it.
To more thoroughly inspect this strange disparity, I took hold of two Cape Town accounts: one for our editor Andy, and one for my cousin Savannah. I used their accounts to swipe and match, but left the messaging to them if they wanted.
I then sent questions to some other friends for a wider pool of data. These are the results.
Straight off the bat, it seemed like most Tinder men thought they knew exactly what women wanted: abs, dogs, Lion’s Head and Harry Potter. Grab your dog, take him for a shirtless hike and a quick nature read: hey presto, you have yourself the perfect Straight Male Tinder picture.
But besides the harmless grabs for attention, straight women also have to put up with egregious profiles that men rarely see (if ever). Among these are men with occupations set to “school shooter”, rapey comics in the pictures, a dude straight-up on the toilet, and groins, groins, groins, groins.
And, of course, this little delight: “Looking for a girl who will clean my dishes while I play Counter-Strike.”
It seemed like most Tinder men thought they knew exactly what women wanted
This isn’t to say that straight women don’t have their own quirks — dogs and duck faces still abound — but the general MO feels more genuine (or as genuine as a dating profile can get). A large amount of featured pictures are selfies, giving men on the app an impression of them they have curated entirely themselves.
For both, it seemed Cape Town is crawling with foreigners looking “to be shown around”. On one day I was in control of Andy’s app, I was convinced European women had taken over the planet. On Savannah’s, it was like an American invasion.
Who has it easier? If the straight men on Tinder weren’t so trashy as to put their groins and sexist comments on their profile, then it may have been an even draw. But, alas, the straight men who don’t have to see that win this round.
Matching with partners is where Tinder begins to divide the straight sexes. On Savannah’s profile, the matches overflowed. On the first day, she racked up around 25. On a picky swipe session, she could still pull in at least three matches.
This number rings true for another friend I asked, Michelle, who said that she would pull in between three to eight matches in an average session.
Compare those numbers to Andy’s profile that, even when being lenient on the profiles liked, struggled to bring in matches. But it’s not because he’s unswipeable (in our opinion): it seems men just swipe right on more women, but women are pickier.
Michelle said that she was “quite meticulous” when it came to swiping right.
“Pictures first, then read through bio,” she said. Of course there was the caveat: “Unless the pictures are fire, then I’m like, I don’t even care.”
Andy said that, on a scale of one (swiping everyone) to ten (meticulously picking apart bios), he was around a five. Another male friend said he was also around a five.
As anyone who has used Tinder knows, the matches maketh the app. It’s all good and well to look at pictures of locals, but it’s the thrill of matching and connecting with people that sustains your enjoyment.
Using Andy’s Tinder got boring fairly quickly. Savannah’s stayed interesting — and probably would have all the way through to that fortuitous Tinder meet-up.
Who has it easier? Though women have to sift through gross profiles, when they do find the good ones, it seems their chances of matching are much higher, transforming their Tinder experience into one far more enjoyable than the men’s.
The last frontier: messages.
Already, the straight men are starting off on a back-foot, for the sheer fact of their low matches. But could they make those matches worthwhile?
The certainly seem to try: in just over a day, Savannah had 20 messages to sift through. Granted, it wasn’t hard work: the majority of them were generic “heys”, six were semi-personalised and one was a straightforward “I’m here to smash”.
Michelle said that in her time on Tinder, she got sent well over 30 first messages, but sent less than ten. She explained that her process for messaging first was quite complex.
In our experience, women receive far more ‘first’ messages than men
“It sounds kind of weird, but [I’d message] if I could see that person fitting into my life,” she says. From the bio and their pictures, she imagines “what it would be like to hang out with this person”.
Andy, on the other hand, says he messages first 100% of the time. Another friend says around 90%.
This discrepancy likely stems from the societal pressure for men to make the first move, but it makes their lives even harder on an app that doesn’t favour them in the first place.
Who has it easier? Depends on if you consider women sifting through dumb messages to be easier than no messages at all. I guess I do.
It’s easy to postulate as to why Tinder is such a different experience for straight men than straight women.
Women are likely more careful to swipe on people they’d feel safe meeting. Tinder is useful in weeding out the people who make them feel uncomfortable — even if that only happens after a few exchanged messages.
Straight men seem to have lower standards, not having to ward off as many creepy women in person as the women do men.
The sharp societal difference that separates the way men and women interact when romantically interested is exactly what makes Tinder (at least just the app part) a safe haven for women to be as picky they please. After all, anonymous online rejection is far safer than in person.
It seems unlikely that the pendulum will balance out any time soon; that may only come when the dating scene in general evens itself out.
For now, ladies, we might as well enjoy one of our small upper hands. And, dudes, if you’re looking for a wider-range of women willing to place their bets on strangers, it may be best to convince your friends not to be as creepy in person.
Think of the matches.
Featured image: cottonbro/Pexels