“Feminine Women Only, No Hook-Ups”: How Lesbians Are Using Dating Apps

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Not long ago I noticed a tweet someone I follow sent to HER, the queer women’s dating app, that surprised me.

HER responded:

As a serial monogamist who has never used any dating apps or sites, I am consistently intrigued by this world so many of my friends and community inhabit; the viral space where they connect with each other in the hopes of finding a hook-up, a girlfriend, maybe even a wife. I’ve heard the endless complaints of how there’s “no one” worth dating; no “cute girls;” that dating apps made for women to find other women “suck.” And while Grindr and Scruff are used for similar purposes in the gay male community, it seems that they have way fewer complaints in that realm. Instead, there is scrutiny over the racist, fatphobic, and other insults masquerading as  “sexual preferences” on their profiles.

This made me curious about the way queer women use apps like Tinder and HER and if we are, in essence, doing the same things in the way that we specify “no butches,” “feminine women only,” “no ghetto chicks” and other statements in order to ward off prospective partners who we don’t see as “our type.” 

“I have seen apps/sites that allow you to specify ethnicity, race, weight preference, etc.,” says Lauren Hamilton, a frequent dating app user. “Personally, I like this feature. I don’t want to waste time sending a message to a woman who prefers skinny, white women when I am certainly not that.”

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I asked the founder of HER, Robyn Exton, how many women specify the kind of appearance they are looking for in their profiles.

“It’s a much smaller percentage than you might imagine,” she said. “On profiles, it only appears 0.3% of the time with people explicitly stating what it is they are looking for. In the social feed section of the app, it comes up 0.5% of the time, people looking to chat or hang out with people of a similar type. “

Friends who I polled on this gave me examples where it seems that the most common physical appearance statements are made about height (mostly noting how tall they are, but sometimes adding “no short girls”), and often what their hair currently looks as if it isn’t represented in their photos. On both Tinder and HER, women are more likely to write that they want “feminine women only,” some going as far to say “no manly women,” echoing the sentiments of the Tweet at the top of this article.

“We only have two filters at the moment: age and distance,” Robyn said. “We share a bit more information on a profile including height, sexuality, but you can’t filter by those. As we had so many people looking for friendship, it wasn’t necessary to filter down so much but we’ve been getting a huge number of requests recently for more filters, particularly by sexuality, so I think we’ll be taking a look at that again. “

Nadine, who met her girlfriend on Trevorspace, finds that women list “what type of lesbian they’re looking for. Most times it will be something along the lines of ‘looking for my perfect butch’ or ‘need a femme who’s also laid back,’ but that’s about it.” 

TrevorSpace is a dating site that allows you to search as distinctively as you’d like, including 26 different gender options. “You can even search for people by their first names if you really want to be specific,” Nadine says. “When creating a profile, it also allows you to be incredibly specific and caters to every need. The other apps are very lovely, but not all that specific.” 

Lesbian love icon. Homosexual sign.

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