LOS ANGELES — They said it couldn’t be done.
But in the year and a half since its launch, Tinder has successfully established itself as the first hook-up app that women actually want to use. The app’s achievement is due in large part to its opt-in chatting system: Daters can only exchange messages when they’ve mutually pre-approved each others’ profile photos, saving them from reading unsolicited missives from people they want absolutely nothing to do with. But the scheme isn’t foolproof. As soon as a woman swipes right on a guy who looks up her alley, she’s still liable to get slapped with an unwelcome message. Tinder’s system ostensibly blocks the cavalcade of creeps by submitting them all to a snap judgment before they’re allowed to open their mouths. And yet, they persist.
Enter Wyldfire, a more curated mobile dating experience that positions women as the gatekeepers to sexual innuendo. When Wyldfire launches in the coming months, women will be free to join, but men must secure an invite from a female friend to start browsing. (The app is a kind of lovechild between Tinder and man-rating app Lulu.) “Everyone has that one friend who they think is a great-quality guy but they either don’t want to date themselves or want someone else they know to date,” Wyldfire brand manager Jesse Shiffman told Allison P. Davis at the Cut. As Davis notes, that type of eligible bachelor — the single, straight guy you don’t want to date, don’t want to set up with any of your friends, and yet are eager to recommend to all female strangers in your general area — may be even more elusive than the guy who actually sparks your interest.
But let’s say we all have these men in our lives: Identifying a guy as an obvious creep isn’t easy, either. The Wyldfire system operates on the assumption that men who text aggressively crude material to strangers on the Internet have no female friends in real life. While it’s tempting to believe that such men have simply never had any contact with female human beings, who really knows what lies in the dark recesses of your friend’s Tinder messages? Not you — you just hang out at parties.
One more thing: Women can be creeps on online dating sites, too. (They’re just less creepy on average than men are.) They also have wildly different tastes in who they’re attracted to, and what types of messages they like to see. But because most of these sites and apps suffer from a deficit of female users, they don’t have much incentive to start weeding out women based on subjective markers of “quality” — whether that means the perceived quality of their looks, their messages or their taste in men. Perhaps what dating sites really need are more robust mechanisms for discouraging rude behavior overall — not arbitrary standards for men, or gatekeepers who are all women. As of now, the objective creep test does not exist. There is no app for it.
Hess is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. She blogs for DoubleX on sex, science and health. Tweet at her @amandahess.
(c) 2014, Slate.