Why do lesbians find themselves swiping on the profiles of straight men on Tinder?

This year, Tinder celebrates its tenth anniversary, and it’s a chance to see how much the dating application has changed the way we meet. If the stories of children on Tinder are legion, it is a little more complicated for those who came out of the heterosexual model: the low number of places of lesbian sociability (in Paris, these bars can be counted in fingers of one hand) and The two-year pandemic has prompted many women to look at dating apps, including the best known, Tinder. Especially since there are (very) few special applications for women that are more specific. The loners, like Zoe or Her, are American, and there are very few French members.

This is a bad experience for Tinder registrants: women looking for women on the dating application often find themselves swiping through the profiles of couples, heterosexual women .. .but also heterosexual men. . A bug in the matrix for most of them, but sometimes it repeats itself every four or five profiles. In fact, in a survey carried out by the newspaper Liberation in July 2021, we found that “up to one of four profiles offered by a lesbian profile is actually that of a heterosexual man”. What is the rule of the track of a simple grain of sand in the machine.

Fake profiles, unicorn-seeking couples and straight profiles

Among the inconveniences that can be encountered by those who swipe to find the love of their life (or of one night), the false profiles that seek to get nude photos, the people who have wrong information on their gender or their sexual orientation, or even more annoying, the profiles of couples looking for a “unicorn”, that is a woman for a threesome. “Tinder in lesbian mode is a horror, there are 3 tons of straight couples looking for a girl” confirmed a Twitter user. Beyond couples, many of the app’s users report finding profiles of heterosexual men: useless for those who feel that their preferences are not honored by the app.

Asked about this, Tinder France told us that the algorithm of its application works according to the tree system: by registering the application, each user chooses their gender identity, sexual orientation as well as the “typology” of people that you want to meet . Which is “male”, “female” or “all”. In fact, heterosexual men who choose to see “everyone” have access to women’s profiles, regardless of their sexual orientation. “It will deal with users of other gender identities and other sexual orientations, because we want to leave the choice to meet people that I would not meet otherwise, regardless of sexual orientation. Because we also consider bisexual people or people who doubt their sexual orientation, “explains Tinder. Regarding the omnipresence of profiles of heterosexual men in the selection of profiles offered to gay, bisexual or pansexual women, Tinder claims to be “aware” of this problem, and is working to “try to change the structure of the tree”. “It is not perfect but it can be improved” assures the application.

Algorithms favor certain ages and genders… But not sexual orientation

For sociologist and researcher specializing in dating application algorithms Jessica Pidoux, it should not be forgotten that the main purpose of dating applications such as Tinder is that users “keep browsing the profiles to spend as much time as possible on the application”, even if it means proposing. profiles beyond the conditions set by users. For him, this arborescence system is far from neutral, and creates a gender asymmetry between the preferences established by men and women. “My preference depends on the criteria of the other: we have unidirectional preferences and conditions, such as age or sex, to see or not” he advances. Clearly, the algorithm requires a classification to work, and gives greater weight to some criteria (age or gender) than others, such as sexual orientation. “In fact, the options are more open, and there are more profiles to be seen” concludes Jessica Pidoux.

The belief that algorithms are neutral, that they are cold machines that have no impact on our real lives is a decoy, according to Jessica Pidoux. “Tinder sees itself as a facilitator, an intermediary, while not, the application has responsibility,” he explained. By prioritizing certain criteria, Tinder and other dating applications encourage its users to stay online, and possibly get some paid options. But above all, Jessica Pidoux fears that the exposure of queer people to heterosexual profiles has the effect of endangering some people who are not yet. save with their surroundings. “All these parameters do not make it possible to secure these communities,” he concluded. For women looking for women, you still have to swipe through some heterosexual profiles to hope to find love.

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