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Lesbian dating sex sites Why Do So Few Lesbians Use Dating Apps?

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Straight men online date. Gay men online date. Straight women online date. So why aren't gay women finding love online?

Lesbian Dating Apps Lesbian Dating Lesbian Dating Sites Best Lesbian Dating Apps Why are straight men using lesbian dating sites

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Matchmaker Emma Tessler has a problem. She can't find lesbians. When Tessler decided to start online matchmaking service The Dating Ring two years ago, she couldn't get nearly enough gay women to match with the few gay women who had signed up for the service. "We talked to a lot of people, including founders of other dating sites, and gay women we were friends with," Tessler says. "Both said that this was a really common phenomenon: that dating sites have a notoriously low number of gay women, and that gay women are unlikely to flock to those services, ever."

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It's true, trying to find lesbians on Tinder is like trying to find lesbians in a small town: you have a feeling they exist, but even if you find one, the odds that she's your age and single and you connect with her on any romantic level at all are slim to none. When a straight woman logs into Tinder, it's a totally different experience. She might not think the first few guys are her type, but she could swipe for a few hours and probably find 15 guys she'd at least hook up with. And it's not a problem for gay men; about of them report dating someone they met online. So how did online dating miss the lesbian community?

One reason could be because there just is no good app for queer women. Mostly-straight dating app Tinder had a projected  by April 2015, and gay male dating app Grindr, which on its fifth anniversary in 2014 had , has been thriving for years now, but we have yet to see an app for lesbian and queer women really take off. Daatch launched in 2014 and landed with a thud, primarily because many users reported a lot of technical issues and not enough women (a fatal flaw for a lesbian dating app).  page reports primarily one star reviews, with one commenter saying, "The most useful thing about this app is finding all the lesbians complaining about it (me included)" and another saying, "Poor app, wouldn't let me upload pics and wouldn't save text, even had trouble to close my account. DO NOT DOWNLOAD THIS APP!!" 

The app later received $1 million in funding from investors and was rebranded as , which CEO and founder Robyn Exton says currently has just under one million users, and a much-improved 4.5 star rating on iTunes. The only other dating app for queer women to get much press at all was Scissr, whose is comprised only of 1 and 2 star reviews with one user saying, "Good concept but most users are inactive and the filter options don't work," which sounds like every queer dating app I've ever encountered. 

Sure, straight-focused apps like Tinder and Bumble allow for same-sex swiping, but, for gay women especially, that often leads to matches who are just dabbling in same-sex hookups or are looking to plan a threesome for their boyfriend. My friend Laura, 27, who identifies as queer and has been out for about seven years, says that while these dating apps have allowed straight and questioning women to explore their sexualities more, they're also a risky endeavor for queer women. "On one hand, it's great that these girls have a venue in which to explore their sexuality safely, but on the other hand, I've learned a few times on first dates with women I met online that they've never been with a woman before," she says. "This is not necessarily a problem, but sometimes it's hard to gauge if someone is feeling experimental versus being very much past that stage." A straight-identifying friend even told me she sometimes turns her Tinder to women-seeking-women to chat with women even though she'd "probably never do anything." Enough false-positive matches like that would turn anyone off.

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Lauren O'Reilly, Director of Marketing at OKCupid, says that of their current 10 million active users, women seeking women only comprise 7 percent of that. But the good news is that since the site expanded their gender and orientation options, they've seen a 7 percent rise in female LGBTQ users, suggesting that many women may have felt stifled by the need to identify as one gender or one sexuality, which could also be an issue when trying to get queer women on a lesbian-specific app.

The wide range of identities of women-seeking-women not only makes it hard to sign up for apps that only have three options (straight, lesbian, bisexual) but could also explain why the majority of the queer women I spoke to say they prefer to meet dates through friends. "I build everything on trust," my friend Valey, 27, who meets other women through friends IRL, told me. After all, she says, it's easier to ask all of your friends what that cute girl's situation is when they all know her and probably have for years. While that's obviously the same in straight dating, straight people don't have to figure out just how straight someone is, worry about navigating a relationship with someone who's not out, or potentially have to deal with someone using them as an experiment. Meeting someone through your LGBTQ social network offers a level of Date Insurance that many queer women can't afford to do without.

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All this partner-vetting isn't to say all lesbians are serial monogamists. A  from Liverpool Hope University that studied 126 lesbian and straight women with the average age of 27 found that lesbians had and wanted to have just as much casual sex as straight women. But the gay women I talked to said they need to have some kind of connection to the other person, even if their only intention is to hook-up (which is often is). 

"Tinder changed the landscape of online dating a little," my friend Nomi*, 30, who identifies as queer, said. "I used OKCupid years ago and it was awesome. I had some legit luck there. But now on Tinder everyone seems to be afraid of being too earnest. Dating apps nowadays make me want to move to a cave in the mountains and change my name."

Another friend of mine, also named Lindsay, 34, who also identifies as queer, echoed similar sentiments, saying that she hates lesbian dating app Her because it's too much like Tinder in all the wrong ways. "I want to actually hear more about the person than one headline and 10 selfies." Her founder Robyn Exton did tell back in May that the rebranded app would have more text boxes and photos so that people could see "the interesting parts of how she lives," but a recent tour through the app shows that the extra info is still pretty rarely filled out. 

So, of the hundreds of dating apps that exist, why isn't there a better, queer-women-friendly dating app yet? Are lesbians not online dating because there's no good app, or is there no good app because lesbians don't like online dating? Lauren Kay, co-founder of the Dating Ring, says it is a bit of a chicken or egg situation. 

"Getting funding for a dating app is very, very hard. Everyone and their brother has their own dating app, and investors often aren't interested in this space," Kay says. "Even if you had a team working really hard for a year on building the best LGBT app out there, but even after all of their work, they only had 1,000 users — then due to that small pool, users probably wouldn't get great matches, and they'd hate the app and not refer their friends, and then it would die."

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Andrew Chen, an advisor/investor for tech startups including , wrote on that in general, it's hard for any dating app to attract interest from investors. He says that dating apps rely so much on people who are nearby, and if those people aren't there immediately, people will leave the app. "People are willing to travel to meet each other, but only so much," Chen writes. "And there needs to be the right mix of male/female participants (or whatever permutation makes sense)." With a 2011 report by the  showing that only 3.4 percent of Americans self-identity as lesbian or bisexual women, the odds you'd find the correct permutation in a given area is slim indeed. 

Chen adds that "until there's word-of-mouth, and enough people to generate a quality experience, the marketplace will suck." So lesbians who have primarily heterosexual friends might not know about the app, and gay women who hang out with other gay women probably see people they already know on the app (aka exes they'd rather not see ever again). 

Dinesh Moorjani, co-founder of Tinder and CEO of Hatch Labs Inc. where Tinder was created, says that another reason lesbian dating apps may have failed to prosper could be that investors don't see that 3.4 percent of America as a large enough market to tackle (never mind that gay and bi men make up about the same proportion of the population as gay and bi women, and Grindr has 10 times the users of Her). "Investors may feel the current alternatives are sufficient to address the market need, since they allow users to toggle between searching for either gender. It's possible the market size hasn't been compelling, well documented, or communicated to prospective investors by entrepreneurs," he says, suggesting that investors think Tinder, Hinge, and the other straight-focused apps are serving lesbian women sufficiently.

So why isn't anyone putting more funding and research into this thing that could potentially help ? Is it the disregarding of lesbians and queer women as viable consumers? Maybe. Whatever the reason, it looks like gay and bisexual women will just have to stick to the old standby of hoping to bump into someone at a Whole Foods, somehow notifying each other that you're queer, and then seven months later adopting rescue kittens together. Not a bad fallback plan. 

*Name has been changed for privacy.

Correction: A previous version of this article said that Dinesh Moorjani was the CEO of Hatch Labs Inc. where Tinder was created. He is also the co-founder of Tinder.

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