To Be A Man-Eater: Embodied Aspirations, Tensions, and Lessons from the Bumble Dating App

Dating blog discussion of the modern man-eater
Watch out – she’ll chew you up: she’s a man-eater

When you think of a man-eater, do you have visions of a female praying mantis – grabbing her unsuspecting male counterpart’s tiny green head, within her mandibles, and ripping it off in one unfeeling swoop? Or, do you envision a smooth-talking, sultry and aesthetically-gifted Sharon Stone in her famous leg-crossing scene from “Basic Instinct”?

Before I began my foray into the seemingly fem-forward dating app, Bumble, my conceptions of a man-eater danced somewhere between the long-legged green assassin and the dozens of women whose sexual magnetism had brought men to their knees on the big screen. I certainly never considered myself among this predatorial elite.

But, after I signed up to become Bumble’s newest hive “hunny”, I began to realize my desire for active engagement with men (and their bodies), beyond anti-climatic keyboard cunnilingus, seemed almost counterintuitive to the application’s set-up and the intentions of the male counterparts I encountered there.

When did the adorable bumble bee become our greatest dating adversary?

With the seemingly inviting glow of the iridescent digital hive beckoning so many of us towards the tantalizing concept of an empowered way to meet our match, it’s no wonder so many of us have traversed into the land of dick and honey carefully curated by Bumble.

But, my research (both via my personal episodes, as well as my ethnographic observations as an academic) has led me to realize that Bumble is making women, who actually want to meet men in their non-digital form, feel like they are the modern versions of the stereotypical sadistic siren.

Statistics don’t lie, and what they’re saying, is maybe worth a second glance – before you swipe.

Now, stats may not seem like the sexiest approach to well…sex. But, at the risk of sounding like an overly-sexed harpy, I thought it would be smart to back up my ruminations with some numerations. During my five months on Bumble, I matched with 2,731 unique bees. Ok, as I write that out, I realize I may seem slightly swipe happy. However, I was much more selective in my conversation-starting strategy. Of these *cough cough* innumerable matches, I initiated only 113 conversations.

Here’s the catch, of this much more reasonably-sized pool, only 67 responded, which is a measly 60% response rate. (Cue first major dose of: what the hell – why did you even swipe right in the first place?) But, moving on to the most important number: guess how many of these matches translated into what the dating platform promises, the much-sought-after in-person meeting? 10. Do you want me to do the math again, or are you getting the drift?

Today is not the day to tell the whole story.

In the coming blogs, I will highlight some of the most interesting, absurd, wonderful and disturbing thing that happened during these encounters. But, for now, let me ask you: how many you have experienced this depressingly rapid decline in the size of your hive? Why don’t these men, who are populating this app, think our cute photos and cheeky taglines aren’t sweetening the pot enough?

The worst part is, in all of these cases, I – and now by extension you – have made the first move. So, instead of feeling empowered, I just feel mostly confused, and honesty, a bit pissed. My analysis of these not-so-nice numbers is one of the many things that has made me question Bumble’s claim to feminist fame because, even though I may initiate the contact, the ball is still in my gentleman’s caller’s court to pass back. Is it really more empowering to say, “Hey, I’m interested,” when the app makes it so easy for everyone to swipe left or do the opposite, and then immediately change their minds?

If you’re curious to know more about why we may want to dethrone Queen B, check back next week for another hopeful exploration of the hive.

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