Early last year, 22-year-old Lori “matched” with John on the dating app Tinder. Lured by what she fondly calls his “shitty tattoos,” she agreed to meet him at a bar. Later they returned to his place, where what followed was some of the kinkiest sex of her young life. “We go at it in the kitchen, in the living room,” she recalls, “and I was like, Fuck it. Worst-case scenario is I never see him again. I’m getting a little freaky.”
Lori’s experience isn’t unusual. Although there are newer entries in the crowded field of dating services, Tinder is giving women a way to pursue casual sex like never before. “Maybe I felt that free because we didn’t know each other,” she says. “We were there for what we both wanted.”
Tinder pulls its users’ photos and interests from Facebook to create instant profiles and ensure authenticity. Without the tedious personality quizzes and introductory e-mails of traditional dating services, Tinder requires little up-front commitment, lowering user expectations from meeting “the one” to meeting anyone, for anything. “A lot of women are interested in casual sex,” says sex journalist Amanda Hess, “but expressing it has been a little difficult. A weird key to Tinder’s success is it’s not based on stereotypes like that.”
Tinder’s success may also be in its matchmaking. If users like what they see in a profile, they swipe to the right, and if both swipe, they’re allowed to chat. Allowing conversation only if the other party reciprocates means ladies aren’t flooded with e-mails from dudes they would categorically avoid in real life. “You never get this residual grossness from guys you never wanted to hear from,” Hess explains.
Tinder commands a more even gender split than competitors such as OKCupid, and it skews younger, with just 10 percent of users older than 35, creating what one woman calls “a never-ending buffet.”
Beth, a 29-year-old casting associate from Los Angeles, turned to Tinder after a long-term relationship. As with Lori, the app led her to some heated carnal maneuvers. Last August she matched with a musician with “a sweet face—but with that grimy, bad-boy feel too.” After messaging for months, the two met at her apartment, where they almost immediately tore each other’s clothes off. “He did things I’m still trying to figure out,” she says. “He told me, ‘I’m going to drive you crazy. I know what to do with your body,’ and he proved himself.”
Beth’s Tinder paramour travels often, she says, but his schedule fits perfectly with what she wants. “When I’m working,” she says, “I want to know I can come home, have sex and go to bed.” She’s another happy user among the many women who find Tinder a means to pursue libidinous whims in an easy and safe environment.
“The demand for it was always there,” says Hess of women’s craving for casual sex. “Now it just has a platform to reveal itself.”