Recently, a girl I’d matched with on tinder and had been talking to for a while asked me if she “looked straight.” Despite the fact that she was talking to me, a girl who matched with her and had asked her on a date, she said that no women ever matched with her or asked her on dates, and she credited this phenomenon to “looking straight.” I guess because she has long hair? The jury’s still out.
I have been asked by many of my bi and pan women friends over my life if they’ve looked too straight, and if looking too straight may be the reason they never match with girls on dating apps or websites, even ones specifically designed for women seeking women. The answer is, honestly, maybe? I sometimes skip over potential matches if they seem straight to me, but it’s never done because they have long hair, or wear make up, or have on pretty clothes, which seems to be the basis of the question (which, honestly, is a little insulting as to what it means to “look gay,” but I digress). Usually it’s done because they have a boyfriend featured in their pictures, or their bios are heavily centered around “wanting a man” and mentioning key points such as “beards,” “being over 6’0 tall,” and “looking for a tattooed gentleman.”
Now the important thing to really note is that you can be someone who is attracted to men who fit that description (or any men at all) and still also be open to dating women. The problem lies here: it is extremely hard to date women as a woman, and if you’re only passively open to the possibility, it’s very likely that it won’t happen for you. That’s not because lesbians are meanies who don’t like girls who also like boys, and it’s not because you have long hair. It’s because you have to put a lot of effort into dating women, and even then, it’s incredibly difficult. I have a few ideas as to why that is.
Problem One: Lack of Opportunity
It’s pretty slim pickings out there trying to find a lesbian dating app. A lot of people I mention this to express a lot of surprise to me – gay men have so many after all! Grindr, Scruff, Hornet, Adam to Adam, etc, etc. Surely there must be an equal number of women-exclusive apps!
Unfortunately not. Of the six listed above as suggested by google, only two are actually exclusive to women seeking women. Fem is an android-exclusive app, so I’ve never been on it, but I’ve also never met anyone who’s been on it either, so it’s not exactly ubiquitous the way Grindr is for gay men. Her, on the other hand, is a very popular app, but that leaves one option for all women out there who are exclusively looking to date other women. If you’re also looking to date men, it’s probably not likely you’ll download Her, especially considering most of the women on Her are also on your local Tinder or OkCupid, where you don’t have to rule out men. That is problem number two.
Problem Two: You Have to TRY to Date Women
Twitter user and designer Amanda Killian tweeted the above image two days ago and it’s honestly what got me thinking about this whole thing in the first place. Sidenote: for the unaware, “political lesbianism” is a dated and unpopular term that refers to straight or otherwise not gay women “choosing” to become lesbians and date other women as a political statement, and that women who can date women SHOULD date women, because fuck the patriarchy, or whatever. It’s not a good theory. I do not have the time to get into how bad of a theory it is.
She makes a valid point. If you are not 100% committed to dating women, you likely will not. It’s very difficult, and it’s so much easier to date men. I performed an experiment – at 7:02 this evening I set my tinder to “Women And Men” and swiped right frantically for about five minutes. By 7:30 I had 3 men messaging me asking me on dates. Compare that, for instance, with my women only tinder experience – being on the app for years, matching with hundreds of girls, having hundreds of conversations, exchanging numbers, trying to make plans to meet, and having gone on a grand total of one tinder date. We went on a few dates after the fact, but that’s the important part. 3 potential dates in under a half hour versus one fruitful date in a few years.
Now, of course, the answer to that could be that I’m just not very good at Tinder, which is totally possible. But my fellow gay friends have had similar luck – one date from OkCupid, one relationship from Tinder, lots of numbers and conversations but nothing coming from them. So, then, if you’re a girl who’s open to dating women and men, it seems that trying to date women will yield very little results, while at the same time your cup runneth over from men attempting to date you – no contest! You might be putting equal effort in on both fronts, but dating women as a woman is hard, and requires more effort than the bare minimum. Which is probably because…
Problem Three: Women Don’t Know How To Date Other Women
Women who have only dated men (which, to be fair, is almost all of us – many lesbians go through relationships with men before coming out, and as we’ve already discussed, it’s much easier for bi and pan women to date men) don’t really get how to date women. Women who have only dated men tend to not send the first message or ask for a date, but not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t know how, and they’ve never really had to before. In your standard hetero relationship, it is expected that the guy will make the first move. Women who have grown up on that, and only ever experienced that, don’t even register it as an active decision – it’s what they know. They don’t know how to make the first move, and if they want to, they tend to feel insecure and not confident.
DISCLAIMER: OBVIOUSLY THIS IS NOT THE EXPERIENCE OF EVERY MALE/FEMALE RELATIONSHIP! There are LOTS of women who message guys first, and lots of women who ask guys on dates, but statistically speaking, it’s more likely the other way around. I’m talking in generalities, not in specifics. Social trends, not anecdotes.
I’m sure you can see the problem with two women who have matched on tinder both waiting for the other to send the first message. A good half of the tinder profiles I come across mention something about you “having to message first” because she’s shy or simply doesn’t do it. I’m sure you can also see the problem with two women who have matched on tinder, who have started talking, both not knowing when the appropriate time to ask for a date is, and both being very hesitant or scared about not ever having gone on a date with another woman before. The conversation stalls, or one of them stops replying, or they end up essentially friend-zoning each other.
And that’s if they get that far! Women on dating apps and websites tend to be extremely pickier than their male counterparts – when my tinder was set to men, I had a mutual match with about 80% of the men I swiped left for (I’m not tooting my own horn here – I have friends with much higher match rates, but I’ve also seen the furious-frantic-swipe-swipe-swipe-left-without-looking tactic that men use, and men use it for this very reason) but in general I’d say I match with just under half of the women I swipe left for. Women are pickier, and their reasons are multitude – I’ve had girls tell me they only match with girls who mention being a lesbian in their bio because they assume that means I have more experience, and I’ve had girls who tell me they only match with girls taller than them, or shorter than them, or blondes, or people with funny bios, or people with group photos, and on, and on, and on.
Many girls I’ve (almost) gone on tinder dates with have mentioned to me that they’re nervous and have never dated another woman before. They say it sheepishly, often apologizing – and that’s sort of the problem. You are allowed to go on your first date with a woman! You’re allowed to be nervous! Not every girl has experience with other girls, and it can be scary to do something for the first time. You might be nervous you’ll find out you don’t actually like other girls. You might be nervous you’ll find that you really like other girls. Both can be hard – you don’t want to be accused of faking, or perpetuate horrible biphobic stereotypes, but you also know it’s so much harder to date women. What will my parents say? What will people on the street say? Am I really ready for this?
All this has been to say one thing: if you’re a girl who’s interested in other girls but never had the opportunity to date one, I strongly encourage you to put in the effort it takes to create that opportunity. It’s hard, it’s unfamiliar, and it can be scary, but the odds of it happening by random chance or fate is slim. Most gay women won’t approach you or flirt with you in public if they don’t know for sure that you’re interested in women, and if your friends don’t know or aren’t thinking about you as a dating option for their gay friends, it’s unlikely you’ll be randomly set up by some matchmaking pals. (Which, by the way, very weird – when I was identifying as bi, I never got asked if I wanted to be set up with people’s female friends, but as soon as I came out as a lesbian, it happened frequently.)
If you’re a woman who’s interested in dating women, I’d like to gently and kindly encourage you to put in the effort. Set your tinder/okcupid to only women for a couple weeks to thin out the herd. Send the first message. Ask for her number. Suggest a specific date, and go on it! I’m not saying you have to rule men out forever (unless you decide to), but they’ll all still be there in a couple weeks, and there will always be more available men to pick and choose from than women. It’s not bad or regressive or anything else to date men, or to only date men even if you think you could be attracted to women, and I don’t want it to come off like I’m trying to lure you over to the lilac side. If you are perfectly happy with the way it’s going for you, then all the power to you! I’m specifically speaking to the girls out there who were once like me – nervous, intimidated, but really and truly desiring the opportunity to date women. It might take a while, and it might be something you’re not used to, but don’t take an initial lack of matches or messages as discouragement.
Girls who want to date other girls are out there! It’s harder to find them, and it’s harder to get a romantic situation started, but if you’re willing to put in the work, you can get results. I know my “one date” anecdote might not be very encouraging, but I’ve met and talked to a lot of really great women through these sites, and there’s loads of reasons it didn’t work out besides the above – we live too far apart, one of us is moving, we have different relationship goals. I know there’s a girl out there who’ll match up more neatly, and I just hope that she has the confidence to message me first if needed. I hope she has the confidence to agree to a date even though it’s scary. I also hope she’s a future Olympic athlete. But that’s not here or there.
Thanks for reading, and happy swiping!
2 thoughts on “Les-be-honest: Why is it so hard for women to date women?”
Really glad I read this, it’s the first post I think I’ve ever seen that talks about how difficult it is to match with women online! Very insightful, thank you for writing about this!
thank you for your comment!! it’s a tough world out there for us goirls
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