Gentlemen Speak: What It’s Like to Be a Guy on the Feminist Dating App, Bumble

How does Bumble work for guys? I tried it to find out.
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How does Bumble work for guys? I tried it to find out.

We didn’t have a Sadie Hawkins dance at Coon Rapids High School, but we did have “Morp.” You know, prom spelled backward, where the girls ask the guys. I always got excited when it came along, hoping that the girl I had a crush on would ask me to the dance. As is the case with many teenage dreams, that never happened.

Fast-forward twelve years, and not much has changed. The guys are still “supposed to” ask the gals out. Depending on whom you’re talking to, this is either good, bad, or neutral. It’s traditional, sexist, or just, I don’t know, normal?

But now there is a mechanism attempting to reverse that deeply embedded male-initiated dating ritual. Introducing Bumble, the Sadie Hawkins of dating apps.

According to Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe, the app is supposed to give women a “bump up” in mobile dating. Born from the frustrations that Wolfe and women she knew would experience on Tinder, the idea is for women to have more control over the situation. In traditional dating apps, when women matched with guys, they would hesitate to initiate a conversation for fear of seeming weird or desperate. On Bumble, women have no choice in the matter. They must open the lines of communication—and the men can do nothing but wait.

I’m single and still a little enchanted with the idea of a cute girl asking me to a dance, so I decided to see what all the buzz was about (sorry not sorry). Here’s what I gleaned from one month spent on the world’s first self-proclaimed “feminist” dating app.

01. The view from the passenger seat isn’t so bad.

As a Tinder cofounder and former VP of marketing before an ugly breakup, Wolfe has tried to distance Bumble from her so-called “baby,” Tinder. But Bumble looks and feels about the same, with a few enhanced features—the most obvious of them being that women must initiate conversations. As a guy, I can definitely say that it does change the whole dynamic of the app and really does set itself apart from its competitors, such as Tinder and Hinge.

Thanks to these new “rules,” two things happened. The first was fairly predictable: I got a little taste of what it might be like to be a woman, waiting for her suitor to make a move. Second: It seemed like a higher percentage of matches led to an actual conversation (Bumble claims 60 percent).

Why more conversations? Let me let you in on a little secret, ladies: Men are far more inclined to pursue a relationship with a woman if we think she’s into it. And, to be even more honest, we typically can’t tell the difference between “playing hard to get” and “get lost.” To save our own pride, we usually assume it’s “get lost.”

But if you start it off by showing interest, that changes things. This phenomenon isn’t all that different from real life. Approaching a woman when out and about is always a bit risky. I’ll look for cues from a woman that show she wants me to strike up a conversation with her. Bumble is great in that regard because nothing says, “Hey, I would like to talk to you” like saying, “Hey! I would like to talk to you.” (Or some more clever introduction.)

02. Ladies have a thing or two to learn about introductions.

There’s something really satisfying (dare I say empowering?) about women having to break the ice. Leading in a relationship takes work, and while that’s a responsibility I’m happy to take on, it was nice to take a little break and see how women approach an initiation.

Not all of the women I interacted with on Bumble embraced taking the lead wholeheartedly. I can’t say I blame them. Bumble opened my eyes to why women are often laughing at guys’ feeble attempts to strike up a conversation. It’s hard enough for us, and we’ve been told our whole lives that this aspect of courtship is our responsibility. Women aren’t necessarily used to making the first move, and initiating conversation kind of sucks sometimes. You want to stand out in a crowd but not in a way that would be off-putting. You want to communicate that you’re attracted to them without coming on too strong. In other words, easier said than done.

Take it from a guy who does a lot of initiating, sometimes it’s hard to craft that perfect opener. But that’s just the beginning. Making the first move means putting yourself out there in a somewhat vulnerable position. But it’s usually worth it to take the chance even if true love doesn’t ensue. So ladies, my advice to you is to be confident with your first move. It’s attractive to see a woman who knows what she wants and is willing to put herself out there.

03. Initiative is a double-edged sword.

Not all women are convinced that the Bumble rules offer an improvement over the current M.O. of online dating. When I described the app to a woman named Vicki, she became visibly agitated. “It’s just another way to let guys off the hook!” she said.

Vicki’s most vocalized frustrations with online dating is that it perhaps attracts men who already lack initiative. The way she sees it, wouldn’t we all rather be doing more of the “dating” and less of the “online”? She finds herself initiating conversations online because she gets sick of waiting for guys to make the first move. In her eyes, Bumble is simply making it easier for men to be lazy.

I can see where she’s coming from. Sure, I may have enjoyed letting the women take the wheel for a bit, but, just like in that magical time leading up to Morp, I imagined all sorts of gorgeous women pining for my attention, practically fighting each other for the opportunity to be my date. But again, just like in high school, my imagination was fairly prodigious compared to reality.

In reality, Bumble is difficult for a guy who is willing to initiate, who is happy to do what’s necessary to keep things moving in the right direction. If you’re a guy who likes to take initiative, the fact that she might not send a message in the first twenty-four hours (yes, there’s a time limit) was frustrating. While I get that this is sort of what Bumble intends, it also points to what Vicki was alluding to: Those leader-type guys aren’t going to be flocking here.

04. We all need to be more intentional with our follow-through.

My month on Bumble may not have brought me face-to-face with my future bride, but it was a worthwhile experience nonetheless. It helped me get a sense of what it’s like to be a woman in this whole dating game.

I frequently hear my female friends discuss dates they are not super-excited about, often wondering to themselves why they’re even going. But, reluctantly, they do go through with the lackluster date. I used to wonder at this, but now I know exactly how they feel.

On Bumble I sometimes found myself more inclined to converse with a woman simply because she started the conversation. As a guy who has initiated his fair share of conversations with women, I know what it’s like to put yourself out there, and I feel it’s the least I can do to respond with something substantial. That being said, because I didn’t make the first move, I didn’t necessarily feel the need or desire to continue the conversation in the same way I would have had I initiated out of interest.

Whether Bumble ever accomplishes its grandiose designs to level the playing field between women and men in the mobile dating world and beyond remains to be seen. I can say that it has helped me gain a little insight into a woman’s perspective, and I can imagine that it helps women conversely. And if you ask me, helping men and women understand each other a little better is a big win already.

When it really comes down to it, it doesn’t matter to me who gets to make the first move. In fact, I’m not sure how much of a privilege it actually is. What matters to me is that I make a connection with someone. However that happens to work out is just fine for me.

Photo Credit: Corynne Olivia Photography