If online dating were Thanksgiving dinner, Match.com would be the awkward but mostly kind uncle to OKCupid's hip cousin-in-law. (EHarmony would be the grandparent who won't stop talking to you about the homofascism sweeping the nation under Obamacare.)
So it's no surprise to me that, while OKCupid has long allowed bisexuality to be an option for users' listed sexualities -- though it's still not great about gender -- Match.com is finally getting with the program. Sort of.
Up until recently, users who wanted to date dudes and ladies had to create two separate profiles, one for each. Given that Match.com requires payment for its services, this meant that those daters who wanted to bat for every team, so to speak, had to fork over at least twice as much. In practice, I imagine that the Dater On A Budget had to have a lot of stern talks with herself about which gender she really wanted to bang more. Now, Match.com has kindly conceded that it will allow bimos to pay just one rate for both profiles -- they'll just have to chat with a customer service representative first.
First of all, I would love to be an NSA operative listening in on one of those conversations, especially if they were conducted by people who maybe don't quite identify as bi but also don't want to unnecessarily narrow their dating pool. "Well, I date men and women, but I tend to get more emotionally attached to men and sexually attracted to women, and gender is really more of a spectrum anyway and I'm down to get down with people all over it. Maybe you could just give me like five profiles?"
Obviously, the clear answer here is for Match.com to drag itself into the 21st century and let everyone state their preferences on one profile. But even if it did, I'm not sure bisexuals would actually have an easier time of online dating.
As I recently discussed with a very drunk, very earnest bro who was trying to come out to me in a bar on St. Patrick's Day, bisexuals get a lot of flack from every turn. We're either flaky, unreliable, "just going through a phase," or prone to being distracted from our partners by any pretty pair of legs that walks our way. And online, that stereotype is even further exacerbated. Though online dating hardly brings out the best in anyone, identifying as a bi person on dating sites seems to bring out hordes of creepy dudes angling for three-ways and, um, pretty much no ladies. Ever.
This is not an exaggeration, though it is heavily based on anecdotal evidence. According to my friends and loved ones, however, it is damn hard for bisexuals out there to convince potential mates -- particularly women, for some reason -- that they are just as viable of a candidate to trade 14 awkward messages about "Doctor Who" as anyone else.
I'm sure that this is a consequence of the "All roads lead to dick" misconception: Bi guys are obviously just at their first-evolution form before they level up into Full Gay, and bi women are trying to shake out all the cobwebs from their orifices before settling down with a nice young man they can regale with stories of their "wild" twenties. So guess it's no surprise that a lot of women who believe that stereotype wouldn't be down for getting in contact: Nobody likes to be seen as a convenient genital-rest area on the highway to Cocktown.
Still, though, you might be surprised at the different responses an adjusted listed sexuality can garner. When I first moved to San Francisco, with my heart a little cracked and body ready for action, my then-roommate actually advised me to go the Match.com route and create two separate profiles, one for men and one for women.
"Lesbians won't hit on you otherwise," she explained.
I was obviously too lazy to actually undergo the trouble of making two profiles (and two appropriately witty user names), but for a while I did try switching back and forth from "straight" to "gay" to "bisexual" to see whether I'd have more luck with a certain demographic. And lo, my roommate was right: Though the number of dudes messaging me remained more or less the same, my "straight" profile prompted a way higher percentage of thoughtful personal questions as opposed to idle screwvitations.
And I was much more likely to get contacted by women when my profile claimed I was gay. Suddenly, I found myself actually receiving replies -- and phone numbers -- from all the hot girls in the Mission who had listed their interests as "burritos" and "disdain." After weeks of near-silence, it was downright heady.
Obviously, though, this deception didn't last long. I have spent far too long waving my Bi Pride Banner to furl it just to get some pussy; for that matter, I didn't like the idea of tricking people into sleeping with me, period. In the long run, that tiny detail of being attracted to an entire additional swathe of the gender spectrum was bound to come up. In the short term, it just made me feel like a slime.
I suppose it's no different than, say, claiming you're a few inches taller than your doctor thinks or that you've read a few more China Miéville books than is strictly factual. On the other hand, I love dating bi people, so I'd be pretty annoyed if someone pretended to be into lots of genders just to get me into the sack. And I'm a big believer in being as honest as possible with people from the get-go, anyway.
Still, I have friends even now who take the time to create two profiles, or who tweak their public sexuality to try to weed out weirdos. Many queer girls I know will just list themselves as being gay, because they figure dudes will message them anyway (they are correct). Others will, like I did, swing their profiles back and forth depending on their mood. Sure, they're not being 100% truthful -- but, they rationalize, they're also not fighting to make a good first impression through layers of ingrained stereotypes.
In an ideal world, obviously, everyone would feel comfortable being completely truthful about their sexual preferences on their dating profiles. But I can't help but wonder if, by forcing its bimos to have two separate profiles, Match.com is actually giving them a bit of an advantage over their counterparts at other sites. It's not like the users are fooling potential dates on purpose; they're just making the best out of a broken system. And I bet they're getting contacted far more often than the rest of us, even if it's thanks to an aggravatingly outdated conception of bisexuality as two separate mutually exclusive sexual identities.
At least they don't have to pay extra for it this time, I guess.
Kate will never claim not to be bisexual on Twitter: @katchatters