This dating app wants you to rate men-and hold them accountable

After swiping through Tinder and Bumble for a couple of years, 44-year-old Dave Brandner started noticing a recurring theme: Women were deeply frustrated with online dating and tired of being harassed. “I was reading about it in women’s profiles and hearing about it on dates,” Brandner, who’s based in Minneapolis, told the Daily Dot. “The three core frustrations I kept hearing about were profile misrepresentation, lewd and rude messaging, and then lack of follow-through.”

Flakiness, poor communication, and generally annoying behavior are fairly common across many dating apps, but women looking to meet men online face a number of risks far beyond a mildly annoying exchange. Sexual harassment, abuse, and doxxing are pervasive and widespread problems, yet many dating apps fail to provide adequate accountability mechanisms to prevent this kind of harassment before it starts. Though newer dating apps like Vibe offer creative approaches like video messaging to create a safer space for women, and others like Hinge match users based on mutual friends, Brandner felt these apps were missing one critical feature—a rating system.

Brandner, who previously ran a frozen yogurt business in Saint Paul, is now the CEO of Plum. The dating app, which will officially launch next month, allows women-seeking-men and men-seeking-men to rate their matches on three non-physical, character-based components using a strictly numerical system. Women are eligible to use the rating feature one time per match, and only after communication begins. Men who download Plum start with a five-star rating, like Uber and Lyft drivers, and can track their score side-by-side against the app average in the categories of profile authenticity, communication, and follow-through. “It’s a benchmark, so you can see how you’re stacking up against the competition,” Brandner said. “We’re kind of saying, ‘Men, let’s step up our game.’”

While enticing men to be kind as a competitive sport might seem counter-intuitive, Brandner emphasized that Plum’s primary goal is tackling sexual harassment. “Oftentimes, matches are made on dating apps that don’t result in dates, but there’s communication, and that’s were a lot of this harassment takes place.” Brandner believes men will think twice before sending hostile or lewd messages when they know their communication will be rated.

Plum isn’t the first or only dating app that lets women rate men, but previous attempts have been flawed. The Grade is a “female-friendly” app that allows both men and women to rate each other using a letter grade system, but as Brandner pointed out, a user with a low grade might not be motivated to stick around. The Lulu app began as a platform for women to anonymously rate the men they dated, including details about their physical appearance. This comment-based format proved to be controversial, facing backlash from critics who believed the app raised legal concerns, and men who simply didn’t like the idea that women were talking about them. Though the app no longer exists in its original form, it invited a cultural dialogue about the physical, life-or-death risks women face when they join an online dating app that extend far beyond an encounter with a date who talks too much or dresses poorly.

“As women, we’re always looking out for our safety, and whenever you go on a date or meet a stranger online or on an app, there’s always that question in your head: ‘Is this person safe? Am I going to get murdered?’” Plum advisory board member Alexandra Tweten told the Daily Dot. “I think it’s something that all women think about, and I think it’s important to have resources for checking people’s backgrounds and checking people out.”

And yet it’s unclear if any dating app is equipped to tackle the deep-seated behavioral patterns that contribute to sexual harassment and prevent abusive men from gaming the system. Or if a rating system could actually keep women safer once they’re actually on a date. According to Cleo Stiller, a Peabody Award-nominated health reporter and author of the soon-to-be-published book Modern Manhood: Conversations About the Complicated World of Being a Good Man Today, developing a product offering a long-term solution requires in-depth research to support Brandner’s theory, as well as collaboration with anti-harassment experts and organizations. “In theory, of course, this is a good idea, but keeping a fair system of checks and balances, protecting identity—this takes a lot of input from experts,” Stiller told the Daily Dot.

While some might be skeptical of a man creating an anti-harassment app for women, Plum’s founding CEO was journalist and author Jenna Birch, who worked with Brandner early in the app’s development to ensure it would avoid common dating app traps like “resume dating” that Birch uncovered while writing The Love Gap, a research-based guide to online dating. Brandner also brought on lead developer Mamta Yadav, who wrote 75% of the app’s code.

Tweten caught Birch’s attention through her Instagram account @byefelipe, where Tweten posts screenshots of messages from men who become hostile after being rejected or ignored on dating apps as a way to hold them accountable for their behavior. Birch was impressed by Tweten’s mission and offered her a seat on the board. Though Birch has since chosen to step down from her role as CEO to focus on her work as a freelance journalist, she has stayed on as a member of the advisory board, which includes the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health, Michele Promaulayko.

“I’ve really been wanting to see a dating app where there’s some accountability,” said Tweten. “I think Plum is that app, because women are able to rate the men after they talk to them, so hopefully men will be on their best behavior, knowing that there’s another person on the other end.”

Tweten is one of the 520 people (342 women and 178 men) who downloaded the private beta version of the app, and so far, she’s a fan. She believes a rating system like Plum’s could serve as an essential tool for keeping women safe on dating apps. “I’ve gone on so many dates with guys where I found out they had very toxic behaviors, and I wanted to let other women know not to date that guy, or wished there was some way that I could let other people know, ‘Hey, this guy is bad news,’” Tweten said. “A lot of these guys can be very charming and they wouldn’t necessarily give off red flags before you get involved with them.”

Brandner believes a built-in rating system could make dating apps safer for women by offering a user base of generally well-intentioned men, who in turn might enjoy a more rewarding user experience. “For men, the benefit to getting on Plum is you can stand out for your character. This is not ‘hot or not,’” Brandner explained. “You get boosted in the algorithm based on your rating. The higher the rating, the higher the algorithm you’re placed which can lead to more matches.”

As for Brandner himself, he currently has a 4.4 rating on his own dating app. His profile is a standout in the categories of communication and follow-through, but he’s currently dating someone who also uses the app and doesn’t plan to meet any of his matches in person—leaving the category of “profile authenticity” blank. Granted, these ratings are preliminary since the app doesn’t officially launch until June.

While it may be too early to predict whether an app like Plum can compete with dating app giants like Tinder and Bumble for widespread influence on dating culture, Brandner said it’s a step toward positive, lasting change. “We’re hopeful that women will shift their business now to a platform where they’re going to get a better, more respectful user experience, and that men, in turn, are going to follow,” Brandner said. “This is an app that women will have every reason to come join.”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Phicklephilly – Tinder Moments

Here’s another collection of interesting online dating profiles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Kimiko – Chapter 3 – The Devil Made Me Do It – Part 1

I finished work at the salon that Sunday, and headed over to Devil’s Alley. It’s a bar/restaurant at 20th and Chestnut. I’ve written about it before. It’s one of my go to spots in Rittenhouse. Southern cuisine, cool spot. Dining room on the ground floor, and the bar and the balcony seating upstairs. There are lots of cool light effects and plants. There’s actually a tree growing in the middle of the downstairs dining room.

They have the best spicy dry rub wings in the city. The food is great there and I’ve just learned that they do Happy Hour every day. Even Sundays! So I’ve come to the right spot for my first date with Kimiko.

I’m early of course. I head upstairs to the bar and order a vodka and tonic. The bartender Tim is charming and we chat a bit about work and how life is tough right now. Classic bar banter. I throw it back and order another just to take the edge off the day and this date.

I text her.

Me: I just arrived at Devil’s Alley.

K: One min.

Me: I’m at the bar upstairs.

Perfect. It’s 4:57 and she is right on time. Points for her punctuality.

The place is dead and I love that it’s quiet so we can chat and get to know each other when she and I dine together.

I hear the light click of heels coming up the metal stairs behind me. I turn and there before me is the girl from the profile on Bumble.

But better.

The angelic fine boned features of the face. Alive. Real. Her raven tresses tumble about her shoulders like ribbons of coal. The lovely almond eyes. The lean body. She’s wearing a black and white blouse, with a fitted short jacket over it paired with black clinging slacks and heels.

She’s absolutely perfect. We do the perfunctory awkward hug that doesn’t feel that bad at all. I catch a whiff of her lovely hair.

We grab a quiet table on the balcony. We sit and the bartender comes over and she gets a beer and I ask for another V&T. We exchange the usual greetings and pleasantries. She tells me she’s parked a few blocks away at 20th and Walnut.

We’re sipping our drinks and I tell the server we want to chat a bit but will be ordering food. I ask her how long she’s been on Bumble. She tells me only about two weeks. She’s been on two dates but it hasn’t yielded anything significant. One was just a no and the other didn’t look like his profile pics. That’s good, the shark has gotten this baby seal before she could disappear. I can tell by her expression and body language she’s telling the truth.

I decide to open and tell her about myself first. She’s fine with that. It’s time for Led Zeppelin to go onstage. I tell her I like to talk. She responds that she’s a good listener.

I give her the sales pitch. Single dad. Daughter, 22 lives with me. Former banker and advertising guy. Works at a tanning salon and investing in a fitness center in Rittenhouse. I talk about my family and where we’re from and a little bit of history. I tell her I want her to know who I am and I’m very honest and open. I want to put her at ease. It’s an easy play because it’s all true.

To a point.

We seem to be hitting on all cylinders. She jokingly brings up my profile. About how I make the statement, “If you don’t look like your profile pics, you’ll buy me drinks until you do.”

I assure her that she won’t be buying me any drinks tonight. (Smokin’ hot and better than her profile pics.)

She laughs and I see how sweet she is. She can tell I’m a gentleman, and that I’m old-fashioned and she likes that I like dating, romance and courtship. That puts her further at ease.

She tells me her story. It’s an old family. Older than mine but she’s the baby of the family. There are eight children! She was born in Hong Kong. (Funny how my girlfriend Cherie is in Japan right now and I’m with a Japanese girl. Oh, the irony of life!) A long time ago Great Britain ruled Hong Kong and Japan. But then they had to give all of the countries they ruled over back and Japan went under the rule of China. She said her family didn’t agree with Chinese rule and fled Hong Kong and came to the US long ago.

Her parents and extended family always worked in the restaurant business. Chinese restaurants of course. Asians are some of the greatest restauranteurs in the world. Think about it. They’re in every city in the civilized world and you never see them go out of business.

So that’s what they did when they came here. The whole family worked like dogs running a Chinese restaurant. Then they opened up another one, and then another. They did this to afford their future generations with a better life. That’s how it’s done. Just good hard-working, bright people. I admire them and their tireless work ethic. Good manners and discipline. All of the qualities instilled into my family by my parents.

She was married once and I tell her my history, but I keep it brief and light. Too early to get to deep in that on a first date. She was married for many years and it yielded two sons. They are both in medical school.

Do you see the pattern here? Come from a crappy place, get to America. Work your asses off so your kids and grand kids have the means to become anything they want. Something you could never have imagined doing. She is very proud of her boys. At this point we whip out the cell phones like people used to bring out the wallet photos of their kids in days of old.

“You’re daughter is gorgeous. Pretty as a model!”

“I do nice work, but the mold is broken and there’ll be no more.”

We order the spicy dry rub wings so she can try them. Because its happy hour you can get a little four plate. Perfect. She orders the chicken quesadilla and I go with the pulled pork sliders. I order for us both and ask her if that’s okay. She likes it and digs the manners and skills.

Ex girlfriend Annabelle didn’t like when I did that but she was a raging feminist, but she was just a fool who didn’t understand manners and chivalry because she never grew up with any good male role models. That’ll never happen to my daughter Lorelei.

It’s going well and I want to learn more about her. She met her husband here but they had a lot in common. Both from Hong Kong, and similar cultural and familial histories. They started dating and then married three months after that. She tells me that’s kind of stupid, but I tell her how I was married to my ex-wife after ten months of dating.

We share a laugh over that and there’s definitely a connection. Life happens. People make decisions and you just hope for the best. It was probably just everyone tired of the dating scene and you settle on what you hope is a good one and just go for it.

She looks at her watch.

“Do you have somewhere to be? I don’t want to keep you.”

“I have to put money in the meter.”

“That would be a brilliant out if you felt the date wasn’t going well. You could just not come back.”

She touches my arm, “Oh I would never do that! You’re funny. I’ll be right back!”

She apologizes and I tell her the Parking Authority in this city is vicious so she should go now.

Off she goes. I know she’ll be right back. She only put enough for two hours and if it hadn’t worked between us, she could have bolted. She’ll come back right?

She’s been sweet, and she touched my arm.

Kimiko is coming right back. I joke with the bartender how this could be her out.

 

Wait… What if she doesn’t come back?

 

Find out tomorrow on Phicklephilly!

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish everyday.

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Phicklephilly – Tinder Moments

Here is another bunch of interesting online dating profiles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Instagram: @phicklephilly                       Facebook: phicklephilly

 

 

 

 

Online Dating Safety For Men

https://va.topbuzz.com/s/bFNRR

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Instagram: @phicklephilly      Facebook: phicklephilly   Twitter: @phicklephilly

Protect Yourself from the Dangers of Internet Dating

https://va.topbuzz.com/s/RcdRR

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Male Model’s Tinder Experiment Reveals The Look That Makes Women Swipe Right

https://va.topbuzz.com/s/fYdRR

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Instagram: @phicklephilly      Facebook: phicklephilly   Twitter: @phicklephilly