I moved back to New York from Cairo in January of 2014, and among the biggest culture shocks was American Tinder.In Cairo, there was the occasional woman, mostly Russian tourists on holiday, using the mobile dating app; in New York, I met a torrent of instant flirtation.
Patterns emerged: apparently almost every woman under 30 in this city "Loves whiskey," is really into Hallmark-caliber affirmation quotes, and fake moustaches. So much swiping, so much chatting, only to be disappointed in the flesh. The app represents an enormous market (Tinder claims it matches over 10 million horny users a day) and a mammoth valuation (as high as $5 billion).
With a mix of a huge crowd and lots of money, it would make sense for Tinder to attract a more industrious determined type of user: sex workers.
For escorts (and their backers), Tinder's anonymity and ease of use make it a natural fit.
Of all the dating sites, a photo-based app like Tinder is most like a billboard: it advertises only your best features, with no screen-space for blemishes.
The site, which advertises itself as a dating page, notes that it was created by "a handful of forward-thinking women who realized that women like hooking up as much as men do." The page is convoluted, and not nearly as appealing as Tinder; it looks like one of those websites that flood your screen as pop-up ads on You Porn. I wanted to get in touch and confirm my suspicions, so I made a profile.
Upon signing in, inputting some information—name, age, city of residence—and being encouraged to pay for a premium package, I finally came to the personal pages of the women I had seen on Tinder.
The point: it seemed like users could easily skip the chit-chat and just pay someone for sex without leaving their i Phone.
From terms of service, it forbids commercial solicitation of any kind—including "advertising or soliciting any user to buy or sell any products or services not offered by the Company." Yet and still, escorts on Tinder appear to have become enough of an issue to prompt New Mexico State Senator Jacob Candelaria to blast the app specifically in his attempt to "clean up" dating sites. Is there some cyber pimp wearing Geordi La Forge glasses running the show via smartphone? It didn't take all that long to understand what was really going on.
"Our laws can't and don't keep pace with technological advancement and there will always be people looking to exploit those loopholes," Candelaria told KOB Eyewitness News 4. Our courts have said our pimping laws are not applicable to the internet."So, just how does it work? Far from being the wild west of the sex trade, with programmers teaming up with escorts to maximize profits, Tinder is suffering from a plague of spambots. After about an hour, these profiles disappeared from my Match list.
It is quite possible that at some point recently there really were flesh and blood escorts using Tinder, but the new and ubiquitous ones flooding my stream seem nothing more than artificial profiles. After matching with one of the women/bots advertising their services I messaged them, "Hey! I tried this on and off over the course of 24 hours.
Eventually, escorts stopped matching with me altogether, despite still showing up first whenever I opened Tinder.