It is a common internet business model. You offer a free service which is largely useful, but has less functionality than the version which your “premium” customers pay for. On the music service Pandora you can pay to vanish the ads. Many free online games have the capacity to buy better tools or weapons or more stylish apparel for your avatar.
OK Cupid uses this model. You can not, for example, sort for people who polyamorous without paying the service. Last month I finally caved and gave them $20 for a month subscription so I could filter the way I wanted to. Smart move. [My clever friend Mike Ewall thinks that you don’t to pay for this. So you should certainly try without.]
When my distance range was set wide enough I found out that I had nearly 99% matches with all the residents of Tupelo North (ex-communards who defected to Northhampton) Angie, Ethan and Clementine. No surprise here, they are people I already had strong affinity with and connections to.
There were also now high match polyamorous people I had never met or seen online before, including Gypsy. [Before my friends working on cultural appropriation get upset about my use of this pseudonym, she has Romani blood, speaks Romanian (while not quite Romani language, but related), born in the region and has legitimate claim to this heritage, though she does not take it.] She left central Europe when she was 8 and has a charming euromutt English accent.
I read her profile, looked at many of the hundreds of questions we had both answered on OKC. We flirted online, then moved to email, text messages and phone. On the way up to this last weekends Point A meeting we got together for a couple hours in the DC suburbs waiting for the rush hour traffic to clear.
I can’t remember the last time I went on “a date” in most senses of this term. But neither of us had trouble finding things to talk about. She is a fierce atheist, polyglot (conversant in 5 languages), home schooling mom and CEO of her own manufacturing company. Her former occupations are as diverse as molecular biologist, classicist and stripper. I arrived worried she would be intimidatingly smart. But these fears quickly vanished, smart certainly but hardly intimidating – warm, quirky, open. It was a lovely experience, with someone I never would have found without this service. I’m rethinking my critique of OKC.
There will certainly be another date. Stay tuned.
Update Aug 2015: She is now one of the most important people in my life.
[It turn out, as a novice user, i significantly over-simplified both the status and the politics of the polyamory identity/recognition struggle within OK Cupid in this post. Fortunately, my new friend Tara has added a long comment to this this post which gives the background and history. In this case you might want to read the comments to this post before the post itself.]
Some months back i joined a secret polyamory group on Facebook (which means it can only be seen by its members). One of the interesting aspects of this group was that there was an internal list of links to people’s OK Cupid (OKC) profiles and a few other links. Many dating sites and sex positive social network sites use pseudonyms to hide people’s identity, so this key inside the secret poly group was quite valuable in seeing who was in the group and how they present themselves. Almost everyone had an OKC profile, so i thought i should get one as well. Once i put it up, Cassandra heavily edited it for me.
One of the problems with OKC is that it was not designed to match poly people very well. Under relationship status you could be single or married or dating, but there was no “Open Relationship” option, which is quite important to dating sites. OKC fixed that this week. We will see if this leads to a different experience for me with the system.
i must confess an odd relationship with the OKC system. i want to be validated by having people who it seems i am good matches with, but i am not super interested in finding romantic partners this way, at least i don’t think i am. It has been slightly frustrating to find people who are 95% matches who have no interest in polyamory, since i have answered a number of questions about this, it seems like there is something wrong with the OKC weighting algorithm (or perhaps everyone else is just dodging all the questions on poly).
OK Cupid does have a number of revealing and curious statistics about it’s own users. For example if your desire is to get a lot of messages from OKC as a straight female user, then you are much better off with some people thinking you attractive and others thinking you are ugly, then you are with the same number of people finding you beautiful but many men finding you cute.
The service is free. You can add your own questions and answer the ones you like. It is in pretty wide use (which is important for network effects). It does not discriminate against non-heterosexual users (as a surprising number of dating sites do). And while it is not the only game in town, it is a good game. If you want to be in this world at all.
Other Polyamory Blog Posts:
- It is more than a label: Central versus Primary
- How much do we take care of monogamous partners? Old Guard versus Young Turks
- Perhaps this media attention is not a good thing: The problems of Polynormativity
And the latest news from Scientific American: Polyamory may be Good for You
Let’s back up a moment and assume you don’t know much about the online dating world and OkCupid in particular. [i will confess i have never actually been on OkCupid, so i am telling you my story of what i think is happening there.] One of the things you perhaps don’t know about me is that i am a matchmaker of sorts. I help people find communities, romantic partners and allies in being able to live in the countries that they wish to reside in.
For finding a romantic partner there is no better service (if you are reading this blog) than OkCupid*. It is free (it has ads), it is vast, it has fun surveys and quizs to fill out to help you find people who might have similar values to you and you can write your own quizs and contribute to the content of the social network. It is groovy in three dozen ways; it is to online dating what wikipedia is to online general knowledge. 7 out of 8 friends or allies who have found new romantic partners in the last two years have found them through this service, it is very powerful.
And with any great power comes great danger. For example what would you think if someone answered “yes” to the following question:
Have you ever been in a situation where you tried, but for various reasons did not succeed, in having sexual intercourse with an adult by using or threatening to use physical force (twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.) if they did not cooperate?
This question and others like it are being asked in surveys on OkCupid, but they were developed for criminal institutions to try to discover rapists, who had not already been caught. You will likely not be surprised that the people who said “yes” to this statement are found statistically more likely to be involved in a rape assault. And it turns out that there are a fair few people who answer yes to this question.
So you put this new filter on and a request or message comes thru and the computer tells you this person is high risk. Then presumably you block or discourage the person who gets the red flag. Might you possibly be blocking the suitor of your dreams? Probably not and who cares. The pool is big enough so that we should be throwing away all the fish that are likely poisoned.
The filter is not perfect, of course. Some folks interested in sexual assault are smart enough to get that this question is a trap, so add on apps are no alternative for good judgement. But it is another addition to the portfolio of tools which are helping push back on rape and build a sexy consent culture.
* I should say if you are a Christian looking for another Christian you might have better luck at eHarmony than OkCupid. But i would not recommend this site politically, because it does not permit people to search for intimates of the same gender.
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