Dattch: New Lady-Dating App That Could Change Everything Launches in US

I gotta be honest with you guys — it’s pretty hard out there for a single weirdo on the Internet.  When it comes to online dating, a queer lady’s options are limited in terms of what works and what doesn’t.  Autostraddle has written extensively about OKCupid’s triumphs and failures, and some of my fellow writers and I spent the last two weeks putting together an all-star post (coming soon!) about our collectively miserable experience using Tinder, the hot new mobile app all the kids are using. What we found using Tinder was that it was difficult to meet like-minded women no matter what, and while some people invariably do meet and form significant relationships from dating websites and apps, the system itself is still quite male-focused and alienating. There is infinite room for improvement.

With the advent of new dating app Dattch, it seems that our prayers may have been answered. Developed in the UK by actual human women, Dattch (pronounced like “catch,” presumably unrelated to funny straight person Rachel Dratch) exists specifically for queer women — which means less creepy messages from straight cis dudes, and more opportunities for gay ladies to build their own communities for themselves.

I spoke to CEO and co-creator Robyn Exton, who was in San Francisco preparing to unleash Dattch upon the American public. (Dattch had just won “Best Design” at the Launch Awards, and Exton was gearing up to demo the app at this weekend’s Lesbians Who Tech Conference.) Dattch was founded in 2012 by Exton, Emily Moulder and front-end developer Vesna Planko, and was intended to be the antithesis of every Internet dating program currently out there, in that it caters exclusively to women interested in women (While the app may expand to include trans men, genderqueer individuals and other non-binary folks, the current focus is on bisexual and lesbian women).

Exton explained that she initially worked for a branding agency who had an Internet dating service as a client, which piqued her interest in building a better service.  When a good friend broke up with her girlfriend, she and her other friends began the process of helping the newly single girl sign up for the most popular dating app in the UK at the time. Suddenly, it dawned on Exton: “I thought, this is terrible!  Why are we doing this?!  I use apps frequently, I use websites frequently, and this design was just horrific… so I decided to quit my job and start making it!” In September 2013, the app launched in the UK, and it’s about to make its stateside debut.

What a coincidence, I just happen to be in the market for some babes.

What a coincidence, I just happen to be in the market for some babes.

Upon downloading Dattch, the first thing that stood out to me was how different the profile pages were from any service I’d used before. While you’re still required to fill in typical information like your age, height and sexual orientation, Dattch also allows users to upload photos to explain the sorts of things they’re into, or fill out little text blurbs (some prompts are provided to get you started, but most are completely up to you). Exton explains:

“We were running this private test and we were looking at how girls used it.  We found that some things just weren’t working, and in all previous dating apps previously. Tech is a very male-led industry, and all the apps were being designed about how men behave, the triggers that men need, how men communicate, and what they need to see to send a message. We used to have really simple profile pages with just a picture, and every message would start with ‘Hey, you look nice…’ The reply rate was shit, because you’ve got nothing else to ask! I think generally girls are really bad at describing themselves; they always undersell. They want to manage expectations and don’t want to over-promise. So if they were describing themselves, they weren’t doing a great job of it. What we found was that everyone’s got an amazing library of photographs that really showcase who they are. If you ask someone to describe themselves, they’re like, ‘uh… I’m tall…? I like.. technology?’ If you share the images, you can show how you live your life and you can easily get a sense of who someone is, and it’s like, ‘yeah, we could go on a date!’  Like, ‘oh, you’re into pop-up restaurants, me too!’  ‘Oh, you like playing sport at the weekend and squash, yeah, I love squash.’ It’s a much easier way to explain who you are, but it’s also an easier way to start a conversation, because you have all these little hooks that make it easier to get talking.”

Eventually, Dattch will connect with other apps like Instagram and Pinterest to help round out one’s profile and showcase the user’s personality.

If you’re having trouble saying hi to girls or aren’t really sure where to start, Dattch offers a game called “Would You Rather?,” which pits random girls against activities, cute animals or food (a daring twist on “Hot or Not”). Gotta tell you, it didn’t matter how appealing the girl seemed, I always chose her over things like “squid” or “going to the gym,” but it’s a rare bird who would triumph over this:

Please don't make me choose between girls and pizza.

Please don’t make me choose between girls and pizza.

If you both choose each other over the competition, the app will notify both of you, which ought to prompt a mutually flattering conversation. Frankly, if a cute girl chose me over pizza, I’d be gobsmacked (and honored).

After having spent the last two weeks flipping through cute girls on Tinder only to be met with an endless and confusing barrage of cis men and straight women’s profiles, I was relieved to learn about Dattch’s dedication to keeping their app free of such infiltrators. As of press time, users must apply for a membership, and they are screened largely by their Facebook account — not just the gender listed on the applicant’s Facebook profile, but through a set of other characteristics that help Dattch establish that said applicant is a real live human being and not a troll. In cases where Facebook is not available or the applicant’s gender remains unclear, Dattch will go as far as to call the applicant to discuss; while they have met an alarming multitude of men this way, they are dedicated to creating a safe space for the women who use their service.

“[It’s] possibly our most controversial thing, but we’re gonna stick with it for the moment,” Exton said. “It was always one of my biggest problems on other sites — just every couple of weeks, getting a message from someone who was a guy, or someone where it’s like, I JUST DON’T THINK YOU’RE REAL. We’ve just done the verification from the outset, so we don’t have a history of people to go through — everyone has been verified, which means you don’t have to ask the question, you just know that it’s real people there.”

I asked if Exton felt that such a screening process would be possible as the app grows in popularity. “If someone is determined enough, they’re going to get through it — we can’t 100% guarantee that there will never be a fake account, but we’ll do everything in our power to make sure that there isn’t.”

The greatest thing about having an app solely for queer women is that it doesn’t need to just be for dating; girls who are just beginning to figure out their sexuality can explore through the app, and others have met and become friends. Exton explained that it will hopefully soon be possible to set one’s profile on “girlfriend mode,” which will allow users to meet each other and access the app’s blogs while explicitly communicating that they’re only there for friends. Dattch is designed to get women talking to each other in any context, and it feels much friendlier than its rivals. Anything that helps bring women together without pressure or expectations is certainly welcome, and the app’s flexibility allows it to do exactly that.

Dattch is now available in the iTunes app store in the U.S., and it officially launches in San Francisco today.  Currently, Dattch is only available in San Francisco, but will be rolling out in other US cities quite soon.  Its release in other cities will largely be contingent upon how many people download the app in specific cities; the goal is to hit a critical mass of 2,000 interested applicants before Dattch can be fully available in that area.  If you would like to see Dattch in your city, shoot them an email.  The idea is that as Dattch’s creators become more familiar with the different kinds of queer women in different American cities, they can tailor the app to meet those women’s interests.  It’s a pleasure to see technology being created with women’s needs being considered so carefully, and I look forwards to meeting the girl of my dreams, one who (maybe) likes me more than pizza.

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Stef Schwartz is the Music Editor and self-appointed Vapid Fluff Editor at Autostraddle.com. She's a rock'n'roll jack-of-all-trades, vegan crusader and legit professional weirdo. She lives with her cat Scully in the wilds of Brooklyn, where she plays a bunch of instruments in some bands or whatever. Follow her on twitter.

Stef has written 110 articles for us.

65 Comments

  1. Thumb up 1

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    Judging by the “people near me” all being more than five thousand miles away, I’m apparently the only woman in Tokyo (or even Asia) to sign up so far. I’ll hold onto the app because I love the idea of a space only for queer women.

  2. Thumb up 1

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    Oooohh, this is interesting and exciting. Definitely a huge step up from other dating sites. It’s all too true. It’s either the creepers or straight women who have checked interested in women in their profile by some mistake. -__-”

    I like how it’s pointed out the devs definitely took into consideration how to actually screen the people who use this. That’s something I think something as big as E-Harmony lacks. I look forward to seeing it becoming more available and developed.

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      Hey Wenda – they do absolutely include trans women! They call or email applicants to screen for cis dudes just trying to meet lesbians, which are surprisingly easy to weed out. They sort that out by asking how the applicant identifies – there’s a bit more information at that telegraph link.

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        That’s good to know :-) I wonder if it is set up well for poly folk…if anybody else in Portland ever signs up anyway. 3 people in L.A. doesn’t sound promising. At least it supports older devices though; was a bit disappointed in Wing Ma’am for being iOS 7 only.

    • Thumb up 5

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      and objectifying. i’d prefer if it was like “would you want to do/eat/play with this thing WITH this woman?” not “instead of” this woman. “Would you eat pizza with this woman?” “Would you take photos of this cat with this woman?” or to keep with the would you rather angle… no I can’t see how the would you rather angle is good when you’re using it in this way of choosing a person over something else. Reminds me of hotornot.com.

  3. Thumb up 12

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    i remember reading about them before and i’m so glad to hear that they are expanding. its is so true about how women undersell themselves. i also really appreciate that they are trying to create a safe space, saw this on the links you provided and while i don’t understand whats wrong with some people it helps to feel a little more at ease with the process

    phone calls the Dattch team screened

    Robyn: Hi this is Robyn from Dattch calling to confirm your account registration. Is now a good time to talk?
    Voice 1: Yeah now’s fine.
    Robyn: OK, great, we just a have a few standard questions to get you verified. Do you identify as male or female?
    Voice 1: I identify as male.
    Robyn: OK Dattch is actually a dating app for lesbian and bisexual women, can I ask why you’re trying to sign up?
    Voice 1: I want to meet women.
    Robyn: Right well as a lesbian app, we’re not actually able to accept male identified users at this time.
    Voice 1: So uh, do you work for Dattch?
    Robyn: Yes I work for Dattch.
    Voice 1: What are you doing at the moment?
    Robyn: I’m working, I’m at work.
    Voice 1: Where are you?
    Robyn: I’m at work.
    Voice 1: Do you go on dates?
    Robyn: Not with you, thanks bye.

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    Not to derail, because this is a great article on a cool project, but it seems less than ideal to imply that all “transmen” are non-binary, as in

    “the app may expand to include transmen, genderqueer individuals and other non-binary folks”

    Might just have been a quirk of grammar, but also the term “transmen” isn’t so great, since it implies that trans men are an altogether different type of men than cis men (when, in reality, some do think of themselves that way while others don’t).

    Sorry for that copy-editing intervention! Couldn’t help myself…

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      oh absolutely did not mean to imply that whatsoever, but thank you for pointing that out! i should have been more careful in making that distinction and you’re totally right.

  5. Thumb up 3

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    This sounds like a really, really really awesome app. I like that it is also for those that are still coming out and that it’s safe. I don’t know of any other dating app that screens so thorough. I am certainly going to check it out.

    I also checked out that link about why men go on this app. The comments were worth a laugh or two. My favorite was the one that said it was sexist. Sometimes I really wonder how I have any faith in humanity left.

  6. Thumb up 2

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    “…will hopefully soon be possible to set one’s profile on “girlfriend mode,” which will allow users to meet each other and access the app’s blogs while explicitly communicating that they’re only there for friends…”

    This will save soooo much time.

    I’m taking a dating break (going on 3 months) for the sake of my sanity, but this has piqued my interest. I’ll check it out. Once it becomes available for Android.

    • Thumb up 21

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      The most recent data I’ve seen shows that 74% of all cell phone users have smartphones now. The snarkiness and labeling seems rather misplaced.

      Why can’t people just be supportive of the launch of something that is potentially great for the lesbian community? The development had to start somewhere… It would be unreasonable to expect a service like this to launch on all platforms in all markets right out of the gate.

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      Given that another recent article on this site noted that 34% of queer women experienced food insecurity last year, this comment isn’t off base. Among my queer friends, only 3 of us have smart phones; they’re expensive, and queer women are particularly likely to have limited resources. It seems like this app really answers a need that some people have felt, and that’s terrific. But it isn’t inclusive (of genderqueer people or of people of various economic and class backgrounds) and it sounds like it isn’t really meant to be (at least at this point). Being exclusive and targeted may make it better able to do what it’s set out to do. I think it’s fair to note that there’s a group of people who currently don’t have access to this app.

  7. Thumb up 12

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    I was kind of upset by the level of precautions they have to take when they accept new users. I’m afraid this might be an obstacle for their business growth if the app takes off… STRAIGHT CIS MEN, WHY DO YOU WANT TO RUIN EVERYTHING FOR THE REST OF US

  8. Thumb up 6

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    I emailed them right away to ask for Dattch to open in my city, and I was really impressed by the response. Within 10 minutes Emily from Dattch had written back a really friendly email telling me my city now has a red pin on their map of the US and they’ll expand as soon as they get some more requests. Other Houston ladies, get on that!

  9. Thumb up 3

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    Yeah, any word on whether this is just for single monogamous people? I may have to go see for myself and report back! Early adopters are often the best people to meet. Oh, to have the OKCupid of 10 years ago back again. I digress.

  10. Thumb up 2

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    I haven’t tried out Dattch as I am very happily in a relationship (although like the idea of girlfriend mode), BUT I have seen Robyn do some techy talks/streams about this and it sounds great, and I have a friend who has used it and says it’s really good. I really hope it takes off. Totally agree a secure web version and an Android version are essential. I don’t like typing/messaging too much on my mobile – apparently unlike the rest of the world.

  11. Thumb up 7

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    Y’all, I’m at the Lesbians Who Tech Summit in SF this weekend and Dattch pitched yesterday and it was magic. Just fyi, try this app if you’re in SF and they have plans to roll out where people request it to roll out. I feel like the entire audience all downloaded it at once.

  12. Thumb up 1

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    I wish they included something in the FAQ about how they define a woman. I saw above that transladies are included, but the website should say that. As a faab two-spirit person, the “women women women” part makes me too uncomfortable to join.

  13. Thumb up 4

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    The idea that cis-het men think that joining a lesbian dating site is a good idea is both laughable and a little scary. Like, are they really that blinded by ‘social norms’ that they think we are all secretly going to extreme lengths to suck their ding-a-lings? Just. No.

  14. Thumb up 4

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    I’m super impressed with the lengths these creators are taking to ensure cis men don’t clutter the app pool.

    I’m a little curious as to why trans men could potentially be added when cis men are forbidden. I can understand the inclusion for non-binary identities, but…this kind of suggests to me that the app is buying into the “trans men are just former lesbians so it’s okay to date them!” idea.

    • Thumb up 0

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      I can’t speak for Daatch, but I’ve been involved with a social group which uses “faab OR female-identified” as its membership criteria. It obviously doesn’t lead to a women’s-only space, but basically everyone who fits that criteria has a really good chance of being respectful of women and not an asshole. I imagine that’s what they’re going for.

      And at a guess, if they did start allowing nb and tm members, they’d probably have an “I’m interested in…” option much like other sites, but personally (as a bi trans woman who often feels uncomfortable around cisdudes) I would not mind sharing online dating space with trans guys. YMMV, of course. :)

  15. Thumb up 1

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    I signed up back when the app first launched in the US but apparently I missed the “only SF” part. I later received an email informing me of a glitch that let me sign up and how I needed to spread the work to get this app in my city (Jacksonville, FL). So until it’s available for my area I’m left purusing through profiles of ladies completely out of reach.

    What. A. Tease.

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