Skip to main content

The most crass dating app ever?

By Peggy Drexler, Special to CNN
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Tue October 29, 2013
The Carrot app is all about bribery. You can offer
The Carrot app is all about bribery. You can offer "plastic surgery or a tank of gas," the press release says.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New app lets you bribe a potential date with "plastic surgery or a tank of gas"
  • Peggy Drexler: Creator says "women like presents like dogs like treats"; is he serious?
  • Drexler: "Sugar daddy" creator's been accused of promoting prostitution with apps
  • App targets the crass and unromantic, she says, and takes them out of the dating pool

Editor's note: Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @drpeggydrexler.

(CNN) -- "There's only one method of manipulation that has stood the test of time," begins the press release issued by Carrot Dating, a new dating app developed by MIT grad Brandon Wade. "Bribery."

In fact, it's this alleged truism -- which, by the way, isn't true at all given that highly effective methods of manipulation such as lying, rationalization, denial and guilt are still very much going strong -- that inspired Carrot Dating, "the world's first bribe-for-a-date app."

This app lets users entice potential partners into romantic outings by offering them gifts such as "plastic surgery or a tank of gas," because "messaging may get her interested, but bribery will get you a date."

Good god.

Peggy Drexler
Peggy Drexler

It's pretty clear the founders of this app, not to mention the author of the press release, are actively courting outrage -- a quote from the founder reads, goadingly, "Women like presents like dog like treats." But the fact that this level of misogyny is being monetized and marketed and put into practice is disturbing.

Someone, after all, gave this guy the funds to build the app and its companion website; Wade told reporters Carrot already has 30,000 users of both genders signed up. And misogynistic it is: Although women can bribe men to go out with them, too, taglines that include "Dangle Your Carrot!" imply which scenario Carrot Dating is aiming at.

Perhaps Wade is just trying to be cheeky. This isn't, after all, the first time he's been called a misogynist or sought to monetize sexism.

Carrot is just the latest in a fleet of dating sites Wade has founded. They include SeekingArrangements.com, a "sugar daddy dating" site that pairs young women with rich, older men; WhatsYourPrice.com, where men bid on dates with women; and MissTravel.com, which links up "attractive" women with "generous" men who want a travel companion.

All three have been accused of promoting prostitution, or at least a prostitutory ethos, and that's become something of a go-to for Wade. He gets bolder, not to mention richer, with every launch and with every piece of corresponding publicity, even if it's negative -- and unsurprisingly, most of it is.

"At its core, Carrot reinforces the notion that women can, and should, be bought"
Peggy Drexler

Such misogyny, even if employed as part of a marketing strategy or a business shtick, has considerable effects, none of which should be taken lightly. Misogyny is a serious form of bullying directed explicitly at women. Over time, it affects the way women think about themselves.

By casting men as the chasers and women as the chased, the values and actions encouraged by Carrot Dating promote sexism, violence against women and other gender imbalances that men and women have worked for years to counter. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology even found that vicarious exposure to misogyny, just simply witnessing such hostility against others, can create lower well-being among those not directly harassed.

Carrot Dating claims to be performing a service; that is, motivating people to go on dates with those they otherwise might reject, thereby removing some of the existing barriers to romance and "opening minds." Wade says Carrot Dating is entirely modern, set to even the playing field in a world where, he says, women have the upper hand and their pick of men.

But his app seeks to do this by validating the notion that it's normal to expect something from a date other than, say, good conversation or pleasant company; that going on a date should only happen if there's something material in it for you. Not exactly a recipe for true love.

But, then, Carrot Dating isn't really about opening people's minds and expanding their options. Or about true love.

It's about stirring up controversy, with hapless Carrot Dating users. At the same time, what he's stirring up is not victimless controversy. At its core, Carrot reinforces the notion that women can, and should, be bought -- the same attitude, by the way, that has made human trafficking a $34 billion business.

The upside: One could argue that sites such as Carrot Dating satisfy a certain, very specific demographic and serve to connect only like-minded singles. The site may be crass, superficial and self-loathing, but then again so are many people. Why not let them mate? Or at least meet.

The more of these people who date each other using sites such as Carrot, the fewer of them remain among those who might be looking for more in a partner than a free haircut or a new nose. Those who are attracted to Carrot Dating, or sites like it, know what they're getting. As for everyone else, well, at least they know what they're not.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peggy Drexler.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT