Whatever the successes of feminism, it does not seem to have made women happy about the dating scene. A recent article in the New York Times describes a new venture that aims to resolve this issue. It’s called Lulu and it’s a kind of social networking program just for women that allows them to publicly rate the men they’ve dated:
On Lulu, women can rate men in categories — ex-boyfriend, crush, together, hooked-up, friend or relative — with a multiple-choice quiz. Women, their gender verified by their Facebook logins, add pink hashtags to a man’s profile ranging from the good (#KinkyInTheRightWays) to the bad (#NeverSleepsOver) to the ugly (#PornEducated). The hashtags are used to calculate a score generated by Lulu, ranging from 1 to 10, that appears under the man’s profile picture. (The company’s spokeswoman declined to explain the ratings algorithm.) Men can add hashtags, which appear in blue, but these are not factored into their overall score.
According to one of Lulu’s founders, a primary goal of the site was to empower women. “I think sometimes girls feel like they don’t have that much power in the hookup world,” [Sewell] Robinson said, “but this gives them something to bond over, and you can give advice to a girl you’ve never met before.”
So here’s an insight that is rarely acknowledged by young women or the people who study them. “They don’t have much power in the hookup world.” It turns out that having casual sexual encounters rather than real relationships has actually put women in a weaker position.
They do not have as much control over relationships as they used to and they’re not as satisfied. Literally. A couple of weeks ago, the number-one-emailed article on the Times website was about a study showing that women in long term relationships are more likely to have orgasms than women just hooking up.
So in order to regain some of their power, women need to warn their sisters about the men out there. The comparison that the Lulu women make between their site and a “sorority” is not particularly flattering. Most grown women probably don’t want to think of themselves as getting the information they want about men from gossipy, backstabbing sorority girls.
But women do seem to long for the kind of information that one used to get before going on a date (let alone hooking up) with a man. When dating (and marriage) became a purely individual choice as opposed to one influenced by family and community, the situation did become more difficult and even dangerous for women. As one Lulu user notes, “Dating without a reference is the scariest thing you can do... Meeting someone out in the world when you’re not in school or don’t work with each other or have mutual friends — you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”
I’m not sure Lulu will solve this problem, but Lulu’s success serves as a reminder that empowerment is not always empowering.