Tech + Health

03.07.14

Hook Up Apps Have Gone Too Far

From a threesome organizer to a tongue-on-phone oral sex guide, the era of dialing up your crush is officially over. Welcome to the sex-tech revolution that's ruining dating.

It’s hard to establish the exact tipping point at which hook-up apps made their transition from cheeky and cheerful to straight up disgusting, but that time has come, and it’s pretty unpleasant. 

Gone are the days of randy singles excitedly replacing their drunk dials with a hasty swipe ‘n’ meet, and in their place, a range of increasingly ridiculous sex sites encouraging phone licking, threesome engineering and auto-messaging girls sweet nothings (because writing the text yourself would be too hard). 

The digital age giveth, and by lord does it taketh away. 

For those perturbed by the lack of opportunities to exchange bodily fluids with the contraptions they use to phone home, the masterminds behind Club Sexy Time (yep, that's their actual name) have devised Lick This, an app which promises to help users perfect their oral sex skills. Now, I’m sure a lot of women would not be complaining about their significant others wanting to train up in the lady-licking department, but it’s difficult to envisage how practicing this on your phone is not the grossest idea ever imagined. 

Lick This was born after a “goofing around” session courtesy of creators Pablo Rochat and Chris Allick, who started out using their noses to navigate their screens. “Naturally, we tried other body parts,” they explain to The Daily Beast, but “the funniest and most unexpected test was when we used our tongues. From there, we decided to design a series of licking exercises in order to train your tongue to do what it does best, pleasure others.” 

If you're a skeptic like me, this entire process sounds like one massive shake of the head from start to finish. However, for dating blogger and sex app enthusiast Courtney Beck (who I can only imagine was not born with the same sense of in-built nay-saying), Lick This offers a welcome opportunity for people to brush up on their game in a new, tech-forward way. “I absolutely love the app, and I praise [whoever] came up with it!” she enthuses. “As long as you use plastic wrap, who cares?” 

The Club Sexy Timers aren’t worried about hesitant phone slurpers, though. “We like the idea of pushing people out of their comfort zones and considering new approaches to technology.” So far, so not entirely terrible. “The app is about allowing human-computer interaction to spark a conversation about sexuality and physical relationships," the creators say. 

And they lost me again. 

How does simulating oral on one’s bacteria-ridden cell magically induce a meaningful conversation about the effects of virtual communication on intimacy? The mind boggles.

Only time will tell if we need to be thanking Lick This for creating a new generation of ready-trained sexperts, but perhaps the strangest thing about the rapid advent of hook-up apps is how little success they seem to yield. A plethora of studies in the past few years have shown that young people are having less sex than ever before, so isn’t developing increasingly peculiar apps that promise much but deliver little only exacerbating this?

3nder (pronounced ‘threender’) doesn’t seem to think so. The matchmaking app for ménage-a-trois hopefuls was created “with the initial idea of a beautiful service where couples and singles come together,” says founder Dimo Trifonov. While assuring the highest level of secrecy for browsers of three-in-a-bed naughties, 3nder’s site delineates its aim to make society “more open about its sexual desires”– which seems a touch counter-intuitive given the privacy part. Are its users loud and proud harbingers of the sex-tech revolution, or just people who want to get a bit freaky on the sly?

Are its users loud and proud harbingers of the sex-tech revolution, or just people who want to get a bit freaky on the sly?

After trying a plethora of hook-up apps and “failing miserably” with all of them, Beck turned to blogging with the hopes of finding a decent match—and is now engaged to one of the girls who got in touch. Doesn’t this fly the flag for people needing to share a little more than just a name and photo on an app doing its utmost to de-personalize and out-odd its predecessors? There are many brilliant aspects of our insta-generation, but what it’s doing to romance, dating – even hook-ups is like an Aladdin’s cave of the weird and not-so wonderful. 

Studies suggest 41 million Americans have tried dating online in some capacity, so where is it going off track when it comes to the sex stats? Sure, we like things to happen quickly (the same report found that web daters marry in less than half the time it takes offline daters to say I do), but these apps need to reintroduce some element of nuance into how they operate. The gimmicky stuff might get a laugh or two, but as for setting up successful sexytime/actual relationships? I’m not convinced.

Last but not least in this line of digi-sex related eccentricity is BroApp, a service which sends out pre-written messages to a girl of your choice saying all the right things so you don’t have to. James, one half of “The Bros,” explains the concept behind the app. “We've designed it to foster one-to-one communication as you can only have one contact. If you are a guy keeping multiple girls…then you'll have to pick your favorite one and only use BroApp on her.” 

Right. So, it fosters one-on-one communication by the dude not communicating at all?  Let’s be real, if your interest in a girl doesn’t even reach the point where you can conjure up a handful of your own words to text her, it’s probably a no go. 

There’s no denying that what first spawned apps of this ilk was a radical new way of approaching the dating game, but these latest developments seem to be bizarre smokescreens for the fact that niche offshoots just don’t really work. If people need to lick their phone and then send an automated message off it in order to have a chance with the opposite sex, I think we might have a problem.