Skip to main content

The most crass dating app ever?

By Peggy Drexler, Special to CNN
October 29, 2013 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
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
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1411 GMT (2211 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT