Online Dating for Open and Poly People

People...it’s hard finding new people to mash faces and genitals with. It’s even more difficult if you’re looking for something deeper than just a casual hook up. And the difficulty level is turned up to eleven if you’re doing all of that while in an open or poly relationship. Explaining your relationship dynamic to people who haven’t come across it before can be daunting. When do you say something, what do you say, how much, etc. And all of this is even harder if you’re living somewhere outside the United States, since so many of the dating apps around are designed for areas with high density populations. So, in the interests of providing you with the best information possible I’ve reviewed some of the more popular dating apps from a poly/open perspective to save you the time and effort. Yes, I'm amazing.

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#5 Tinder

Tinder is exceptionally good at getting young, attractive white people in touch with each other for hookups. It’s not particularly great at much else. Tinder was one of the first to turn the dating game into, well, an actual dating game. The only thing missing is a points system based on how often you score.

Most users have admitted to now ‘swiping right on literally everyone and then seeing who they end up matching with and deciding from there if they’re going to take action or not. As someone who used the app without realising this I kept thinking it was christmas come early when I was matching with drop dead gorgeous and interesting people time after time. And then consequently wondering why I wasn’t hearing back from any of them after messaging. I got gamed you see.

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I personally don’t use Tinder for same sex dating any more, because when I tried it a few years ago there were very few people on using it for that, and most of the queer women’s accounts only got checked once every few months. However friends have since informed me that it’s no longer a complete graveyard and same sex hookups can be found relatively easily.

There are many poly and open people on Tinder, but if you’re looking for hetero partners you’ll often find yourself having to explain what ethical non-monogamy is (same sex matches tend to be more clued in). If your relationship is any more complicated than a non hierarchical poly situation then prepare yourself to have to justify most aspects of it.

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Hetero men will find Tinder more challenging to get a date than hetero women. When a guy says “I’m married but my wife is cool if I date other women” most female Tinder users are justifiably skeptical. By contrast, most men who match with a poly woman don’t seem to care too much about her relationship status unless they’re looking for a long term relationship themselves.

 

#4 Bumble

If you know anything about Bumble it’s probably that it’s been referred to as ‘Feminist Tinder’. It’s not solely populated by feminists (which is sad, because I would use the hell out of an app that matched me with other feminists), but it does tend to skew more towards liberal minded, social justice warriors and similarly woke people. However the epithet actually came from the fact that Bumble’s match system only allows women to message first. So if you’re a man and you match with a woman, she needs to send you a message within 24 hours, or the match disappears. Once a day you, as a man, get one free “extension application” that you can use, which will give her another 24 hours to reply. Basically, if you're a guy you will need to wait for the woman to make the first move. 

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With same sex matches, either person is able to message first.

The benefit of this system is two fold. For women it removes the ceaseless bombardment of “nice tits” and “hey” messages from every match. For men, it means that they just have to signal their interest in someone and then wait for a message if she’s keen, which removes a lot more of the rejection risk. 

 

#3 Feeld

Feeld used to be called 3nder (thrinder, threender, three-ender?) but they got sued by Tinder and changed their name. The premise is simple, it’s basically Tinder but for people who are unicorns or unicorn hunting. If you're not familiar with the term 'unicorn', welcome to the internet! A unicorn is a bisexual person available for threesomes with a couple. 

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Unlike Tinder you have to option to keep everything hidden from Facebook friends, so while they’ll use your Facebook account to verify that you are who you’re saying, you don’t run the risk of friends seeing your profile.

They’ve taken a leaf out of snapchat’s book and have a feature where you can send photos that disappear after one view, which makes sending nudes a whole lot more reassuring.

On paper Feeld is a great app that’s perfect for poly/open people. But in practice it’s riddled with technical problems. It freezes and crashes constantly. I haven’t been able to search for matches since I installed it. It also doesn’t seem to understand where you are and even if you have your filter set for “close” you’ll end up with matches over 300km away. And then there’s the population density problem again. There’s not a lot of people on it, so you’ll quickly exhaust your match possibilities even in a populated city.

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#2 FetLife

Fetlife isn’t strictly a dating app or website, it’s more like a Facebook for deviants and kinksters. But it can be a great place to find events and groups of people with similar interests and values.

Fetlife is kind of like one of those “multilevel marketing schemes” in that it won’t do anything for you if you don’t put in some work (but unlike MLMs it will actually reward you eventually). You need to engage with the forums and message boards, and actually become part of the community in order to see any kind of results. So if you’re a compulsive social media user you’ll probably enjoy it, but if you’re a bit of an internet recluse there’s a good chance you’ll give up after a week.

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Fetlife has a couple of pretty obvious flaws. The first is that its layout looks like something Geospaces rejected. It can be pretty tricky to navigate when you first sign up because you’ll keep thinking it’s something it’s not, like Facebook or MySpace, etc and then remember that it's not that intuitive. But the more you use it the easier it gets. Which then brings you to the next problem; it doesn’t have an iOS app (there are rumours that there’s now an Android app, but I haven’t seen it so can’t comment). So if you want to use it on your iPhone or iPad, you’re going to have to use the website on your phone browser and the website isn’t responsive, so it won’t resize or help you out at all. If your fetish is shitty web design, well oh boy are you in for a treat.

Once you’re all set up and actually engaging with Fetlife the community can be pretty friendly and supportive, but like many dating sites you do run the risk of being inundated with unsolicited messages. Unlike most dating sites however, they’re occasionally terrifying and hilarious in the same breath. One of my recent messages was from a user who hadn’t filled out their profile and it just said “Don’t underestimate the power of incestuous desires”. I’m not sure why they were so concerned about this, so I simply replied “I don’t…” and went on with my day.

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As with others you’ll be limited by the size of the scene in your locality. Melbourne is apparently a thriving hub for kinksters of all kinds. There are multiple events being hosted each month at a variety of locations, and usually they’re more than happy to see new attendees (as long as you respect the rules of the event or venue).


 

#1 - OkCupid

So OkC is probably my preferred dating app, for a number of reasons. Unlike Tinder, Bumble, etc OkC started as a website so it’s geared towards making an actual profile and answering questions that help build a percentage match system. This means you have a lot more space to talk about who you are, what you’re passionate about and what you absolutely don’t tolerate.

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The percentage match system is pretty useful because you can assign values to each of the questions you answer. So for instance if you don’t care how a person feels about kids, it won’t negatively impact your match score, but if it’s SUPER important that they’re down with pets then you can make sure that this is scaled accordingly. So when you sort by match % you’re able to see who you will probably genuinely get along with. I personally tend to give some leeway and will consider anyone down to about 60%, since most of my answers are based on context (like I don’t want you to have kids, but realistically it’s fine if you do and I don’t have to meet them or hear about them).

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The profile thing is obviously pretty pointless if you’re in the market for quick hookups, but can be invaluable if you’re in an open/poly relationship, since you have the space to pre-disclose your situation before matching with someone. You might want to let people know that you’re in a non-monogamous relationship, but that you’re not unicorn hunting. Or that you’re in a relationship, but that it’s non-hierarchical. Things like this are easy to convey in a proper profile, but a bit trickier once there’s a character limit.

Additionally OkC tends to attract a younger, hipper and funkier crowd than most of the other online dating sites. This means most people are kind of down with the lingo when it comes to poly/open stuff and you don’t have to exchange 20 messages justifying your relationships to a stranger you probably won’t end up fucking (she said not at all from experience). OkC actually has an option for you to select what kind of relationship you’re in, and you’ll run into a lot of other poly people on the site. This also goes for sexuality and gender identity, which is super handy if you’re not a cis-het individual.  

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The downside of this is that if you’re living in a less populated area you will quickly find that all the faces on there start to look pretty familiar. Even in a city as big as Melbourne if I filter by poly/open relationships, I’ve already dated or messaged the top 20 results, and half of the rest of them are people I’m already friends with.

Speaking of which, this is one of the downsides of OkCupid. If you run into someone you know, it’s not super easy to block them. So for instance if you run into an ex who gives you anxiety, or an abusive former partner, or someone that you work with that you’d prefer to remain clueless about what you’re looking for in a fuck buddy...well, you kind of have to wait for them to message you before you can block them. On the upside, OkC will tell you who has visited your profile, so most people won’t click on you unless they want you to know they’ve been checking you out.

I’m lucky in that I’ve always lived my life completely openly, so within five minutes of meeting me most people realise I’m a complete deviant and nothing from that point on is much of a surprise, including stumbling across my dating profiles or anything on them (much to the dismay of my mother and the thousands she invested in fancy private schooling).

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So, if you’re in any kind of non-monogamy situation, be comforted by the fact that there are ways for you to find awesome people like yourself. It can involve a lot of trial and error, and depending on how remote you are, your dating pool might be quite shallow. But hopefully you’ll find the right combination of apps and sites for you.

 

Until next time, I wish you all the best in finding the next fantastic human to bring into your relationship, your bedroom, or your life.


 

That is all.

 

You may go now.

 

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash