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Tinder Sexually Empowers Young Women, Say UCLA Students

The majority of my female friends have a Tinder, and they love it. However, I was always hesitant to get a Tinder myself because of how I heard women were treated on the dating application. According to an article in Vanity Fair, Tinder places women at a disadvantage because it makes it easy for men to use them for sex. But while people tend to assume that Tinder benefits men over women, this is not always true. In a study I conducted with UCLA female students for a communication and internet class, I found that many women actually feel that Tinder sexually empowers them and that they have the advantage over men.

Tinder has become increasingly popular since it was first created in 2012. Although people use Tinder for reasons other than sexual experience, users generally agree that the purpose of the application is to hook up. Tinder’s hookup reputation is rooted in how, unlike traditional dating sites, its algorithm is looks-based. Users decide if they are interested in a potential match based on his or her photo and sometimes a brief bio.

UCLA female students explain that it isn’t only men who benefit from the hookup aspect of Tinder. They felt that three central aspects of Tinder helped sexually empower them: it’s messaging aspect, its interface of supplying them with an ample choice of matches, and its facilitation for sexual experience and fantasies. Here’s what they had to say:

 Hidden Behind a Screen

“I always had trouble expressing my interest in guys in person because I felt embarrassed and awkward. I think it goes back to how my dad always told me that I had to wait to have sex until I was married. He’s a pastor ... but on Tinder it’s easy for me to message guys and let them know I am interested in them. Since this is not in person, I feel like I can take more control and be more outgoing and make it clear that I want to have sex. Tinder answers all the questions upfront, if you are a match with someone, you already know they are attracted to you. Offline, I was so nervous that guys would laugh in my face if I tried to talk to them because I didn’t know if they were interested, but Tinder allowed me to talk to guys and feel sexy and attractive while doing it.” (M.T.)

“I am an introvert and I have always felt awkward talking to guys. But when a guy messaged me on Tinder for the first time, I felt like it was really easy to talk to him. I grew up in a conservative household where sex was never spoken about. But on Tinder, I feel like I don’t have to be reserved about sex because that's what Tinder was built for. It makes sex an open conversation. I feel comfortable talking about my sexual preferences because I am hidden behind a screen.” (J.V.)

It’s Raining Men

“When I didn’t have a Tinder, I thought guys weren’t really interested in sleeping with me so I would jump on the first one that showed interest. They had all of the control because I was so willing to settle. But Tinder supplies me with what feels like an endless supply of matches so it allows me to be picky. It also makes it easier to reject guys. Since they will never know if I reject them, I don’t feel bad. My sexual experiences are more satisfying because I am having sex with guys I am actually interested in and not just having sex with losers.” (M.D.)

“Women get so many more matches than guys. During my first month on Tinder I had over 600 matches when my guy friend only had 60. Women have so many options, which makes me feel confident in my sexuality and aware of the power I have in it.” (G.G)

Say Hello to your Fantasies

“Since Tinder is location-based it makes it really easy to meet guys offline, so I got all this sexual experience. I’ve gotten to try new things in the bedroom that I have always wanted to do. I used to be ashamed of my sexual self and now I am proud of it.” (M.B.)

However, UCLA women still feel objectified by men on Tinder. But they don’t agree that this necessarily places them at a disadvantage. In fact, they believe that they have the advantage on Tinder:

“There were a couple times when I felt objectified because I felt like I was being used for sex. One guy didn’t even want to talk to me, he just wanted to have sex. But I also just wanted to have sex with him, so I was also using him. Tinder also allows women to objectify men. When you swipe on a guy, you are swiping because you're attracted to his looks, because you think he’s hot. I’ll look at a guy’s bio briefly, but it's his looks that really matter. It's a pretty fair transaction, girls and guys are at an equal playing field, you both swipe right because you both thought each other was attractive. You’re getting something from him, and he’s getting something you.” (B.G.)

“Tinder allows women to do to guys what they have been doing to us their whole lives. By being able to swipe on guys’ profiles, we have the choice of who we want to have sex with, so we have full control. We can use guys for sex and then ghost them, never calling them again.” (M.G.)

“Before this month that I have been on Tinder, I would have never slept with a guy who I wasn’t in a relationship with because I was always told that girls feel depressed after they have casual sex, that we are genetically wired to want relationships so we can’t have sex like men. That’s why, when I met with a match on Tinder for the first time, I never thought I was going to have sex with him, even though we had talked about sex before meeting. But then I just did it and I didn’t feel depressed afterward. It was satisfying being able to choose who I want to have sex with and then being able to actually do it. It was really empowering to feel like, hey, girls can have casual sex and feel good afterwards, it's not just men who can do this.” (J.Z.)

Tinder is changing gender norms and expectations. Perhaps it's time for me to get one.


*Interviews choose to remain anonymous and are cited by their initials

*All photos are from