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An Asexual, A Celibate, & A Sexually-Active Gen Zer All Agree On Bumble’s Marketing Campaign: It’s An Ick

Bumble’s rebrand has been making waves on the internet, but its newest billboard might have taken things a bit too far. While the app seemingly tried to promote an attitude of sex-positivity in today’s dating climate, Bumble’s celibacy billboards (or, as some are calling it, “anti-celibacy” billboards) rubbed some folks the wrong way. Did y’all forget that part of being sex-positive includes the conscious choice not to have sex, too?

Shortly after Bumble’s commercial, which featured a woman attempting to “swear off dating” and becoming a nun, various billboards for the app popped up all over the globe. The ads featured taglines such as, “You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer” and “Thou shalt not give up on dating and become a nun.”

After the brand’s “new era” went live, singles were quick to weigh in on the Bumble rebrand — which many felt wasn’t really a rebrand at all. Aside from some new features, and a slightly less colorful color scheme, many Bumble users noted that the rebrand didn’t live up to the hype. And, after the Bumble celibacy billboards went viral, many daters are sharing they’re not happy with it.

Members of the asexual community spoke up about the billboard, with many saying that the campaign perpetuated a harmful rhetoric about celibacy, and completely erased the existence of asexual daters. “Honestly, [the billboard] kind of rubbed me the wrong way and gave me the ick,” Kayleigh, 23, tells Her Campus. “In the past, whenever I’ve told potential partners that I’m asexual, they’ve always made backhanded comments like, ‘I could never date someone that’s asexual, I’m sure you’ll find someone, though.’ So to hear a dating app, especially one that isn’t supposed to be focused on hookups, more or less spread the same rhetoric is a bit disheartening.”

But it’s not just asexual folks who are celibate. Celibacy is a choice that millions of people make — whether that’s for religious reasons, a response to past trauma, or even just a decision that makes them feel empowered. “As someone who is celibate, it’s a choice [many of us] are proud in, so people disagreeing usually doesn’t normally bother me,” Anita*, 23, tells Her Campus. “But to see a whole company have an ad against the view itself, it’s like ‘Woah, what?’ as if [being celibate] is such a wrong decision. Even though it isn’t!”

Bumble’s celibacy billboard elicited opinions from folks who aren’t celibate, either. Francesca*, 23, is an advocate for sex-positivity and is not celibate, though she still felt negatively about the ad. “I feel like [the billboard] is saying that women should choose not to have sex with men because they’ve had bad experiences with it,” she tells Her Campus. “I mean, that’s a valid reason to be celibate! We don’t owe men sex, period!”

Bumble quickly responded to the backlash by releasing a statement on Instagram on May 13. “We made a mistake. Our ads referencing celibacy were an attempt to lean into a community frustrated by modern dating, and instead of bringing joy and humor, we unintentionally did the opposite,” the statement said.

Additionally, Bumble shared that it would be removing the ads (both online and IRL) as well as making a donation to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, as well as other organizations. The brand also stated that it will be offering these organizations its billboard space for an ad of their choice for the remainder of the reserved billboard time.

As if Gen Z wasn’t exhausted enough when it comes to dating, Bumble’s most recent controversy is only adding to the fatigue. Maybe it’s time we all take a vow of celibacy… when it comes to corporate dating apps, that is.

julianna (she/her) is an associate editor at her campus where she oversees the wellness vertical and all things sex and relationships, wellness, mental health, astrology, and gen-z. during her undergraduate career at chapman university, julianna's work appeared in as if magazine and taylor magazine. additionally, her work as a screenwriter has been recognized and awarded at film festivals worldwide. when she's not writing burning hot takes and spilling way too much about her personal life online, you can find julianna anywhere books, beers, and bands are.