By now you’ve probably heard about the Carrot Dating App, a Tinder-like matchmaking program that allows male daters to “bribe their way to a date” with incentives such as plastic surgery or a tank of gas. The app was created by Brandon Wade (pictured above), the same guy behind the sites What’s Your Price, Seeking Millionaire and Seeking Arrangement. Wade had the idea for the app, which some people are slamming as glorified prostitution, upon realizing that “women love presents like dogs love treats.” And just as an “unfriendly dog wouldn’t deny a tasty treat, any beautiful girl can be bribed into giving you a first date,” Wade explains. Charming!
It should go without saying that I find it wildly offensive for Wade to compare women to dogs and naturally, I resent the implication that ladies only want to date men who can offer them a new set of breast implants. As for the whole is-this-or-isn’t-this prostitution debate, well, frankly, I think that offering a woman tank of gas in exchange for a date is not much different than entering into the kind of sugar baby/daddy relationship that sites like Seeking Arrangement offers; it’s something that I wouldn’t personally consider, but also, refuse to judge those who do. Hey, I’m a sexual relativist. However, there is something about Carrot Dating that I will judge: it’s troublesome philosophy which seems to imply that men are powerless when it comes to dating.
While the company is careful to say the app is for a men and women, all you need to do is look at the picture of Wade in his MIT sweatshirt, flanked by two scantily clad, out-of-his-league ladies, to know who the app’s target market really is: socially awkward guys who became financially successful and now think they deserve the finest female accessory that money can buy.There’s an underlying narrative here, which we can only assume bears some resemblance to Wade’s own story. Carrot Dating is for “nice guys” who always get passed over because they’re just not attractive enough to gets dates with the women they want. Instead of understanding what they might be doing that’s not conducive to connecting with women, these fellows become bitter and search for a way to trick the same women who passed them over into dating them. And how do they do this? By flaunting their money!
An advertisement for Carrot Dating reveals this narrative, worded cleverly:
“Beautiful people have all the power while the rest of us have to struggle for attention only to be lost in the crowd. Don’t feel powerless – it’s time to use a technique our ancestors have perfected over the centuries – bribery. But we’d rather call it an incentive. Or, simply put, to dangle a carrot. It’s the best way to motivate an animal – a man or a woman – to do exactly what you want. Take back the power.”
The main problem with this line of thinking is that no matter how disempowered a man has felt in his love life, he was never really powerless when it came to dating.
To buy into that idea would be to conveniently forget that not so long ago women used to be sold to the bidder with the most cows. In case Wade, who advocates “using the techniques of our ancestors” didn’t notice, gender roles have changed significantly. In his book The Myth of Male Power, author Warren Farrell defines power as “control over one’s life.” He claims that in the past, neither sex had power – but both sexes had roles; the women’s role being to take care of the children and the men’s role being to make money. But what happens when women don’t need men to provide for them in the same way? Men feel lost and powerless.
Feeling powerless is one thing, being powerless is another. In the context of historical gender roles, you can understand how a man might confuse his buying power with his personal power. But if we’re defining power as having control over one’s life, taking the power back after a lifetime of feeling unlucky in love would consist of learning how to land a date naturally – how to talk to women, how to behave appropriately on a first date, how to forge a romantic and sexual connection. It has nothing to do with money.
This is a problem because the concept of power really has no place in the world of dating. There’s no “power to take back” because dating — or at least healthy, productive, honest dating — is not about power, it’s about intimacy. And intimacy is not about making someone “do exactly what you want,” it’s not about control, it’s about both parties being honest about their own needs and desires and understanding the needs and desires of the other person. When dating becomes about power and control, it immediately becomes devoid of intimacy and replaced by free tanks of gas.
This construct ultimately, sets men up to fail. For, as you might intuit, a relationship based on bribery as is only as good as its best gift. As professor Edward Deci, a researcher in human motivation explains in scientific terms why this kind of relationship is destined for failure:
“It is easy to get people to do things by paying them if you’ve got enough money and they’ve got the necessary skills … But they will keep doing it only as long as you keep paying them…And even if they were doing it before, when you stop paying them the behavior drops to a lower level than when you started paying them.”
The guys who use Carrot Dating may have temporary success — getting a “yes” from a beautiful woman in exchange for the best bribe they can afford — but it won’t lead them to what they ultimately want, what all people ultimately want — true love and intimacy.