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From Match and OkCupid to Skout and Scruff, social dating apps offer 32 flavors of matchmaking—and then some. Right now, gay men are prowling Grindr for no-strings insta hook-ups. Jewish singles are browsing JDate for cute boyfriend material with cultural overlap. The rest of the known universe is hard at work critiquing Tinder’s infinite parade of flattering selfies.


Dattch, an app for women who date women, signals a watershed moment for women in tech.

But for us queer women, it’s been a long, lonely slog on dating services that don’t quite get us (despite getting peppered with plenty of unsolicited ménage à trois proposals). Happily, there’s good news: We may have just found the one.


Enter Dattch, a UK-based dating app optimized from the ground up for women who date women.


First Of Its Kind

Dattch creator Robyn Exton, a quick-witted former branding consultant, pitched the dating app on stage over the weekend at the inaugural Lesbians Who Tech summit. The community-focused conference, helmed by inspired founder, investor and entrepreneur Leanne Pittsford, packed San Francisco’s Castro Theater to the gills with gay women from all walks of tech.


“The thing that’s surprised me the most is the lack of belief from other people in the fact that there is a market,” Exton said. “When I’m talking to investors, the most common thing I hear is “Why hasn’t this been done before? There can’t really be a space here.”


When Exton announced that Dattch, formerly a UK exclusive, would go live in San Francisco that same day, the summit’s elated sample of 800 queer women exploded in anecdotal proof that, yes, lesbians want their own dating app—and we’ve waited way too long to have one.


Dattch’s most unlikely fan so far? Honorary pseudo-lesbian and famous/infamous angel investor Dave McClure, founder of 500 Startups, who attended Lesbians Who Tech.


The Anti-Grindr

You might not know it, but gay women have been wandering the proverbial desert as far as dating apps go, desperately seeking each other on the Internet for, like, ever. As you also may or may not know, gay women date quite differently than their hookup-happy male counterparts and their Match-matched straight peers—and they’ve enjoyed none of the considerable market recognition of those groups.


“There were apps that were out there, but they were all re-skins of gay male apps,” Exton explains. “I’d been working with the dating business so I kind of knew the space. I think something that we just picked up really quickly was that it wasn’t just that there was a lack of apps for lesbians, but there was a lack of apps for women in general actually looking at what women want, particularly in dating.”


Still, women dating women is a different ballgame altogether. As Exton sees it: “Straight products kind of mirror societal norms: Guys normally do the first move—whereas when you’re in a queer [women’s] space you don’t really have that kind of setup. You always have chasers and receivers, but they’re the same gender, so it’s kind of about making the whole system work better for that gender.”


Exton embraces the irony that her “Grindr for women” flips its source material entirely on its head.


“That’s why I kind of love the idea of Grindr and Dattch—they’re almost the polar opposite of each other,” Exton said. “They get to make the most of the natural behaviors of each gender. I don’t envy any straight dating product—I think that must be really difficult, to try to bring those two different user behaviors together.


“You can’t just take Grindr and make it pink and give it to women and say ‘Ta da!’ It’s a completely different experience and product—and I think no one seems to have taken the time to do it yet.”


Exton hopes Dattch can expand within the queer community as it grows, and intends for the product to be a safe space for not just for self-identified lesbians, but LGBTQ folks of other identities with an interest in the app, too.


For gay women, the peculiarities—er, I mean, flattering idiosyncrasies—of our romantic rituals are the stuff of Tumblr legend. As any queer woman knows (and Exton noted in her pitch), the lesbian dating scene is a minefield of meme-worthy tropes. Here’s a crash course: We’ve slept with 100% of our friends and are best friends with all our exes. We’ll fall hard on a first date and move in on the second. We’re awful at talking ourselves up on dating profiles, known to pretend we’re just looking to “make friends” to mitigate risk and prone to cautiously playing the long game—even virtually.


“Women are terrible at selling themselves”

In the beginning, Dattch’s profiles were very basic: a profile picture and a bit of text. But Exton notes that back then, users were reluctant to actually meet up in person.


“We realized that all of these dating structures just weren’t working at all,” Exton said. “We ended up looking at all the platforms that we knew did work well for women: Pinterest and travel sites and e-commerce platforms, fashion editorial content—things that have historically been targeted and built from the ground up for a female audience.”


Pinterest’s influence on Dattch is clear, but Exton is more interested in borrowing the psychology of its image-centric storytelling than anything.


“The image thing for us came up because even when we had text stuff, all the girls would put to describe themselves on their profiles was like ‘ask me’ or ‘I hate these boxes.’ Women are terrible at selling themselves—they always punch under rather than going over.


“When you look at an Instagram feed or you look at a Pinterest board, you can so easily consume who that person is. But also women take a lot of care and time in creating them rather than having to think of the words and not doing that ‘overselling’ thing, whereas if you’re actually uploading images of who you are… It’s a much more natural process. We only knew that because the other platforms before us had done that.”


Visibility Matters

When Pinterest came along a few years ago, it woke the tech industry to the fact that women aren’t a niche demographic. In fact, women are massive drivers of e-commerce: In the U.S., trends suggest that women's market influence will swell to command two-thirds of national consumer wealth within the next decade. Women are also more avid users of social networks than men— and, as it turns out, we actually comprise half of the world’s population too.


Heartening community-driven initiatives like Lesbians Who Tech and Black Girls Code are taking a crack at tech’s diversity problem through visibility and education. At the same time, as the advent of Dattch demonstrates, technology is shifting toward recognizing and marketing to women's consumption patterns—we’ve got cash, too, after all.


It follows that the tech industry—its overwhelmingly heterosexual/white/male upper echelons, that is—should finally discover and begin to understand (i.e. monetize) long-mysterious sub-genres of the fairer sex. Just imagine it: Somewhere out there, right now, a woman of color is mulling over which Instagram filter to choose. Meanwhile, the elusive lesbian settles into her natural habitat—queuing up Orange Is The New Black on Netflix and downloading Dattch, the app she’d been waiting for.




Images by Taylor Hatmaker for ReadWrite


Ten years ago the first edition of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men was published in response to what I viewed as a meaningful missing puzzle piece for gay men to learn and grow. At that time there were few if any self-help books specific to gay men. Thus, gay men had to interpret their challenges and experiences through the written lens of heterosexual life and culture. Although there were other well-written books on the subject of sex addiction, Cruise Control was necessary primarily because gay culture as a whole views things like life-long pair bonding, monogamy, and casual sex differently than most heterosexuals. So, needless to say, gay men often found it difficult fully identify with the sexual addiction self-help literature then available. As it turns out, the book sold extremely well, so much so that in 2013 I published an updated version, taking into account the many tech-driven advances that currently affect gay male sex and love addicts.


Meanwhile, I have waited (somewhat impatiently) for the right person to come along and write a similar book focused on lesbian women. My hope was that a colleague would set herself to the task, seeing the need and stepping up to meet it. Happily, Dr. Lauren Costine eventually took on this task, providing us with the recently published book, Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things Go Wrong. Since publication, I’ve been able to interview Dr. Costine about the book and her process, and I am pleased to share her responses with you here.


What prompted you to write Lesbian Love Addiction?


A couple of things, actually. First, I am in recovery from lesbian love addiction myself. It was hard to get sober from this addiction but I was finally able to do it, and writing this book was in part a catharsis for me. Second, I was starting to write a book on the lesbian psyche (this will be my next book), but during that process I was approached by you, after you’d written Cruise Control, and you said to me that a book on lesbian sex and love addiction needed to be written. I knew in an instant that I was the one to write it. I jumped on the idea, and Lesbian Love Addiction was begun.


Can you talk a bit about lesbian love addiction in general – what it looks like, what the symptoms are, etc.?


There are many symptoms and three different styles of love addiction. First up are the true love addicts.

  • These women fall in love easily and quickly without really knowing the other woman.

  • They are addicted to the way falling in love makes them feel, more specifically to the feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin, emitted in the beginning stages of romance between women.

  • They have a sudden need to spend all their time with their new love, often moving in together within a couple of dates or months.

  • They have difficulty setting boundaries, losing their sense of self once in a relationship. Sometimes they stop taking care of themselves to better fit into their new partner’s life. They lose touch with their own friends, family, self-care, and personal interests.

  • They have a pattern of falling for women who are perpetually unavailable, physically and/or emotionally, and they have their heart broken over and over again.

  • They jump into one relationship after another to avoid being alone.

Next we have love avoidant women.

  • These women are addicted to the seducing and chasing. They get high from pursuing other women. They are the Romeos and Casanovas of the lesbian world.

  • They are addicted to the high of falling in love.

  • They are afraid of authentic intimacy, and consequently they distance themselves emotionally once the honeymoon period ends.

  • They feel emotionally smothered by their partners once the honeymoon is over.

  • They find fault, criticizing and blaming in order to create the distance that makes them feel safe.

Lastly we have love ambivalent women.

  • These women have love addict characteristics in one relationship and love avoidant characteristics in the next.

  • They vacillate between love addict and love avoidant behaviors within a relationship.

  • They are either lightly or deeply ambivalent about staying with their partner, and they doubt or fear their ability to commit. This is a pattern found in most love addicted relationships

In what ways do lesbian love addicts differ from other love addicted women (or even love addicted men)?


There are four major differences, three of which are related to our hormones, our female brains, and attachment issues with our mothers. The fourth is related to lesbian-phobia.


First of all, women emit oxytocin and dopamine when falling in love (both of which are amazingly feel-good natural chemicals that get us to connect and bond). Men do not emit oxytocin in the same way. Therefore, when two women get together the “oxyfest” is beyond intoxicating.


Women are also wired to connect to others, because this improves our chances of surviving in hostile environments. In other words, we seek relationships because our brains are wired to need them. This explains, in part, why two women might be more inclined to connect more quickly than men traditionally do. This insight helps us understand how, following directions from the brain, lesbians suffering from love addiction slip into merging behaviors that are destructive later on. They commit to each other too quickly, move in too fast, and find themselves in relationships they didn’t expect once the honeymoon is over.


Next, attachment theory tells us that most people fall into one of three main categories: secure, anxious, or avoidant. Our earliest experiences of bonding with our mother or caregiver end up imprinting patterns of relating on each of us. The extent to which those relationships developed – or were interrupted or perhaps absent – affect the ways we attach to and connect with others, and influence how we behave in romantic relationships in adulthood. Lesbians, being naturally female-centric, are deeply impacted by our relationships with our mothers and their style of loving and relating to us. This deeply affects our romantic relationships later on.


Lastly we have lesbian-phobia to deal with. The struggle for equality is still young, and whether a lesbian is aware of it or not there is residual trauma resulting from living in a world that values heterosexuality above all else. For lesbians, this trauma is compounded by sexism and misogyny. To describe the unique set of issues lesbians must deal with, namely homophobia and misogyny, I have developed the term lesbian-phobia. This trauma simply adds to the already unique issues facing two women, as discussed above.


Does the book also address sexual addiction issues? Are sex and love addiction often intertwined with this population?


The book does address sex addiction when it intertwines with love addiction, but because most lesbians are drawn to an emotional connection when being sexual, sex addiction is not as big an issue as love addiction. Women’s brains are wired to connect. We definitely love sex, but we are more turned on when an emotional connection and sex are happening at the same time.


How can lesbian love addicts best go about the process of healing? Do they face difficulties that other love addicts do not?


The healing process from love addiction can prove to be one of the most difficult things a lesbian will ever have to endure. It starts with the withdrawal process. Symptoms of withdrawal usually manifest in the following ways:

  • Cravings to act out irrationally with love addicted behaviors

  • Inexplicable aches and pains

  • Physical illness or exhaustion

  • Switching to new addictions

  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns

  • Overwhelming self-doubt

  • Desperation and fear

  • Feeling like you are going crazy

  • Suicidal thoughts or impulses

  • Desire to isolate

  • Obsessive thinking or fantasizing about the woman you gave up

  • Sadness, despair, or depression

  • Emotional highs and lows

  • Irritability, anger, or rage

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as one day withdrawing will be over and you’ll feel like a new person. In order to recover from love addiction, it is imperative to commit to the process of healing. This means experiencing the withdrawals and avoiding the urge to return to your partner. Once the psychological separation from toxic behaviors and ways of thinking is made, a new person with a strong internal sense of liberation will step in. Allowing yourself to go through, not around, the pain is the essential part of healing. Avoidance leads to repetitive behaviors; true insight comes from the ability to stop, notice, and experience what is taking place, no matter how painful.


The biggest obstacle that many lesbian love addicts face is not finding lesbian-affirmative support. There are not enough therapists and 12-step programs out there that understand the unique issues of the lesbian psyche.


So you’re saying that some therapists, treatment programs, and 12-step sex/love addiction recovery groups more lesbian friendly than others. Why do you think that is?


Most therapists are not trained in lesbian-affirmative psychotherapy. The advent of the LGBT Specialization at Antioch University Los Angeles (AULA) is helping to ameliorate this problem by training budding therapists on how to work in a healing and consciously competent way, but AULA’s program is unusual. New York City and other parts of the East Coast are also relatively LGBTQ-affirmative, but other parts of the country are not. As a matter of fact, most Masters in Psychology programs’ human sexuality courses – a basic core requirement – are heterosexually oriented, barely touching on all the other sexual orientations and gender identities that humans possess.


How can lesbian women find the best possible recovery setting?


Usually, they can go to their local LGBT Center; they typically have resources and support groups that are lesbian friendly. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) tends to be very open-minded and nonjudgmental, so I feel confident recommending that group to help. Plus, read my book. It is the only book out there that addresses lesbian love addiction in an affirmative way.


What are the things you most want people to know about yourself and/or your book?


I really want people to know how much I love my lesbian community. I am honored to do my small part in helping heal the areas of our psyches that need healing. I also want people to know that I have walked this path before – I know what it is like to suffer from love addiction – to struggle with a lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, and zero self-love. I want people to understand that this book is born from my own walk down the path of lesbian love addiction, and that I never stop working on myself – that I believe, as does one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Pema Chodron, that we are all a work in progress, but with enough courage, resilience, and a desire to live a better life anyone can heal from this addiction and start experiencing authentic feelings of liberation, presence, and happiness.



Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of National Clinical Development for Elements Behavioral Health. In this capacity, he has established and overseen addiction and mental health treatment programs for more than a dozen high-end treatment facilities, including Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu and Los Angeles, The Ranch in rural Tennessee, and The Right Step in Texas. An internationally acknowledged clinician and author, he has served as a subject expert on the intersection of human intimacy and digital technology for multiple media outlets including The Oprah Winfrey Network, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, and CNN, among many others. He is the author of several highly regarded books, including Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men. For more information please visit website, robertweissmsw.com.

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