Controversial Pay-to-Date Sites Go Mainstream

Online dating sites are popular that ever, offering its users a wider range of options.

New sites like HiDine and Carrot Dating are designed for men to pick up the tab for women. Photo: Whybealone1/ Flickr

Online dating is increasingly popular, bolstered by the advent of social networks like Facebook, with approximately 11 percent of American adults having sought romance through a dating website or mobile app, a new study shows.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project published a study that shows online dating has become more mainstream than the last time the think tank studied online dating in 2005, a year in which MySpace and Facebook started becoming a part of daily Internet life.

Recently the number of pay-to-date has increased and the more controversial the website the better. Today women want to go on a date because of the opportunity to eat out at a fancy restaurant, and some dating site guarantee it.

The dating site HiDine that is to be launched next month, describes itself as a matchmaking site for food lovers. Women can set up a profile for free, sharing their “stories,” listing their favorite places to eat and “winking” at male users they find attractive.

Men, in their turn, are responsible for asking out another user on a date. Not only that, but male members must put down a deposit toward paying for any restaurant rendezvous to take place offline.

However, there is reverse side of the coin, as a Toronto woman is being called a “gold digger” for admitting to accepting dates purely because she wanted to eat out at nice restaurants. Critics say actions like these leave men wondering if these pay-for-dates sites drill words like “generous” through user’s heads, if they are thinly veiled attempts for women to find a Daddy Warbucks.

A new dating site Carrot Dating, the brainchild of MIT graduate Brandon Wade, allows users to “bribe” others for dates. The mechanics of Carrot Dating are simple. Log in and choose a potential date. Pick one of the twenty “bribes,” including dinner, flowers, a shopping spree and plastic surgery, then offer it to another user in exchange for a date.

Of the 60,000 downloads of the Carrot Dating app since launch, 25 percent of the offers have been initiated by women according to Wade.

The Internet erupted, calling Wade’s app “thinly veiled prostitution,” and shaming him and his carrot-stick concept. The top comment on its YouTube promo video states, “This is sexist and pretty much prostitution. What is this world coming to?”

While both HiDine and Carrot Dating repeat words like “generous” and “chivalry” throughout their press materials, critics of the pay-to-date sites blast them as being sexist variations on more overt sites rewarding wealth with beauty, such as SugarDaddie.com, MutualArrangements.com or SeekingArrangement.com, which Wade also founded, reports ABC News.

But the all these website have one common ancestor. It is extra-marital dating site Ashley Madison. In 2009, the website had 4.9 million members and ended the year with news of a banned Super Bowl commercial.

According to the website’s CEO Noel Biderman, its February membership rose by 303% as a result. The site now boasts more than 21 million members. He says “90% of the conversations we have center around controversy,” which he attributes to the site’s success.

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