Milo Yiannopoulos revisits the most controversial start-up of 2012, asking if this is really the sort of site women want.
Valentine’s Day seems an appropriate time to revisit the most controversial start-up of the year so far, Luluvise, which encourages women to rate men they’ve dated. It then emails people that the woman and her victim both know, telling them about the rating.
But the man can never see his score and there’s no right of reply to protect against vindictive “0/5 in bed” ratings, despite the fact that Luluvise creates gateway profiles that are visible to search engines.
Moreover, there’s no apparent protection against bogus reviews. I have been personally reviewed a number of times on Luluvise. For reasons regular readers of mine will be familiar with, it is highly unlikely that these reviews come from women I have bedded.
Indeed, Luluvise founder Alexandra Chong gave me review access to the site some time ago and I can confirm that none of the people who saw fit to rate my performance in the sack have much more than a smile and a hug to go on.
That’s why it was amusing to me to eavesdrop on a group of well-known London founders at dinner last Friday. Each of them was mildly horrified by the site. The women, in particular, were angry about the concept and found the site’s approach and language childish and demeaning to both sexes. After much discussion, one male founder suggested a demonstration of why Luluvise is so offensive.
He said: “Why don’t we register haveyoufuckedalexandrachong.com? It would be funny to see the site inverted for her, so she can realise how ridiculous it is. You know, I’m tempted to do it tonight and DM it around tomorrow. Could be brilliant.”
Some might say it’s unfair to imagine a Luluvise for men, thanks to centuries of “patriarchal hegemony”, or some such bollocks. But these people are simpletons. No male-only site designed to rate women would ever receive venture funding today, or the levels of press attention Chong has cleverly garnered for Luluvise by bagging a column in the Times.
And though you may think it would be unkind to home in on one person like this, you have to admit the idea’s genius. Chong, after all, is providing a platform on which abuse and libel are sure to run rampant. And it isn’t just dungareed gender war harpies who are furious about the site: professional women are up in arms about it, too.
Her site allows women to rate men according to characteristics women are supposed to look for in men: manners, professional ambition, how good he is in bed, and so on. So far, so depressingly predictable. But what might a stereotypical man look to rate his previous conquests on? I’d suggest hair, cup size, dress size, how easy it was to bed her, her oral sex technique and whether she expected a lot of money to be spent on her.
I wonder how comfortable Ms Chong would be about such information being published on the internet for eternity, accessible to any man (but not to her) via Facebook Connect. It’s a bit different to gossip around the White Bear Yard water cooler, isn’t it.
Would she feel objectified, do you think? Reduced? In some way trivialised by being reduced to a five-point ratings system? Worried about future boyfriends (and perhaps employers) stumbling upon this information? Chong may wish to reflect on these things for future iterations of Luluvise.
And how might the site be designed, if we follow Luluvise’s “women like pink and lollipops” approach? All caps and dripping with axle grease? Adorned with soft porn and video games? It wouldn’t be a place that inspired confidence in women that the reviews would be fair and balanced, that’s for sure.
Neither the idea of men as barbaric thugs from whom women need to be protected nor that of women as catty bitches addicted to gossip and talking about girth are particularly flattering images. And neither, in my experience, is generally true.
But I worry that Luluvise may encourage the latter sort of behaviour from women, and increase the perception of it from men. After all, what does it say about girls if a site like Luluvise is flourishing? Not entirely good things, I’m sorry to say.
And there is definitely something to be said about the inherent sexism of Luluvise’s access model. Presenting men with a page that says, “Dude, you’re a dude” might be an amusing way of letting men know they’re not wanted, but such a crude (and easily circumvented, if you know how) knock-back is making men – and women – angry.
Chong may imagine that she is harnessing the openness and connectivity of the web and bringing it to women, but, by instituting gender apartheid, she is doing the opposite. It’s my hope that the business pivots hard away from this divisive, patronising and socially destructive mission.
Put simply, there is a world of difference between professional review sites like Honestly.com (and even they have their moral, legal and logistical challenges) and a site dedicated to personal characteristic ratings that distil down to clumsy gender prejudices.
Gossip Girl works well as a fictional television show, and people will always whisper about people. But the architecture and psychology of the internet make creating a scalable platform business around salacious gossip a very dangerous game, and one that undermines, rather than enhances, our humanity.
To prevent abuses following the publication of this article, The Kernel has purchased haveyoufuckedalexandrachong.com and permanently parked the domain.