The Politics of Dating Apps
Gender, Sexuality, and Emergent Publics in Urban China
An examination of dating app culture in China, across user demographics—straight women, straight men, queer women, and queer men.
In this exploration of dating app culture in China, Lik Sam Chan argues that these popular mobile apps are not merely a platform for personal relationships but also an emerging arena for gender and queer politics. Chan examines the opportunities dating apps present for women's empowerment and men's performances of masculinity, and he links experiences of queer dating app users with their vulnerable position as sexual minorities. He finds that dating apps are both portals to an exciting virtual world of relational possibilities and sites of power dynamics that reflect the heteronormativity and patriarchy of Chinese society.
Drawing on in-depth interviews with urban users of such dating apps as Momo, Tantan, Blued, Aloha, Rela, and Lesdo, Chan proposes “networked sexual publics” as a unifying concept to capture the dynamics of dating app culture. Devoting a chapter to each of four publics—straight women, straight men, queer men, and queer women—Chan documents how relationships are shaped and transfigured by this emerging technology. He considers whether dating apps can be a feminist tool; explores straight men's self-presentation on the apps and their interactions with women they meet there; discusses the constant cycle of deleting and installing the same apps seen among queer men; and examines how popular lesbian dating apps may connect queer women to their communities. Finally, Chan maps possible paths for future intersectional, queer, and feminist scholarship on emerging communication technologies.
The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding from Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.
“The Politics of Dating Apps offers an expansive study of Chinese dating culture. Chan's research spans demographic boundaries, offering fresh insights into the infrastructures of intimacy at work in the PRC today.”
Sharif Mowlabocus, Associate Professer, Fordham University; author of Gaydar Culture
“Chan's empirically rich and theoretically nuanced exploration of dating apps in China illuminates how they have changed the landscape of romantic relationships for men and women of all sexual orientations.”
Larry Gross, Professor of Communication, USC Annenberg School; editor of International Journal of Communication
“In-depth, comprehensive, and inspiring, this book explains how rapid technological changes have transformed the ways the Chinese negotiate gender identity and sexual desires online using dating apps.”
Susanne Choi, coauthor of Masculine Compromise: Migration, Family and Gender in China
Chan's innovative research connects everyday digital media uses to China's larger issues of gender, sexual, and queer politics. Taking neither a utopian nor a pessimistic stance, he unpacks the multiplicity of dating apps' political and social effects on both marginalized groups and those in power. More importantly, this study precipitates further questions about dating apps' potential to challenge heteronormativity, and to create space for marginalized individuals, in a society with shrinking room for feminist and queer politics.
Zhiqiu Benson Zhou
The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding and support from Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin