The Politics of Dating Apps

From The Information Society Series

The Politics of Dating Apps

Gender, Sexuality, and Emergent Publics in Urban China

By Lik Sam Chan

An examination of dating app culture in China, across user demographics—straight women, straight men, queer women, and queer men.





An examination of dating app culture in China, across user demographics—straight women, straight men, queer women, and queer men.

The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding from Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing.

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.

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$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262542340 208 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 10 b&w illus.


  • 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