Illustration by Louisa Cannell
by Ada Ciuca
If you’re an adult looking for love (or just decent casual sex tbh), chances are you’ve tried to get yours by downloading a dating app or two. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016, 41 percent of American adults knew someone who used online dating sites or apps and 15 percent of Americans used them themselves. Fast-forward a few years, and those numbers get higher; thankfully, so do the dating app offerings.
Whether you’re looking to like, swipe, be casual, get serious, play vanilla, or experiment with kink, the app-sibilities are endless. Like any other aspect of life, dating comes with different strokes for different folks. One thing we can all agree on? An app that focuses on our pleasure and makes us feel seen and special is an app we can get behind. If you’re looking to hook up online, here are the six best apps that will take your pleasure seriously. Pinky swear.
Feeld: The Ultra Sex-Positive App
If you like your pleasure served best with a side of threesomes and kink, then Feeld might be the perfect app for you. An easy interface that allows you to swipe on singles and couples, the app boasts the importance of consent and has the most inclusive gender and sexual identity scroll-down menu out there. A fan favorite is the “desire” feature, where users are able to list what tickles their fancy—no kink is too weird or specific. “I really like that there is a desire section so it can be laid out right there,” says Charly, a 30-year old copywriter. “And if you don’t want something that other people want, that’s very upfront and it doesn’t have to be a surprise.”
Charly tried Feeld after an unsuccessful dating streak with single men. “I was very annoyed and unsatisfied by them, so I went on Feeld and I ended up going on eight dates with the first couple I dated [from Feeld] and it was a really great experience,” she says. Her initiation into Feeld was “very sex-positive and female-friendly. It was very focused on me because I was a novelty in the situation and all the messages I got from people were very respectful.”
Hinge: The Cut-Through-the-Bullshit App
If you take pleasure in knowing a lil’ bit about a potential hookup’s personality and limiting the number of people you’re speaking to at any given time, you might want to become acquainted with Hinge. Positioning itself as the app that’s “designed to be deleted,” Hinge’s interface is particularly exciting for those of us who identify as sapiosexual, or sexually and mentally stimulated by smarties. The app allows you to add photos and videos, and gives you fun personality prompts to add to your profile. Hinge is also a non-swipe zone: It lets you like individual aspects of a profile, like a photo or a prompt, which signals to the other person that you’re interested in chatting.
The best part? You can decline chats you’re not that into. Bye bye, message overload! The app might feel a bit limiting, particularly when it comes to gender identity—although users are personally able to identify as genders beyond just male and female, when it comes to choosing whom they are interested in, there are only three options: men, women, or everyone. So, ultimately, this app might not be for everyone. In my world, though, Hinge got itself a solid 10/10. Real talk: Every single hookup I have ever had through Hinge has been respectful and pleasurable. If you can’t handle the physical without a tiny peek behind the personality curtain, hop on the Hinge train.
Her: The Queer Safe Space
When a platform is made specifically with you in mind, you can be sure it’s taking your pleasure seriously. Made for queer womxn by queer womxn, Her’s interface is fun and playful with engaging bits of text and a simple swipe feature. The app encourages you to “Be yourself. Find your person.” and “Keep a queer eye on what’s new.” Though it caters to queer womxn, there are plenty of gender identity and sexual identity options as you sign up. The app even asks for your pronouns. What’s extra-unique about Her is the personalized feed, where you can join communities based on your interests and learn about queer-centric events happening in the area. This app goes beyond caring for your hookup pleasure — it cares for your everyday pleasure living as a queer womxn.
Fantasy: The Positive, Open-Minded Space
Fantasy’s mission is simple: to turn the world into a more sex-positive place. The app provides a comfort zone to those venturing beyond monogamy. The app follows a simple “like” or “not interested” system, as well as the ability to find people with common fantasies by choosing your own faves from an extended library. If you don’t want your fantasies visible to everyone, there’s also the option to keep them private. If you’re into further expanding your horizons on the app, check out the Stories feature, which allows users to not be limited by their location and post open calls for their needs.
Tinder and Bumble: The Oldies-But-Goodies
Look, sometimes the apps that are most familiar to us are the ones that get the job done. Having both been around for a while, Tinder and Bumble are two of the most well-known apps on the market. They’re also the two that have had time to develop their own norms and shared language—even people who aren’t on Tinder are familiar with the premise of swiping and being able to book a last-minute date. “I’m not looking for anything serious, so Tinder does a good job of serving me that,” says Cindy, a 24-year old graphic designer. “It does a good job of just being simple and lets me take control of what I want.”
For its part, Bumble is widely known as the first app to give women the opportunity to let women initiate the conversation. And while the app now has a plethora of gender identity options, that premise make it an app that might ultimately be best for heterosexual folks.
28-year-old sugar baby Stephanie gives the two apps props for making it easy to figure out someone’s intent before committing to go out with them, and for making it possible for women to be picky. “I went out with so many beautiful men that I otherwise would’ve never come across doing everyday things,” she says. Stephanie, who is non-monogamous, met both her former husband and a former open relationship partner on Bumble.
At the end of the day, pleasure isn’t a straight arrow, and every person finds it in different places. When it comes to sex and dating, there’s no wrong way to think about it. Whether you’re prioritizing an app that leans into your kink, one that empowers you to keep doing your casual thing, or one that allows you to micromanage your dating and weed out the noise, that app is the right choice for you. Thankfully, the options are there for all of us.
Ada Ciuca is a writer and editor covering dating, body image, and lifestyle. You're probably saying her name wrong.