The XX Factor

Rating Men on Lulu Isn’t Empowering. It’s Creepy.

Who doesn’t like a little public leering?

Last week, I put out a call for more hook-up apps that are actually designed by, and for, women. Social media pro Alexandra Chong answered my call. Enter Lulu, an app so female-friendly that it doesn’t even require men to create their own profiles—women do that for them.

Lulu, Chong says, is “the first database of men, built by women, for women.” It is “the smart girls’ app for private recommendations and reviews on guys.” It is “Yelp for boys.” Cosmopolitan calls it “Sex and the City marries Facebook.” As you might imagine, the combination is insufferable.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: You sign into Lulu via Facebook to prove you’re a woman (or rather, that you’ve indicated your Facebook gender as “female”). You page through a list of all your male Facebook friends, award them points based on their looks, manners, spending habits, and ambition, then assign them hashtags for their strengths (#SexualPanther, #NotADick) and weaknesses (#NapoleonComplex, #WearsEdHardy). Then, the next time you’re circling a romantic or sexual prospect in real life, just plug his name into Lulu to see what your (totally anonymous) virtual girlfriends have to say about him.

Here’s how it actually goes down. When I logged on this morning, Lulu prompted me to rate an alphabetized list of my hundreds of male Facebook friends—including my married, middle-aged uncle. Lulu has prepared for this uncomfortable scenario by inviting women to assess men from the perspective of partners, exes, crushes, friends, or relatives. When I clicked the “relative” box, the app asked me to rate how hot I think my uncle is. It describes the highest point category this way: “When it comes to his looks, I wish we weren’t related.” Presumably, so I would be able to legally have sex with him. Gross.

Unfortunately, the creepiness of Lulu doesn’t end at the bloodline. This app asks women to publicly sexualize (#KinkyInTheRightWays) and shame (#BabbyDaddy) the men in their lives without their consent. It’s the textual equivalent of leaking your ex’s naked pics to the Internet—it’s not wrong because it’s sexual, it’s wrong because it’s nonconsensual. Chong says the app’s point system and preset hashtags help Lulu sidestep the negativity of its predecessors, like the rant-based Don’t Date Him Girl. Lulu, she says, is a place to “recommend guys rather than trashing them.” But the nastiness has been curtailed just enough to prevent women from sharing crucial information (#HeRapedMe / #GaveMeAnSTD / #HasASecretFamily). All that’s left is leering and negging. Any woman who’s been cat-called by a stranger on the street knows this: Unwelcomed sexual commentary isn’t a compliment, it’s harassment. If Lulu is really a boon for men, then let willing parties create their own profiles.

At the Cut, Kat Stoeffel rightfully ridicules a group of Redditors who denounce Lulu as anti-male harassment while defending their own right to post unauthorized naked photos of women to the Internet and unleash the anonymous commentary. But these guys are half right. As one said, “I wonder how society would react if I made an app that let men rate women they knew and gossip about how slutty they are.” I do, too. And  the next time sexual harassment goes the other way around, I expect we’ll hear: “But girls are doing it on Lulu!”