The Problem of Trespassing on Niche Dating Sites

Joining a dating site for a different age, race, or religion can be a way to find the partner you're looking for, but can also be motivated by insidious stereotyping.
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Black People Meet connects African-Americans looking for love. JDate facilitates dating between Jewish people. Our Time allows the over-50 set to find partners of a similar age. But no one’s checking IDs at the door.

It turns out that hundreds of users on Black People Meet are not actually black. A considerable chunk of JDate members aren’t in the tribe. And on Our Time, 585kidd, who lists his age as 19, is one of many who are a long way from 50. “Ages [sic] does not bother me as long as we love each other,” he writes on his profile.

In fact, a quick search on nearly any targeted dating site reveals poachers—people who use these sites to find a partner of a certain demographic to which they themselves do not belong. BBPeopleMeet.com, a website for plus-size people, has a sizable portion of lean lovers. And not everyone on TallFriends.com is over 6 feet. Many of these websites attract people who are looking, quite literally, for their significant “other.”

Take Benjamin Hagar, 23, a white man who’s interested in dating only black women—a difficult pairing, given that he lives in Saranac Lake, N.Y., where only 1.5 percent of the population is black.

“Meeting a nice black woman around my age in this area has about the same chances of success as throwing a rock from Times Square and having it land on the moon,” he said.

As the number of seemingly insular dating sites—from SeaCaptainDate.com (“find your first mate”) to BikerKiss.com (“two wheels, two hearts, one road”)—continues to climb, so does the number of interlopers. Though many of these dating sites neither encourage nor forbid trespassing, some have tacitly welcomed outsiders. JDate, for instance, has added new options to its profiles: “willing to convert,” and even “not willing to convert.”

Outsiders on sites such as Black People Meet are more conspicuous, but this hasn’t kept them away.

“I find African-American women take care of themselves, dress better and treat their men better,” said David Dargie, 58, a white store manager from Vermont who has a dating profile on Black People Meet. “I just find them more attractive. Some men like blondes, some like brunettes—I like black people.”

Stereotypes, such as the notion that a Jew will have strong family values or an Asian will be highly educated, are “very enduring” despite “tons of disconfirming evidence,” said Jennifer Lee, a sociology professor at the University of California-Irvine, who focuses on ethnic minorities, interracial marriage, and multiracial identity.

“Even a complimentary stereotype can be damaging,” Lee said. “It seems like it might be flattering, but what they’re doing is putting that person into a box and hoping that they conform to their image of what a Jewish person is, or what a black person is, based on preconceived notions.”

Members of minority groups often prefer to stick together. Though the proportion of interracial marriages, according to Pew Research, was at an all-time high in 2012—8.4 percent—that still means more than 90 percent of marriages are intra-racial. People may search for love within the community to preserve their culture or because it’s simply more comfortable to be with a partner of the same background. They may not take kindly to gatecrashers.

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Lauren Davidson is a journalist based in New York. She has written for the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London.

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