#BadTech: Lulu, a Guy-Rating App For Women

Cristen Conger

The new Lulu app has been described as "Facebook meets Sex and the City."

This post begs a hackneyed intro, so here it is: Are you a heterosexual woman who wishes she could read reviews of prospective boyfriends to find out whether they're studs or duds? There's an app for that.

Launched in February, Lulu is essentially a Yelp for dating, designed by and for straight women. Users sign in through Facebook to verify that they're female (or at least checked the "female" box when setting up their Facebook account), and they're then allowed to rate all of the men they're friends with and search around for local guys to see how other women have reviewed them. Lulu isn't a free-for-all, however. It offers a menu of categories (appearance, humor, first kiss, etc.) and hashtags to describe gents, such as -- no joke here -- #smellsamazeballs and #willwatchroms. I'd be more interested in a warning hashtag #usesthewordamazeballs but maybe I'm just outside the prime Lulu demographic.

Slate's Amanda Hess took Lulu for a spin, and things got weird, fast:

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.

Not surprisingly, some men aren't all that jazzed about Lulu either. Redditors immediately denounced the app after it was released, with one describing it as "straight-up harassment." On iTunes, the app has a healthy four-star rating, but negative customer reviews, clearly from men, include "I'm a faithful man to my girlfriend and it is an obvious violation of my privacy if any random anonymous person can go on this ridiculous site and slander me and lie about me." And while Lulu isn't the first of its kind, I agree that Lulu is a poor use of social media tech. Sure, we've probably all engaged in a bit of Facebook stalking here and there, but Lulu isn't going to make dating any easier for single women out there. There's too much potential out there for publicly shaming men, and while it might feel justified to call someone a jerk and potentially weaken his chances of wooing other women, Lulu and similar man-rating media in turn offer twisted justification of sorts for publicly shaming women via "revenge porn" and slut-shaming online forums. As Hess wrote of this slippery slope, "And the next time sexual harassment goes the other way around, I expect we'll hear: 'But girls are doing it on Lulu!'"

But Lulu developer Alexandra Chong sees the negative reviews as a possible benefit for guys. "Should a guy not do well in a particular category, then they can change their behavior," she told Buzzfeed Shift. Or more likely, they can opt out of the database, which Lulu allows, and swear off all Lulu-loving women.