TV Features

Maybe Love Is Blind—But It Doesn't Happen Within 30 Days

Can you truly know you love someone within the span of a few weeks?

Netflix

After my last serious relationship, I decided to "put myself out there" again and downloaded Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid.

Being an active user on all these platforms solidified to me how different the dating scene is nowadays. Most of it is due to technology and our social media culture, which has definitely made us a bit more narcissistic, fake, and even cold-hearted. Romance in this day and age is pretty much dead—and, without a doubt, so is chivalry. Only two of my most recent 20 dates opened a door for me, so now I go on dates with zero expectations. Most of these guys just want to hook up, thinking a first date and a couple drinks warrants the perfect opportunity to proposition me.

With all these "options" at our fingertips, everyone seems to be suffering from the "grass is greener" syndrome. When anyone can DM you, like your pic, or send a Snapchat (which, let's be real, is reserved for thirst traps), it cancels out any real effort to get to know someone on a deeper level and find a genuine connection behind the "black mirror" of our screens. Are we still capable of finding love like our parents did, decades ago? Is modern dating harder now because we have an open obsession and scrutiny about status, looks, and age? If only there were a "social experiment" that could explore what would happen to people if you took away their phones and had them focus on building blind connections with total strangers...Would romance prevail?

Love is blind jessica Netflix

Nick Lachey (from 98 Degrees) and his wife, Vanessa, took it upon themselves to explore this profound question—"Is love blind?"—on Netflix's new dating reality show, Love Is Blind. The idea of having 29 single men and women "speed date" for 10 days while staying in isolated pods that prevent all physical and visual contact is daunting. And, of course, no one is allowed to use their cell phone. It's just classic, one-on-one bonding time with the express goal of...immediately getting engaged. It proves to work—eight couples actually do it (although only six get screen time).

Once engaged, the couple gets to see each other for the first time before being whisked away to a "couples retreat" in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. At the retreat, everyone has the chance to meet each other (remember, they all speed dated one another) to stir up drama and see who "regrets" picking their partner (*cough* Jessica Batten). Then after Mexico, the couples move into an apartment complex in Atlanta, Georgia, where they proceed to meet each other's families and friends before the wedding (which is set 28 days after the engagement).

First and foremost, the whole premise is completely outrageous, because it brings up another complex question regarding love: Can you truly know you love someone within the span of a few weeks or even days? One couple exchanges "I love yous" after less than a week in the pods and get engaged after just five days! That never happens in the "real world," so the "social experiment" has an inherent flaw in that its participants' motives for getting engaged might be questionable, inspired by a desire to move along in the show. Keep in mind: No one has their phones, so every single one of these men and women (who are all fairly attractive, which is such wasted potential for a show revolving around emotional connection and not just looks) are thinking that this girl or guy is their only "option" in the pods. How authentic can these desperate proposals be?

Love is blind lauren and cameron Netflix

Now let's talk about the six couples Love Is Blind actually showcases. The best couple is, without a doubt, scientist Cameron Hamilton and digital content creator Lauren Speed, who immediately connect and became emotionally invested in one another at the very start. I can't pinpoint exactly why they instantly clicked, but given their sweet nature and genuine wholesome personalities, it actually made sense. Apart from Cameron and Lauren, only one other couple—SPOILER ALERT—says yes at the altar: frat bro engineer Matt Barnett and ex-tank mechanic Amber Pike (the girl with a make-up credit card and $20,000 in student loans). In classic reality show bro-style, Barnett caused quite a stir in the pods, flirting with just about everyone and keeping three main ladies in his back pocket: Lauren Chamblin (sweet and nice "LC"), Jessica Batten (a 34-year-old who uses a baby voice when talking to men and feeds her dog wine), and Barnett's future wife Amber (who probably still believes in her "work to live" party vibes). He completely played all of them, with the exception of Amber, who definitely has a screw loose since she was instantly possessive over him.

Barnett's behavior in the pods is just like the quintessential Tinder guy—overly flirtatious, chill, and preoccupied with inserting sexual innuendos into any conversation. The highlight of the series is when he blatantly lies to Jessica, who had initially "emotionally" connected to young and naive fitness trainer Mark Cuevas (only 24 years old). Knowing that Mark has his eyes on Jessica and not wanting to let go of any of his "top" ladies, Barnett tells Jessica that he would be willing to propose to her the next day after their "pod date." Afterwards, Jessica turns down Mark's earnest attempt to continue their committed "pod-lationship" to explore a possible engagement with Barnett. Then, exactly as expected, Barnett backtracks, leading Jessica to return to Mark, crying and groveling. Mark immediately takes her back, losing the respect of us viewers in the process, because nobody likes "hot mess" Jessica (seriously, there's an entire subreddit basically dedicated to making fun of her), and what self-respecting guy would subject himself to that?

To say people get emotional, delusional, and needy on this show is an understatement. The couples exchanged rivers of tears, professions of love (the iconic Damian Powers' "I am the gift" proposal), and "f*ck yous"; and the huge blowout between Carlton Morton and Diamond Jack will go down as one of the most brutal fights in Netflix reality TV history. Honestly, how genuine can these surface-level "emotional connections" be within 10 days? They've just met. Case in point: Carlton straight up withholds the fact that he's bisexual, which ultimately ends his engagement with Diamond. That's something you state in the first couple of dates. Loving someone means you fully accept them, which definitely takes time.

Physical attraction also plays a huge factor in long-lasting relationships, whether we want to admit it or not. This is exemplified by Damian Powers, a "general manager" who hilariously took too much time off of work and could possibly be unemployed after the show, and his strange relationship with the "fiery" but unstable Giannina Milady (yes, you read that correctly) Gibelli. Although, according to Damian, their sex life is "banging," the couple ultimately does not get married. They are polar opposites who fight constantly and oftentimes forget why they chose each other. Damian is so emotionless and monotone compared to Giannina, who can go from zero to one hundred immediately. Ironically, her obsession with her phone and social media activity prompts Damian to warn her about potentially losing him if she continues that behavior. As he leads into his ultimatum at the dinner table, Giannina is still checking her phone–the audacity! Long story short, they don't really see each other's "bad sides" until after the engagement. Amazingly though, even after their on-air relationship fell apart, they continued dating and are still together today.

Love is blind amber and barnett Netflix

Lastly, Kenny Barnes and Kelly Chase (the most boring, vanilla couple on the show) have a strong emotional connection but no sexual chemistry. It isn't surprising when they don't get married (they're the only engaged couple who never sleeps together). (Shockingly, Mark and Jessica do get it on, despite Jessica stating over and over again that she can't match their emotional "pod connection" with the physical)

The most interesting aspect of the series is definitely the dynamics during the pod stages. Honestly, if the pod stages were to last three to five months, perhaps the single participants truly could "fall in love" based on real, emotional connections. But the only "love" that truly exists on Love Is Blind is between Cameron and Lauren (solely because these two are the rare type of "real"). Barnett and Amber also get married, but their connection seems like it won't last long (although, in fairness, they're still married today, over a year later). Removing social media and phones definitely strengthens and encourages the possibility of making a connection, but having such a short "deadline" on marriage puts undue pressure on the relationships. Thus, everyone falls under the illusion that their feelings—which are most likely just base-line emotional connections that we're no longer accustomed to experiencing from behind today's dating apps—must be "love." In essence, the Love Is Blind "social experiment" promotes the age-old, traditional notion of a classical, epic romance—loving someone for who they are and not what they look like.

I support the notion, but the experiment needs to be updated. Give the participants more time in the pods and sprinkle in less attractive singles, because you can't promote "beauty is on the inside" when everyone looks like they can get laid without a reality show. Let's see how these participants really feel if they propose to a fifty-year-old woman, a heavyset man, or a really short dude...Will they swipe left or right?

CULTURE

How Dating Apps Changed Romance in the 2010s

It's cool to be vulnerable–sort of.

Vocal

Why is Sharon Stone, one of the world's most prominent "sex symbols," using a dating app?

If you're not sure, then you're out of touch with how online love will be in the 2020s. Since the dawn of online dating in the mid-1990s, we've come full circle from shaming online romance to trying it out "ironically" to swiping right on possible mates while waiting in line at Starbucks.

When the 61-year-old actress (of salacious Basic Instinct fame) took to Twitter to lament that she'd been blocked from Bumble because users were reporting her profile was fake, we were collectively reminded that online dating's become too prosaic to exclude celebrities. "Hey @bumble, is being me exclusionary? Don't shut me out of the hive," she tweeted. Soon the company reinstated her account, with Bumble's editorial director Clare O'Connor stating, "Trust us, we *definitely* want you on the Hive."

In fact, the hive is buzzing, and not just on Bumble. Seven years ago, five dudes and one woman launched Tinder. Today, dating apps are estimated to be a $12 billion dollar industry in 2020. As swiping has creeped into our daily rituals, critics have fretted that dating has been superficially "gamified" by Tinder, killed off the subtlety of courtship, and resulted in a "dating apocalypse" that's prioritized sexual gratification over genuine human connection.

Earlier this year, writer Derek Thompson tweeted a simple graph showing Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld's 10 years of research on how modern heterosexual couples meet. While he expected the data to point out the obvious to people, the general response was despair at the emptiness of modern existence, marked by "heightened isolation and a diminished sense of belonging within communities," as one user noted (which is an impressive impact for a sociologist to have on the Twitterverse, so kudos to Rosenfield, who received a barrage of messages on his own social media accounts). It's the opposite of the 1950s' "stranger danger," Thompson noted, to the extent that finding a partner is like ordering on Amazon. Like online shopping, we're struck with choice paralysis when confronted with seemingly every conceivable fish in the sea.

Is modern love emotionally bankrupt? Is our reliance on technology trapping us in isolated bubbles of ids and impulses? Eh, maybe. But one overarching effect of searching for a potential partner online is that we have to get very clever at communication, or at least faking it through shorthand. From cringey neologisms like "sapiosexual" or "lumbersexual," listing your Meyers-Briggs personality type, or inexplicably sticking your baby photo in the middle of your profile, what makes us stand out from the nameless, impersonal crowd is personal details–or, as Brene Brown loves to say, "the power of being vulnerable."

For instance, as universally appalling as identifying as a "sapiosexual" (one who is attracted to intelligence) is, the unfortunate trend took off because it "fill[ed] a gap between the language we have available and the language we need to find connection in the online dating world," Mashable noted. Psychologist, author, and sex coach Liz Powell emphasized the importance of communication via dating app: "On the internet, all you have is words. So while IRL you can watch how someone interacts with others or dances, online you just have what you type at each other." She added, "Sapiosexuality is a highly controversial term these days because of the ways it can enshrine classist, ableist, sexist, and racist ideas about what it means to be 'smart.'" But, at its core, the word is emblematic of our desire to be seen as individuals rather than a profile picture. The CEO of a dating app exclusively designed to appeal to self-identifying sapiosexuals, called Sapio, even acknowledges, "For many, defining oneself as sapiosexual has become [a] statement against the current status quo of hookup culture and superficiality, where looks are prized above all else." It's a white flag of surrender to hookup culture and an odd plea to be seen holistically.

Similarly, the CEO of Hinge has noted that the latest approach to online dating values "authentic and vulnerable" profiles. The app grew in popularity because of its requirement to answer distinct and personal questions on your profile, such as "the most personal thing I'm willing to admit," "pet peeves," "I will never tell my grandchildren," or "what I am thankful for."

Undoubtedly, we're still grappling with the linguistic challenges of presenting a curated online version of ourselves that appeals to strangers within the average three to seven seconds we have before being sentenced to a swipe left or right. But maybe the bright side of our Instagram-laden, commodified, and robot-driven daily rituals is that our banal, unsexy humanity is becoming one of our most appreciated assets—even if we don't look like Sharon Stone.

CULTURE

Empathy for Incels

Separating the venom from the genuinely pained and human core of inceldom could be the first step in saving society from the vileness of incel ideology and saving some of these lost young men from themselves.

Original image from lookism.net

Technically speaking, dating is easier now than it has been at any other point in human history.

Even in the early 2000s, a person's relationship options were largely limited to the people they knew through work, school, or their local community––meeting new people meant going to a bar and hoping to click with whoever happened to be there that night. Today, the options are limitless. Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble expand potential relationships from social circles to entire cities. On the modern dating circuit, everything is public and everyone seems to be hooking up. But in a hyper-connected world, people who can't seem to make connections feel lonelier than ever before.

Incels are people who self-identify as "involuntarily celibate" and participate in an online subculture marked by rampant sexism, hate speech, and conspiratorial thinking mixed with intense self-loathing. It's easy to write them off as just another group of entitled, mostly-male reactionaries who are angry about the modern equality movement and the increased social clout women are gaining. After all, the political landscape is rife with those (see Gamergate). Considering the type of rhetoric commonly found on incel forums––expressions of admiration for the "Supreme Gentleman" Elliot Rodger are not uncommon, for instance––anything short of outright condemnation of the entire incel subculture can be seen as condoning a dangerous hive of radicalization.

And yet, while incel ideology is dogmatic, dangerous, and inherently flawed, recognizing that the experiences they stem from are overwhelmingly human––pain, loneliness, social anxiety, and self-loathing––might bring to light new solutions that could lead incels to genuinely recovering and reacclimating into modern society. So, too, could the acknowledgement that incels aren't just born from dangerous, sexist feelings of entitlement, at least not at first, and while their larger ideology certainly sits upon a heap of misconceptions, there might be a kernel of truth somewhere at the bottom.

The Cut recently published a phenomenal article about incel plastic surgery, a growing trend whereby incels seek cosmetic surgery to fix perceived facial flaws in order to become more "Chad-like." To clarify, incel subculture calls the most attractive men, who "hoard" most of the world's sex with women (or so they believe), Chads. Chads are men with square jaws and prominent brows, but they can also be lithe or vampiric as long as they possess an aesthetic that Stacys and Beckys––attractive blonde women and basically every other kind of woman, respectively––typically find hot.

zac efron shirtless Zac Efron, total Chad. MCCFL / Splash News


While some incels who opt-in for this kind of cosmetic surgery experience a noticeable difference in their lives afterwards, specifically in the way they're treated by others, many find that their lives don't change very much at all. The core subject of the article, a man who uses the alias Truth4lie, is stuck in an endless cycle of surgeries, post-op elation, discovering a new flaw, suicidal ideation, and then more surgery. Ultimately, his account suggests extreme body dysmorphia, an isolating mental illness far more likely to cause "involuntary celibacy" than his perceived physical flaws.

In fact, the most standout revelation upon browsing many incel forums is that the users––on the rare occasions they post pictures of themselves for critique––are usually pretty average looking guys. Granted, many of them are not, but they're not hideous or grotesque either. Countless men who are just as "ugly" by conventional measures of attractiveness can be found on dates in every restaurant in every major city. So, then, what's really "wrong" with incels?

incel chin The difference between an incel and a Chad according to incels.reddit.com/r/incels

The answer most likely varies from person to person, but chances are high that two common scenarios account for most members of the community. The first is mental illness and neurological atypicalities, which manifest in multiple ways that could lead to "inceldom." One, as outlined in The Cut's article, is body dysmorphia. Others might include social anxiety, depression, or autism––anything that causes one to feel isolated or leads to confusion regarding social contacts. The second is the possibility that these individuals are genuinely physically unattractive and don't have the proper tools or social skills to make up for that disadvantage when dating.

The underlying issues for both groups of incels––and there's likely a good deal of overlap between the two––make their initial involvement in incel communities all the more understandable. Connection with others is a core human need, and long-term loneliness can lead to severe mental and physical repercussions, from insomnia to suicide. For people in circumstances like these, incel communities offer support and a soothing––albeit incorrect––scapegoat for their problems.

"The black pill" is the incel community's core ideological offering: the fatalistic, sexist "truth" of biological determinism––that unattractive men are simply doomed to be rejected by the selfish, shallow creatures known as women. Black pill ideology is repugnant and patently disproven by every single average and below average-looking guy in a healthy relationship. But for someone who has convinced himself that his face is the bane of his own existence and for whom every glance in the mirror is a brutal takedown, black pill ideology shoulders the burden of rejection through absolute affirmation. Black pill ideology says, "Yes, you are ugly, and no, your lot can't be changed." For someone struggling and failing to climb out of a dark, deep, lonely pit, that kind of affirmation, however damaging, can seem like a ray of light.

Perhaps, then, the best solution to dealing with inceldom is offering that same sort of empathy and understanding to struggling people before they turn to incel communities in the first place. The most common "normie" advice (which is always derided by incels) is that if someone wants a girlfriend, all they need to do is "hit the gym and take a bath." This suggests that the core problem incels suffer from is poor hygiene and bad lifestyle choices. But while this may be true for some incels, hitting the gym and taking a bath won't solve deep-seated psychological ailments, pervasive neuroses, or self-hatred.

The truth is that dating is significantly harder for people with mental illnesses or social anxiety. And dating is way, way harder for physically unattractive people. That being said, attractiveness is not stagnant or binary, and plenty of traditionally unattractive people find love and hold successful, lasting relationships with people who subjectively find them attractive. The solution is not to demonize incels for their flawed reasoning, but rather to destigmatize therapy for men, along with undoing so many other traditional, rigid standards that dictate what is and isn't "masculine." Ideally, with genuine empathy and support structures in place, incels wouldn't become incels in the first place.

Unfortunately, incel communities aren't just limited to sad affirmations––empathy would be a lot easier in that case. Black pilling naturally leads to anger and resentment, mainly directed towards women. These views compound and fester within echo chambers, oftentimes resulting in genuine hatred and, sometimes, real-world violence. But separating the venom from the genuinely pained and human core of inceldom could be the first step in saving society from the vileness of incel ideology and saving some of these lost young men from themselves.

CULTURE

I'm an Asian Woman on Tinder: An Analysis of My Inbox

Shame is a social construct in the age of the eggplant emoji.

James Jean/VertigoFrom the cover of 'Fables' #33

I've been lying about using dating apps since 2012.

In order of appearance in my life, Tinder, OkCupid, CoffeeMeetsBagel, Bumble, and Hinge have all occupied space on my shitty phone. I've shared my personal details with strangers who are probably in their underwear or on the toilet all over New York City. I love it. The most interesting conversations are profane and precious, like baby teeth or blood diamonds. They always start the same way–with an abrasive, sweaty message, oblivious to the boundaries of the social contract and grammatical correctness.

Full disclosure: This is me. Hi, Internet. I'm sorry I find oversharing so funny.Tinder

I figured out the best way to enjoy Tinder is to switch phones with a friend of any gender and delve into the dating world from their perspective. This way, I've gotten to experience dating apps as a 24-year-old Egyptian-American film student, a 23-year-old tall, blond social media manager, and a 31-year-old MFA-holder from Queens who bears a striking resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch. In return, my friends have stepped into my shoes as a 5-foot-tall, 28-year-old Korean-American chick in Brooklyn. I'm fascinated with the kinds of restrained, polite messages they receive, and they've experienced firsthand some of the bizarre, fervent, and emoji-laden love notes that fill my inbox.

Twitter

OkCupid

Being Asian on a dating app makes for a unique experience. Last year, Adam Chen published his dispirited take on Buzzfeed News: "Being Asian On Tinder Means Getting Rejected Or Fetishized And Neither Feels Good." As an Asian-American male, he fits neither the exotic FOB ("fresh off the boat") persona or weird effeminate K-pop vibe. He describes being subjected to the uncomfortable attention of someone who has "yellow fever," as well as the outright rejection of rarely receiving Tinder's congratulatory "You've matched!" message.

As an Asian female, my experience is vastly different from that of an Asian male, though just as hopeless about today's avoidant, unromantic, online dating culture. Thanks to the rich and creative history of Western culture exoticizing and objectifying Asian women, I get a lot of matches. I get too many matches. I get a disturbing amount of matches. Some of the actual introductory messages I've received have included, "I didn't know Asians could have freckles!" (in fact, they cannot. I'm just a genetic experiment gone wrong), as well as, "Please like me back, I need more Asian friends!" (Yes, exclamation marks are genuine).

Yet, I've detected fascinating patterns to the type of messages I receive, especially under the free-for-all policies of Tinder and OkCupid. When I change my app's settings to seek men between ages 21 and 45 (seeking other women on Tinder deserves its own study), an inordinate amount of messages are from senders in the 35-45 age bracket. This could be indicative that older single men on dating apps are too aware of their own mortality to feel shame; or, I could interpret this as a demoralizing sign of Woody Allen-syndrome: young Asian women are a strange, special object of desire for older white men. Either way, after seven years of studying the bizarre ethos of online dating, I'm ready to publish my official findings.

Type 1: Uncomfortable Sharing

What I've found in my studies is that there are three types of weird messages: Uncomfortable Sharing, S-E-X, and Oh No. Let's examine the first. These messages are sent unabashedly throughout the early evenings into the modest hours of the night, are from senders displaying out of focus profile pictures taken from a distance, and they often use clever pseudonyms, like MisterMajesty78. Messages range from unleashed streams of consciousness that try to compliment and impress you while also crying out for help to concrete plans to meet in person ASAP. In some instances, my friendly fellow researchers and I crafted a response to further our study of modern dating culture and why it's morally fine if none of us choose to have children.

Type 1, Specimen AOkCupid

Type 1, Specimen BTwitter

Type 2: S-E-X

The second type of message is very forward about what the sender wants, intrepid about asking for it directly, and will not-so-gently remind you that shame is a social construct in the age of the eggplant emoji. Unlike Type 1, these senders choose to communicate in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday or, more proactively, even before one's morning commute. Variations of this type include pithy one-liners meant to sexually arouse with astonishing wit, as well as requests for self-evaluation of one's willingness to experiment in the bedroom. Who knew Tinder's full of Kinsey-like sex scientists?

Type 2, Specimen ATwitter

Type 2, Specimen BTwitter

Type 2, Specimen CTwitter


Type 2, Specimen DTinder

Type 3: Oh No

This type excels in persistence. After receiving no response, the sender has no reservations about reminding you that you are ignoring him. Usually sent without any regard to the time of day or night, the speaker is very expressive of one's concern, rarely uses emojis, and often displays a selfie taken very close to his face.

Type 3, Specimen ATinder

Type 3, Specimen BTinder

Conclusions

This Asian woman's experience in online dating probably overlaps with most women's experiences, in that I'll never understand the assumptions single men make about what women want to hear. Is a woman obligated to respond to a message on a dating app? Of course not, and neither is a man. Everybody has a right to ignore everybody, and anyone can become a Type 3 when the average Tinder user wastes 90 minutes a day mindlessly swiping. Questions for further study include: Are dirty one-liners still used because they're ironic? Or are they so ironic now that senders are genuinely hopeful? If I were a ghost, who or where would I haunt? I hope the resident in my building always blasting EDM is willing to switch phones so I can further my studies.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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Playlist

MUSIC MONDAY | Tattoo Money boosts the "Levels" of Love

MARCH 19 | Can We Hang On?

MONDAY MIX | Love On The Level

by Tattoo Money

03.19.18 | This playlist is a collection of songs that either inspired the production of my new single "Levels", set the bar in terms of mushiness, or just shared my weird take on romance. "Can we Hang On?" from Cold War Kids speaks on the hurdles in relationships between artists and their non-artist partners, it's real ya'll. "I wanna be yours" by Arctic Monkeys is a song I use to dedicate to my girl earlier on in the relationship... until I wrote my own song for her, of course."Ding-a-Ling" From Stefflon Don and "I'm in it" from Kanye are pillow talk at its finest!

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Is it the Second Coming? Tinder users are swiping right for that slick Son-of-God who is here to save us from our sins (or is he?). Jesus is back on Tinder!

For those of you who live in the time BC (that's before Christ), Tinder is a dating app where users swipe "right" on people they want to match with. Now, the sexy potential savior of mankind has joined Tinder, and HOLY crap, his pickup lines are good.

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Jesus' profile describes him as a 21 year old carpenter, but by digging into his profile, we were able to learn so much more about him.

Actually several thousand years old idk why it says 21 lol

Downside: I've only been nailed once

Upside: I would die for you, so you know I'm committed

...also my dad is a pretty big deal. He always beats me in dreidel.

Swipe right if you need some Jesus in you

Mother of God, these are some good Jesus jokes.

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Wait... is Jesus a Justin Bieber fan?

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#TinderJesus is matching with some good-looking, good-humored folks of both genders, which is good enough reason to disregard Leviticus 20:13 entirely. There is also reason to believe that Tinder Jesus is actually my friend Shane, who is noted for looking like "white Jesus."

Did you match with Tinder Jesus? Tweet us your story @Popdust or email ben@popdust.com with details!