Online dating websites are in many ways like virtual Viagra. Both are touted as a way to reinvigorate a flaccid sex life, they give more opportunities to mate to those who due to circumstances beyond their control may have had less action than they’d like, and few will admit (at least publicly) to using them. It is reported that 40 million people have tried online dating. With such a high percentage of users, one would think that online dating would be a good answer to what I like to call the “Black Female Thunderbolt Phenomenon” (the belief that black women are more likely to get struck by lightning than to ever marry).
Yet even in web waters teeming with dating prospects, black women are still getting the short end of the stick. The dating website OKCupid.com released a study back in October 2009 that revealed that black women on the site are the users who reply the most when contacted; however they are the ones who get the least replies when they initiate contact. It didn’t matter if they were reaching out to white, black, Hispanic or Middle Eastern men. Alas, even in a medium filled with people seeking to meet, black women are still having a hard time connecting.
“I don’t think that we should take these statistics too seriously,” Ama Yawson, co-founder of LoveEssence.com, told theGrio. “Black people who go to a mainstream site such as OKCupid.com aren’t necessarily black people who are interested in meeting other black people online. They’re more likely to be a black person who is open and interested in dating non-blacks, which is why they specifically choose a vehicle that would enable them to meet a more racially diverse range of prospects.”
So what is a black woman to do when she is frustrated by her limited online dating options? Well, if you’re Ama Yawson, you start your own site.
Ama decided to take an inventive approach towards finding love. After discovering that her then fiancée was in fact already married to someone else, she went on a journey to discover “love’s essence.” “I wanted to attract and to be open to any man who could give that love regardless of race, culture, height, age and other demographic characteristics.” When I asked why she opted to start her own site versus simply joining another, she answered, “None of the sites I looked at had a philosophy that I believed in. Some were too casual, some were too serious… it was really hard to find something in between. I wanted to create a space that was serious in its intention, yet playful in its interactivity.”
She continued, “I thought that there was a great market opportunity for a site catering to black women who are open to dating all races, because many black women are having less than stellar experiences on mainstream dating sites; however they don’t want to join niche interracial sites or black-only sites for various reasons.”
As a single black female in her early forties, I know all too well the challenges of meeting an available and appropriate partner — online or off. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I never worried about whether there would ever be a shortage of prospective mates. I, like many young women, took for granted that there were always going to be plenty of fish in the proverbial dating sea.
At the age of 34 I chose to take a hiatus from dating in order to do some much-needed emotional housekeeping. When I reemerged three years later, single and ready to mingle, the new and improved me suddenly found that my dating options had dwindled from a sea of bachelors to a pond of frogs.
I had come face to face with a dating truism that I once thought was a myth: Once we hit our late thirties, many of the “good” guys who actually want to be in a committed, monogamous relationship are already married, engaged or cohabiting with a partner. At the tender age of 37 I was appalled to discover that the majority of the late thirties to late forties men circling my wagon were either, a) already married (!) and looking for a fling/mistress, or b) emotionally battle scarred and terrified of making another relationship mistake, thus incapable of making a commitment.
When I grew tired of pushing away the Marrieds and getting the run around from the Emotionally Unavailable, I decided to give online dating a shot. Many of my male friends were appalled (“Are you really that desperate?”) and tried to convince me that it was a waste of time. But their ribbing and joking was not going to dissuade me from opening up my dating pool to men outside the bourgie world of New York City’s black professionals. I mean, there are only so many times that a woman can stand being at a cocktail party where two or more of her fellow female party goers have all been “known in the Biblical way” by the same commitmentphobic man standing across the room.