When Swiss dating app Blinq first launched, it had one notably unique feature poised to set it apart from Tinder, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel, or any other "swipe"-based hookup app: a hotness indicator. An unlike OkCupid's premium account attractiveness filters, the hot-or-not feature was available to users for free, and to use on themselves. Once you plug your image in, the app spits back your perceived gender, age, and hotness rating on a scale of "Hmm..," "Ok," "Nice," "Hot," "Stunning," or "Godlike."
Rather than giving users a complex about their self-image, Blinq co-founder Alex Zimmermann claims the feature is intended to help users figure out which photos will work best for them on a dating app.
"We try to fix the problem that a lot of people do not know what kind of images do work well on dating apps," Zimmerman told Mic. You know, in case there's any doubt in your mind over whether you should choose a photo that looks like the real you, or one that an algorithm objectively tells you is hot, according to science.
Aside from my gleefully manipulative impulse to have my non-mainstream-conforming beauty judged by a robot, there was another reason I wanted to plug a few different test subjects into the algorithm: the technology was developed in Switzerland. In other words, the app was developed with Swiss beauty standards in mind — a fact that's clearly admitted on the website:
"Our algorithm is trained on the pictures of the Blinq community that is mainly based in Switzerland. In other parts of the world the perception might be very different ... have fun and don't take the results too seriously."
I was interested to see how the app would rate non-cisnormative, queer, and — let's be real — non-white faces.
I'm a queer femme — mainstream beauty standards not only don't apply to my community, but they also actively work against me if they mess too much with my visibility. For example, If I'm at a queer party in a foxy dress, full makeup, with a manicure, and freshly waxed legs — a presentation I feel totally hot in — I will without fail be read by every queer person in the room as some gay guy's straight best friend who's just there to dance it out. In other words, I'm catching way more fish with an undercut and sensible Frye boots.
Unsurprisingly, Blinq heavily favored my more heteronormative photos. The best rating I could muster was a middling "hot" (a 4 out of 6 on their scale) with a professionally makeup-ed and retouched headshot I had taken when I was 21 and still had straight girl hair.
Next, I tested more recent photos (from age 26), with an unabashedly queerer look, ranging from less-made up professional headshots, to lipsticked and Instagram-filtered pics, to a sublime half-naked photo of me advocating The Cliteracy Project on a rooftop. Nothing got me back to retouched, straight-girl-hair hotness.
Then, I plugged in a few photos from around ten years ago (age 19), when I was 40 pounds heavier, to see if my weight would significantly shift my results. I tested photos with makeup and without, as well as one adorable snap of me in Florence after too much wine and pasta.
Interestingly, photos in which I weighed more were aged much older than I was at the time, while my slimmer photos were aged much younger than I was at the time. I tested a photo of me from last week, on my 28th birthday, and it still aged me at 23 (hotness rating: "ok"). So I guess that's flattering.
For the next phase of my experiment, I plugged in a series of masculine of center queer folks, some trans* and some POC. Unsurprisingly, no one managed to move past the "ok" rating. All the masculine of center queers were read by the app as male, with the exception of one person. I plugged in two different photos of them taken on the same night, and one came back reading as a 22-year-old female, and the other one came back as a 29-year old male.
Another trans* man's pre-transition photo got a "hot" male reading (post-transition got an "ok" male), but the face finder was focused over a wicker chair in the background and not the person's face.
If you're a queer person who strongly dislikes being misgendered, and you think there's a chance you may confuse the app, then you may want to avoid Blinq. But if you delight in subverting mainstream beauty standards by confusing measures of their success, then you can have your own photo assessed here.
In spite of having an attractive black man available for assessment in its tester (he comes back as "hot," by the way), nary a one of my non-white test subjects could break into the hottest half of the Blinq scale. Even a photo of Piers Morgan-approved hottie Janet Mock only came back with a "nice" rating.
But Blinq can and will totally affirm your hotness — if you're cisnormative-looking, white, and have professionally retouched photos at your disposal for dating app usage.
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Images: Mariella Mosthof/Screenshots (7); Giphy (3)