Online dating is confusing. Not only is it a total PIA to fill out profiles and weed your way through the unsolicited dick pics, it’s also never really clear what people are looking for on dating apps or what’s going to go down on the actual date. While you might think that Tinder is only for hookups (or finding an STD clinic), the person you’re meeting might be looking for the love of their life. Or maybe you only take Match dates seriously, while everyone else your age is over doing the same on OkCupid. Point being: Online dating is a murky, murky world, but there’s one site that launched in New York this week that turns those murky waters crystal-clear. It’s called Ohlala and it’s looking to serve the “paid dating” scene in NYC.
What’s paid dating, you ask? Well, it’s pretty simple. It’s guys paying women to go on dates with them. On Ohlala, male users create profiles and, once they’ve been verified, they put out a date request specifying the time they want to meet and the price range of what they’re wiling to pay their date. All active female users in the area are then informed about the potential date and are given 21 minutes to respond if they’re interested, making the entire process significantly faster than conventional dating sites. Once a woman has accepted a date request, her profile picture is revealed to the guy and they can have a private conversation in order to determine the parameters of the date. One of the things they discuss is the final price, which they log with Ohlala before meeting up in real life.
So, yeah, it’s a bit outside the bounds of conventional dating and probably isn’t for everyone. Most people still have certain ideas about romance and love that they attach to even online dating and, well, that’s not really what Ohlala is about.
“If you’re looking for love, I wouldn’t look on Ohlala,” CEO and co-founder Pia Poppenrieter tells Bustle. “But if you’re looking for fun for a specific period of time, where the details are agreed upon, and one [person] wants to be paid while the other wants to pay, then Ohlala is the right pick.”
Can’t get much more straightforward than that, can you?
Ohlala has been running in Pia’s native Germany since August of last year, where they’ve arranged over 25,000 dates in four different cities. While the laws around “paid dating” are less, shall we say, euphemistic, than they are in the States, Pia is confident that her app stays on the legal side of what can be a tricky situation. So, for example, she told me multiple times that no one at Ohlala knows the specifics of what happens on the dates and she insisted that people are looking for “different stuff” and that she “cannot confirm that sex is taking place.” But if something happens between two consenting adults? Well, it is what it is.
Ohlala is also committed to protecting the women who meet dates via their app in ways that are extremely rare for any app and especially rare for a company that deals with paid dates. I grilled Pia pretty hard about this factor, as personal safety is especially important — and difficult — for women who make their money this way. I asked the very euphemistic question of what Ohlala would do if “something bad” happened to a woman on a date that was arranged via the app. Pia asked me to be more specific and I said, well, what if someone was sexually assaulted?
“That’s not a ‘bad thing,’” Pia says. “That is rape. Obviously if this is the case, she needs to file and report this. That’s a serious, serious concern and we need to help in whatever way we can to solve it.”
I pressed her to clarify about Ohlala’s role in that investigation. Would they have the woman’s back or would they pull an Uber and say that they’re just facilitators and have no responsibility for the people who work via their app? Pia’s voice got harder as she explained that Ohlala would do everything in their power to provide the information needed for a police investigation.
“I will not look away,” she said.
But perhaps the best thing about Ohlala is that it’s set up to provide a level of protection before the date is even arranged that is largely unheard of in this industry. Pia pointed out that while meeting online is almost always safer than meeting some rando in a bar, for example, (or a client in the street, on the other end of the spectrum) Ohlala provides extra layers of protection. Male users not only have verified profiles but the app also has their credit card information as well as their IP address. Additionally, female users are able to flag and report users as well as submit feedback that’s only seen by Ohlala staff, unless they choose to make it public. Finally, Pia told me that they’re currently furiously working away at a checkin/check out feature for the app so that the women using the app know that someone knows exactly where they are and is alerted if they don’t check in on time.
So, no, Ohlala is not for everyone who’s looking for a clearer online dating experience — you might just be stuck with having to use your words on those conventional dating sites. But for those who are interested in exploring this kind of dating? It just might be the best out there. Interested users in NYC can register here and while the current set up is men paying women for dates, Pia assured me that there are plans for reversing the genders and for gay paid dating in the future, so stay tuned.
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Images: Fotolia; Giphy (3); Ohlala (2)