Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Ugly 80


The website beautifulpeople.com is a somewhat unique take on the model of online dating/social networking. Founded in Denmark in 2001, the idea is that to become a member you must submit a photo of yourself to be approved by existing site members of the opposite sex. For forty-eight hours, your photo will be rated according to attractiveness and if you amass enough positive feedback you will be accepted as one of the beautiful people. 


The site has made headlines several times with its “press releases” (or thinly-veiled publicity stunts depending on your level of skepticism) like the announcement in June of this year that an ex-employee had planted a virus that allowed a large number of applicants to bypass the screening process.  This “breach” allowed several ugly people to invade the site and the company reportedly issued refunds to about 30,000 users that had been mistakenly labeled “beautiful.”

In addition to the “fuglygate” breach, they implemented a similar tactic in January of 2010 when they announced that 25,000 existing members had been axed from the site after gaining too much weight over the holiday season. Founder Robert Hintze explained the move rather concisely: "Letting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model and the very concept for which BeautifulPeople.com was founded."

Curious, I completed the application process under an assumed name but using real photos and statistics. There was a space to leave a description and although I penned the following paragraph:

I am a nomadic venture capitalist who specializes in mid-level synergy consulting firms. My passion for luxury is only surpassed by my passion for being passionate. Hobbies include aquatic falconry, clairvoyant Scrabble, elk racing, planking, and Slavic poetry. Although financially potent, I prefer life’s pedestrian delights over the superficial contrivances and trappings of wealth. If you wish to navigate the waterways of existence with someone who yearns to drink deeply of life’s nectar than look no further!

I opted to leave that part of the form blank. I was informed that I would receive the results in forty-eight hours, but once my time was up I received an email informing me that I had been granted another twenty-four hour reprieve in order to make my vote more “democratic.” Finally the time had come and I received a message informing me that I did not receive a high enough score. They suggested I resubmit using a “different photo” and a “more interesting profile and description” which loosely translated means “the only factor that prevented your acceptance was your personality and physical appearance.” I knew I should have used the paragraph…..  

The site claims to have five million active users but I find it hard to believe that such a high number of overwhelmingly-attractive adults with disposable income can’t find a date. The site also claims that the process is so rigorous that only 20% of applicants are granted access. Fortunately for the other 80% there is still whatsyourprice.com, a dating site that allows the “ugly 80” to finance the romantic attention we are unable to acquire on the strength of our attractiveness.

The site divides users into two distinct categories: the generous and the attractive. The generous users bid a monetary value (say $150) available to anyone willing to spend an evening fending off their sexual advances. The “attractive” are permitted to join the site for free and they decide which suitors to entertain based on their offerings. Unlike beautifulpeople.com, it appears the designation of “generous” or “attractive” is completely up to the user which means those in the former category probably ended up there after having no luck in the later.

The attractive are asked to categorize what style of dating they are interested in (examples include Married Dating, Intimate Adult Encounters, and Sugar Daddy/Momma) to better assess their demographic. Since the site launched three months ago, they claim to have amassed 50,000 members already and generate revenue by charging for “communication credits.” Critics liken the site to escort services or online prostitution, but the site’s founder argues that the money is simply an incentive to get the opposite sex to spend time getting to know the real you.  This, of course, is nothing at all like prostitution where patrons pay handsomely to ensure they do not have to waste valuable time getting to know members of the opposite sex.

Unwilling to immediately dismiss the website as a clearinghouse for prostitution simply because of its unorthodox approach, I decided to browse the sample members. After all, who’s to say that the founder is not a hopeless romantic desperately seeking to bring soul-mates together in a meaningful, monogamous relationship filled with emotional stability?

As one would suspect, the “generous” members are mostly male but it was refreshing to locate the profile of a man calling himself the “Captivator of Soul.” Here was obviously a man who was searching for a long-term emotional courtship. Then I read his “about me” paragraph. An excerpt:
"you deny the darkness, yet you are curious. you want to experience it, yet you are scared. your every awakened moment, it lingers in the back of your mind. you deny it, yet you can not hide it"
That paragraph combined with a photo that is destined to reappear on a future episode of 48 Hours Investigates convinces me to move on. The next profile I come across is a thirty-two year old former “adult bookstore” clerk whose handle is “TheBeastInMe.” Worried that whatsyourprice.com is a clearinghouse for future death-row inmates, I locate a balding, Turkish Muslim with a Ph.D. Here is obviously a man who is well educated and well-traveled. Unfortunately, he prefers to be called “AssManiac.”

After spending about ten minutes looking through these profiles, I find myself hoping that none of them are actual members and that instead they were created by the site to lure people inside. But then again, if I were trying to attract people to my site I am not sure a listing of overzealous academics and brooding pornography retailers is exactly a home run.

Moving on to a sampling of the “attractive” members, it was comprised entirely of women and had the overall atmosphere of an Elliot Spitzer training program. I am assuming that any potential suitors would be required to identify their dates by cleavage alone since most profile do not features faces. Perhaps I should start a dating site called “People who have never patronized beautifulpeople or whatsyourprice.com.”

3 comments:

  1. As the author and owner of the profile for CaptivatorOfSoul, I take offense to you lumping me and putting me on death row. Lol. You do not know me and you have not even commented on my whole profile. I am not here to defend myself. I feel no need for that. My words make an impact and arouse curiosity and I do get many contacts on that site and others and no women have been hurt or suffered any harm in their encounters with me but rather an enlightening and an enjoyable time, if not to say experiencing self discovery. Google me and find me at CaptivatorOfSouls.
    be well and enjoy life

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  2. Exceptional MediocrityJuly 16, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    CaptivatorofSouls - I apologize if my post has, in any way, negatively impacted your amorous pursuits or sullied your reputation. Your words certainly do have an impact and they quickly distanced you from your peers when I originally authored this piece in 2011. I simply sought to make a humorous observation on the cryptic nature of your profile description. In fact, allow me to state (for the record) that I have absolutely no reason to believe that you are a criminal or would harm anyone. So, if you are a woman who stumbled upon this while researching the screen-name please do not use this satirical piece as a serious investigative tool. It is entirely possible that CaptivatorOfSouls will show you a good time.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and I hope this finds you in good health.

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  3. LOL I was actually being sarcastic with you.. My demeanor, persona does stand out from 95% of the men out there in real life and online.. I am a take charge man and I actually have the balls to tell my woman, what I want and how I want her to be and I do it with the finesse and the style of a gentlemen and she knows me, trust me and wants to please me.. you had no effect on my pursuits and you have no need to add a bullshit disclaimer to your statement.. have the balls to own up to your opinion.
    have a good day

    ReplyDelete