New Delhi: “Swipe opposite to your political views.”
“You should not go out with me if you think genocide is okay as long as there’s economic growth.”
“Don’t match with me if you describe yourself as a nationalist.”
“Pet peeve: People who call themselves feminists.”
“Change my mind about: Narendra Modi’s politically incorrect and outrageous policies.”
If there was ever any doubt that the personal is very, very political, one need only look at a few dating app profiles in India to know the truth. Politics has entered our love lives and bedrooms in a way that it never has before, and in these sharply polarised times, it is affecting people’s chances at love.
A Delhi-based lawyer in his thirties, who did not wish to be identified, says, “I don’t f**k fascists”. He would never date a BJP supporter, he tells ThePrint. “It’s a dealbreaker.”
“I cannot begin to imagine how hot a full-on Right-wing girl would have to be for me to be able to spend time with her. Somewhere between Sophia Loren and Wonder Woman, I imagine,” he continues. “It’s also not an aesthetic I think I could get into. We dress our politics, right? So if I get those Che Guevara hints, it is on.”
On a more serious note, he explains that he has never really dated someone with very different political beliefs. “I suppose I would never be able to get to that point of being in an actual relationship with them.”
The dating landscape in India is young and extremely varied. Apps such as Hinge, Bumble, Tinder and OKCupid were only launched here in the last few years, and given the extreme variations in socio-economic strata at play, it is difficult to collect empirical data.
But, Taru Kapoor, India head of Tinder and the Match Group, tells ThePrint that last year, on 6 September, when the Supreme Court read down Section 377 and decriminalised homosexuality, the app saw a huge swipe surge. No longer criminals by law, many of India’s closeted homosexuals were less afraid to express themselves openly.
Politics has never been divorced from our private lives, be it the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the people we’re allowed to love or leave. Now, though, young people in India are unapologetically open about who they are, what they stand for and what they look for even before meeting a potential partner.
A 2016 study by Gregory A. Huber of Yale University and Neil Malhotra of Stanford showed that while political affiliation is fast becoming a factor in how people choose their dates (a 3 per cent impact, the same as education), shared race and religion have far more of an impact. Shared religious beliefs leads to a 50 per cent spike in interest, while similar ethnicity is 16.6 per cent more likely to result in a match.
“Things like race and education are traditionally very big factors when we look for our potential partners,” says Malhotra. “So it’s notable that political affiliation is having an effect this powerful and is rivaling other forms of sorting.”
‘You come across some gau rakshaks on Grindr’
Is it even possible to separate race, religion and education from politics, and, therefore, relationships? Where you stand on issues such as abortion, gay rights, beef-eating and many others all impact not just young relationships, but marriage as well.
Ann Philipose, a Delhi-based therapist, has dealt with a number of couples who “increasingly worry that their partner’s values, reflected through political beliefs, don’t align with their own. This is a bone of contention especially in the realm of parenting — concerns over a child who might be homosexual and the quality of the relationship, the values one wants to impart.”
For Veer Misra, a 23-year-old artist in Delhi, discovering he was gay at the age of 15 presented another terrifying prospect: How would he ever find someone in a country where homosexuality is a criminal offence? The historic 377 judgment was a defining moment in his life, but before that day, and before technology allowed apps like Grindr and Tinder to make finding people of the same sexual orientation a matter of a swipe, the tight-knit LGBTQIA community relied on word of mouth, mutual friends, secret gay bars and Facebook pages to find each other.
Misra tells ThePrint he “didn’t come out even when I had kind of acknowledged it to myself, until I was literally able to meet one more queer person”.
But now dating apps have opened up the playing field, albeit just a little — and it surprises the artist to discover that “you come across some gau rakshaks on Grindr. They usually write it in their description”.
Misra recalls that he has seen “some very pro-nationalist bios. To find pro-BJP men on a gay dating site is a little strange, because as part of a marginalised community, I find it odd that I have to tell them that these very people you support don’t really want you in their country.”
Religion has a role to play here as well, says Misra. “I’ve been on various dates with men who have internalised homophobia, which, I found, has a lot to do with their upbringing and surroundings growing up — sometimes, although this is less often, their homophobia appears to be connected to their religion in some way, particularly if they aren’t Hindu and are afraid of even more marginalisation.”
Also read: 10 apps to take you from casual sex to marriage vows
Women care more about shared political beliefs
A survey by OkCupid India stated that 54 per cent of women preferred to match with those who share their political opinions, as opposed to 21 per cent of men.
Dr Philipose also finds this to be true. “I’m seeing a lot more millennial women are prioritising politics in online dating. For instance, I think on Bumble, you can specify your views and I hear a lot of women say that ‘apolitical’ is a turnoff, that ‘moderate’ is a polite way of saying ‘conservative’, so it’s a ‘definite left swipe’. I have not seen as many millennial men expressing differing political opinions as a dealbreaker or maker.”
Many of the people ThePrint spoke to said this could well be because, as a more marginalised community, women are likelier than men to relate to other marginalised groups (LGBTQIAs, for example), and to take political views more seriously as a criterion when choosing a partner.
What if they’re just not that into politics?
Huber and Malhotra’s study indicates that it’s not only a shared political ideology that makes a difference, but a shared level of interest in politics in general. So if you’re passionate about tracking what your government is doing, you’re unlikely to attract or be attracted to someone who doesn’t care.
Psychologist Debasmita Sinha, whose work also involves couples’ and relationship therapy, recalls a case in which “the wife, who was not very politically aware, felt looked down upon by her husband, and hurt as a result, for being more Right-wing. Another wife, who was politically neutral, later aligned Left under the influence of her husband, as she said that’s all he talked about.”
Is it intolerance or tech?
In an age when the decision to even say hi to someone is made on the basis of a few pictures and limited information, the information one chooses to put out there says a lot about them. Does it also mean app users will judge more quickly, since they don’t know the other person and don’t owe them any explanation for swiping left?
“I think so,” says a Jalandhar woman in her early twenties, on condition of anonymity. She has never used an app, but has seen many friends spend evenings swiping.
“It seems too much like picking something off a menu than actually making the effort to spend time with someone and getting to know them. It has also screwed up what romance means to a lot of young people.”
Apps, in that sense, have completely changed the way in which urban India is finding love. This typically traditional country was chosen as the site of Tinder’s first international office, and in 2016, the app reported 7.5 million swipes per day in India, as well as the highest average number of messages exchanged per match in the world. Two years later, it was one of the two most popular apps by revenue in the country, according to research by market insights firm App Annie.
“Tinder is a game of huge numbers,” says 24-year-old Srikant Mohan, who works at Dimagi, a social enterprise in Delhi. “It makes sense for me to filter out some super-opinionated Right-wing person by putting something out explicitly. If it was an in-person introduction or conversation with someone, I wouldn’t be running in the other direction if someone said they are Right-wing. Though if someone was wearing a saffron scarf, it would be something I would run away from.”
Guwahati-born Saahil Kejriwal understands that Tinder isn’t usually known to spawn in-depth conversation. The 23-year-old, who works at media platform India Development Review in Mumbai, says Tinder is used to to hook up, but Hinge to make conversation and connections.
“So on Hinge, I have made it explicitly clear what my political views are — that I won’t entertain anyone that is not of the same political view. I use one of the questions to make clear what my views are, and most of my replies have been to that question,” he says.
“The question was along the lines of ‘One thing that I believe’, and my answer was that ‘Our current government is absolutely the worst’. It’s a good conversation starter — it gives you an opportunity to tell other people what you’re into and what you like talking about, and I like talking about politics.”
He adds, “On Tinder, I had ‘liberal, leftist’ in my bio for a while, but no one commented on it. The profiles I come across also tend not to share their views explicitly.”
Also read: When traditional and modern dating fails, Indian millennials are turning to AI for love
For some, smart is sexy enough
If India’s young liberals think the Right-wing is all about majoritarian impositions, many on the Right want nothing to do with those on the other side. But there are also several young people out there who are just looking for stimulating, intelligent conversation, regardless of beliefs.
“It’s pretty simple — if I respect the other person’s intellect, and I’m compatible with them on different fronts, then politics isn’t a dealbreaker for me,” Prince Aditya, 25, a Delhi-based co-founder of textbook rental platform Yental, tells ThePrint. “I’m fine going on a date or being in a relationship with a card-carrying communist also, as long as they don’t brand me and my politics into a box and say just because you’re Right-wing, you’re a mass murderer. I’m willing to engage with their views, and they should be willing to engage with mine.”
Aditya recalls a time he went on a date with a woman who supported the Congress, “while I was more in favour of the BJP. We spoke about a number of other things before we broached politics. The conversation made it clear that she was smart, and she must have inferred that I was too, and hence we were more willing to listen to each other’s views.”
So it’s not always so black and white. Relationships, like the politics that inform them, also work in degrees. And for many, a middle ground works just fine.
The woman from Jalandhar says she is “not someone who believes in just dating within my political spectrum, but I also cannot imagine dating someone on either extreme of the ideological spectrum. Somewhere in the middle works for me. But yes, I would prefer someone who votes the same way as I do or at least, has the same thought process behind it.”
“If somebody is not of the same ideology, I can still talk and maybe go on a date, but it also depends on what point of the Right-wing spectrum they lie at. If you’re Right-centrist, then maybe we can, but if you’re extreme Right, then I probably won’t have the same kind of tolerance for you and we’ll always be fighting,” says Kejriwal.
“Politics matters, but it depends on the degree.”
Also read: Indian women are getting assaulted on Tinder dates and no one knows how to stop it
We’ve imported US type wokeism – seeing things in binaries the gen Z is worse than boomers and Indira-gen. I believe we millennials will have to take the dream of making India a superpower along with us, when we take to retirement. May Gen Z serve in an Indira style state organized loot and poverty distribution.
No longer a country which respects hard work.
Wish I’d have listened to my Green Card/H1B holding batchmates, and left along with them.
A bit late to comment on article.
I don’t understand why people are bashing the article. It shows how people have changed the way they choose someone for themselves. I think it’s a very good article.
One funny thing here is – leftists, who call themselves tolerant, seem to be most intolerant people. You can’t reject a person without talking to him/her. Making decision out of others political view is very poor thinking.
To be really honest, I really have no issue f***ing a Leftist.
What a useless piece of shit article. How low life and filled with hate u need to be to spread such verbal diarrhea. There are so many imp. topics to be covered like Assam-bihar floods, Chandrayaan etc etc. but all u could afford to write is this filth. If the writer of this article is reading this comment, I just PITY u.
May sense prevail. ?
If someone asks what would you like to avoid, the first thing that comes to my mind is leftist media. F**k u.
My worry isn’t about politics entering the love life and bedrooms.
It’s about the (social !!!) media entering the bedrooms, and the pathetic stage where men and women needing electronic assistance to choose life partners.
what a useless article
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