I moved to Seattle after I got dumped by the first girl I ever dated. We'd been together for almost two years, and the shittiness of the breakup was compounded by the fact that, as I started to settle in, I had no earthly idea how to find other lesbians in a new city.
My first few weeks in town, I met up with a lesbian friend of a lesbian friend to mark my arrival in Seattle the traditional lesbian way: with drinks at Wildrose. That night, like many subsequent nights, the two of us shared the Rose's bar area with a handful of seated, impenetrable cliques while a sparsely populated dance floor stared back at us from the adjoining room. What else were we supposed to do? If there was a better way for a recent transplant to find kind, cute folks who wanted to fool around that night—a way that did not involve lots of booze and awkward spaces that I read somewhere were full of lesbians on certain Tuesdays or every second-ish Saturday—I never discovered it. It would've been nice to have Sizzr, the Grindr-inspired app that's currently being developed for women who like women.
The concept seems like a no-brainer, but similar sites and apps have launched and fizzled before. Sizzr's bootstrapping Vancouver-based founder, Jacqueline Clarke, attributes those failures to three things: creepy straight dudes, too-lesbian lesbians, and patriarchy. No big. She explains that other apps became "harems for men posing as women... straight guys sending each other pictures of their cocks, thinking they were sending them to women, but they were really just sending them to other straight men!" Sizzr's Cock Block feature would allow a user to alert others if she encounters a serial sender of erect-penis-pics.
Other sites and apps were also "too lesbian," which Clarke readily admits sounds terrible before declaring, "Agh, queer politics are so complicated!" She elaborates: "Basically, lesbians don't need to be convinced to go to a lesbian event, because they're already part of the community. I want it to be more like extending our arms to all of the closet cases and all the curious-but-not-sure girls. And that's why our tagline is: 'Come out, come out, whoever you are.' It doesn't matter what your identification is, or what your label is, or how you define your sexuality. It's just: Are you a girl who would like to have more girls in your life? It's really simple." Partly in an attempt to reach out to those women, Clarke brought on burlesque dancer Tristan Risk to be the dolled-up gateway face of Sizzr.
The most significant hurdle for this and other, similar projects, though, is that women have been socialized to not pay for sex. Getting lesbians to participate in funding has been difficult, despite the overwhelmingly positive feedback Clarke has gotten from everyone she's talked to. Her biggest challenge, then, is figuring out how to market to women while tiptoeing around both external and internalized slut-shaming. I'd bet that expounding on "tribadism"—the Greek-rooted word for lady-sex that reeks of diagnosed perversity—in the pitch video is probably not helping things, but Clarke's plan to put street teams together for some of the big upcoming Pride parades is promising.
She's optimistic about Sizzr's potential, and she's confident that there's demand for her product. At the end of our conversation, Clarke compellingly argues that female sexuality and technology have long been intertwined, and that Sizzr is an obvious next step. "What a way we've come," she says, from ancient Greek dildo-wielders ("tribas") to vibrators, the first of which was a steam-powered masturbation machine used to treat hysterical women. "Now, we can just log on to our phone and... hook up."
In the interest of advancing technology-assisted lady-pleasure, and putting to rest (or at least complicating) assertions by the sexuality police that women "have too many feelings" for something like Sizzr and that we just "don't work that way," stop reading right now and go donate: indiegogo.com/projects/the-sizzr-app/x/3643060.
Jen Kagan, once upon a time, was absolutely positive that she hated poetry, was totally straight, and would be an economist when she grew up.