BDSM? Triangle? Kinky? How Feeld sparked London’s sexual revolution

Overheard at a book launch in east London last night: “She found a daddom on Feeld that helped her work through her anorgasmia. She’d had trouble climaxing because of endometriosis…” Speaker Two: “And he cured her through sex?” Speaker one: “Sort of…”

We’re witnessing the beginning of a new era of dating in the capital – and there’s one app at the center of it all: Feel. For years, Feeld has steadily carved out a unique place in the dating world, all with little fanfare. However, in the post-pandemic period, its presence and popularity have grown.

    (Feel app)

(Feel app)

Heralded as the world’s most progressive dating app (with 700,000 connections every month), at first glance you’d be forgiven for writing it off as little more than a hookup platform. Unlike Hinge or Tinder (where users are relatively warm to identity verification), users who register on Feeld are invited to enter an imaginary name before being pushed through to a wants screen.

“Add your desires to connect with like-minded people,” the app says. Desires include: three-way, texting, foreplay, couple, group, kink, BDSM – and users are matched based on what desires they have in common. A few clicks on the Instagram-friendly interface and you can be chatting with someone within minutes.

It’s been credited with single-handedly firing up London’s sex party scene, and you’ll have to thank any conversations you’ve overheard about polecule politics or ethical nothings.

“Add your desires to connect with like-minded people,” the app says. (Getty Images)

But to write it off would be short-sighted: Feeld is one of the few dating apps where users can choose from more than just “gay, straight or bi” when it comes to sexuality. In fact, there are 20 options on the app, from heteroflexible to omnisexual or objectsexual. For years, this meant it was one of the very few platforms that catered to the queer and curious on dates – and it’s one of the reasons users say its popularity has grown.

“I had my first sexual encounter with a man because of Feeld,” says 29-year-old George, who works in a City brokerage and lives in south London. “It’s a very open and non-judgmental space, and it allows you to understand the breadth of sexualities and desires out there. It’s quite unique in that way.”

    (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

In fact, more than 50 percent of all users (most are aged 26-36) identify as something other than straight, and 35 percent of users are couples. From January 2021 to 2022, Feeld saw a 250 percent increase in the number of monthly active users in the UK, and the number of users expressing desires related to ethical non-monogamous (ENM) relationships increased by 242 percent between 2020-2021. These days, it’s rare to go on a date where someone doesn’t mention Feeld: shorthand for the sexually adventurous, a nod to an “alternative” preference, or just a name that happens to fall under the weight, it’s the app everyone’s on (or as they claim).

The first part of the press described it as a triangle app, CEO Ana Kirova tells me. “The piece fried it. It said, aren’t there enough ways to be hedonistic? Is one partner not enough? They said the youth was lost.” Not surprisingly, that only made it even more exciting. Feeld launched in 2014 as 3nder – a very literal nod to dating as a couple, or seeking more than one sexual partner – before changing its name two years later.

Ana Kirova is CEO of Feeld (Evening Standard)

Ana Kirova is CEO of Feeld (Evening Standard)

And it began with a love story. Kirova met her boyfriend, Dimo ​​Trifonov, a designer, at a party at the University of Greenwich where she was studying graphic design. The two quickly fell for each other and everything went well until Kirova realized that she was also in love with a woman. Kirova thought this spelled the end, and confessed everything in a letter to Trifonov. Instead of breaking up with her, he listened, understood – and they decided to date together as a couple looking for a third.

“We were impressed by the idea; we thought we had invented it, says Kirova. “Actually, a lot of people did. But it was tough [to do] on other dating apps and the only option was swinger sites, which was not what we were looking for.” Trifonov created a mockup of Feeld and within weeks thousands had signed up for it.

So many people are on it, listing all their sexual desires, that it’s highly likely you’ll come across your cousin or – even worse – your boss

Glodi Miessi, a 31-year-old photographer living in east London, believes that a sexual revolution is undoubtedly underway in the capital. For Miessi, Feeld represents “being completely confident in [their] identity” both as a black non-binary mask person and as someone committed to ethical non-monogamy. Pre-Feeld, Miessi says, “I couldn’t find a community of people online, or anywhere, really, who were like me — especially those who were black, brown, indigenous and so on, or even those who have a larger body like myself.” Last year they met their last partner at Feeld, and are now happily in a triad relationship (“I hate the word throuple”, they say).

Kirova, who still uses Feeld from time to time, echoes Miessi: “For me, it gives me access to people I wouldn’t otherwise know how to find or meet. She grew up in Bulgaria with what she describes as a “very static view of sexuality” as a result. “If a man is attracted to you and you’re attracted to a man, then you’re straight, full stop—that’s the background I come from,” she explains. “I thought I couldn’t trust myself with the feelings I had [for a woman].”

While sex may feel like it’s at the forefront, most users — and Kirova — go back to the idea that by getting preferences out in the open immediately, matches can concentrate on the other ways they connect. It also helps with the basics of making a person’s fantasies come true: setting boundaries or learning about someone else’s is infinitely less demanding, plus there are significantly fewer grisly questions asking you to explain your sexuality.

“Feeld has been a place that actually celebrates kink and polyamory. There aren’t many platforms that do that or just encourage those conversations.” (Getty Images/Westend61)

Of course, it is not without its pitfalls. “The problem now,” says Stevie*, a 33-year-old communications director, “is that so many people are on it, listing all their sexual desires, that you’re very likely to come across your cousin or – even worse – your boss your.” Although the app allows a level of anonymity, many users now just upload the same types of photos as they would any other dating app. “It’s very mainstream,” Stevie continues.

And there are other, more serious, considerations: Security-wise, there’s a constant muttering from the queer population that there should be the ability to hide straight people — and of course, “you can never fully predict human behavior,” says Kirova, of the security element. “What we can do is to constantly educate, give principles and reinforce them. Our community is very proactive in letting us know if someone is not behaving within our guidelines, and we have a very committed and fairly large customer experience team that addresses such issues. It is a very sensitive and challenging area, she adds.

It helps with the basics of making a person’s fantasies come true: setting boundaries or learning about someone else’s is infinitely less difficult

“You have to assume the best intentions, but also try to always be one step ahead.” Nico, a 32-year-old artist, says he’s never had a negative experience (discounted dates that just didn’t work), but others he’s met through the app, especially trans women, have (we agree that this may be more reflective of increased unwanted attention and abuse trans people currently face in the rest of the world). He went on his first Feeld date in January 2020: drinks and food, and later they went back to hers. “I wasn’t fully aware of the signals,” he explains. “So we sat on her bed and talked intensely about a movie. Finally she tied me up, blindfolded me and asked me if I was allergic to anything. We ended up in a two-year open relationship.”

In general, most users agree that it is a pleasant and receptive place to date and explore. “I’d say there’s not really another app where I fit in,” says Nico. “I’m not unique or anything, but I’m 33 so I’m not young, I’m also a top and on the more feminine side of things gender-wise.”

Miessi agrees: “I love knowing that there are people in my area of ​​London who are on the same wave as me. Whether it’s platonic, queer platonic, sexual, romantic – whatever feels right for me and the person or people I’m meeting. It’s allowed me to be a lot more confident, and Feeld has been a place that actually celebrates kink and polyamory. There aren’t many platforms that do that or just encourage those conversations.”

As our conversation ends, Nico is quickly putting on makeup before his third date of the week with a non-binary connection he’s been having regular sex with for more than 18 months. “Do I want my lips done?” he asks, “a little tint?” We agree, yes. “I just stuff a bag full of sex toys,” he says.

Sexual revolution or not, it sounds like fun.

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