Hiding the gender binary behind the ‘other’.

A cross-platform analysis of gender and sexuality self-categorization affordances on mobile dating apps


  • Giulia Campaioli University Rovira i Virgili, Medical Anthropology Research Center, Tarragona, Spain




Mobile dating apps are digital spaces for intimate and sexual encounters that have the power to remediate culture by materializing and shaping the meaning of identity categories like gender and sexuality. To uncover how gender and sexuality are baked into platform design, this article analyzes gender and sexuality self-categorization affordances on 12 mobile dating apps by performing recorded walkthroughs of a new user registering an account. The cross-platform analysis shows that some dating apps behold a binary and static understanding of gender, others materialize gender as dynamic and plural, while two popular apps continue to reproduce the gender binary by hiding it behind the category of the ‘other’. Self-categorization affordances reflect the proliferation of gender and sexual identity labels and claims of inclusivity, though maintaining the gender binary for data collection purposes.

Keywords: mobile dating apps, gender identity, sexual identity, gender categorization, LGBTQAI+, gendered affordances.