Theophrastus alerts me to an article in The Times:
Almost certainly, the most exciting thing that ever happened to me occurred one evening last January in freezing weather when I — in a hideous outfit of ankle-length Puffa and beanie pulled down to eyebrow level — was stomping along the South Bank in London. By Blackfriars Bridge a tall, dark, thirtysomething man, not unattractive, ran up to me, gasping, “Excuse me,” in a foreign accent, “are you Swedish?”
“No!” I barked. “I am British!”
“Oh,” he said, nervously stroking his phone, then: “Are you single?”
Hello, I thought, but replied: “I’m married.” The man frowned, then said: “Sorry, but I have to ask . . . I’m Mexican, my wife is Swedish. We wanted a threesome, but . . . could you join us for a foursome?”
Any article which starts off vying for a winning spot in the Didn’t Happen of the Year Awards is unlikely to get better as it goes on.
My response — along with desperately trying not to laugh — was to decline politely, hurry off and call my nonplussed husband to crow that I’d still got it, and he was invited too. But I was confused as to why this poor chap needed to shiver by the river, accosting any vaguely Scandinavian-looking woman for group sex. Surely there was an app for this? I was right.
Hence your article, and your need to invent a story as a lead-in.
He could have been on Feeld, “the app for couples and singles”, which allows you “to meet open-minded people”. “We call it a space to explore your sexuality,” explains Feeld’s joint founder Dimo Trifonov. Launched five years ago, the app was initially called 3nder (pronounced “thrinder”), but Tinder sued, so they rebranded.
“We didn’t like 3nder anyway,” says Trifonov, 28. “That name came with all this clickbait stuff about us being the threesome app, the orgy app, the sex app, but what we’d done went way beyond this.”
Not for the first time on this blog we’re hearing people who engage in meaningless sex with random strangers attempt to ascribe a deeper meaning to it.
Oh really? “Yes, people who’ve been with us for a long time write to us saying, ‘You’ve changed my life,’ ‘You’re a breath of fresh air.’ They say we’ve allowed them to feel more whole. Feeld is like an open field, a field of feelings, and you just jump in to find things you’ve never discovered before. The world is still binary, but we are trying to provide a space which is less dependent on labels and the usual norms.”
Yes, that is pretty deep.
Sitting in the Stygian basement of a hipster Shoreditch hotel, Trifonov and his co-founder and girlfriend, Ana Kirova, 27, don’t come across as a pair of sexual revolutionaries, but rather — with him all in black, dragging his fingers repeatedly through his hair (“It’s a tic”) and her in specs and a pink sweatshirt — like an adorable couple relaxing after a day’s hiking in the Cairngorms.
They are from Bulgaria, and met six years ago in London, where she was studying and he was working as a graphic designer. Not long into their relationship, Kirova found herself falling for a Frenchwoman she was working with.
A bisexual Slavic graphic designer who’s into orgies and polyamory? If it transpires she’s a regular at Burning Man, I’m suing for copyright.
“It was really scary,” Kirova recalls. “I was so attracted to her, just like falling for a guy — I couldn’t talk to her, I felt uncomfortable near her. But at the same time I really was in love with Dimo and I just didn’t know what to do — exploring my feelings on my own would be cheating, right? And if relationships are based on trust it’s really important to be able to communicate how you feel.”
So she lacks impulse control and is driven by short-term gratification. Sorry, why is this in The Times, exactly? Did readers complain Oliver Kamm was sapping them of their will to live?
If it were me, I know I would either have told Dimo nothing and suppressed my feelings, or told Dimo nothing and embarked on an inevitably disastrous affair. The more enlightened Kirova wrote a confessional letter to her boyfriend. “I thought it was creepy and odd and that Dimo would feel disappointed and threatened and shocked, but instead he just said, ‘That’s such a normal feeling, don’t worry — there must be people feeling like you everywhere. Whatever makes you happy.’”
“Do whatever you want, I don’t care,” is so romantic I’m surprised poets haven’t made more use of it.
The couple tried to explore Kirova’s yearnings for extracurricular relationships, but were ostracised on traditional dating sites. “People were like, ‘What are you doing here? This is not for couples’, ” she says. Yet the swinging world carried distinctly grubbier overtones of car keys in bowls.
Whereas if the selection process is done via app it instantly becomes classy.
“I remember connecting to a couple who were so excited that we were also in a couple, they kept pushing to meet me just because of my couple status. I felt a bit violated, like, ‘I’m not an object’. I didn’t even know if this was my thing, I just wanted to explore,” Kirova says.
I expect they’d encountered single people who’d entered the scene and found them too creepy even by the standards of polyamorists. And that’s saying something.
And so, “more as a social experiment than a serious thing”, Trifonov set up a website for people wanting threesomes. Overnight it attracted tens of thousands of visitors. In 2014 he launched the app, which was downloaded 40,000 times. It grew so fast it crashed — a problem when it came to raising funds — but three years ago with $500,000 of investment it was relaunched “to a high industry standard”.
An app promising easy sex, no-strings-attached sex is popular? These people must be marketing geniuses.
The biggest markets are the US, Brazil and the UK, where the busiest areas are London, Bristol and Glasgow.
Can you imagine the state of the average subscriber?
About 35 per cent of users are on the app with a partner, and 45 per cent identify as something other than heterosexual. The dozens of sexual preference options on the app include androgynosexual, objectumsexual and skoliosexual (“I have no idea what this means but I love the idea,” confesses one user who has chosen this as his identity),
I’m glad my concern such an app would attract weirdos hasn’t come to pass.
while the people you are looking for can identify as — among many others — gender-nonconforming and two spirit.
Two spirit? These Canadians get everywhere.
Feeld is similar to many other dating apps — full of young, shiny people in swimsuits
I expect that “full” is doing a lot of work. Even normal dating sites look more like a response to a casting call for The Lord of the Rings. I can’t imagine a threesome dating app in which Glaswegians feature prominently brings much improvement.
“I was amazed at first to see all these people saying, ‘I like BDSM, I am also a company director and I like cycling,’” Trifonov says. “I was like, ‘Wow! I always thought people who were into BDSM were freaks, but they happen to be normal people.’”
Aren’t all cyclists into BDSM, of a sort?
Among their generation polyamory is increasingly seen as a viable lifestyle option, with a recent survey of 2,000 people by the healthcare company EuroClinix pronouncing one in five to be enjoying — to give the dictionary definition — “multiple, non-monogamous relationships”.
Which means one in five people have a cohort of Tinder hookups on standby in lieu of one person with whom they can build a functioning relationship.
Feeld’s employees include several practitioners of polyamory, including one couple in an open marriage. “It’s a bit like having many friends and being able to explore these friendships. So you might have a tennis friend — no one thinks that’s dangerous for a relationship — but instead of tennis you could have a friend for something kinky,” Kirova explains.
Ah yes, this was my Katya’s explanation of polyamory. It seems to rest on the assumption that having sex and playing tennis are similar activities. Although I confess, when it comes to Maria Sharapova I do wish there was more crossover.
“It’s no different to a standard monogamous marriage — if you care, you’re going to make it work.
Making your bed is no different from learning Swahili. If you care, you’ll just get it done.
There just needs to be trust and communication.”
Areas in which the polyamorists featured on this blog have been famously good, of course.
In the period between falling for the Frenchwoman (nothing happened, Kirova realised “it was just a crush”)
Nothing happened between me and Sharapova, either. I realised with her spending so much time playing tennis and showing no interest in bluegrass, it probably wouldn’t work out.
and setting up the app, the couple — in her words — “had experiences with people, but nothing that could be considered a relationship”.
I didn’t bone my secretary, I simply had an experience with her.
Since working together full time, the pair have become “extremely monogamous”. They tried to meet other people through the app, “but it felt like we were just trying to do something for the sake of it, so we ended up doing nothing,” Trifonov says.
Far be it from me to suggest these two people don’t know what the hell they want.
Still, they say, polyamory may be part of their future. “I’m still with this awareness that attraction happens to everyone, regardless of whether they are in a relationship or not,” Kirova says. Her favoured term for their partnership is “monogamish”, which means that you’re committed to each other, but can have relationships with others. “I really like that.”
So they’ll kind of stay with each other unless and until someone else comes along. Sounds like the basis for a fulfilling relationship.
Monogamish, monogamous — either way the couple have found a potentially lucrative niche. Are they rich? “Not really,” Trifonov says.
I did wonder how the connecting of 40,000 weirdos could be monetised, at least outside of Burning Man.
They’re not sure if they will marry or not. “In London you can consider these things later in life. In Bulgaria when you’re 22 you have to have babies,” Kirova says.
As I’ve said, I have no idea what this article is doing in The Times but since they’ve decided to encroach on Cosmopolitan‘s market share anyway, can they at least promise a follow-up on these two in a few year’s time? I have a feeling it would make for good blogging.