This chatbot is everything wrong with creepy dudes in the dating scene


He started off the conversation with, “Aren’t you going to say hi?” I responded politely but cautiously with a “hey.” He told me I had a pretty name, and then he asked me what I do for fun. I listed off the usual responses: read, Netflix, friends, Internet. “Lol, of course you’d like that girly stuff.” It didn’t exactly make sense. Since when did Netflix become gendered, let alone “girly”?

The conversation escalated quickly. “I’d say you’re like a solid 8…well, at least your body.” “How come women can’t seem to take a joke?” “Hey. What are you wearing right now?”

The comments were reminiscent of exchanges I’ve had with strangers, acquaintances, friends. But the remarks didn’t nag me the way they usually do. Actually, they triggered both laughter and anger, and maybe it was because this time they didn’t come from a person. They came from a chatbot.

Its name is, a web application that simulates conversations women might have with men in online and offline situations. You know, the dude who’s creeping on you at the bar or messaging you on Tinder until you unmatch him. is like SmarterChild of the AOL Instant Messenger days, except he responds to you with pickup lines, back-handed compliments, sexual advances and the repertoire of an unaware misogynist.



Joanna Chin and Bryan Collinsworth, two design and technology MFA students at The New School, created for a javascript class. Their creation has two purposes: One is to explore chatbots and artificial intelligence, and the second is to share a social message. That message addresses the landscape of interactions between men and women, particularly the way men speak to women.

Message in a bot

For women who experience these conversations, might seem unnecessary. Why would you want to simulate a conversation with a robot when you already know what it’s like IRL? Chin said that part of it is validation — knowing that is emblematic of a larger problem many people encounter. For men, it’s a chance to see what it’s like on the other side.

These conversations aren’t new experiences, nor do they happen only in online spaces, but they have become more visible with the proliferation of dating apps and research studying online harassment.

An October 2015 report from the Pew Research Center called “Teens, Technology and Romantic Relationships” found that 35% of teen girls ages 13-17 blocked or unfriended someone who was flirting in a way that made them uncomfortable. Meanwhile, 16% of boys did so.

According to an earlier Pew report from October 2014, “Online harassment is especially pronounced at the intersection of gender and youth: Women ages 18-24 are more likely than others to experience some of the more severe forms of harassment.” Women are also more likely to be harassed on social media (73%) than men (59%).

Instead of using numbers, puts you right in the situation.Referencing the Turing test, where a computer passes only if it can fool testers into thinking it’s human, the creators took the approach of a bot that impersonates a very specific type of person.

“I think we were almost jokingly talking about what kind of person could we emulate who doesn’t necessarily listen to what a person is typing to them, kind of used a bunch of pre-canned lines all the time and would kind of reflect a certain type of behavior,” Collinsworth told Mashable.

How works

The chatbot is connected to a database with more than 100 responses. Any time you send a message, an algorithm parses it for keywords and compares them to all of’s responses. The more your keywords match a response, the more likely that’s the response will use.

If more than two responses are a good fit, or if no responses work, will randomize one. And the creators say this isn’t that unrealistic because, well, a person like this is usually half-listening to you anyway.



Responses are pulled from friends’ anecdotes and sites like @tindernightmares that expose the way this kind of man talks with women. Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, which discusses male-dominating behavior, was a constant point of reference during’s development. (Collinsworth said is definitely a bit of a mansplainer).

A lot was culled from Chin’s own experiences. For her, comments from men not only tread gender issues but also incorporate race. Hints of these experiences lie in’s microaggressions, including “Where are you from?” “What’s your nationality?” “So exotic!” and “I dated someone who kind of looks like you.”

You can also submit your own examples of what guys have said to you. Chin said submitting her own has been cathartic, and she’s hoping that aspect of the project will grow. And there’s a good chance that component will.

Instagrams like @byefelipe and the aforementioned @tindernightmares receive hundreds of submissions showing messages men have sent women. In October, Mia Matsumiya entered the spotlight for her Instagram @perv_magnet, where she posts all the sexist and racist messagesshe’s saved over the course of a decade to call out online harassment.

“Personally, I don’t know any woman who hasn’t been the recipient of creepy behaviour. It’s unacceptable and so depressingly rampant,” Matsumiya told Dazed. “I want my account to be a place where women can commiserate and men to just learn what women can experience online.”

Is this really how it is IRL?

The creators were partly interested in creating this chatbot to get at the “subtly chauvinistic or subtly prejudiced comments,” which Collinsworth said are less explored and just as important to acknowledge as the outrageous ones. They’re the kind that don’t seem offensive on the surface, so’s messages range from innocuous to extreme. The creators’ hope is that people can engage with long enough to bridge the gap between the two.

“I think it’s hard to unpack as a woman how much of the things that people say to me I have been conditioned to accept as normal when in fact they really are small cutting things,” Chin toldMashable. “How do we point out the things in our culture that are generally considered okay?”

When I talked to people about, a question that came up, mostly from men, was whether actually aligned with my and my peers’ personal experiences. Even with @tindernightmares, it’s hard for some people to believe these conversations are real. Last year, a Redditer who joked about girls having it easy on dating sites decided to pose as one to see what it was like. Spoiler alert: He barely lasted two hours. With, anyone can simulate the experience the Redditer and many women actually have.

A few headlines like New York Magazine’s “How Not To Message A Women Online” andJezebel’s “The Online Dating Douchebag” also show this is in fact a thing. Comedian Aziz Ansari even dedicates a section in his book Modern Romance to messages.

Offline conversations play a part in, too. The creators wanted to explore the chat situation because they were curious if online platforms really provide anonymity, and if it’s actually different than “just having a conversation with someone who is acting like a douche.” The