March 8, 2011

Websites offer U of C romance

Two new websites seek college-aged, attractive men and women for meet-ups in the Reg, on the quads, and at the Pub. Must be at least 18 years old and a student at the U of C.

At a university where students wear t-shirts lamenting everything from the scarcity of oral sex on campus to the student body’s aesthetic inferiority to the squirrels on the quad, a website boasting personal ads may seem unlikely.

But both UChicagoHookups and UChicagoLove aim to help students overcome the hurdle of making the first advance by replacing it with a few keystrokes and a double-click.

“I’m sure many students have heard of the stereotype that we don’t have any fun, that this is where fun comes to die, that the guys are desperate,” said Thiskid2000, the creator and sole programmer of UChicagoHookups. An undergraduate in the college, he wished to be identified by his online moniker for privacy reasons.

The website, which launched February 8, connects University students looking for casual sexual encounters on campus, from quick trysts in the Regenstein bookstacks to a ménage-à-trois with a “really, really adventurous” partner.

“Chastity is curable, if detected early,” declares a banner at the top of the site, which launched February 8 and operates like a gated and more closely moderated version of the Craigslist’s personals section. Once registered, users post advertisements for themselves and what they’re seeking. A personal message system allows for more private interactions, like arranging a meeting place between two interested parties.

On the other hand, UChicagoLove mirrors more conventional dating website models: Its objective is setting users up on blind dates using responses to a boilerplate survey, which asks for preferences in movies, books, and dates.

More than anything, the site’s administrators want to give overworked students a fighting chance on the dating scene.

“Maybe you’re not always on your best game when you’re going to class, you’re sleep-deprived,” said one UChicagoLove admin who just goes by Jackie. She preferred to remain anonymous because she said that if her identity were public, students would be less comfortable using the site.

Once enough applications are submitted, UChicagoLove administrators will meet one-on-one with applicants to get further information and present them with potential matches. While they can’t keep outsiders from using the website, site administrators will ask for UCID during these sessions. Since only 10 applications have been submitted so far, no meetings have yet to be scheduled.

With the exception of sexual preference and gender, no personal details are required for UChicagoHookups; privacy is a top priority.

In each personal ad, only the poster’s username is visible, and usernames are hidden to non-registered viewers. And there are yet further restrictions, apparently aimed at protecting both the site’s patrons and its creator. Users are limited to just one account and must confirm that they are over 18.

Thiskid2000 contrasted UChicagoHookups with Craigslist, which he said is “a little too open.” A key feature of his site is that it requires users to provide a University email address in order to register, which he said helps to, among other things, keep out some of the spam that clogs up Craigslist.

He said the website is getting between 500 and 1500 unique visitors a day and boasts more than 160 registered users. But currently, a “Testimonials” page, potentially home to future tales of sexual escapades, remains blank.

Regardless, Thiskid2000 is confident that the website has begun to meet its purpose. “I’m not going to disclose anything too specific,” he said, “but I can say that we’ve already had users who have had success.”

An FAQ page also addresses matters of personal safety, replete with links to safe-sex guides and advice on picking a “safe, well-lit” rendezvous.

Though Thiskid2000 isn’t worried about getting in trouble with the law, he is concerned about how University administrators might react and makes sure the site treads carefully around issues of safety and privacy.

“Legally, we’re not doing anything wrong, and we’re not affiliated with the University,” he said. “We’re not hosted on University computers, we’re totally independent, we’re independently financed.”

CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the number of registered users on UChicagoHookups. The website has 160 registered users.