This is what Tinder is like for lesbians. Honest. Photo: Getty
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Like so many things in life, Tinder is just different for lesbians

I feel like Tinder is a place where lesbians play badminton and drink iced tea, while straight women trawl through skips while dodging rotten turnips that are being lobbed at their heads.

“My dick has died, can I bury it in your arse?”

It’s almost art. My inner literature student wants to call it something like “verbal brutalism”. Anyway – it’s Shakespeare; it’s Byron; it’s Virginia bloody Woolf. Presenting: a message a man sent to a woman I know, on Tinder.

Over a pint, some of my straight female friends are comparing gross things that men have said to them on Tinder. For those who aren’t in their twenties and single, Tinder is a dating app with around ten million users worldwide. You know how, in Fifties America, young people supposedly met in malt shops? That’s exactly what Tinder is – a gargantuan, spermy, digital malt shop. And it recently emerged that everyone’s hook-up generator of choice is run by at least one heinous person. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, one of the brains behind an app that men are regularly using to vent their disgustingness has been accused of sexual harassment. Former Tinder executive, Whitney Wolfe, claims that the app’s head of marketing, Justin Mateen, called her a whore and was generally quite medieval about the whole her being a woman thing.

But back to the pub. After listening to stories about dick pics, Poundland-quality banter and the least appealing anal sex offer I’ve ever heard, it’s my turn to reveal my Tinder burns. I’m struggling. In all honesty, the most traumatic message I’ve had on the app was one in which there was a “your” where there should’ve been a “you’re”. Like so many things in life, Tinder is just different for lesbians.

I’ve been using it since last year, and Tinder has generally treated me kindly. When I message a match, we usually chat about twatty London things, like how great Brixton Market is, or where does the best flat white. Not once have genitals (let alone deceased ones) entered the picture. One of the few downsides for me is that, in spite of having my preferences set to “women only”, men regularly crop up. I have no idea why this is, but it means I have to look at a lot of pictures of the Tinder stalwart that is “man stands next to sedated tiger and pretends he’s some kind of fucking beast master”.

But apart from having to left-swipe male intruders, my experience with the app has been everything from “fine” to “quite good”. I’ve been on a couple of Tinder dates (not including the one where I was stood up, but let’s not go into that) and even know people, both gay and straight, in bona fide Tinder relationships. Broadly speaking though, I feel like Tinder is a place where lesbians play badminton and drink iced tea, while straight women trawl through skips while dodging rotten turnips that are being lobbed at their heads.

The recent sexual harassment scandal probably came as little surprise to the turnip dodgers. Before speaking to them, I didn’t know the full extent of the app’s generalised horribleness. Maybe I should have been less naïve about a dating model where you look at someone’s face for a couple of seconds before deciding whether or not you’d like to sleep with them. But could Tinder actually be one of the near-mythological areas in life where lesbians get a better deal? For the ones who are after primitive gruntings about sex parts, no. But those of us who get off on gentle discussions about beverages, Tinder is queen.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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