The reaction is hardly surprising, considering the marketing for the invite-only app backed by conservative PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel reads like a Saturday Night Live skit.
“Quit swiping, scrolling and trolling the wrong people. There are people out there just like you,” the website promises, while guaranteeing “profiles without pronouns” and a way to “connect with people who aren’t offended by everything”.
Amusement over the very existence of The Right Stuff only grew after the Apple App Store was inundated with reviews from people claiming to have been contacted by the FBI over their usage of the platform. According to the one-star reviews, authorities reached out regarding the responses users shared to built-in prompts on the platform such as, “January 6th was…”
In a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson for The Right Stuff said it determined reports of FBI contact were false. “Just people trolling,” they added. The FBI declined to comment.
But even if you remove the accusations of FBI intervention, the App Store reviews are still far from glowing. Many would-be users have lamented the invite-only aspect of the dating platform, while others have criticised the glitchy, hard-to-use interface.
Various issues with The Right Stuff aside, I joined the conservatives and trolls shortly after it was rolled out to see what the dating platform was all about.
The first step was building my profile, a requirement users have to complete even before they are accepted to the app. In an effort to conceal my identity as a liberal journalist, I painted a picture of myself with vague details. I described myself as a writer rather than a reporter, and listed my interests as simply “books,” “dogs” and “exploring New York City.”
As for the photos of myself I chose, I ended up using the same ones I also uploaded to a recent Hinge profile. However, I was assured my choices worked after showing a friend and fellow journalist, who remarked that I looked “just like a bottle blonde Republican”.
After completing my profile, and sending random invite requests to some of my more right wing-leaning phone contacts in the hopes of expediting the process, I waited patiently to get accepted.
I was fairly confident my account would be denied: A quick Google search would show I’ve reported on the ridicule of The Right Stuff, the flood of negative reviews that have filled the app store in recent weeks, and how the downloads of the app plummeted after just a month.
It turns out none of that mattered, as I was eventually granted access into the dating pool of conservatives.
The first time I opened my profile, I found that I already had 19 likes. Unfortunately, in my eagerness to see all that there was to see on the app, I made an immediate error. I didn’t realise that once I’d moved on to the next profile without matching with the potential suitor, I couldn’t return to the profiles I’d passed.
Well, my loss. I went on to turn my attention to the eligible Republican bachelors available to swipe through.
Given that I’ve written about the app and its target audience extensively, I figured I knew exactly what to expect from its users. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Upon swiping on the first profile that came up, I was confronted with a 25-year-old named Matthew* who, rather than share just one “favourite liberal lie,” decided to list five. The first took aim at the concept of protesting, with Matthew alleging it is a lie that protests are “fun and actually make a difference”. He added an “LOL” to drive the point home.
As if I were reading off a list of the most commonly touted conspiracies among Republicans, Matthew then shared that his second-favourite liberal lie is that masks work. His third centred on the transphobic belief that there are not “more than two genders,” while four and five pertained to climate change, which he doesn’t seem to believe in, and Elon Musk (he’s clearly a supporter of the billionaire).
At this point, I realised my preferences were still set to the app’s automatic settings. I’d been wondering why I was seeing profiles for 18-year-old Republicans, but once I’d adjusted my age range to a more suitable 28 to 45, and narrowed my distance parameters to filter out profiles outside of a 15-mile radius, I resumed scrolling.
When it comes to the types of photos men on The Right Stuff choose to represent their best selves, it could nearly go without saying that each scroll brought up a new fishing photo with a midsize fish in hand. The same was true for red MAGA hats and men posing alongside Republican fan favourites such as Tucker Carlson, far-right conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene, and former president Donald Trump himself.
Another commonality is the guns. There are many, many guns on The Right Stuff.
“I take pride in the Second Amendment,” one individual declared on his profile, before promising he can “teach anyone to shoot”.
“Yes, even you. First date?” he added. Others clarified that the guns proudly displayed in their photos were for hunting animals, with some of the profiles peppered with pictures of deceased deer surrounded by men in camouflage hunting gear.
While attempting to hold a conversation with one user who asked how my week was going, he informed me his week would have been better if he’d been able to go hunting like he’d done the week before.
There are a fair number of profiles touting church-going, God-loving individuals looking for a partner they can feel “understood and accepted by,” but there is also a lot of hate on the app – specifically when it comes to people who identify as transgender, non-binary, or anything other than the sex they were assigned at birth.
“I recently discovered: that men can get pregnant,” was a common prompt response, while another man alleged, in response to the prompt “the science is settled on,” that there are “only two genders”.
There also are a number of profiles that are so comically right-wing it’s impossible to determine whether they belong to real, single conservatives or trolls mocking Republican values.
According to a 25-year-old man named Lance*, he recently discovered that “there’s no need to travel internationally,” as “USA got ‘em all”.
In response to the prompt “do you agree or disagree that,” Lance wrote: “January 6th should be a national holiday,” while another user described the insurrection as a “light dust-up”.
Another man, who identified himself only by his initials, described himself as a “pro-freedom patriot who believes in liberty and justice for those who deserve them”. My initial reaction was that he seemed uninterested in finding a romantic partner, a guess he appeared to confirm with the next sentence.
“Looking to connect with people who want to MAGA,” he wrote, marking the first time I’d ever seen the acronym used in a sentence as a verb.
As for a “random fact” he loves about America, he said: “Freedom. That is all.”
Others seemed to be more self-aware. Another man, presumably joking, answered the prompt “give me travel tips for” with “the US Capitol”. Comedy, or he really does plan on attending the next insurrection.
Although the men on the app certainly aren’t shy when it comes to proudly expressing their views, or showing off their kills of the week, one of the things I found most interesting was what appeared to be self-consciousness among the New York City users, who seemed to have doubts about using the platform in the largely liberal city.
“Joining this app in New York City,” one man responded to the prompt “biggest risk I’ve ever taken”.
The men living within a few miles of me also seemed to struggle with their Republican values and how they relate to innocuous things enjoyed by most people, such as brunch. Brunch does not have a party affiliation, but to these men, it belongs to liberals.
One man, in response to a prompt to share a surprising fact about himself, revealed that he “lives in Brooklyn but still prefers church to brunch”.
Another user, a 31-year-old lawyer, who said he was looking for a “God-loving woman with a good heart,” described his perfect sunday as church and brunch, before noting that the latter is “one thing libs do well”.
A 29-year-old named Mike* agreed with the idea that New York City may be a hard place for Republicans to find love. In response to the prompt “I’m convinced that,” he responded that he needs to “move back to Texas to find a wife”.
According to another New York-based user, he takes pride in “standing proudly with God in a city that rejects Him,” while Tommy*, a 26-year-old user who messaged me to ask what “inspires me to write,” seemed equally fed up with New York City. After I responded: “Everything! I feel like New York has such good material,” he replied: “Yes there are some crazies here.”
I ended up matching with a 42-year-old single father, who noted in his bio that he loves “guns, god and freedom!” According to Mark*’s profile, he wanted me to “change his mind” about “Trump being the best president ever,” while he wishes more people knew “the truth about the plandemic”.
Interestingly, he also described himself as an “ambassador” for The Right Stuff. In response to a boring introductory message he’d sent, I sent a response complaining about the usability of the app.
“I know, and it’s not the best with notifications etc. Still glitchy,” he admitted.
After a week of swiping, I gleefully deleted The Right Stuff from my phone with a sense of relief. The Right Stuff may market itself as a dating app, and even slightly resemble one, but time spent on the platform feels more like the moment you accidentally stumble onto your uncle’s hateful Facebook page than a real attempt at finding love.
As for the few users whose profiles do not proudly boast intolerant opinions or a love for the 45th president, it makes no sense why they would use the app. There are objectively better options when it comes to online dating.
Overall, The Right Stuff seems like one big joke, with the built-in prompts, glitches and troll-like users all contributing to the bit. Then again, I may be biased.
*Names have been changed.