Should make it clear that the platform is not for dating?

We’ve reached out to Host A Sister to some extent but it seems they’re working on projects of their own. For the time being we’ve been looking to find more female perspectives from various other groups on social media, but we are open to more ideas! It can be hard to get the word out when so many of the female communities have strict rules on what kind of content is allowed. For instance, I’m finding that most places we’d want to post in forbid outside links.


On this forum, trust is build around user trust levels. I just posted information on this in Understanding user trust levels.

I dont think trust on the platform is (or should be) built around a merely technical implementation, but staging access to different functionality based on feedback and requirements is also part of it.

E.g. you can only start to host once you are verified to a certain degree. Or I could imagine having messaging limits as long as you don’t have a minimal positive feedback from reviews.

I tend to believe that when it’s not a problem for women, it’s most likely solved across boundaries.

That’s missing the point. Cult formation and murder aren’t grievances a lot of people voice about couch-surfing culture. They aren’t problems writ large. The reason to specify something about dating/hookups is because unwanted sexual advances, unlike murder and cult forming, is an actual, pervasive issue in the culture.

I agree with you that simply putting it in our policy/mission statement/etc isn’t going to suddenly dissuade people from pursuing sexual relations, and actually the intent ISN’T that doing that will just magically change the way people act. The intent of it is to make it clear where the platform stands on the issue. And let me clarify: the platform is against unwanted sexual advances, not mutually consenting adults engaging in mutually consensual activities.

So yes, of course we need to work this philosophy into actual features that help shape the community. But we also need make it clear in our messaging as part of our identity - because that will provide the framework for the kind of hospex culture we want to grow.


Thank you @Trenton, I agree: the platform is against unwanted sexual advances is the main point this thread should be about, and I think it would make sense to start from scratch in a new thread.

I find this definition to be much more honest, educative, clear and true to reality than “it’s not for dating”, especially taking into consideration how vague is the definition of “dating” and difficult to understand for non-native english speakers.

To reply to @nolo and @anon29844220, I think once it’s clear what is the essence of we want to say (and I think Trenton’s definition is really good) we can discuss elsewhere about who/what demographic this message should particularly be addressed to (again, by listening first and foremost to those who had most first-hand experiences of this unwanted behavior).


I’m not aware of any platform that is “for unwanted sexual advances.” What you’ve boiled this down to is that is against assault. Well, of course it is.

Our message has to deter people from using the site in hopes of finding a romantic partner. Whether we refer to that as “dating” is a different conversation.

It’s about intentions. Even if you are fine with having a mutually consenting hookup with your surfer and guest, many women are uncomfortable with people using our platform for doing that. I’m sure @Eileen or @Aleja could help me expand a bit on this if you don’t understand what I mean.


Thank you Emily! Yes we have already made many posts about why using it for dating is bad for everybody and discourages women from using the app, so you can go back and read those :slight_smile:


Sounds a bit mischaracterizing to me to put it like that. The distinction surely is taking a clear stand vs. not taking a clear stand (and not being against or for).


Thanks @Emily

I agree with most said BUT when you use the wording “unwanted sexual advances” we all know what predators are going to say: “it was not unwanted, s/he smiled at me”, or laughed at my joke, or looked me in the eye or accepted to go for a beer or just breath, because for this kind of guy ANYTHING is an invitation to hit on you. Annoying.

I think we need to stop discussing the people that have concented hookups or relationships. When two people really click, they’ll hook up, or fall in love, or get married, and that’s fine and beautiful, and we can’t stop the real magic between 2 consenting adults. So let’s stop discussing that, is not the problem.

The problem is the people that use the platform with the main intention of finding a sexual or romantic partner. As I’ve said in other posts: if you allow or not make clear it’s not the place for it, it will become tinderish and unusable. As we say in Spanish: si les das la mano, te agarran hasta el codo (if you gave them the hand, they will grab up to your elbow). :wink:

I do like the idea of an easy report button for messages as “dating” with a big red flag, so people know before sending the message they can and will be reported for that. Let’s make it visible.


Thank you all for for your replies! I definitely see that ideally for everyone involved (users, community and platform) the best desirable outcome would be to not have users considering sex/romance while looking for a host/hosting/being hosted/meeting other users, and leaving outside the platform anything that consenting adults decide to do. And I agree that probably “unwanted sexual advances” does not cover it all, but I still think there is some gap between this ideal situation and the reality of hospex sites in order to communicate effectively to the userbase.

I discussed this with some CS friends and indeed the topic is difficult, I understand that and I will try to change perspective with a few questions I’m wondering, please just take them as a sort of brainstorming:

  • to what extent is it possible or realistic “to deter people from using the site in hopes of finding a romantic partner”, or in other words: to police or control users’ hopes and intentions?

We know that people will necessarily take into consideration attraction when deciding which other new people to meet, that’s inevitable. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean that every interaction on CS was based on that, but for sure a part of those were. That’s a fact.
We also know that a certain number of romantic encounters that happened between users, which is not so surprising given the user base and travel lifestyle. How can you rule out that the people involved did not have any “hopes” when sending each other a request?
And once someone has had a positive experience of romance through a hospex site, when they find themselves again looking for a host or accepting a guest request, why wouldn’t those “hopes” be there?

  • do you think the CS rule “this website is not for dating” was effective in achieving its desired goal, from your personal experience?

This formulation has always sounded quite dissonating and hypocritical to me compared to what I was seeing in the reality of meetups, but maybe that was just my experience of a big European city in my 20s where the CS group was very active and people were f*ing around all the time. And at the same time, I’ve seen countless CS profiles from women who had to reinforce on their profile that they were categorically not interested in “dating” other users even if the policy was (kinda) clear, and that for sure came from bad experiences.

But overall it felt like CS was saying “this website is not for sex” while most users in that age base would have replied “yes ok but just about everyone is having sex here!”. How does that click? Is it sufficient to say “yeah we know, but for what we’re concerned you need not to have sexual intentions”? How can a young user take that seriously when the exception is the norm, especially if they’re someone not so aware of the power imbalance or mature in handling delicate situations? Is the platform communicating clearly to those who need to get that message the most?

In a nutshell:

  • I agree that this website is not FOR dating, but let’s be clear that their users DO date, whether we’ll like it or not. I think taking this into account openly can help identifying how to address the “no dating” issue.

  • I agree that it would be very dangerous and I’m definitely NOT suggesting in any way that users could express openly whether they are “up to” anything, .

  • I also agree that some nuance is necessary to address the dating that happens, in order not to seem like the platform is promoting itself as a place where users are more keen for romance than elsewhere in the real world

  • At the same time your userbase is adults and I would value the honesty in communicating that while dating happens and nobody is burying their head in the sand about it, hospex sites facilitate a delicate and specific setting (people hosting other people), which is unfortunately one where things can go wrong extremely easily.

So what I propose is to tackle proactively the reasons why things can go wrong. For example, big companies provide “misconduct training” that employees are required to attend. It could probably be useful to provide content related to “what can go wrong”, incentivize users to check it, and display a badge for users who’ve done so, and maybe allowing some features only to those who have done it.

How and to what extent to implement this is to be discussed, but the advantages of being open and vocal about safety would be:

  • making the userbase aware of the platform interest in having users valuing others’ safety
  • informing the users what is considered misbehavior, why, and what are the tools they can use to report misbehavior (or why their behavior has been reported)
  • incentivizing discussion among users on what’s considered dangerous or unacceptable behavior (eg. you receive a request from someone who hasn’t gone through the “training”, you can tell them your more comfortable hosting people who took the time to do so. Or maybe when two people meet in person, they would find themselves talking about why they think is a good or a bad idea to have this “educational material” on the website, therefore promoting talk about safety in groups, etc)
  • If some machos are so pissed off that a community “forces” them to waste a few minutes of their time informing them about their safety policies, maybe they’ll be turned away, or they will find ways to express their discontent in groups of messages thus making it easier to mark them with a red flag

Sorry for the wall of text :frowning: What do you think? :slight_smile:


sorry but what does being cis or not have to do with being hit on?
(also who states on their profile they’re cisgender?)

No one is saying that this doesn’t happen to men. It does, which is bad, but it happens to women at a far higher rate hence the focus on them more generally, and is something they have to be more constantly worried about. The bad experiences you have observed can hopefully give you some empathy to what women experience at a much greater frequency. No one is forgetting about men here and these policies should benefit everyone :slight_smile:


I appreciate the way @anon29844220 writes about it. But there’s men that get downright triggered by harassment of women being in the spotlight. Why does it trigger them? Very likely because they can only imagine that stressing the safety and well-being of women is to their disadvantage. To me, that’s also important here: not trying to accommodate this group.

I’d expect there will be dedicated pages on lgbt+ and couchers, maybe we could rather be inclusive about it in this context, stressing that everything that is said about harassment of women of course relates to all gender attributions?


I’d like to bring the topic back to the original question: “Should Couchers make it clear that the platform is not for dating”. My answer to this question is yes, but I think the real question is how to go about conveying this information.

In my personal opinion, I think it needs to be made abundantly clear from the beginning that the platform is NOT for dating/hookups, so there are no misunderstandings and people cannot make assumptions. I’m not saying it needs to be on the front page, but it does need it to be made clear in the onboarding, community guidelines, faq, etc.

Of course some people will just ignore the message, but that is why it will be important to have other tools to protect members and discourage people from using it as a dating platform. What those tools should be is a discussion for another thread. We can discuss them here. Thanks @Emily !

Messaging is very important because we need to convey where we stand on the issue and reassure people that safety measures are in place.


Yes, and it’s also everyone’s individual responsibility to make it clear hookups aren’t what they’re looking for. There’s a whole other community that uses couchsurfing for hookups, and there’s a laid out plan for how to use these platforms as hookup sites, and everything. It’s usually men looking for women in countries that are more culturally liberal about sex. They usually only host for 1 or 2 nights “so things don’t get awkward”.Of course, they leave great reviews for each other that has hidden language about how good or bad their “encounter” was. I’m all for consenting adults doing what consenting adults do, but it should be clear the platform isn’t FOR that.


I am interested to know if the heads of couchers* have decided something about this topic.

(*) what do you call them?

It could be nice to know what the expectation is from the guests before they arrive. Beeing hosting on couchsurfing for a long time, I think I’ve seen it all.

You could argue that by couchers should not try to control it, rather be better in making sure that both the guest and the host knows what the plan is before starting the hosting.

My experience is that about 30% of the guest beeing female are trying to use it as a dating platform. If you throw them out, you get a bad reference, so you cant. Some are freeriders, some just need a place to stay, someone need a friend, someone dont, someone needs a turist guide, somone wants to be by themselve, someone like to be social.

The last girl who booked my place, booked only because she was thinking I could fix her computer, and it was broken. Ha ha a bit funny, but no one of the answers fits for what I am thinking, I think it is not just a matter for if you want or dont want to date, but more, what are you looking for in the experience, and if you can communicate that before booking a stay, then everyone will be happier :slight_smile:

Me personally I am looking for travel friends or adventures, I used to travel about half of the year before covid, so I like the idea of getting to know people arround the world.

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If you mean the people who are building, we refer ourselves volunteers or developers :slight_smile: The project has two founders but they don’t necessarily make all the executive decisions.

So far our decision on this is that yes, we will definitely make it clear, and also provide some tools to help reduce dating activity (i.e., a way to not show your profile to men or women and anonymous elements of references), as well as having moderation tools that give the community the power to deal with dating spam the way they see fit.


YES! Pretty please do. I doubt it will get rid of everyone, but if it can get rid of some that would still be worth it.

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Personally I think it’s always good to say what something is for or not for. It doesn’t mean it will or will not happen (it will). The point is to make a declaration of intention of what the culture is as a backstop. Somewhere down the line something always goes wrong. Messaging like this is not, for me, anything to do with prevention, it’s to do with articulation. It says “you signed up for this and made this covenant”. We articulated something and you made an affirmative response that you understood. Ultimately, it makes moderation easier. Still doesn’t help with the tradeoff problem that’s everywhere online.

Ps. I might be alone in this, but where I’m from “hookup” and “hooking up” is not meant in the way that it is being used in this thread. I’ve always used it (as have my friends) to simply mean “I’m meeting that person”. There’s no sexual/dating meaning whatsoever. I live in the UK, probably in a cultural/linguistic bubble. It’s always interesting and / or confusing to realise that people are talking about something else.

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We decided with the Community Guidelines to add a clear statement that people have to agree to that is not a dating app.