Bumble fumbles anti-celibacy ads, kickstarting social-media debacle



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Dating app Bumble is in a scramble to remove a series of ads arguing that celibacy is not the solution to women’s dating problems after it was called out on social media.

The billboards, which included messages like, “You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer,” among others, sparked outrage online by some who believed the messages rejected women’s autonomy. 

Tinder cofounder Whitney Wolfe Herd started Bumble in 2014 as a woman-first dating app, yet many social media users said the anti-celibacy campaign went against its principles. 

On Sunday, a litany of online comments criticized the company, including under an Instagram post for Mother’s Day, where users promoted celibacy and shunned the company for what they saw as a campaign that commodified women and their affection. 

“[S]tay away from companies that try to ridicule women for their personal choices when they don’t benefit them,” one commenter wrote.

On TikTok, several videos calling out the company and asking women to delete their accounts garnered hundreds of thousands of likes. Actress Julia Fox commented on one viral post saying “2.5 years of celibacy and never better tbh.” 

One TikTok influencer, The Windwitch, said in a Sunday post that even the photos used with the ads were offensive.

“Bumble we are not your product to sell,” she said in the post.

In an Instagram post Monday, Bumble said that it would remove the ads and donate to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and other organizations that support women. It will replace the ads with promos for the hotline and the other organizations.

“Our ads referencing celibacy were an attempt to lean into a community frustrated by modern dating, and instead of bringing joy and humor, we unintentionally did the opposite,” the company wrote in a statement. 

In the past few years, the concept of celibacy has become more popular with largely heterosexual women who are frustrated with rates of violence, traditional gender norms, and men in the dating pool. In South Korea, proponents of the 4B feminist movement gained traction starting in 2019 by renouncing men, marriage, sex with men, and having children.

Last week, Bumble reported better-than-expected first quarter revenue of $267.8 million, up 10.2% year-over-year. Downloads of its app also jumped about 18% from a year earlier in the first quarter, Reuters reported, citing data from market intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

Still, Bumble’s stock is down 20% since January and it has increased its focus on attracting Gen Z users to its platform. The company revealed a new logo and an app refresh last week to try to rejuvenate its image before stumbling with the anti-celibacy campaign.

The company’s shares fell as much as 4.5% in intraday trading before rebounding. Bumble’s stock was flat as of market close Monday.

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