When BernieSingles.com launched earlier this year, I was determined to infiltrate the dating site. I wanted to know what men supporting Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders were like. Did they respect women, or send lewd messages to them? Were they any better than the men I met on Tinder? Specifically, I was hoping to meet "Bernie Bros"—that group of supposedly misogynistic white men who lob sexist online comments at rival Hillary Clinton and her supporters.
BernieSingles.com is a platform that helps supporters of the Vermont senator make platonic and romantic connections. It’s completely free to sign up, and requires less information than most other dating sites: Member profiles only display one photo, and the biography section can be any length. Users can also create groups, send messages, and add friends. In a nutshell, it's the democratic socialist love child of Facebook and OkCupid.
To really gauge the quality of men on BernieSingles.com—and to bait potential Bernie Bros—I pretended not to know the difference between astrology and astronomy. My bio simply said, "Super into Astrology," which isn’t actually true (then again, I haven’t not read my yearly horoscope every New Year’s Day for the past seven years).
My goal was to attract dudes who couldn’t resist mansplaining to me the difference between astrology and astronomy. I was convinced that these Bernie Bros would jump at the opportunity to correct a woman, and therefore prove their intellectual superiority. Media portrayals of these supposed bros made me believe that many—if not most—male Sanders supporters would behave this way. To my shock, bro-y behavior only happened once:
After 50 men friended me, a total of 16 and I exchanged more than 100 private messages over a week. Some of them opened with a line about Sanders, but for the most part, they were the same types of guys you'd see on any dating site: mostly boring, average dudes who were just trying to start polite conversation.
Several asked about my bio, others tried to find out my non-astrological/astronomical interests, and one even professed his love for me—but nobody was aggressive and insulting, or made me feel unsafe. (Even the love admission was far more cheesy than creepy.)
There were only two things that really stood out about BernieSingles.com:
I kept getting invited to groups that screamed “sexist bro," such as “Gamer’s Dank Bernie Group” and “Atheists for Bernie,” both of which have long been representative of the online bro persona. (YouTuber The Amazing Atheist comes to mind as a major hero among Redditors, who have also faced accusations of sexism, and the video game community has a terrible reputation for being a bastion of sexist behavior.)
I didn’t receive a single lewd message. Nobody asked me, “Wanna f*ck?” or “I know where your lips would look great.” Compare this to Tinder (which matches me with around the same number of men, 15 to 20, in a week), where I'd receive 10 perfectly polite messages, followed by five that immediately reference hooking up or include a salacious comment about my appearance.
It's also important to note that Sanders himself, who is leading among millennial women in the polls, shot down the type of behavior that Bernie Bros supposedly exhibit. For his part, journalist Glenn Greenwald claims pro-Clinton journalists concocted the bro narrative as a "potent political tactic."
In conclusion, BernieSingles.com feels like the safe-space version of Tinder. I spoke to a random sampling of men from nine different states, who were largely respectful and polite. Although this doesn't prove that Bernie Bros are a myth, they likely represent a much smaller proportion of Sanders’ supporters than some media outlets would have us believe. Rhetoric claiming otherwise is nothing more than talk—or a campaign tactic.
This post originally appeared on NTRSCTN.com