MIDWAY: Instant love

Forty-one encounters, 39 penetrations,” stated an elegant Parisian art dealer when asked by a journalist from Marie Claire about his gallivanting on Meetic, the first European dating website. This French company has, in only six years, spread its cupid wings to 17 countries, including China and Brazil; made online dating available in 12 different languages; boasted 22 million users; and is now No 2 in the world just behind the USmatch.com.

In France alone, 5 million people spend precious hours chatting every day, flirting, meeting and fornicating with perfect strangers. It has become such a social phenomenon that teams of screenwriters are competing to get the first film done on the subject. Meetic has become

an egalitarian hub, visited by as many women as men. Surveys and statistics have proved that Meetic

is the most “efficient” of all online dating websites. Many of the users I know would agree.

“Meetic is the best. And it’s a super ego-booster. Every evening I’m on it, I have at least 30 men wanting to chat with me and meet me,” says a French senior civil servant, a single woman in her early 30s. Before contacting her, the 30 men have clicked on the “flash” icon to let her know that they find her especially attractive. Before condescending to reply, she double-checks their profile: age, picture, education, income and marital status.

She chooses them like a discerning consumer, and only replies to married men. “For the moment, I am looking for fun, not love.” It’s a simple issue of supply and demand: pre-select candidates, test sales pitch, draw a shortlist, have a face-to-face interview, hire on the spot, dismiss without notice, voila — a case of ultra-liberalism meets romance. And low-cost sex.

The irony is that Meetic’s founder, Marc Simoncini, insists that the site’s success lies in its being distinctively “European and Latin”. “People can meet freely on Meetic, they can talk to each other directly across Europe.” Unlike Match.com, which does the matching for

you. Even Americans would be horrified at the idea of married people dating freely, but making adultery and sex as easy as buying a croissant shouldn’t necessarily be France’s only gift to online dating.