When you first dip your toe in the world of online dating, you'll learn a few things about your fellow humans that you never expected, let alone that there might be grey silhouette fetishes. As a guy, I've never had to find out exactly what percentage of my fellow men are willing to send a picture of their, y'know, area to a stranger, but I gather it's a lot. But I have certainly seen a lot of new things, particularly when venturing to the more… unconventional areas of online dating. I like to think of myself as pretty aware of what people get up to, but it always surprises me not that there are all these different fetishes out there, but that there are so many different little fetish communities with their own languages and customs. One of the strangest – and one you seldom see discussed – is the community of grey-silhouette fetishists.

If you've ever signed up for an online dating site, you've probably met at least one grey-silhouette fetish enthusiast. You sign up, come up with a funny-but-not-too-funny username, decide you'll put up a photo in just a moment, and before you know it you've got a message. A message sent to your completely blank profile, with a simple grey silhouette instead of a photo, not sixty seconds after it was created. It seems implausible, but you haven't reckoned with the determination of a grey-silhouette freak. To these people, there's nothing more profoundly erotic than the blank, featureless grey image in the photo space of your profile. Its anonymous contours suggest everything while revealing nothing – a sizzling sexual voltage that no actual photograph can provide.

You'd never suspect there were so many people out there with grey silhouette fetishes out there


But the evidence speaks volumes. Either there are swarms of them or there are just a few very industrious ones, frantically mashing Send on messages to every new person-shape that appears on the site. And given that nobody ever responds to them – or at least I hope they don't – they must also be very lonely. I suppose it's all for the best, though; they'd be disappointed when we turned out to be in colour.

Maybe are really grey silhouette fetishes. Alternatively, I suppose it's possible that it's not the grey silhouettes that turn people on. Maybe these people are just really interested in dating a straight male between 25 and 40 and they can't find one in their local area. Which does suggest that more people on dating sites are nuns than you might expect. Nuns who are having some trouble with their vows.

Seriously, though – these obviously-automated messages are a little painful to receive, because of the implications.


How gullible would you have to be for one of these fakes to induce you to cough up your credit card details? Well, however much of a sucker you'd have to be, that's what the site operator presumably thinks of you. It's not a pleasant feeling! And yet it must work on some people, or presumably no one would do it.

That's assuming (I think correctly) that the sites themselves are the source of this grey-silhouette malarkey. But if they're not, it would just be an example of the problem dating sites have in general with verification. Weeding out scam artists and pranksters would make for a better – if duller – user experience, but it's impractical for most companies to do, assuming they even want to. There's probably no end in sight to the spam.

That being the case, I prefer to imagine that I'm merely the target of a lot of misguided grey-silhouette admirers. I feel a bit sorry for them, since I'm never going to give them what they're looking for. I hope they find the featureless human shape they're looking for.



Image by Mislav Marohnićvia Flickr with CC BY 2.0 license

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[…] chat feature – or at least the first line of a chat feature. I’ve written before about the phenomenon of grey-silhouette fetishists, those sexually voracious women who can’t be satisfied by anything other than a blank outline […]

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