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Bumble faces backlash over anti-celibacy ad campaign: 'Stop trying to shame women'

Public responses to the apology have been as fiery as the initial backlash.
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Bumble has apologized after a recent ad campaign referencing celibacy prompted backlash, with critics claiming it shamed people for choosing not to have sex.

The dating app company has since removed the ads from its global marketing campaign and, in an Instagram statement posted May 13, responded to the critiques of its message.

"We made a mistake. 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 apology stated in part.

The ads were part of Bumble's brand redesign. One controversial billboard read, "You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer," the Associated Press reported.

A since-removed video ad posted to X on April 30 was also part of the campaign. In it, a woman joins an all-female religious group but later becomes infatuated by a shirtless man trimming the hedges. That night, another woman gives her a phone with Bumble loading. The first woman then leaves the group and the text reads, "We've changed so you don't have to."

Many critics of the ads have said they minimize the variety of reasons people, especially women, may choose to be celibate.

“In a world fighting for respect and autonomy over our bodies, it’s appalling to see a dating platform undermine women’s choices. Wasn’t this app supposed to empower women to date on their terms?” an X user wrote in response to the billboard.

“Bumble need to f--- off and stop trying to shame women into coming back to the apps,” another chimed in. “Run ads targeted at men telling them to be normal.”

“You can date whilst being celibate so it makes no sense anyway! You’re enforcing male entitlement to our bodies,” a third person added.

“Bumble doing a campaign attempting to shame celibacy/abstinence is an unserious way to tell the public yall are nervous. It’s also a very offensive way to tell your female customers that you’re profiting off of their legs being open,” a fourth wrote.

The company acknowledged the range of criticisms in its apology, writing that some people choose to be celibate due to concerns about access to reproductive health care, as a response to trauma or because they're asexual.

“For years, Bumble has passionately stood up for women and marginalized communities and their right to fully exercise personal choice," the statement continued. “We didn’t live up to these values with this campaign and we apologize for the harm it caused."

Bumble said it is making a donation to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and other organizations that support women, marginalized communities and abuse victims, as well as offering the time remaining in its billboard reservations to these organizations.

The apology also was met with some criticism.

“The celibacy community isn’t pressed. We didn’t ask for allyship from you. You dressed those ladies as nuns to insinuate that celibate women are recluse and limited. We aren’t. We actually happy over here,” one person commented on the apology post.


“You didn’t lean into a community, you leaned into the feelings of men,” a third wrote. “You had no regard for women. You made it a woman’s problem to fix the lack of sex men are having. How about addressing why women are not interested in having a relationship with men? Maybe tell the men to fix themselves instead of the women to give in. Do better.”

Bumble's ad controversy comes amid some financial difficulties for the company. Its shares have dropped 45% since July 2023, AP reported. And in February, it announced plans to lay off 350 employees, according to a press release.