Elena Scotti/FUSION

You won’t find coulrophobia–the fear of clowns–in the official guide to human diseases but that doesn’t mean it isn't very real. Any person with a searing, traumatic memory of being scared half to death by a clown as a child can attest to that. What may surprise you is that the opposite impulse exist: coulrophilia, a love of and even a lust for clowns. And there are websites out there to cater to coulrophiliacs.

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There is such thing as clown dating websites. There are even two! Clowndating.com and Clownpassions.com. Which for something so specific seems like a lot, but this is the Internet. Who is on a clown dating website? Are they finding love there? How many people are we talking about? Thousands? Hundreds? Dozens? How do they find each other? How did they find each other before the Internet? How deep is this rabbit hole? I decided to find out.

Of the two, Clown Passions is the more sparsely populated. It turns out Clown Passions is just one of a large number of niche interest dating sites on the Passions network, which also caters to Trek, Shy, Seniors, Truckers, Goth, Gaming, Cosplay, you pretty much name the passion.

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The Passions company has a very charming, if slight, Success Stories page about obsessives who have found each other through its sites, but sadly, there is no entry for Clown Passions. (A clue that something is amiss?) It offers a range of services—forums, groups, webcams, direct messaging and chat. Free chat! Here was hopefully where I would be able to find some clown daters to talk to about their community, but alas, there were technical difficulties:

DANGIT.

This is … not going as I'd hoped. Clown Passions was also lacking a match algorithm to deliver me a tantalizing array of suitors. I came into clown dating imagining that I would enter a few details about myself and then be met with an overwhelming number of people to choose from. Alas, no. Clown Passions didn't even let me see anyone's face, let alone their clown-made-up face. Looking around at the members and groups pages painted a sad and decidedly uncolourful picture:

Hello, it's me. I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet?
clownpassions.com

Clicking around on the forums, where I hoped to find people excitedly discussing clown business, was also a disappointment:

Perhaps no dating advice here, but do brush up on your puppetry skills.
clownpassions.com

While conversation and activity were lacking here, there were many, many photos of clowns. So maybe this is more of a clown pornography site than a clown dating site.

Hey
HI.
Hello!

Overwhelmed by tumbleweeds, I headed for the greener pastures of Clown Dating:

Sure, why not let a clown love you?
clowndating.com

At Clown Dating, there is slightly more happening, but no one is showing themselves as a clown, which could mean that everyone there is interested only in dating a clown, not in themselves being a clown, which would suggest that clowns are the more sought-after of the equation:

My clown dating matches, none of whom appear to be clowns.
clowndating.com

Then again I’m not presenting myself as a clown either, because I've never dressed as a clown in my life because I despise clowns, so I definitely don't have a photo of myself in clown makeup.

Is this woman on the phone calling me? She isn't a clown either!
clowndating.com

I had a few matches on my first day on Clown Dating, though not everyone seems to be especially interested in clowning, which is confusing:

Clowns can be architects too.
clowndating.com

Another thing that is confusing in its own way is that a lot of people who have sent me messages are sending them in foreign languages. Helpfully you can use the translate button to send a reply, which I did in a dozen cases, but so far, no replies have been forthcoming when I enquire what it is about clowns they find so alluring.

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I think it's possible to deduce from this that quite a few people on Clown Dating have been lost in translation and are seeing it, in their second language, as just a particularly jaunty dating site for extremely happy people and they quite possibly have no romantic interest in clowns. In which case my questions would seem quite bizarre and I wouldn't reply to me either.

I forge on in the hope of finding one person in their clown getup, or at least one person who wants to progress beyond "flirting" on the site, which can take the form of winking, sending a card, giving a thumbs up, marking you a favorite or asking for more information about you, which I provide. Like many dating websites, Clown Dating also seems to be very interested in up-selling me to VIP MEMBER! status. That's what I need to do in order to live chat with any of the people who've sent me a message. At $39.95, there are limits to research. Though at least there appear to be people there, which is a lot more promising than the wasteland of Clown Passions.

This seemed so promising! Love is a lie.

Clown Dating is also part of a larger niche set of sites, these based in the UK, under the name Luscious Liaisons. For some reason they don't include Clown Dating on their portfolio, instead highlighting Loopy In Love (for people in their 30s, clearly), the self explanatory Date A Granny, the Welsh-only Smwch Dating ("In case you are wondering, Smwch is Welsh for smooch,") and a few others I'll leave you to explore.

Even after waking up this morning to some very intense email alerts from Clown Dating ("Hot, new, for YOU! Whitelist us") and sending off several new messages, I am beginning to feel stymied in my attempts to understand the world of clown-dating first hand. Having these romantic interests appears to be very, very niche, even with two sites catering to the red-nose demographic.

I try to think of what I would do if someone actually responded to me and wanted to go on a date, even as my dreams of a clown connection slowly evaporate. What if it had developed into a full-fledged relationship? What do clown-lovers do together? I start imagining the next year of activities together: celebrating International Clown Week in the first week of August; booking a trip to Kansas for the Clowns of America International Convention; jaunting off to Bangkok to attend the 2017 World Clown Association convention, with a stopover in England to learn about Clown Eggs, a kind of copyright registry of clown make-up painted onto chicken eggs:

A member named Stan Bult started recording clown images on chicken eggs with the insides blown out. It started as a hobby, and, like many hobbies, it just grew.  Mr. Bult kept his collection at home, occasionally loaning it out for shows, such as at the 1951 Centenary Exhibition of the Crystal Palace.

The collection continued to be lent out after Mr. Bult's death but sadly most of the eggs were destroyed in an accident at one such exhibit around 1965.

This sounds like a deeply sad story, up until the eggs were heroically restored by a contemporary artist. They are now on view at the Wookey Hole Caves near Wells in Somerset, "and new eggs are added frequently," which is good to know.

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But my fantasy of a year with a clown-mate isn't likely to become real. I am sad to report that clown dating appears to be a bust. I was unable to start any conversation with clown enthusiasts; maybe they saw through me and knew on some deep level that I do in fact hate clowns. In the future I will work harder on my psyops for these kinds of investigations.

If clowns are your thing, there are definitely places for you in the farthest corners of the internet and the real world, but that a clown-centric dating service will prove to be a killer app seems unlikely at this time. In fact, I suspect that most people are using the site as they would any other dating opportunity. The advice from experts after all, somewhat based in probabilities, is to cast the widest possible net when fishing in the dating pool.

It's a circus out there.

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If you are a clown who dates clown fans, or a non-clown person looking to date a clown, email me! elmo.keep@fusion.net

Elmo is a writer with Real Future.