Online dating should be painless. It should be fun! Think about it: you’re talking to a complete stranger whose profile you liked, and there is a possibility of meeting them sometime and having some fun (maybe even a relationship in the future, if you’re into that sort of thing). Besides the little information they chose to include in their profile, you don’t really know them, so there are no real expectations involved. All your interactions with this person should be light, fun, and of course, a little flirty. Conversations should revolve around a crazy meme you just found, that amazing TV series you’re both currently obsessed about, or what you like to do in your spare time. Whether you’re looking for something casual or something more serious, you’re on the app because you want to meet someone new, and you’re just getting to know each other. There shouldn’t be any of the ugly stuff that happens when you’re dating someone until you actually meet them, right?
Wrong. Life isn’t fair, and the world just doesn’t make any sense sometimes. Online dating should be fun and harmless, and the people you meet there should be cool and emotionally stable, but sometimes they’re not. Because of this, trying to meet someone and talking to people on these platforms can turn into a really stressful, frustrating, and even scary experience. Within a matter of days or even seconds, you go from being excited to talk to this cute guy or girl to blocking them and never wanting to hear from them again.
Now, people like this come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders and sexual orientations. However, if you’re a woman looking for men on these platforms, the chances that you’ve ever been in this situation or that you will in the future are much higher than if you’re a man or a woman looking to date a woman. In fact, statistics from Pew Research show that 57% of women report having been the victim of harassment on a dating app or site. That’s more than half. For men, though, the number drops to 21%.
For women, interacting with men on a dating app or site can be a lot like walking on a minefield. The harassment can take many forms: guys who attempt to start a conversation by telling you that they’d like to [verb] your [noun] or put their [noun] in your [noun]; guys who get angry after you forget to (or choose not to) reply to their messages and proceed to verbally abuse you; guys who just send you pictures of their penis without any kind of warning whatsoever; guys who can’t keep their opinions about your body to themselves, whether they’re good or bad; or, my personal favorite, guys who expect you to fall at their feet and have their babies because they were “nice” to you or told you that you were pretty.
Based on a profile alone, it’s practically impossible to tell if a man is one of these guys, or if he’s actually a decent human being. Even the sweetest-looking ones can surprise you. The reason for this is that this kind of behavior comes from having a sexist mentality, and, unfortunately, most men (and women) are sexist. Whether they are aware of it or not, they hold views that consider women to be inferior to men. In their eyes, we are beautiful, delicate, and intuitive, but also weak, too emotional, and less capable than them. They like us as long as we look pretty, laugh at their jokes, and say yes to everything they say.
It is because of this that so many men feel free to harass and abuse women in their home, the workplace, at school, and on the streets. Why would it be any different on a dating app? They know that the chances of them suffering from the consequences of their actions or even being confronted about them are very, very slim. After all, this isn’t happening in “real life”; is the name on the app even his real name? Are those photos really of him? The man is basically a ghost.
The only way for someone to hold him accountable is by confronting him, telling him he’s a jerk and that he can’t treat women like this, neither online nor in the real world. But the problem is that women are taught to ignore the men who hurt them, to look the other way and not tell anyone about this type of situation. Even though they are the victims, and victims should never be blamed for something that has happened to them, many women will still feel ashamed to be on the receiving end of this kind of abuse. It’s a result of the same sexist education and upbringing that makes men abuse them in the first place. Women are taught to suffer in silence, and to understand that “men will be men” and there’s nothing we can do about it.
I wish I could say that everything will get better soon, and that one of these days, women will be able to navigate both the real and the virtual world without any man saying or doing horrible things to them. But I would be lying if I said that. The truth is we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of things to unlearn before that can happen. In the meantime, we (women and men) must do everything in our power to put a stop to men who want us to stay in this unequal world. In general, that means investing a lot of our time and energy into making changes in ourselves and those around us, but sometimes it’s as simple as telling that loser who won’t leave you alone that he’s an idiot and he can go to hell.