By Kaylee Johnson
If you have noticed that men are getting crasser with their “flirting” attempts, you are not alone, and you probably have a couple of dating apps downloaded on your phone. Over coffee last semester, my close friend said, “Dating apps are meant for hook ups and validation, nothing else.” She might be right, as I have been on and off of dating apps for months and the few dates I have been on resulted in near date rape, stories about mental illness and vain, pompous monologues and tantrums.
This might just be my own introverted personality, but the only relationships I have ever had have started when I least expected them, in person. Dating apps feel like impersonal ego boosters, while meeting a man in a coffee shop or a college class has an authentic gloss that the artificial nature of social media can never compare to.
Unfortunately, it has been near impossible to date organically, as the country has been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so like many other lonely, semi-pathetic young people, I have hit rock bottom and resorted back to the lowest level of relationships, online dating. Tinder is an eternal circle of superficial conversations and X-rated objectifying one-liners, but it can also be oddly entertaining. After a troubling breakup, I thought reentering the local dating scene would be an effective coping mechanism, but I found that Tinder dating is not the same as traditional dating. Men seem to believe sex is implied after dates, even if it is an afternoon coffee date. As a liberal feminist, this notion of men believing that they have free range to a woman’s body, if they chat with her for a couple of hours over drinks is stunningly backwards, and I attribute blame to dating apps and the fetishization of porn culture.
When I was in middle school, cyber-bullying was a major issue within my school district; students found it easy to hide behind screens to show some of their less alluring colors. Dating apps are no different, as these CEOs, medical students, writers and star students are not walking around their towns cat-calling every woman in sight, they are self-aware enough to realize what is socially acceptable and what is not, but Tinder seems to be a gray area. The vulgar men are able to dissociate from the women on the receiving end of the “send nudes” messages and not view them as real people, which is both alarming and dangerous, especially when these messages evolve into dates. Recently, I went on one that almost resulted in date rape, even though I set my expectations prior to dinner, the man I was out with was insistent and aggressive in a way I had never seen before, but failed to acknowledge anything wrong with his self-indulgent behavior.
In another instance, I was out with a man I was dating on my college campus, a man much older than me. He should have known more about morals and equality, but with boastfulness he said, “Women should not download dating apps unless they have the intention to hook up with the men they match with.” It took me some time to realize this philosophy is commonplace amongst men, especially single men, even if their political beliefs are liberal or feminist.
Women are not nor have they ever been obliged to sleep with the men they talk to or go on dates with. In some instances, I knew halfway through the date that I wanted out, but felt unsafe walking out due to the aggression of the male I was out with. The most vital piece of information society can take away from the radiant power of the “Me Too” movement is that consent is essential and that asking for it is not unattractive and it needs to be normalized. When women say no to sex or even seem hesitant, men need to respect that and refrain from attempting to sway their mood – it’s predatory.
Perhaps men on Tinder don’t see an issue with sending disturbingly dirty messages to strangers because they know they will likely never meet them, and in a way their Tinder personalities are alter egos, as their last names and phone numbers are hidden. Would they still act so intense if they knew they could be tracked down? No.
I’m not trying to get you to delete your dating apps, as I will probably go on a few more Tinder dates this summer. But, while you are going out to coffee and stargazing with frat boys and indie music stars, be safe. Have code words with close friends or family members and make sure you have exit plans set in place. Make your expectations clear feel; free to remind men of them if they start to get touchy. Most of all, be picky while swiping; in the words of TLC, you “don’t need no scrubs.”