When market logic is applied to the pursuit of a partner and fails, people can start to feel cheated. This can cause bitterness and disillusionment, or worse. “They have a phrase here where they say the odds are good but the goods are odd,” Liz said, because in Alaska on the whole there are already more men than women, and on the apps the disparity is even sharper. She estimates that she gets 10 times as many messages as the average man in her town. “It sort of skews the odds in my favor,” she said. “But, oh my gosh, I’ve also received a lot of abuse.”
Recently, Liz matched with a man on Tinder who invited her over to his house at 11 p.m. When she declined, she said, he called her 83 times later that night, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. And when she finally answered and asked him to stop, he called her a “bitch” and said he was “teaching her a lesson.” It was scary, but Liz said she wasn’t shocked, as she has had plenty of interactions with men who have “bubbling, latent anger” about the way things are going for them on the dating market. Despite having received 83 phone calls in four hours, Liz was sympathetic toward the man. “At a certain point,” she said, “it becomes exhausting to cast your net over and over and receive so little.”
This violent reaction to failure is also present in conversations about “sexual market value”—a term so popular on Reddit that it is sometimes abbreviated as “SMV”—which usually involve complaints that women are objectively overvaluing themselves in the marketplace and belittling the men they should be trying to date.
The logic is upsetting but clear: The (shaky) foundational idea of capitalism is that the market is unfailingly impartial and correct, and that its mechanisms of supply and demand and value exchange guarantee that everything is fair. It’s a dangerous metaphor to apply to human relationships, because introducing the idea that dating should be “fair” subsequently introduces the idea that there is someone who is responsible when it is unfair. When the market’s logic breaks down, it must mean someone is overriding the laws. And in online spaces populated by heterosexual men, heterosexual women have been charged with the bulk of these crimes.
“The typical clean-cut, well-spoken, hard-working, respectful, male” who makes six figures should be a “magnet for women,” someone asserted recently in a thread posted in the tech-centric forum Hacker News. But instead, the poster claimed, this hypothetical man is actually cursed because the Bay Area has one of the worst “male-female ratios among the single.” The responses are similarly disaffected and analytical, some arguing that the gender ratio doesn’t matter, because women only date tall men who are “high earners,” and they are “much more selective” than men. “This can be verified on practically any dating app with a few hours of data,” one commenter wrote.