It goes deeper than fish pics.
We’re all across the fact that, despite our widespread bewilderment, men seem insistent on including pictures with carcasses, badly lit gym selfies and massively confusing group photos of the same dude in different fonts in their dating profiles. The question is: who are these photos even for?
We can’t give you a tissue for your relationship woes, but can we can help get your mind off things. Head to our Life section for more advice.
As with most of my musings these days, this began on TikTok (original thought is dead, long live my For You Page). Celeste Perry (@lactose_intolerable) launched a viral series documenting the results of a social experiment she’d conducted on Hinge. As a concerningly prolific user of dating apps, it crystallised a pattern that I see constantly but never knew how to articulate.
@lactose_intolerableUnfortunately tiktok cut off the video at just 20s when I had almost 40s of purely examples :•) #fyp #australia #hinge #femalegaze #malegaze? original sound – rach ?
Sorry, but simply *owning a car* isn’t a personality trait
Having overlapping interests and mutual respect for dates’ hobbies is important. But do men actually imagine that women care about their 2014 Honda Civic? Is telling the sexy singles in their local area that ‘Saturday is for the boys’ the crucial thing that clinches them heaps of matches?
What I’m not talking about here are cishet guys who fit into traditional expectations of masculinity and want their profiles to authentically reflect that. A ‘for the boys’ profile is one that makes you genuinely question whether a dude would rather date one of his mates than almost any real-life, human woman.
Lucille McCart, APAC Communications Director at Bumble, says that part of the issue is a tendency to treat dating profiles like social media accounts rather than fine-tuning what is presented with potential partners in mind.
Men have historically been socialised to seek the approval of other men above all else. It’s very human to want to seek validation from peers and people similar to you, but when the audience shifts to exclusively women, you’d think that men might want to adjust the parts of themselves that they put out there.
“It’s as if they write it [their dating profiles] because they’re almost embarrassed to get on a woman’s level. They have to have this macho ‘impress the boys’ vibe going on even though they’re supposed to be catering to women,” Celeste says.
Prominent philosopher Marilyn Frye famously said: “To say that straight men are heterosexual is only to say that they engage in sex (fucking exclusively with the other sex, i.e., women). All or almost all of that which pertains to love, most straight men reserve exclusively for other men.”
This might be a harsh indictment, but it could be part of why we end up swiping through a pile of profiles that look like they were constructed for some patriarchal big brother who’s monitoring proper performative masculinity.
“I hate to say that people are a commodity and it’s a marketplace, but you do have competition and you’ve got to put your best foot forward. There’s two to three times the number of men on dating apps to women… If men are only catering to other men they’re going to struggle even more,” Celeste says.
Women are from Venus, men lack empathy
Women are taught, essentially from the day we’re born, that being attractive to men (physically or otherwise) is the most important thing we can be in any space. We have ‘what men want’ down to an exact science because most media we consume shows us what men find desirable. It makes sense that when translated to a digital platform, we know how to package ourselves.
Dr Lauren Rosewarne, University of Melbourne associate professor and author of Intimacy on the Internet: Media Representations of Online Connections, says that “unlike women who know that they are constantly being looked at and appraised – and thus, extend that knowledge to constructing their own dating profiles – for men, it is relatively new that they are having to market themselves using these platforms.”
Many men have never been forced to develop the type of empathy required to consider how they’re being perceived by women. This goes to a larger problem where men only see themselves mediated through a default masculine perspective. If all they’re ever exposed to are depictions of what an appealing man is by and for other men, how can we expect them to appeal to women’s desires?
“It’s just a huge overarching thing of men feeling like women aren’t human in the same way they are,” Celeste says. “From the get-go boys are taught that women are something different, and you don’t have to understand them.”
Since women are generally treated as objects of desire instead of objects with desire, it’s rare to find a man who tries to appeal to the female gaze. “When they get thrown into an environment where it’s purely just trying to cater to women, they tend to fail,” Celeste says.
Is there a female equivalent to a ‘for the boys’ profile?
In short, probably not. Dr Rosewarne says it’s more complicated to untangle women’s motivations because of their internalisation of the male gaze.
While some women choose to create ultra-feminine profiles or profiles that may alienate men (Dr Rosewarne calls out photos of drinks with the girlies and looks with heavy makeup), she flags that they’re often doing so with the express purpose of filtering out inappropriate matches.
This could be the case for some men too. Maybe they truly do want a girl who is fluent in Joe Rogan, is competitive about *everything* and thinks that John Wick is high art. There are definitely awesome women that fit those criteria out there. After all, the cool, ‘girl next door’ type has been an object of desire for decades.
The thing is, for most guys who Celeste has spoken to, this isn’t conscious behaviour. They’re not even considering the audience of women they’re supposedly trying to attract. Further than this, “most of the boys I know that have these ‘for the boys’ profiles are huge softies in real life. It’s all a persona,” she says.
This is a good point to mention that, beyond being a generalised and wildly heteronormative take that barely scratches the surface of the gender politics involved in how we choose to present ourselves, this doesn’t account for taste.
Just as there is a multitude of reasons why a guy might choose to make sculling beers the centrepiece of his dating profile, there are just as many explaining why hordes of women would find that appealing. We’re irrational beings and almost nothing will stop us from trying to procreate!
Celeste jokes that the only cure to ‘for the boys’ profiles is therapy, and I’m starting to see it would require a full takedown of the oppressive systems that govern us (yay!). But I’m hoping that straight men being put in new spaces where they have to consider the audience of women viewing and appraising them, or suffer the consequences of getting fewer matches, will start to change their behaviour for the better.
For more on modern-day dating, try this.