I met my husband online over 9 years ago now. I have a fair few friends that also met their partners that way and most of us have had an awkward moment or two when asked the dreaded “How did you two meet?” at a party, but now, in 2015, online dating is far more common.
When we met, it was 2006 and online dating sites were a thing, but no where near as prevalent as they are now. There were only a handful of them. These days there literally thousands of them- this article estimates there are around 8,000 of them worldwide. There are also dating apps that match users based on their profiles, their sexual preferences and geographic location. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is that these sites are still used by people who show you, pretty quickly, why they are still single. I read through this Buzzfeed post full of screen grabs from “nice” guys using dating apps and social media, often to talk to women they want to go out with.
Online dating for women seeking men was, and still is, a farking minefield.
I remember one guy on the site I was using. He was pretty persistent in his messaging. It took me about 30 seconds to know he wasn’t someone I was interested in- his profile listed things like car racing, football, cars, watching football and car shows as his interests. Nothing wrong with those- they just aren’t my interests. I can’t remember what else it said, because this is going back around 9 years, but I remember there was absolutely nothing in his profile that grabbed me. After a bit of conversation, he asked if I’d like to meet up for a drink. I remember thanking him but saying no. It should have ended there, but it didn’t, which is why I still remember it, I think. He asked why not, and I told him I didn’t think we had much in common but wished him all the best. He told me that wasn’t really a good enough reason and that I should give him a chance. Again, I politely declined. He came back with a long message about how I should at least meet up with him because he was a good guy and women just wouldn’t give him the time of day and what was my problem, anyway? Couldn’t I see what a nice guy he was even if we didn’t share common interests?
Nope. I couldn’t see anything nice in a guy that didn’t understand or accept ‘no’. I couldn’t see anything nice about a guy who felt I, or any woman, owed him something because he was ‘nice’ enough to send a message.
There were others as well. I remember feeling really creeped out by the sheer volume of men who contacted me that reacted in similar ways if I wasn’t interested. When I was using this site, the male users seemed to outnumber the females by quite a bit. I’m not sure if that is still the case, but it was definitely mentioned to me more than once. One guy told me that he messaged me because I was “fresh meat” on the site. Another sent me a long-winded message complaining that women on the site were all “picky” (like I apparently was) because for them it was “like shooting fish in a barrel”.
There was also another category of messages- the explicit ones. I had a few (from men well outside the age range I’d said I was interested in) starting with “If you weren’t young enough to be my daughter, I’d…” which is lovely to receive from a stranger at any age, let alone when you’re 23. Basically men in their late 40’s and early 50’s detailing their sexual fantasies to a stranger. What is it about the internet that makes people think it’s okay to say sexually inappropriate things to strangers in text that they (I hope) would never say to someone they’d meet in public? Like this charming ice-breaker, sent to my friend on Ok Cupid:
Or is the online dating scene a popular extension for the guys that shout brilliant witticisms like “Show us ya tits!” from passing cars at women and girls they don’t know? This guy pretty much confirms that theory, actually, with his opening message to a woman I know from a Facebook group:
Talking to women using these sites now, I can see how little has changed. It seems like there is a large number of men on dating sites who have literally no clue on how to approach women. It’s easy to laugh these guys off, pointing to messages and interactions like these ones to explain why they are still single:
However, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. It’s not just a case of some men being clueless or rude. Think about it, what does it say about their attitude to women in general? Here’s a couple more collected from some awesome women from a Facebook group I belong to:
Rude and clueless doesn’t quite cover it. These are strangers who aren’t accepting no for an answer or who are requesting sex or asking explicit and inappropriate questions straight from the get-go. There’s just something about being behind a keyboard that makes some people lose all social filters, all common courtesy, basic respect and civility.
Women online are often on the receiving end of vile comments, trolling and threats for having the temerity to speak out or have an opinion. Just look at what writer Clementine Ford is subjected to, among others.
Yet these are not men deliberately seeking conflict with women they disagree with- not that that is a reasonable excuse for abuse, threats or any of the other vile behaviour directed at women. Instead, these are websites full of men who are looking for relationships, seeking meaningful connections, desiring intimacy- even if it’s just the physical kind. So many of these men (yes, yes, #notallmen ) are using dating websites in a way that demonstrates how little they value women as people. This is another reason we still need feminism. Sites like The Ladies of Ok Cupid and Straight White Boys Texting have even more examples.
If the gross questions and abuse don’t convince you, check out this guy’s profile below. When this image was shared in the Facebook group I’m in, more than one woman responded that they’d seen similar references on more than one profile:
NB- I tried to get examples of women doing this to men on dating sites/apps, but no one I knew had any, nor did any friends who asked around on my behalf. It’s not firm evidence that women don’t send inappropriate messages, but I’m willing to bet it’s less common!
#IBOT @ Essentially Jess.