After a few years of being in long-term relationships and relatively uneventful ones at that, I have found myself a single gal in the big city. So like most Southern girls who are suddenly without a male caller in their lives, I went to Tinder. Now, full disclosure before the string of “Well, there’s your problem.” comments arise. I know full well Tinder is a hookup app. I know what it’s there for. I know what caliber of person Tinder usually attracts. And if you look down on me for going on Tinder, then I accept your righteous indignation. But what I will not and do not understand about Tinder is how men feel they can talk to women and that it is essentially a performance space to watch the slow death of consent.
Now, as a lady, the inherent dangers of being biologically female are not lost on me. I’ve been catcalled, harassed in real life and online and have faced several situations where just because of my gender, I was put in a compromising situation. Online dating brings all of these to the forefront. It was highlighted for me when I actually considered meeting one of these men for a day in Market Square (the “date” was cancelled). I was thinking about Uber, taxis and driving myself or even public transportation as ways to get there. I wasn’t thinking about what to wear or how to style my hair (I was going for the side part with a heavy front bang, as always.).
Never did it cross my mind that every other date I had ever been on I had no issue letting my suitor pick me up. But I didn’t want this unknown man knowing where I live. I also didn’t want to be put in a position that could literally be life or death for me if this date went south. How horrifying is that? No other time in my life was I ever this worried about my safety meeting someone new. I met Carlos online years ago and we met for the first time in public around 5 years ago. He’s one of my best friends now so clearly I’m not Static Shock 1990s PSA worried about “meeting strangers from the Internet”. And in all honesty, it was Taylor, my dear friend who commented on how damn horrifying it was that I said I was more concerned about getting a ride than the consideration of meeting a man from Tinder.
But I want to talk about consent and here’s where I get personal. I’m a cosplayer so I’ve had men sneak hands up my skirt. I’d had people ask me for all manner of lewd act online. I’ve gotten pictures that were not wanted or warranted. I’ve had men try and bully me into acts I won’t perform and I’ve been shamed for not be willing to perform. I am one of many females that have faced a similar struggle quietly and with dignity. Consent is a tricky issue in the West when it shouldn’t be. If I say “no” that means “no”. There’s not a hidden meaning. There’s not a situation that me saying “no” 4 times really equals one “yes”. There’s not anything more than “no” to a “no”. But time and time again on Tinder, I am bullied or pressured by men to do or say something I don’t want to.
Baby, you’ll like it.
C’mon, just send me one picture.
I’ll make it worth your while.
Let me see you.
In between each of those messages is usually a terse “no” or silence. And all the while, if I express my concerns, pain or grievances to friends some of them just say “Well, you’re on Tinder. What do you expect?” as if that somehow makes it alright. As if that somehow invalidates the ordeal. As if somehow that makes it okay. And what’s even more terrifying is that because it’s done online, I get all the pain and misery of having my wishes ignored with none of the actual threat of being in danger. What if this was real? What if this was a real situation?
C’mon. Let’s go.
I want more.
Let me see more.
You don’t really mean “no”, do you?
I thought you liked me, baby.
That level of bullying and pressure often times quickly escalates and for so many ends in tragedy when it happens in real life and in real life situations. And the pain of it being a “safe” place to watch the slow and miserable death of consent and the continued rise of the objectified female sex creature is that there isn’t enough to actually say or claim this is an issue. Like with cat-calling or other forms of sexual harassment women face all over the world, it’s difficult if not impossible to “police” male gaze. Online harassment is still an issue of legitimacy for many and I won’t go into the terrible things that have been said to me in forums, comment sections and other online places and spaces.
The whore or virgin dichotomy is a painful one for women and when coupled with an already toxic male gaze culture, there is almost no safe place to go when trying to find a suitor but avoid sexual harassment. And true, while there are “better” dating apps and better places to find a mate: a woman’s safety or feelings shouldn’t be compromised because of where she chooses to find a partner. My safety in a situation should not be considered within a standard deviation of “safe” because I chose Tinder over Hinge. It also speaks to the issue of the “conditional yes”. That because I’ll go on Tinder and flirt that I should accept all that comes with it. Even if that all means harassment and degradation.
I apologize if this topic was difficult for some of you and I respect that this is an issue close to many hearts. I invite respectful conversation in the comments below.
Next time, we talk about shaming, double standards and how to be a better human being/online date.