I’ve been online dating, on and off, for almost a year. In theory, it’s perfect for me. My only real talents in life are writing character limited copy and flirting with strangers until they want to drink pints with me. It was anonymousish, and the gamification of dating was addictive. But internet dating is brimming with misogyny, and it’s often not a pleasant place to be as a women.
I found the men on dating sites fell into three categories: respectful, sexually gratuitous, and entitled. It’s a 20/10/70 split.
The first group are great. We go on dates, we have lots of fun. It’s fine when it doesn’t work. I even ended up dating one of the first type for a few months. He was very nice. No complaints here.
From opening the conversation with ‘hey sexy wanna fuck’ to the violent porn gif I was sent one Sunday morning, the second category was predictable. They were easy to delete, block, move on.
The third category though…. I’d underestimated how fragile the male ego is. They were the men who berated you if you didn’t reply quick enough. If you didn’t reply in a few days they’d assume you were stuck up and a whore, who was only in it for the likes. It couldn’t possibly be that you were busy in the real world. Or that you didn’t fancy them.
Then there were men whose profiles would be arrogant and unappealing, full of bold and conceited decolorations about what a ‘nice guy’ they were, but end with the line ‘it’s all about the looks though, nobody cares about personality 😩’. Not all of these men were unattractive.
There are the men who would ask why I thought I was good enough for them. Not an inherently bad thing to know, but a bad conversation starter.
There are the three messages then ask for your number men. I used to make a joke and say ‘I’m not sure you aren’t a murderer yet, let’s chat a bit more on here!’ But usually they would persist in asking for my number, or not reply.
In the first three days of the new year we’ve had news stories about a man who has killed three of his ex-partners and an ex-Ukip Councillor who murdered his wife. These women were killed by the men they knew and trusted (at one point). Relationships are statistically not safe for women to be in. For half of all women killed, it will be by their partners. For many more, they will face emotional and physical abuse. I wonder if the men I was chatting to knew that’s why I didn’t want to give them my number just yet. I wasn’t sure they were one of the safe ones.
I did give out my number a few times though. I went on a few dates with guys I knew I didn’t fancy but seemed nice enough. I’d matched with them on tinder so I felt like I owed them a date. They were persistent.
Women have been taught from birth to regulate their emotions in order to protect the emotions of men. We go on dates we don’t want to. We turn men down by lying ‘I have a boyfriend’ not ‘I’m not interested’. We accept NDAs instead of calling out famous guys for being creeps.
Even I am regulating myself right now. My opening paragraph originally included the line ‘as a women of reasonable attractiveness, the matches started to stack up’. I took this out in the second draft because I didn’t want to derail my argument that early, in case somebody took my objection to my confidence and happiness in myself and my appearance. Men who would be angry and enraged that I found myself attractive, because they didn’t think I was.
For these men, the entitled men, women exist in relation to themselves — not as independent creatures. We are their women. They fancy us, or they don’t. They are vocal about this. They are the men who exclaim ‘she’s somebody’s daughter, mother, sister’ when calling out sexual harassment from their male friends. And these are nice men, who do call out their friends and do want to be good ally’s. They are the good guys. They deserve a nice girl. They deserve her. Like she is a prize to be won. She is something they should have. They deserve her.
I recently had to explain to an ex that in the aftermath of #metoo that I was angry he hadn’t reached out to me, knowing how hard I would be finding the situation. He said he didn’t want to until he had worked out the right thing to say. But he didn’t need to work out the right thing to say. I needed him to say anything, and acknowledge my feelings were valid. For men, all men I know, they were only able to process the Weinstein news in context of themselves and their past actions. Not about how the women might have felt. We were, we are an extension of their lives.
When a man is the main character in a story, it is a story. When a women is a main character, it is a female interest story. Men are the heroes, they solve the mysteries and rescue the societies. They have the emotions, the anguish, the excitement. Women offer support, emotional or physical. The true depths and beauty of women’s rich inner lives is so rarely captured in mainstream society. This is a particular shame because I really think, given half the chance, lasses everywhere would do a bloody great job of being our own heroes.
Internet dating is a minefield of male ego. You need to be confident and attractive, but not too confident in your attractiveness. You need to be funny and accessible, but not too funny. Not funnier. You need to give these guys a fair chance, even though they probably won’t give you one. You need to treat them as real people, not just a swipe. Lads, treat us as real people. Not just a swipe.