Women are treated badly on the Internet.
Let me rephrase — women are treated badly.
When I started this anthology on Monday, I did so simply because I needed a more streamlined system by which to document the dozens of the lewdest, most bizarre and most disturbing messages my roommate and I have received since downloading (between the two of us) a multitude of dating apps in January. I wanted a digital photo album by which to remember the travesty of my early 20's, during which being single in New York City was simultaneously the best and the worst thing that had ever happened to me. But over the last few days, what began as an innocuous, entertaining side project has revealed something more insidious. When I read text after text after text from strange men asking women they'd never before met to have sex, share intimate details of their lives, or send otherwise explicit messages, I stopped laughing. And when I did laugh, it wasn't because I thought it was funny, but rather because I didn't know how else to channel my discomfort.
I fully understand the reality of my situation and of the very nature of apps like Tinder, Hinge, OKCupid, etc etc. Sure, there's a certain underlying assumption that the majority of people who frequent these platforms are more inclined towards a hook-up than a serious relationship. That's fine. I get it. I'm down with that.
But a mutual right swipe does not ingratiate me to you, nor does it entitle you to my body. And as a result, I've no patience for messages that suggest this to be the case.
I would categorize the messages I've posted thus far into three flavors:
These are the men who think that sending bizarre, somewhat funny, but really disgusting pickup lines will catalyze conversation. Even if the woman responds with "what?"
2. Cutting-the-bullshit-and-getting-straight-to-the-point (sex)-disrespect
"Wanna have sex tonight?" Do you ever really plan to have sex with a stranger?
The guy who doesn't understand why you haven't responded to "hey" the last four times, and thinks that you must be playing hard to get. The guy who doesn't understand that you do indeed have other things going on in your life, and sometimes, replying to a message from a person you've never met before doesn't top your list of priorities.
Each of them is indicative of a disturbing trend that really seems to be exacerbated by the promise of relative anonymity and perceived impunity, courtesy of the Internet and a world that is getting smaller all the time, but no closer. And with the seemingly impenetrable digital curtain, in which people are protected by their computer screens and emboldened by distance, we become almost barbaric in our interactions. Gone are the pleasantries, the niceties, even the slightest attempts at courtesy. Instead, I get messages like this:
What I find most disturbing about this entire interaction (other than all of it?) is the notion that this "change," this general movement towards opening conversations with "What's your craziest sexual fantasy?" is something that has become commonplace. That some men, without knowing anything else about a woman save their physical appearance based on a few, carefully curated pictures, feel that it is appropriate to start a conversation that so clearly debases and objectifies women to nothing more than carnal pleasures. I am not your personal freakshow, nor do I have any interest in providing material for your masturbatory self-indulgence.
Of course, this isn't to say that there aren't women on Tinder who would like nothing more than to strike up a conversation about their interests in role-play, but once I've made it clear that I'm not one of those women, isn't it basic human decency to change course, or at the very least, stop talking?
Combined with the painfully condescending, "What are you so mad about? Have you had your heart broken darlin?" I was fuming by the end of this interaction.
So this is the purpose of my blog — I want to bring to light the very real abuse (because there is simply no other word in my lexicon for it) that women (and indeed, some men) suffer every day, both on and offline. I want to challenge the assumption that we can act with impunity, that we can behave with such little regard for basic human decency, simply because the threat of repercussion seems so slim when interactions are relegated to cyberspace. And given the alarming rapidity with which all human interaction is moving out of the real world and onto the Internet, I think it's time to have this conversation.