I started using dating apps about 4 years ago. I’ve been on just about every platform. Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, Tinder, you name it. I am a big fan of online dating. It’s a great way to meet people outside of your social circle once you’ve dated your way through friends of friends. I’ve met so many wonderful people, been on amazing dates, and have explored parts of my city that I wouldn’t have normally visited.
I’ve also been harassed for my political beliefs, belittled for my profession, and unwillingly seen more phallic images than I’d like to admit. I still encounter the same racism, misogyny, and toxic heteronormativity that I do in my everyday life. As much as I love using dating apps to meet people, I have had some pretty trash experiences.
The Black Girl Experience
I’ve come across a fair share of racism on dating apps, whether it’s intentional or coming from a place of sheer ignorance – it’s still happening. Of course, I’ve had experiences of rejecting someone’s advances and, in response, been called a “stupid n****r bitch.” Of course, I’ve had a POC call me a negro bed wench. And of course, I’ve been accused of being a sell out for dating outside of my race. As infuriating as these situations are, more times than not the racism isn’t as overt. I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to be on a great date, then your date says something that immediately sheds light on the fact that they don’t interact with black women very often:
“I’ve never been with a black girl before.”
“I’ve never met a black girl as hot as you.”
“Have you ever been with a (they insert their race/ethnic group here) before?”
It always shocks me when this comes out of someone’s mouth, regardless of their race or ethnicity. How am I supposed to respond to this? Does my date think that they have to fill out forms that need to be signed and notarized to go out with a black woman? Furthermore, I am not interested in being fetishized because of my skin color. I’m not interested in being sampled like this is Costco. If my only appeal to someone is that they can check off a box on their dating bucket list, then I’m not interested. Left swipe.
The Slut Shaming
There are plenty of misguided folks in the online dating realm that feel entitled to speak to women any kind of way they please. Imagine getting catcalled, but through the screen of a phone. Call me old fashioned but, “Damn girl, I wanna see how you make that booty bounce,” is never a good opening line. I’m not sure if anyone would respond positively to lines like this, but my guess is no. Just as if I were catcalled on the street, I will always shut that BS down. When I do call people out on their misogynistic comments, I’ve been greeted with responses like:
“Well, don’t dress like such a slut in your photos and maybe you’ll get some respect.”
“What? You don’t like (insert ethnicity here) people? Racist bitch.”
“Whatever, you’re too dark/fat/ugly anyway.”
*Unsolicited photo of a penis*
It’s easy to hide behind the quasi-anonymity of these platforms to say things you wouldn’t say to someone face to face, but there is a person on the other side of the conversation. I obviously don’t let comments like these get the best of me, but not everyone can shake abusive language and images off so easily. Suggesting that dressing a certain way should warrant a certain type of response from someone perpetuates the very problematic culture we live in. Just because I post a photo of myself on the beach doesn’t mean you should ask to see what I’ve got going on underneath my bikini. Just because I don’t respond kindly to a misogynistic advance does not mean I find every member of your race or mine unattractive. It means that you’re a jerk and I don’t have time for your bullshit. LEFT SWIPE.
The Sexual Mislabeling
OKCupid is by far my favorite dating app, mostly because it offers a wide array of gender identities and orientations for members to chose from instead of a restrictive male/female/gay/straight binary. As a cis woman who is sexually fluid, there isn’t an identity that fully encompasses how I feel sexually. The app makes it easy for me to browse through other members who I’d be interested in and might be interested in me. This also leaves me vulnerable for trolls to make unwanted and unwarranted comments.
I once went out to a bar in Harvard Square with a guy I had decided to meet after a couple days of chatting back and forth. When he asked me about the way I chose to identify sexually, I simply told him that I like what I like when I like it. Clearly displeased by my answer, he proceeded to ask invasive questions about my sexual history, how many people I’ve slept with, and tried to force me into an identity that he could better wrap his head around. He ultimately came to the conclusion that I was bisexual, but spending the night with him would “turn me straight”.
I can also remember an experience while chatting with a woman who identified as a lesbian, but was convinced that I was confused and told me that she didn’t have time to waste on straight girls. Over the years, I’ve struggled a lot with coming to terms with my sexuality. I am comfortable with who I am, and I will make no apologies about it. I will not, however, have my sexuality mislabeled by a stranger that I just met on the Internet. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I think about someone telling me about my own sexuality, only knowing me by a photo, a brief profile description, and a five minute conversation. Left. Swipe.
Although I have had some horrendous experiences with online dating, I still weed through all the terrible humans and continue to have very pleasant interactions and relationships with some wonderful people. Whenever I have a friend who tells me they miss having a dinner date or a significant other to cuddle with on the couch, I will always offer to help them create a profile and curate all their best selfies. They will undoubtedly encounter some unsavory characters, but they also may find the one (or two or three).