Consent is still tossed by the wayside when it doesn’t align with a perpetrators view of how a situation should “go down” (imagine that); and much to the horror of any morally cognizant human being, consent has become more of a buzz-worthy catchall, than a construct to build a comprehensive sex-education program around.
Consent, as it is defined by Merriam-Webster is: “1. a transitive verb: to give assent or approval: AGREE”.
Consent is a living, breathing action that should constantly be playing in the foreground as if it were a series of melodies on a record player; but instead of having meaningful, productive, and public conversations about things like restructuring our sex-education programs nationwide to include centered talks on consent and bodily autonomy, or even about what consent looks like in our current world, we hear the record break and scratch and instead of getting up off the couch to fix it, we grab a bag of popcorn and watch the battles of “he said, she said” play out on social media.
And in seemingly anonymous arenas, like online dating apps, consent barely even exists.
There is an unspoken hierarchy of dating apps. Of the “most popular”/in the Zeitgeist at any given time, it goes:
Raya (Celebs, “Influencers”, and Australian DJs); The League (the appeal is that it’s hard to get in, unless you fork over some beaucoup cash to bypass the line, but once you’re in you get three people a day to swipe on and that’s it); Bumble (where the woman makes the move in a hetero-swiping situation, but it’s still in the guy’s hands because he has 24 hours to respond, so… fail); Hinge; Match.com & E Harmony; Coffee Meets Bagel (you have to earn “beans” to swipe. What even is that?); Happ’n (this feels super stalkery because it shows people who you “come across” in your normal travel path); Tinder; OkCupid; and finally… Plenty of Fish or POF, if you will.
I have been on each of these, with the exception of Raya, because I am none of the things mentioned above (although, if I could somehow become a celebrity, Australian DJ, influencer I’d totally swap lives for that). Each app comes with its own set of creepy dudes looking for god knows what (and I’m sure creepy women, too, but as a mainly heterosexual woman, I have to write from that viewpoint. I see you my LGBTQ+ friends. I’m not trying to ignore you, here).
There is a dating app on this list that has the worst of the worst, the bottom of the barrel, the winner of the gold ribbon for men who are not only disgusting in what they say, but also revolting in their utter lack of self-awareness in a conversation. I won’t say which one, but I’m hoping you can discern it from your own experiences.
I created a profile on this app and was immediately inundated with dudes who, quite literally, wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. So, I promptly changed tactics and did what any self-respecting woman who is shocked and appalled by the behavior of men on dating apps, and who very much needed an outlet for her frustration during a pandemic, does — I tried to see how many “No’s” it took to get to the Center of Consent.
Generally, I’m a nice person. Too nice, actually. Especially with dudes. I’m actively working on using my voice in setting boundaries and asserting my power of autonomy, so this was a lovely experiment in both. Oddly, I found that there was no amount of cruelty on my part that permeated their skulls. It was as if they liked it?
Oh! This might be a solid moment to tell you what my profile looked like —
Does. It. Matter? No. It truly doesn’t, but for curious minds, it was pretty run of the mill: “I’m goofy and fit. I prefer silly, kind, communicate humans”. The only “provocative” thing about my profile was me showcasing my strong, bare back. I had three major surgeries in 2019 (spine, arm, double hernia) and I’m pretty damn proud of how I’ve healed up. But again, what was or was not in my profile shouldn’t matter.
So, let’s start with a warm up —
Did I jump a bit too quickly to ascertain what his motives were? Perhaps, but it did elicit those motives pretty damn fast, didn’t it? I asked him fairly innocent, but pointed, questions and got answers that straight up horrified me.
I genuinely wish I knew what this guy was thinking — was it that his seemingly “cutesy” answers would make me…giggle? That the bar is so low that I would accept the idea that his answers were “cute” instead of indicative a man who might assault me given the chance?
There are a plethora of other screenshots I could share from different dudes all with the same temperament. Like the man who straight up offered me $3,000 to be his prostitute (I should have taken the cash, shouldn’t I?); or how about the guy who told me right off the bat he didn’t believe in consent; or the one who told me he was going to make me his girlfriend, kept calling me “princess”, said he didn’t like consent online or in the real world, and promised to not stop until he made me his? I couldn’t find the Center of Consent with any of these brutes nor could I with the main event. Buckle up. It’s about to get wild.
I’m not blocking his face, but I am blocking out the dick pics he nonconsensually sent to me, because why should you be subjected to that same horror?
This first conversation speaks for itself. I say “first” because when I reported him he returned with another profile. And then again. And then again. And by that time, I was about ready to file an actual police report.
This dude started at peak-horny right out the gate. He ignored my negativity and full on negated any piece of consent I threw at him. He defended his right to send me dick pics because “it’s been hard for me lately without a girl during the pandemic”, continued to question why it was utterly unacceptable to send an unsolicited dick pic, and ended this particular conversation with “I don’t plan on using you only for sex”.
Gee, he really knows how to make a gal feel… valued. Do guys still read “The Pickup Artist”? Actual question, because stop that right now. Negging is bullshit.
At this point, I decided that I had had enough. His constant rerouting of my words into battle armor was more than I wanted to handle. I reported him and while they couldn’t tell me the “outcome”, I could plainly see he was removed from the platform.
Fantastic! Another predator down. Or was he —
He messaged me and I immediately reported him. However, he was a persistent predator.
Aren’t they all?
And then again —
At this point, I should have just blocked him. Truly. I wasn’t having fun exposing this creep, but instead I was being harassed online by a guy who didn’t understand the words “No” and “Stop”. Not only did he not understand them, he seemed to thrive on them being hurled at him via a dating platform.
I’d like to draw your attention to the following quote from our predator: “What is it with you and this constant garbage you keep bringing up about consent? Do you want a man, or another vagina? You already have one, so you don’t need another.”
So much to unpack! He fully admitted to thinking that consent from a woman is not only not needed, but that it’s “garbage”. This is the main reason why I’m not blocking out his face. Us ladies need to be on watch and keep a look out for each other. It’s exhausting to maneuver about in a world, even a digital one, with the promise of another creepy man just around the corner or on the next swipe.
He also cops to being homophobic. Or maybe he just thinks a woman should have one vagina and not two? What if I wanted to have a second vagina on my person? Rude of him to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body. So, he’s policing my body now, too?
That last bit is probably just a humorous stretch, but who’s to say?
So, we have an online predator who is homophobic and believes that a woman doesn’t have the right to say “No” to his advances. Shall we continue?
Now, this dude thinks I am afraid “to admit” that I think he’s only out for one thing, and one thing only, and that I’m worried he will break my heart.
This is a very special kind of narcissistic predator, the likes of which we see in places like, I don’t know, THE WHITE HOUSE.
The volume of acerbic dialogue I throw in his direction leaves him unphased. Not only unphased, but batting up for another round of this demented game with some very basic gaslighting at the end.
I had stomached enough. I blocked him. And then reported him.
I have no idea what our villainous predator’s fate is/was. I got off of the app after that final interaction. I couldn’t stomach any more of feeling violated in a space that I had originally intended to possibly find someone to date. My guess is that he’s used another email address to create yet another account to digitally harass yet another woman.
This is not a unique experience. How sad is that?
If a man has a problem with consent via text, do you really think he will stop pressing in the real world? Do you really think he even respects women or looks at them other than a human flesh-light?
I do get that there will be people who will read this and say, “She’s egging them on,” and that, my friends, is a problem; because it doesn’t matter how someone responds, if the answer is “No” or some iteration therein, the biggest grievance isn’t in the response (though, of course, being nicer to people would be fine, but when women choose ‘nice’ we’re harassed and stalked, among a myriad repulsive responses) it’s the man not accepting the “No”. Men have been taught that they have a ‘right’ to a woman’s body. If they have a good conversation, a great date, that she is somehow now indebted to him.
All of that lacks consent on the part of a woman. So, the fundamental problem exists — consent, or lack thereof.
There seems to be a problem with consent. If I were to give any of these men the benefit of the doubt in the real world (of which I will not) and think that they maybe might be decent dudes when they encounter one of the female persuasion, then let’s stick to their online actions. In our digital age, where public information about each other is easily accessible, when did that become consent? When did sliding into someone’s DMs become an automatic “playing field” for depravity and rape culture? Why does a woman’s “NO” and/or “STOP” online mean less than one in person (again, assuming that they’d back down in person)?
Is this all just a game to these predators? If so, that’s a conversation that caregivers need to be having on the weekly with the children that they’re raising. We are living more and more online, with our noses stuck in our rectangular screens. Common decency and human moral code does not fall by the wayside simply because of the ‘promise’ of some type of anonymity.
For very few of these men, the number of “No’s” it took to get to the Center of Consent was short-lived. However, with 99.99% of them, I never fully found that sweet spot. I have never had quite the trouble on online dating apps as I did with this one. Now, this isn’t me saying “women, don’t use this dating app!” Absolutely not. This is, however, me saying that we need to have a very serious discussion with our friends, especially those of the penis persuasion, into what constituents respect — i.e. consent. Men, hold each other accountable. I’m not going to sit here and beat the specifics of rape culture and the dialogue it’s framed in over your head. You’re online, you’ve (hopefully) read the pieces; or, you’ve had conversations with your female friends and heard the horrors that come out of their mouths when detailing an encounter, whether IRL or online, with a nauseating man.
Pay attention. Speak up. Hold each other accountable. Stop perpetuating words and phrases that speak to rape culture. Start having the difficult conversations and align yourself with knowing that it’s always okay to change your behavior and leave behind those that don’t.
A big, yet often overlooked conversation society should be having? That a lot of women feel they can’t use their voice in a situation with a man. She may use body language, which should absolutely be picked up on, but she often feels not only uncomfortable in saying “No” but not safe in saying “No”. This is where we need to start a conversation, because I know I’ve been in her shoes. In fact, I know many women who have been in her shoes (again, speaking from a heterosexual viewpoint). We deserve the right to utilize our voice.
And in our society’s passing down of this damaged creed of submission, the subtext has always been that a man is unable to accept “No” as a stopping point. If I were a dude, I’d be pretty irritated at that assumption.
None of this should fly in the 21st century. We’re well past that and yet our societal “norms” for this construct are still in some weird, victim-shaming/blaming infancy where the male perp comes out on top! How is this even possible? How is it possible that consent isn’t taught in schools as a normal, safe, and respectful way to view each other just as regular human beings.
For this, we have to look at the people making the rules, and, sorry guys, most of the time it’s older, white dudes with a few younger, white dudes drinking the old, white dudes’ sweat-koolaid. The system has worked just fine for them, so why should they change it?
This means, and I’m going to get political for a hot second, that we need to really dig deep when local elections come into play. The people that we elect to small offices like school boards and City Councils often continue their climb up the political ladder. No more blindly voting down a ballot. Do research. It’s important — there’s nuance in everything.
Until we can all get on the same page of what consent is and is not — Ladies, be careful out there. You do not have to give up pieces of your own comfort, respect, and boundaries, in order to appease some guy. Ever. I mean it.
We don’t want to “hate men”, because in truth? Man, I love men. I really do, but I shouldn’t have to play a game of “How many No’s does it take to get to the Center of Consent” with most of them I speak to.
I just shouldn’t. And neither should anyone else.