“There's a lot of guesswork involved.”
People match, they chat, they meet-up - Tinder is supposed to be simple.
But at a time when issues of rape culture and objectification are as prominent as ever, should we care about the degrading, aggressive Tinder messages women get sent on a regular basis? Is “I want you to sit on my face” any worse than something a drunk singleton might say in a bar on a Friday night? Is the technology or the human to blame?
We asked four women to tell us about their less than positive experiences with the app, then spoke to a senior psychology lecturer to find out whether this kind of misogyny is normal and should be accepted as part of a new dating landscape.
As Tinder describes itself - it's a “powerful tool” that is “so much more than a dating app”.
‘I SHOULD HAVE URBAN DICTIONARIED IT’
AJ expected to match with “a couple of sleazeballs” when she downloaded Tinder. “That’s the nature of the game right?”
But things quickly deteriorated.
“First, there was David. Forget the ‘Hello, nice to meet you,’ he just dove straight in with ‘Do you want to have sex with me?’,” she said.
“Then there was Aaron, who also left no room for niceties with this introduction - ‘Let's fuck, I want you to sit on my face’.”
Her next match made sure to tell her straight away how well-endowed he was, and how he wanted to use his “gift” to make her “scream”.
For a month, many of her Wellington matches were just as crass.
“One guy even took it to the next level by insulting me as well as being downright dirty.
“He said something like ‘I'm just going to say it, you're not really my type, body-wise, I'm usually into skinny girls, but you have the perfect face to cum on’.”
AJ, who is 24, said she was so disgusted she threw her phone across the room and washed her hands. “I'm no prude, but I was so grossed out.”
Erica, who is the same age, has been asked by a few Auckland men if she is “DTF?”
“I had no idea what they meant at first. I should have Urban Dictionaried it.”
She said many of her matches seem too busy for chit-chat.
“Would I like a complete stranger, who doesn't even have the decency to ask how my day is, to invade my body? No thanks, I'd rather scratch my eyes out.”
Dr Pani Farvid is a senior psychology lecturer at AUT and an expert in contemporary intimate relationships - such as hook-up culture and dating apps.
“For some men, Tinder gives them more freedom to be crass and less responsibility to act ethically or even humane towards the women they contact,” she said.
“There is some anecdotal data that men view Tinder as just an easy way to get sex. Women aren't necessarily looking for relationships, but see it as offering more in the way of possibilities such as hooking up, making friends or making connections with people to see if they want to take things further.”
Dr Farvid said, because of the instantaneous nature of apps like Tinder, there’s a lot more cutting to the chase.
“Some men are taking that idea and running with it, and human decency is flying out of the window.
“These accounts are pretty horrific stuff, but it's also very common. Someone might read about AJ’s experience and think it is incredibly sexist and inappropriate and objectifying, but it's also sadly too common.”
After re-downloading Tinder a few months ago, as soon as AJ was sent a message that “didn’t have any trace of dirt”, she immediately gravitated towards the man.
“There was no boasting about penis size, no cursing, no suggestive undertones, just a simple ‘Hello, you have such beautiful eyes. How are you today?’,” she said.
“That guy was my first and only Tinder date, and we've now been seeing each other for awhile. So take note men, that's how it's done.”
THE HORROR STORIES GO ON
Laura, 31, said she first downloaded Tinder “out of some romantic notion that I might meet ‘the one’”.
“But I had four separate men dive straight into their desire to play out their inner most fetishes and tell me they wanted to urinate on me.”
She said she’s tired of the Wellington “dudes who put the cards on the table and immediately ask if I want to go to their place to ‘fuck’”.
“I'm not going to say it's all bad and I have friends who have met lovely people on there, but there are definitely lots of deviants who think they can try their luck at getting a casual “bang”.
Why does she keep going back to the app?
“Flicking through the faces and matching with a total babe and waiting for the brief moment when the screen goes black and ‘It's a match’, ‘Keep swiping’ or ‘Say hi’ comes up, is probably the reason.”
Sam describes herself as a “very fickle Tinder user” who downloads and swiftly deletes the app every now and then.
She matched with Tom in late December and was sent a very prompt, very polite “Merry Christmas!”
This was followed by a few more messages.
“Upon closer review of his profile, I came to the conclusion that he was probably not the one, so I let him down gently, or cowardly - by not replying.”
But Tom didn’t seem to get the message.
“He went on to wish me a Happy New Year and ask more questions. And more. And more. Over a few months, I counted 30 messages and a Facebook friend request, with not one reply from me.”
Sam takes it in her stride - “Tinder should consider publishing a user-guide.”
“What's happening in the dating app world isn't happening in a cultural vacuum,” said Dr Farvid.
“We have this kind of interaction going on at all levels of our society, it’s both incredibly inappropriate and yet widespread.”
She said the problem relates to issues about gender power and objectification.
“Some men see women as a means to satisfy their sexual desire, rather than seeing them as humans. That's the only way you can evaluate some of these conversations.”
DECENT HUMAN BEINGS
Dr Farvid said Tinder is still a very new forum and its dating norms are evolving.
“People are logging on and trying to work out what the appropriate behaviour is. There's a lot of guesswork involved,” she said.
“This is a platform where things are more brief and direct, but as a consequence, it can become less personable and people act less ethically than they would in a face-to-face situation.”
Erica said she wholeheartedly agreed.
For her, it’s a natural step to talk to a man then move the conversation to another app, like Facebook or Snapchat. She said this, unfortunately, opens her up to even bolder “predators”.
“I have received many a dick pic. Three in one week is my record - I'm a dick magnet you could say?” she said.
“The cold anxiety that crawls across my scalp when a photo pops up on my screen from a Tinder pal is terrifying.
“I think it’s always, always inappropriate to send a woman a photo of your genitals unless she has explicitly requested it. It's particularly wrong to send one at around 6pm when there's a good chance the recipient has a mouth full of mashed potato.”
She said she once replied to a dick pic, asking “What on earth made you think myself, or any woman for that matter, would want to lay eyes on your pathetic excuse for a penis?”
“His response was to tell me what an uptight prude I was.”
Dr Farvid said it’s a problem that needs to be better addressed.
“I think there needs to be more discussion around how to remedy and combat this,” she said.
“We should be doing more to encourage people to develop ethical online communication or just act like decent human beings, even if they are on what is known as a hook-up forum.”