Nancy Jo Sales’ disturbing 2015 Vanity Fair article, “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse,’” painted a troubling picture of the way men treated women on the online site. Why is an article from 2015 important? Because it appears that the online dating situation is only getting worse. Sadly, Pew Research reported in 2020 that online dating has gotten harder in the last 10 years. Guess who it’s worse for? Women are much more likely than men to say dating is harder (55% vs. 39%). The biggest reason: more physical and emotional risk. Women are twice as likely to report it. (26% vs. 13%).
The Tinder hookup culture was on display in Sales’ article. She described in graphic detail how the men in 2015 treated women as options rather than priorities. If a woman said “no” to casual sex, there were hundreds more on a man’s app to contact. Men weren’t required to commit, so women felt they must leave their comfort zone to find a partner. Her stories include men bragging to each other about their conquests, and women resigning themselves to poor treatment. Many still wonder if Tinder is only a hookup app.
In a world where dating apps have become breeding grounds for sexual predators, Tinder has found itself under intense scrutiny again. However, Tinder is now making an audacious claim, declaring that the protection and safety of women lie at the very core of their operations.
Tinder’s efforts to address online abuse are seen as commendable but just a “small step” by the charity End Violence Against Women. Andrea Simon, the director of the coalition, stresses the crucial importance of dating apps like Tinder confronting the problem of abuse. Unfortunately, the dark side of these platforms, where perpetrators exploit them to target victims, has led to a troubling increase in reported cases of rape among women using dating apps. Despite Tinder’s new safety features to encourage harassment reporting, Simon argues that more needs to be done to effectively tackle severe forms of abuse, including rape threats. Urgent action is necessary to address these grave concerns.
A Brigham Young University study reviewed the medical charts of 2000 rape victims and found that 14% happened at a first meeting from a dating app. They believe that sexual predators use apps to target vulnerable victims. About 60% of victims reported a mental illness, 22% were college students, and 15% were between the ages of 14 and 17, despite apps requiring you to be at least 18.
What can be done about this dangerous situation for women?
1. Background checks.
Although Tinder and some other apps offer background checks, you must pay for them, and you are responsible for notifying Tinder if there is a problem. Why isn’t Tinder screening all its members rather than requiring women to be the enforcers and pay for the privilege? Why should apps be able to monetize this dangerous problem?
By the way, background checks can only do so much. Only 310 of 1,000 sexual assaults are reported, so most attackers don’t end up with a criminal record. according to the anti-sexual violence organization Rainn. They are likely to create a false sense of security and are not a perfect solution.
2. Better safety standards
The authors of the Brigham Young study urge dating platforms to provide a safer experience for users by increasing artificial intelligence to identify offenders, having stricter identification requirements for users, and running criminal history searches without extra charges. What’s to prevent a perpetrator from jumping from one app to another if they get kicked off? They suggest apps connect with other companies to identify and boot out repeat offenders from the online dating universe. They can also improve ways for victims to report assaults and provide more support services for victims.
The authors of the BYU study are working on a bill in Utah named “Online Dating Safety Requirements” in partnership with dating app providers and lawmakers to set higher standards and regulations for online dating platforms. If this bill passes, other states across the United States may follow, forcing platforms to create a safer environment using some of the safety standards outlined above.
4. Develop intuition and protect yourself.
Although online dating has a lot to offer, if you want to participate, you must take safety precautions as we discussed in last week’s article. Unfortunately, the anonymity of these apps leads to a lack of accountability for one’s actions, resulting in less-than-ideal behaviors — most commonly lying and aggressive behavior. Combine this with the fast pace the apps perpetuate, and you’re bound to have big problems. Relationships take time to develop, so taking shortcuts is usually risky.
Remember, you have the power to pace the relationship. If you’re the slightest bit uncomfortable, don’t move forward. Any man who doesn’t want you to feel 100% comfortable with him won’t make a good partner—for anything.
When women let men pressure them when they aren’t comfortable, that’s not empowerment. Real power comes from knowing what works for you and having the courage to stand up for yourself.
If you don’t have good intuition and instincts about men, get the help you need to improve them. Get a therapist, and have a friend with good instincts about men read a man’s emails and give their objective opinion.
5. Don’t be so influenced by our culture.
Our culture has a problem. When being sexy and sexual is trumpeted as the key to power, we forget that empowerment begins with safety, happiness, and the quality of our relationships. What happens on Tinder and these other apps doesn’t promote that kind of empowerment. You have to empower yourself. Sexual freedom can be confusing, so we each need to develop a strong inner compass to help us navigate this journey. That means figuring out what you want, what works for you, and what strategies will help you achieve your relationship goals, whatever they may be. Don’t let our culture pressure you into doing something that isn’t right for you.
Have you ever had a bad experience on a dating app? I’d love to hear from you. Please share your comments below.
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