Tinder: Myths about Sex and Power


In my thirty years of practice as a psychiatrist, I’ve helped many women overcome self-doubt and heartbreak. My experience helping women heal after damaging relationships or endure frustrating dry spells made me cringe while reading Nancy Jo Sales’ recent Vanity Fair article, “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse.’” The article paints a troubling picture of the way men treat women. If a woman says “no” to casual sex, there are hundreds more on a man’s app to contact. Men aren’t required to commit, so women feel they must leave their comfort zone in order to find a partner.

Sales describes in graphic detail how the men who use Tinder treat women as options rather than priorities. Her stories include men bragging to each other about their conquests, and women resigning themselves to poor treatment.

This is not female empowerment.

In the past, society encouraged women to expect consideration and courtship, so it was more obvious when a man wasn’t treating a woman with respect. Today, when all it takes to hook up is a swipe of the finger, many women think the only protections they need are condoms and birth control pills.

But that’s not true. Our hearts still need protecting.

Tinder is not to blame. It’s just a popular vehicle that assists and capitalizes on this hookup culture. In fact, Issie Lapowsky defends Tinder in “The Harmful Myth that Tinder’s Just for Hookups” in Wired. She says that she and her boyfriend of two years are one of many couples who met on Tinder. Many women and men enjoy these free and easy apps.

The issue is that many women see the feelings of attachment they experience with sex as the problem. In my psychiatric practice, women often ask, “What’s wrong with me that I get so attached when I have sex?” I assure them that there’s nothing wrong with feeling attached after intimacy. Science shows that we’re built for attachment. The current hookup trend is at odds with our biology. It pressures us to dismiss our emotional needs.

To make matters even more complicated, we emerged from the women’s movement with some confusion about equality, freedom, and power.  Although we have more equality and freedom today, that doesn’t always give us more power. We think we have more power in the dating world because we can pursue men and have casual sex. Many of us think that the more sex we have, the more empowered we are, even if we don’t feel completely comfortable or satisfied with it.

That’s not empowerment. Real power comes from knowing what works for you and having the courage to stand up for yourself.

The goal of the Sexual Revolution was acceptance of sexuality, but casual sex doesn’t work for everyone. Yes, some women do prefer hookups and the freedom they provide. However, others think they must pretend that romance isn’t necessary, because they believe that revealing their preferences will scare men off.

We went from “if you have sex before marriage, you’re a tramp” to “if you’re a virgin, you’re a prude.” We forgot the meaning of liberation: the freedom to choose for yourself.

That’s a problem, because when being sexy and sexual is trumpeted as the key to power, we forget that what is truly important is the quality of our relationships.

Instead, women accept poor treatment from men, regardless of their relationship goals. Romance and kindness have been largely discarded. Women feel increasing pressure to ignore their instincts and emotional needs for fear of ending up alone.

It’s time for a new sexual revolution, because the old one didn’t turn out the way we had hoped—especially for women. 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.  We need to be more aware of how our culture influences our decisions so we can each be our own Brand of Sexy.

For many women, being their own Brand of Sexy will mean taking a stand against the hookup culture encouraged by apps like Tinder. For others, it will mean expecting respect from men, whether or not they choose to jump into bed. Regardless of their relationship goals, all women deserve to be treated with consideration.

Quality relationships don’t involve settling for less. The Tinder debate is a sign that change is coming. The more women begin to expect respect, the faster this change will occur.

Is Tinder working for you? If not, remember that being your own Brand of Sexy means doing what works best for you. Take this quiz to find out if you are being your own Brand of Sexy!

I’d love to hear from you. Please share your comments below and on Facebook and Twitter.

You can do this. Join the revolution. Be your own Brand of Sexy and get what you want.

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