How would you feel if your mom, sister, or daughter received messages like this?
I’m a really good egg.
I can take a joke, squeeze lemonade from the most sour of lemons, and roll with the proverbial punches. I keep my chin up — even if I sometimes choose to give the middle finger to a stranger who asks me to smile.
I am a HUGE fan of men. HUGE!
That’s the reason I tried online dating in the first place. I dig men and I want to have a relationship with one — a serious, fun, loving, respectful, committed, powerful, deep and meaningful relationship with a man for whom I would do anything and who would feel the same in return. A partner in the most comprehensive sense of that word.
I am not a fan, however, of men who see online dating as an open playground on which to harass any woman of their choosing because, hey, you never know, it may just work. After all, Jack over at LA Fitness said he gets laid that way all the time…
I guarantee for every story dudes like “Jack” have told you about getting laid by sending explicit messages to women, there are 1000 women who have received similar unsolicited messages and felt that gut-churning sensation we start to recognize somewhere in our teens as boys and men freely toss out anything from a simple “I’d tap that!” to an actual ass-grab as she walks by.
Think I’m being dramatic?
When I was 17 I wore my boyfriend’s football uniform to school on Halloween. As I walked through the halls between classes, some I guy I didn’t know grabbed hold between my legs, asked where my cup was, then swiftly let go and kept moving along his merry way.
I can still feel the shock, disgust and yes, shame, as though it were happening this instant.
Fast forward 25 years.
I glance at the messages I receive on a regular basis and feel the same unpleasant punch grab in the girl bits.
“I’d love to pull down your panties and lick you for hours… ;)”
“Hey! I know this might seem weird, but I think you are insanely pretty! Honestly, I was just wondering if you were interested in… You know…”
When I recently took this screenshot of one particularly offensive message, along with my response, and posted it on Facebook for “friends” only, one of my male friends responded with the following:
“This guy is making a valid point that got lost in all the other ‘stuff’… I’ve met many people who claim they want a truly healthy relationship with someone with whom they can share their life with, and end up meeting all sorts of really great people who they end up writing off and dismissing because in reality [no one could] live up to and embody what some are looking for.”
There is some merit to his statement. There are people who set unreasonably high standards for a potential significant other. But that isn’t the point.
The man who sent the message above knowingly composed an introduction to a 42-year-old woman, which is all he needed to know to formulate an approach intended to prey upon what he assumed would be my worst fears — that my time is running out, my looks are fading and my reproductive possibilities dwindling — in order to scare me into a date with him as a possible last baby-making, love providing resource.
Anyone who is greeting women with messages intended to prey on their fears is out of line. Period. And I feel confident that the odds are high that he has sent this message to many other women in my age range, and will continue to until he finds one on whom it works.
When another message came along a few hours later, I’d had my fill of rude entries into my inbox for one day.
I was curious to see what would happen if I took the guy up on his offer, albeit with a slight modification.
When I posted this one on Facebook, what shocked me was the way some very good men I know were still either completely unaware of this phenomenon, or, far worse, spoke out in defense of the man in question:
“Granted his opening line is a little dull, boring, completely unoriginal and he failed to read your bio to ask deep probing questions like ‘I see you like music.’ You may have been a little rough on him. He could have been a very nice neanderthal… So tell me, Arianna, what opening line would work to let someone talk?”
Any guy who is 14 years my junior and opens with ‘sexy’ is looking for one thing only. My profile shows I am looking for men who are at least 40, and that I am not looking for a casual fling. But…
If a man in my age group simply says, ‘Hi! I loved your profile and I would love to know more,’ that is plenty.
Or ‘Hi, you’re beautiful.’
Or ‘Hey you.’
Or ‘I’m John. May I know your name?’
Pretty much anything that doesn’t invoke intercourse, mention my reproductive abilities, or seem like a cut and paste novel will prompt me to check out a guy’s profile. If he seems attractive, intelligent, and reasonably like someone I would get along with, I’ll respond cheerily and see where it goes from there.
That said, I was being “rough on him”? Come again?
The next comments, from a man I’ve known since middle school, took this exaggerated accusation even farther into the Bizarro world in which men are allowed to say whatever they damn please to women, while women are expected to take it like a — what? Like a man?
Mr. Junior High wrote:
“[You’re] just sort of brow beating strangers who should, but don’t, know any better. It makes me wonder personally if nice guys like me don’t get responses because they’re ALL being looked at as humor. Not that I’ve written ‘Hey sexy’ (cause… C’maan), rather that [your] attitude is Us vs Them. While you get ‘Hey sexy,’ we get ‘Tatyana,’ the Russian embezzler who writes us constantly (though we’ve never written her) asking us to save her from Romania. Which, if you’ve seen the documentaries, is a scam to bilk lonely men. I just know I’ve been at the other end of brow beating online. You’re enlightened. Let me hear the stuff that makes it work. We all know bout the loonies. But whatevs.”
This brought me to these 4 truths about the power dynamics in online dating.
1) A woman who calls out a man who has treated her with disrespect is not giving him a de facto “brow beating.”
While I’m not calling myself a victim or labeling this behavior as abuse, these messages are harassing, unnecessary and uncalled for. If no one ever tells the men who send them that what they are doing is wrong, their behavior will never stop. So here I am saying it.
To chastise a woman for having the audacity to respond as I did is an attempt — conscious or not, it doesn’t matter — to shift me into the role of aggressor and the man to that of victim. To draw assumptions that I, and all women, must surely mock ALL men falls into the category of logic that clearly commands women to be good girls who stay quiet, letting whatever comes their way wash over them so the men out there don’t feel intimidated or threatened.
2) The overtly sexual, condescending messages women receive are attempts to intimidate, control and manipulate.
The messages men receive from Nigeria, Russia, etc. attempting to defraud them of money are not equivalent. Guess what? We get those messages too. So does everyone with an email account.
The men writing these messages are not part of a criminal element composing mass intros in a dark basement. These are men you know and hang out with.
Maybe they’re bored. Maybe they’re angry. They decide to throw their dick out into the interwebs far enough and wide enough to see how quickly it will land in one vagina or another, not caring who they may smack in the face with it along the way. That thought just makes it all the more “fun.”
3) It isn’t my job to make sure a man who approaches me feels good about himself after.
That isn’t the job of any man, woman or child of the universe. Ever.
There are plenty of topics I can and do approach from the place of positive love and light, but sometimes the truth just needs to be said, and light needs to be shed in all its unattractive nastiness to wake people up to reality.
4) It isn’t Us vs Them. And that’s a problem.
The statement that “we all know about the loonies” is both misleading and incorrect.
First, as I said in #2 above, these messages don’t come from “loonies.” They come from your average Joe. Because, well, why not? No harm, no foul, right?
Second, several men chimed in to say they had no idea that messages like these are sent, let alone so frequently. I was moved to read comments like these:
- “Thanks for the rant about how often this happens. Being a guy and never having online dated, the level and extent of this was shocking to me, and I imagine it would be to many many guys. If you don’t experience it or see it, you just don’t know.”
- “I guess this gives me hope that if I’m ever single again I’ll come off well by comparison, just by acting human.”
- “Wait, guys seriously say these things… And they haven’t been dating you for a while? Seriously??”
Yes, sir. They seriously do.
These men — YOU MEN — who care enough to read these articles and try to do the right thing each day as best you can — YOU are the ones who can make a difference by telling the other men that this is not cool.
It’s not funny. It’s not harmless. It’s not clever or entertaining or no big deal. It is wrong and demeaning and it needs to stop.
One friend suggested I set filters for my messages so that men who don’t meet my specifications couldn’t send messages like this.
Aside from the fact that this solution puts the onus back on the person being harassed, OK, I get the importance of self-protection.
Trouble is…well, lots of things.
I tried exploring the filter options, adjusting the settings to filter any messages from men not in my age range and not identified as single.
The filtered messages suddenly leapt from 0 to 467!
Never mind that the messages just move to a new folder rather than disappear, the filter category was now over-flowing with messages from men who had written perfectly lovely messages.
Now I can’t figure out if they were lying about their age or their marital status, or if the system is just whacked. I’m guessing some of each.
The filter method is a fail, so what next?
OkCupid now has an option for people to put their profiles in “incognito mode,” whereby — for a monthly fee — no one will be able to see your profile unless you see them first and decide you want to allow access by “liking” them or sending them a message. Seems reasonable enough. Except….
A. What are the chances that men will feel a need to pay for something like that? I see this offering as essentially being a way to extort money from women in order to prevent themselves from being harassed,
B. I am guessing that a man who pays for that option may also be a decent person who also doesn’t want to play the field too widely, but then how on Earth are we supposed to find each other? If he can’t see me until I like him and I can’t see him until he likes me, um…Am I missing something? And,
C. I may be taking a leap here, but I am thinking married guys may also choose to pay for that option. They’re super cool like that.
You may be asking: “What do you women want? Why are you complaining to me when I am a nice who sends nice messages and my messages go unanswered?”
I feel you. I agree that it sucks that women don’t write back to every kind guy, even if just to say, “I don’t think we connect, but I appreciate your compliments. You brightened my day.”
This exact complaint should be just one of your motivations for standing firm with women that obnoxious, unwanted, sexually aggressive messages are unacceptable. Why?
Because when women say they get overwhelmed by messages and don’t have time to respond to every man who reaches out, they aren’t being vain. Women get overwhelmed because the vast majority of messages are near carbon copies of those screenshots above.
Once a woman deals with work, possibly kids, and whatever else life has thrown her way that day, she can only muster the psychic energy to click through so many layers of crap before she throws her hands and her phone in the air and calls it a day.
I’ve had many fun, friendly conversations with fantastic guys I met on dating sites.
Some turned into dates. Some turned into relationships. Some became really good friends.
I would much prefer to focus on the good than the bad, and I would rather spend my time reading a kind message from a man I may not have taken the time to learn more about if I wasn’t swatting away the incessant drone of men who think the only way to be heard is through shock and awe.
Tell all of the guys you know that this is real and it is not OK. Please. Help me help you.
Photo credit: Getty Images/185079544
Also by Arianna Jeret
7 Ways Men Can Boost The Heat In The Bedroom
An Open Letter to the Man I Want (A Woman’s View)
The Most Powerful Way to Know What Your Woman Wants
How to Rebuild Self-Esteem After Divorcing a Manipulator