Feminism / Sex & Love / Society & Culture

[LOVE] Okcupid: A Double-Edged Sword of Empowerment & Sexual Perversity

online-dating
“Maybe you should try online dating.”

Ten years ago, that was something you never wanted to hear. Now, it’s no big deal. These days, most people have tried online dating at least once. It’s simply another way people socialize; the internet has forever changed the way we interact. The world is no longer the one our parents dated in. Welcome to Okcupid, the place where you can say anything, and someone will still go out with you.

Anonymity was the main reason I was attracted to online dating. I could meet people outside of my social circle and go on dates without the gossip. I used to dread questions like “how did it go?” or “do you think he’ll call?” If the date was truly awful, it was embarrassing to rehash–if the date went extraordinarily well, I wouldn’t want to spoil it by talking about it to death. I wanted my life to be my own, not someone else’s to live vicariously through, to judge my choices.

In the past, joining an online dating site meant you were desperate, that you ran out of options. Like Fight Club, the cardinal rule of online dating was never to talk about it. You simply pretended you met your sweetie “IRL”–at a bar or through a friend.

Okcupid is particularly complicated because it’s free. Unlike Match.com, a paid service, anyone can join OKcupid. In this way, it’s become a hotspot for hookups. Let me say this, hookups are totally fine–so are relationships , so is polyamory. Really, whatever works for you is cool with me. Yet, the longer I used Okcupid, the more clear it became that Okcupid was just another big college campus: full of people who didn’t want commitment. I was one of those people looking for serious, which apparently had gone out of style. Of course, I never got the memo.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the fact that Okcupid was free, because it meant a broke poet like me could use the web as an opportunity to broaden my social circle. When some dates didn’t go the romantic route, I was able to forge friendships that I still consider strong. Since it doesn’t cost money, more young people are using the site, especially in New York City where you’re only a subway ride away.

OKcupid makes sense–most people in their twenties grew up with instant messaging, where interacting with a person in a screen is second nature.

As a woman, I found internet dating  to be empowering. Instead of waiting for someone to approach me, as was expected sixty years ago, I was starting to make the first move. I went from an insanely shy girl to a woman who could go up to a man and ask him out, without anxiety. Of course, messaging someone on Okcupid does not take as much courage as physically going up to someone, but it is a small step that can leader to bigger steps.

I was in control. I was able to schedule dates for any day of the week, meet as many or as little people as possible, decide who I wanted to be with, not feel guilty for pursuing my sexuality, not feel pressured by friends. Most of all, I could protect my privacy. I finally had agency. Using the site made it easier for me to be bold, to go up to men at parties or bars without feeling stung by potential rejection.

However, there is also a serious problem attached to online dating–one that may be changing human interaction for the worse.

It enables people to say outrageously inappropriate comments they wouldn’t otherwise. There are no filters because men and women are desensitized by the lack of a physical reaction.

There is no way to spill a glass of water in a someone’s face through a screen, after all.

It wasn’t just me–most women I’ve spoken with have admitted to receiving offensive, overtly sexual comments on sites. While it may be expected to receive some bizarre messages, joining a dating site is not consent for verbal harassment. For example, I’ve received messages where men have asked to see my breasts without even meeting me, pestered me for threesomes (even though I clearly stated in my profile that I wasn’t interested in one), ridiculed me for having short hair. One man even offered to pay me to watch him masturbate–I immediately blocked him.

Let me just say this: it’s hard to weird me out. I don’t care if you have crazy sexual fetishes–it’s certainly not wrong, and I’m not in the business of demoralizing sexual behavior as long as it’s consensual. Along with the internet came cyber-sex–sex is always in demand and technology just supplies it faster. You want it, you got it. 

However, the fast pace of cyber dating often erases social etiquette. Wanting sex is okay, but breaking down all barriers by immediately forcing someone into cyber-sex via screen shots of your genitals is not. When you meet someone at a party, you don’t shake with your penis, do you? Unless I’m mistaken, that’s called assault. The same rules should apply to the internet. Let’s stay classy, considerate, and connected.

Or, just wait for the zombie apocalypse:

okcupid-awkward-message

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9 thoughts on “[LOVE] Okcupid: A Double-Edged Sword of Empowerment & Sexual Perversity

  1. I was only on OkCupid for three weeks until I met the love of my life. We moved to Virginia Beach together and life couldn’t be sweeter. What I like about this site is that the jerks made it very clear by the first message that they were jerks. It was very easy to weed out guys who in real life would normally be a lot more subtle. I did get odd messages and someone did ask for a threesome, but only once. I also have made the first move in every relationship I’ve ever been in, including my final one, so online dating was easy for me in that regard. I thought to myself, “What would an internet search for my soul mate be? It worked the first try, true story. I actually sent the managers of OKCupid a message saying thanks for leading me to my true love, but I don’t know if they got it.

  2. Pingback: [Confession] It’s Not You, It’s Me… Well, It’s Both. |

  3. LOL – OkCupid! I joined a few years ago, quit after the “torso” pics took over and I got approached by Dr. Bob, the ‘resident’ who worked all hours and could only meet in the afternoon but loved my “brilliant Smile” and Dr. John, the ‘resident’ who could only meet in the afternoon but loved my “brilliant Smile” and Dr. Harry, the ‘resident’…

  4. I agree that the taboo of using online dating services has dropped massively within the last couple of years, there was a time that it was considered the realm of computer geeks and ugly people but it is just considered the normal way of meeting someone new. Our own online dating stats have defiantly proved this.

  5. I agree that there are definitely pros and cons. I met my now husband using online dating years ago and it was great. I had just moved here and he was just released from the army so we didn’t have very many friends or ways to meet people yet. So online dating worked great for us! I was also lucky enough to avoid perverts for the most part. Unfortunately my friend is currently using online dating and she gets about 5 Penis pictures a day plus multiple inquiries for sex or naked pictures. Since when did it become the norm to get naked for each other before even meeting?

  6. I 100% agree with you that these sort of solicitations constitute harassment. I am a huge OKC advocate, but their refusal to acknowledge the growing hostile environment of that site is disappointing. The minute the got bought by Match, all of the bells and whistles (filtering messages, being able to send attachments) that made the site much more easy to navigate went away. When men hear women complain about this, they don’t understand that we’re not just complaining about the content of these messages. We’re mostly complaining about the VOLUME of these kinds of messages. Now when I log on, I am only online for a few minutes at a time. (Tho the site shows you as being logged in for an hour after you logged off.) Any longer and you end up getting bombarded with messages.

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