'I could've lost my job': Tinder users, cut out the sexual harassment

If someone approached you in a bar and said obscene, explicit things to you, that would be considered sexual harassment. ...
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If someone approached you in a bar and said obscene, explicit things to you, that would be considered sexual harassment. So why don't the same rules apply online?

OPINION: It's Monday afternoon and I'm checking my dating apps while I wait for a coffee. Amongst the many "heys" and the occasional insightful question, there it is … a message from a man giving a graphic sexual description of what he'd like to do to my body.

Warning: This article contains strong language and adult concepts

"Nice curvy love to give u head" it said, followed by a number of emojis illustrating that very act.

There's nothing like an unsolicited dick pic to put you off your morning coffee.
JARRED WILLIAMSON/FAIRFAX NZ

There's nothing like an unsolicited dick pic to put you off your morning coffee.

It's not even close to the worst message I've received. One man sent me an opening message describing how I look like I would "take it in the a..", while another described the threesome he wanted to have with me and his girlfriend.

Alex, a lawyer in her late 20s, has had plenty of experience with men thinking that because they met her on a dating app it means she's "down to f..." and there are no boundaries.

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While some dating sites, such as Tinder, started with a reputation as a "hook-up" app, people are on them for a variety ...

While some dating sites, such as Tinder, started with a reputation as a "hook-up" app, people are on them for a variety of reasons.

 

It's not just text-based messages that women who date men have to deal with either – it's being sent "dick pics" and even gifs or videos of hardcore, violent pornography.

"Just last week a guy, who is a well known sports player that I matched with on Tinder, sent me a Snapchat of porn," Alex said. "I wrote, 'What the actual f..., I did not consent to that and I could have lost my job if any of my colleagues saw it'. He wrote back 'lol'.

"I have had other guys who have sent me dick pics and then gotten angry if I am not grateful for the unsolicited picture," she added. "I get on average a few a week and NONE of them are asked for. They're always sent randomly, for no reason, not after sexting or a sexual conversation. It's disgusting."

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It seems fairly obvious that sending someone a sexually explicit photo or message when you haven't asked their permission is, at the very least, harassment – regardless of the medium.

But after posting a screenshot of one of these exchanges to social media, I discovered some people think being on a dating app means you should automatically expect these messages, as if wanting a date is an open invitation for sexual harassment.

While some of these sites, such as Tinder, started with a reputation as a "hook-up" app, people are on them for a variety of reasons. Some people do just want casual sex, while others want to meet new people or find their future long-term partner.

But even if someone is only on a dating site to have casual sex, that doesn't mean they're consenting to receive explicit messages.

Wanting to have sex does not automatically mean you want to receive dick pics or pornography. Sexting can be fun and enjoyable for many people, but like everything, consent is the most important factor. Simply being single and wanting to find a date does not amount to giving men permission to send messages that make me feel violated.

This point seemed to be lost on the man who messaged me, as well as some people on social media. When I replied to the man who sent me the message on OKCupid, questioning why he would say what he did, he replied aggressively. As did others, who seemed to think it was "nasty" for me to call out his behaviour on Twitter.

If a man approached me in a bar and started saying obscene, explicit things to me, it would be considered sexual harassment. No question. People would be appalled.

So why, in an online space, am I "asking for it"? Why is it considered less severe because the medium is digital?

As a society we seem to be getting better at calling out and fighting back against harassment of women on social media, so why is a dating app still considered a different playing field?

Saying that a woman should expect non-consensual, sexually explicit messages on a dating site – and therefore not complain about receiving them – seems to border on victim blaming.

Putting yourself "out there" and wanting a date doesn't mean men are entitled to sexualise you and breach your boundaries. It's not hard to send a simple message saying "hello", instead of harassing someone with explicit communication.

It feels like as our culture is making some steps forward in consent conversations, in others we are taking huge steps backward. It's not difficult to ask the simple question of someone on a dating site if they'd like to talk about sex, or what they are looking for on the app.

Many people, myself included, enjoy discussing sexual topics – when they are asked about it first and consent to the conversation. Anything else is a violation, plain and simple.

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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