This article was originally published at Role Reboot and has been republished with full permission.
“I’ve got a pretty face and a pretty extensive Urban Spoon wish list…We all know that getting what you want in life can be tough, which is why I’ve decided to let someone else finance my dreams. My dream? To eat in pretty restaurants without costing me a penny. You had me at elk tartare, lost me at chin strop. Follow me to learn who I screw over, bang and love as I navigate Toronto’s diners, drive-ins and dives.” ~ Erin Wotherspoon, a 24-year-old with a Tumblr called “Restaurant Tips from a Serial Dater.”
Yikes. You have to give her credit, I suppose, for the sheer chutzpah it takes to post her manipulative plans on the Web with such transparent delight and joie de vivre. But really? This is what she wants to be famous for? People have become famous with less clever gimmicks, and Internet fame might as well be an Abercrombie sweatshirt in 1999 for how it’s coveted by Millennials, but her premise just seems so… lazy. And boring!
Some commenters have already started with the namecalling (use your imagination), while others have been defending Wotherspoon as only a more extreme version of the average woman on the dating scene. Is she a money-grubbing, gold-digging pseudo-prostitute? Or a savvy businesswoman wielding her assets to the best of her ability? Can she be both?
The commenters aren’t wrong: Wotherspoon’s strategy is more explicit and more public, but it’s not markedly different from attitudes I’ve heard many a dating lady express. I’ve watched friends and acquaintances waffle over a so-so prospective date and ultimately decided to attend because, “Hey, free dinner, right?” I’ve heard guy friends worry about bankrupting themselves due to an especially busy stretch of OkCupid dates. Is there a difference between transactional dating—which many serial daters nonchalantly participate in—and Transactional Dating—the codified system of trade-offs that Wotherspoon espouses?
The idea of transactional dating is essentially timeless, given that we are just now beginning, slowly, to crawl out of the muck of a dowry based system—two cows for the first crack at her hymen? Deal! It’s not a far stretch from buying brides from their fathers to a status quo in which men fork over cash for the pleasure of female company. It’s money (or elk tartare, if you’re Wotherspoon) for sex, or the slim possibility of sex, no matter how you slice it.
What’s so wrong with that? We’re all consenting adults; if he wants to pay for tiny plates of swanky food and she wants to let him, why do I care? I don’t, not for Wotherspoon specifically, or any other particular duo. As with most things we discuss on this site, it’s not about the individual cases. I couldn’t care less how a given couple operates or how a date goes down. In aggregate, as an organisational structure for how the genders relate, I care a whole lot. Wotherspoon’s Tumblr is just one example of how the rules of modern dating are still structured in ways that undermine both men and women.