Are we in the midst of a dating apocalypse?
Romance is in its death throes. In the future all hetreosexual fornication will be of the ‘hit it and quit it’ variety. We will not fall in love. We will not respect each other. We will simply stick it in and slip out unnoticed before the alarm goes off in the morning.
At least, that’s what Nancy Jo Sales is suggesting in her long-form piece for Vanity Fair’s September issue Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse.
In the opening paragraphs, we are introduced to three mid-twenties Manhattanite men with well paying jobs, and attitudes towards women that border on pathological. One man, Alex, explains that he loves Tinder for its “large sample sizes”. The location based dating app gives him access to hundreds of women in a night, which is important because “Guys view everything as a competition… Who’s slept with the best, hottest girls?”
Not only is it a competition – Alex is winning. He’s slept with five girls in eight days, and his friends can remember these women’s names better than he can.
There’s a word for men like Alex, we learn. Economically aspirant party guys whose ability to see women as humans extends only to the exchange of bodily fluids are called ‘fuckboys’.
Fuckboys have always existed (we used to call the cads), but the piece argues that dating apps have sparked a rapid evolution. Now fuckboys have access to willing women whenever they want, and because being nice is no longer a necessary component of sexual success, more young men are becoming fuckboys.
A 20-year-old uni student tells Vanity Fair that “one hundred percent” of the men she encounters on dating apps are fuckboys… And yet, she fucks them.
Because the role of women in Jo Sales’ dating apocalypse seems to be one of begrudging consent. Women participate in anonymous hookup sex, asking men over to their places to “smoke weed and watch movies”, but they’re not happy about it. If you’re not having sex with strangers you met on your iPhone, “it’s like you’re weak, you’re not independent, you somehow missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism,” says one young woman.
I’m not sure if that’s exactly what Kathleen Hanna had in mind when she wrote “It’s hard to talk with your dick in my mouth… I’m so sorry if I’m alienating some of you, your whole fucking culture alienates me,” but I don’t doubt the women who confided in Jo Sales believe what they’re saying to be true.
Whenever a new piece of technology comes along, it’s tempting to think that it will change everything. To an extent, it will. Tinder and other apps like it have made it easier than ever to find a warm body to cuddle up next to. Tinder as a platform thrives on the perpetuation of the idea that it, and other apps like it, are a great place for anonymous sex. There seems to be this collective delusion that location-based dating apps are the silver bullet all men have been looking for – the innovation that will make women want to fuck like men.
Watch Ellen discuss Tinder fails. Post continues below.
For some women, that certainly is the case. You want to have wild, anonymous sex with a cute guy in your area? Go for it. Sleep with a couple who are gagging to find a unicorn? They’re easy to find. As a woman online, it’s very easy to find all the NSA (no strings attached) sex you can handle.
The problem is, most of the women in the Vanity Fair piece aren’t handling all that NSA sex very well. They, and the article itself, have made one fundamental error. They’ve listened to Marshall McLuhan and decided the medium is the message. Because Tinder is a hookup app, they think they have to hook up when they use it.
The article describes young straight people exchanging hypersexualised texts before they ever even meet, then getting blind drunk in order to override their own social aversion to getting physical within a few moments of seeing each other face to face.
Then, once the sex is over, things go right back to being painfully awkward and unpleasant. One of the biggest horror stories in the piece was this: “I had sex with a guy and he ignored me as I got dressed and I saw he was back on Tinder.”
Which… ew. But here’s the thing. When I was 19 years old, I had a man I really liked tell me “I’ll go home with you if I strike out with this girl.” He didn’t need Tinder to make me feel like a steaming pile of human garbage. Our analogue encounter was perfectly sufficient. Pretty much every woman I know has a story like this. The occasional bout of sexual humiliation is both inevitable and ultimately possible to live through.
But, you can lower the odds. I’ve found, as a general rule, that people give you the respect you demand. On dating apps, it’s even easier, because if someone clearly doesn’t respect you, unlike in real life, you can block them.
The thing that really bothered me about this piece is that these young women were putting themselves in shitty situations over, and over again for no real reason. Many of them seemed to want relationships, but instead of declaring a mission to ‘catch feelings’ up front, they played it cool and got hurt.
There’s nothing wrong with having anonymous, no strings attached sex if it makes you happy. But if it doesn’t… just. Stop. Doing. It. Even on Tinder, you can be honest about your emotional ambitions. If you want to date, not hook up, you can say that.
There are a few old school ground rules to ‘safe’ online dating. These were made way back in the 1990s, on the slightly panicky assumption that on the Internet no one can tell if you’re a dog (or a monster), but they work pretty well for weeding out fuckboys. They are as follows:
- Meet in a public place (if he insists on meeting at your place or his… block)
- Have a friend crash your first date (if he can’t be cute, charming and chill in front of your girlfriends… block)
- Don’t have sex on the first date (because if he doesn’t call you back, you dodged a bullet)
Psyching yourself up to have sex with someone before you’ve even met them is a pretty terrible idea. Attraction can’t be conveyed in a series of profile pics. Attraction is physical. It’s as much about the way a person moves and talks and smells as it is about the way they look.
You can’t really know if you’ll want to have sex with someone before you’ve met them. If you go into a Tinder encounter assuming you’re going to have sex, then there’s every chance you’ll feel obligated to live up to your own expectations, and end up having a regrettable encounter. It’s much better to meet someone assuming sex is off the table, and if it happens? Bonus.
If the women in the Vanity Fair piece stopped treating Tinder like the sex teleporter in Logan’s Run and started treating it more like a bar, where it’s fine to just get a number and meet another time, they would probably have less sex overall. There are a lot of guys on the app who want hookups and nothing else.
But, they would probably also be happier with the sex they did end up having. There are genuinely nice, feminist guys on Tinder. I should know. I met one two years ago and he’s in bed next to me as I type this.
Finding polite men who think of women as people requires a fair bit of weeding out. And that sucks. It would be nice if every man thought of women as people.
But because they don’t, avoiding creeps on Tinder requires judicious use of the block button, and slightly more investment of time IRL. When you know someone a little before you have sex with them, you’re more likely to be able to predict how they’ll behave afterwards.
Often in the pale light of day, over a 3pm coffee, the kind of guy who is likely to freeze you out the second he climaxes is pretty easy to spot.
I’m not suggesting refraining from totally random hookups out of some sense of female virtue or chastity but simply an inoculation against rudeness. The men in the ‘dating apocalypse’ were dreadful. But I have a vision of a better world. A world in which guys who view women like restaurant reservations struggle to get laid.
Because you can’t be a fuckboy anymore when no one wants to fuck you.
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