When I was on dating apps, I was very good at catching someone's eye. My Tinder bios have included "Warning: I only swallow if I'm in love," "Just refilled my birth control and ready to party," and "The Meryl Streep of Blowjobs." One of my main profile pictures was a candid shot from when I was trying on a friend's low-cut dress, uploaded it to Snapchat and drew a giant red arrow to my chest with the word TITS written next to it. I would put up pictures from a pin-up photo shoot I had done and Photoshop it to look like an internet-famous Shih Tzu was balancing on my ass.
Needless to say, I wasn't looking for anything serious and, as a result, took a more humorous approach with my profile and the way I interacted with people.
Here are some examples of how I talked to men on apps:
Even though I had some fun sometimes, it was mostly one-sided. I was entertaining myself. Apps were boring for me. And so I'd usually hop on for a couple days and then delete my account. I have downloaded, deleted, and redownloaded apps with the same frequency I change my underwear (which is quite often). But something started to happen that scared me off of apps for a while: men started to find me off of the apps.
When I had gone on dating apps, I didn't give out my phone number very readily. I'd talk to people for at least a few weeks, and once they did "earn" my number after I had figured out if I liked them enough to meet up, I had a rule: if we exchange numbers, we have to exchange last names because having one-named dudes in my phone made me feel like a drug dealer. The men I gave my last name and phone number to never harassed me. It's the people who didn't have this information that did. And that was terrifying.
Men I'd either unmatched with or didn't want to give my number to before I deleted whatever app I was on started finding me on Facebook. The messages would get filtered out because of my settings, but whenever I checked them, there they were: messages from men asking why I had disappeared or told me I was rude for unmatching them.
I was angry, of course, and confused until I remembered that Tinder required a Facebook login. Still, I wasn't completely sure how these people found me — like, the logistics of tracking me down. Knowing that responding to men who have already overstepped a boundary would probably not result in anything productive and would only encourage them further, I ignored these messages (even though I really, really wanted to tear these people a new one).
Time passed, and the Facebook messages stopped. But that wasn't the end of it.
Eventually, men who only had my first name would somehow find my Twitter and then my business email address. I'd get emails asking why I "disappeared." I was horrified.
It got to the point where I had to create a form email for these. It said:
The email listed on my Twitter is for business inquiries ONLY. I really don't appreciate you blatantly disregarding my privacy.
I unmatched you because I was not interested. Insider tip: never follow up with women you're no longer connected to on an app. Ever.
Because let's think this through:
1. She deleted the app: oh well.
2. She unmatched you: oh well.
3. There was a technical glitch: oh well.
There are plenty of other people out there. But what you did just made me feel really uncomfortable and unsafe. So let's make a deal that you don't pull this shit with anyone else again, OK?
Don't answer this email. I really don't want to hear from you.
I asked around to see if other women in my life were experiencing this as well. This is the kind of feedback I received:
- "I once got an email from a guy who had seen me on Tinder, but we didn't match. He then saw that my Instagram was in my profile, so he went to it, where my website was located in my Instagram profile. He then went to my website, clicked my "about me" page, and found my email. Then he literally sent me an email asking me out."
- "I use UberPool a lot around [a large city]. One morning I pooled with a guy who lived around the corner from me on my way to work. He didn't really say anything in the car except, "Where are you heading?" to which I answered "[Place of employment] — going to work!" The next day, I got a Facebook message from him in which he said he tracked me down after knowing my name from the Uber app and my place of work, and asked me if I wanted to get coffee sometime."
- "I actually had to put a disclaimer up on my Instagram that if anyone found my page through Tinder and did not match with me, they were not allowed to contact me. I have blocked so many men from disregarding this stipulation."
Those are just three of many examples. And I get it: we live in a society where men feel that women owe them something. No one enjoys being rejected, and the internet is a scary place. I had a very silly, sexualized dating-app profile. I've had people say me, "Well, what did you expect?" But the point is, that way of thinking is the same thing as someone thinking a woman in a short dress is "asking for it" and the people who told me they have gotten harassed in the three examples above all had very tame dating-app profiles.
I'm sick of women being treated this way. I don't want anyone to be scared to be on an app. But it will keep happening unless men start hearing not only that no means no but that a lack of yes also means no.