Markus Frind, founder of free-online dating site Plenty of Fish knows most of the folks on the site gettin' their sleeze on, are dudes. This should come as a surprise to absolutely zero of the people zero of the time -- double that if you are girl. Because, if you’re a lady and you’ve been online for longer than a second, you have probably been propositioned, negged, harassed or harangued in any number of fun and exciting ways.
As an online dater, I've experienced harassment of all sorts. I’ve had what I’d call friendly harassment, you know, guys who you are all “big boobs, lol i love dem.” I’ve also had infamously wicked mean harassment: “You are unattractive.”
It’s funny how folks on the Internet handle rejection. As a straight woman, I’ve only ever romantically rejected dudes, and by and large, the normal ones handle it well. The norms take silence as disinterest. Some of the slightly more crazed might follow up with a cursory, “wat ur not into me?” query, but by and large the hint is taken. I don't mean this to sound like I'm sort of nerd-princess who lords over men, rolling my eyes at them and being witholding as they train to gain access to my murky lady jungle -- but I do OK.
That said, It’s rare I will straight-up ignore a message. If I do, it’s because I’ve been on the receiving end of the loathsome, “hi:)”.
YES? HELLO? HI TO YOU? WHAT DOES IT MEAN? DO I KNOW YOU? SHOULD I TAKE MY SHIRT OFF?
It may make me sound like Andy Rooney, but if you can’t spend two minutes looking at my profile, and sending one sentence like “I too enjoy the Mummy franchise,” then I’m not going to do the heavy lifting for you. "Hi:)" is laziness, "hi:)" is apathy, "hi:)" is a waste of an emoticon -- and kids I love me some emoticons.
Sometimes dudes don't get that no answer to the "hi:) is, in its way, an answer. If I haven’t answered the “hi:)” message, I have a hard time fathoming how the dude in question thinks passive aggressively calling me out for ignoring him is going to really win me over. Does he expect me to smile coyly at my computer and purr, “No one has ever challenged me and my headstrong notions before, and lo, bang him I must.”
Then there’s the other side of the spectrum, the flipped coin revealing the quietly lady-hating sort of bullying that most woman unfortunately learn to take as par for the course. A guy sends you a “hi:)” message -- so far, so awful. He sends another message. It says something like "Helllo -- can I titty fuck you or what?" You don’t answer, or through some strange saintly gambit, you send a note saying something like “Thanks for saying hello, but I don’t think we’re compatible romantically, good luck out there!”
The rejection that most guys experience on the regs isn’t something Mr. Breast Fuck can cope with. Sure, he wanted to breach your bossom with his member a minute ago, but the second it becomes clear you aren’t interested, the take downs begins: You’re fat, you’re a bitch, you’re unfuckable anyway. It’s mindblowing. It’s gross. It’s not at all rare.
I am in the final stages of breaking up with online dating. This doesn’t mean I’m like, mentally preparing or anything. I’m not clicking through pics quietly choking back sobs at the idea of quitting it -- I’ve got two paying subscriptions that end in two weeks, and until they go, I’m still checking my messages because I am cheap and nosy and yeah, deep down, relentlessly optimisitic.
With online dating back in the news, and the conversation turned to just how normal it is for dudes to harass ladies online, I thought, what the fuck? With no prospects lined up and two nominally active accounts, I decided to start sending men who had visited my profiles the sort of messages I receive on a daily basis.
I would divide these message types into four catagories. The first, the aforementioned “hi:)”, the second I called the “jerk with poor grammar,” which I hope is self-explanatory. The third I called “Captain Neg,” where I’d neg guys in the way they neg ladies online -- for the most part with a poor understanding of what actual negging is, and finally, for the fourth type, I sent messages as “the jerk who really wants to fuck your parts and assumes you’d like that.”
All four types of messages would be tough for me to send. I’m not a huge conversation initiator, so at the very least this could be a great exercise in courage for me, a lady who probably somewhere deep in her bones believes that if a guy is interested in you he will reach out. I started with the “hi:)” messages and to my deep and unashamed delight NOT ONE PERSON ANSWERED ME. This, in its quiet way, reassured me that I am not a giant, gaping, asshole.
Then, I was the jerk with poor grammar. This was....hilarious:
Hilarious because in both cases, my bad attitude, confrontational tone, and lack of smart seemed to flatter and intrigue both guys. Well they would have been well within their rights to call me rude, or ignore me altogether, both got right back to me. Both apologized to ME! They each took my jerkishness as playful insouisance, which illicited an Internet chuckle from one and some information from another to begin a conversation. I was quietly baffled.
Next up, I negged badly. I negged-badly all over the place, and I felt like a terrible person each time. To a guy standing in front of a bookshelf, “You read too much,” to a guy with one photo on his profile, “Get more photos,” and finally, to a guy whose main photo was of himself, asleep, shirtless with a dog, I wrote “You look tires,” because I have fat fingers. I had meant to type "you look tired." Because if you are asleep in a photo this is a logical statement.
I corrected myself, “Tired, but also tires I guess.” He was the only guy who responded to this bad-neg, and oh my god was it the exact opposite of him unzipping and offering up his member:
Having been on the receiving end of messages that hurt my feelings (albeit, much, much, worse messages, if I’m honest) I felt wretched that mine clearly wounded this guy in a major way. So I replied and explained what I was doing and why I was doing it....WHICH IS WHEN SHIT GOT REAL. I went from being the pin-holed eyes hornless rhino in need of an airlift to being an amoral cowardly journalist who had no business in my field, and would probably lie about how I got this guy to call me those names.
I could have replied. I could have kept things going, explained that I had every intention of telling you guys that I treated the dude in question like a dick hence his response, but his crazy spiral was already exploding forth, and after FIVE straight messages about my generally evil and ugly nature, face, and body, I was all “Nah, I think maybe just let it lie.”
I wonder if dudes negging ladies would stop doing it if every single lady went full-blown self-righteous crazy on them. Probably not. Probably we couldn’t even convince most ladies to do it -- because we’re trained to expect some men out there to act that way.
It’s ridiculous that negging even works, the concept being that if you subtly undermine a woman (“I usually don’t find women in glasses attractive but for you I’ll make an exception”), she’ll be in your thrall. Yet, as I learned, if you even remotely attempt to undermine a guy in an assholeish way, and he will not bang you -- he will just think you are asshole.
The good news is I only cried about this for like five minutes, because as an amoral rhino journalist, my skin is relatively thick. It is my gift, it is my curse.
Finally, some levity -- my sexy jerk messages. I didn’t get far with this one, because the very first message I sent out put one charming lad into such a fever pitch that I was left to contend with his torrent of affection for the majority of my day.
"You look like a sandwich I want to bite," I offered. He in turn told me that he was pumpernickel, and thus, an acquired taste. Turns out if you've overtly sexual with a dude he will just plain love it always. Even if by overtly sexual you are just saying he is a food product. Observe:
Ah yes, you see, without fuel tossed onto the fire even my bready-tasting lover is reduced to fits of “hi...” though here he can hardly be faulted. It is a common fact that to invoke sandwiches is to invoke lustful thoughts.
Ultimately, the take-away I got from what began as a prank was slightly more substantive than I’d expected. Even with my “hi:)” messages getting no responses, I found I worried less and less about rejection with each message. It’s more common in our society for men to put themselves out there and ask out ladies, something I maybe haven’t given them a lot of credit for.
This experiment has me wanting to high-five like, the stranger who made my egg cream for me today and be like “It’s tough out there, I applaud you.”
It also bolstered my ego and confidence as a lady who never makes the first move. Sure, the guys I was reaching out to weren’t folks I was seriously considering dating, but being assertive and unconcerned with the content of my messages and getting positive responses put a little giggle in my wiggle. Aggression more than personality, tone, or photos seems to matter the most. Folks have been telling me that you only get what you give online, but what no one really clarified was that I could be giving giant steaming piles of feces and that would be fine.
The experience of ripping on people -- strangers -- even in a benign way still rankles. I almost didn’t write this thing up because I was embarrassed. I felt like a mean person, even after explaining my intentions to the guy in question. Sadly, I doubt this is true for many dudes who think messages suggesting they’d be cuter if their lost a couple of pounds, or that they should post more suggestive photos. That’s partially because they’re asshats, and partially we live in a culture that tells them it’s okay to be asshats.
Should I go out with the pumpernickel guy? He seems adoring and entertaining after a fashion. Are you more aggressive online than you are in person? Do you have any other ideas for things I can do with my profiles before they expire? New dating horror stories to share? I am thinking of joining a singles’ book club -- is this lame?