This topic made the rounds again lately and I wanted to give it some thought. In this case, I’m writing specifically about women who post screenshots or transcripts of the messages they get from men through dating sites and social media. Forgive the heteronormity but I’m considering a particular dynamic.
It remains the case that men are more likely than women to make initial contact on online dating sites. I’m a bit surprised that this hasn’t changed much since I had a dating profile 10-15 years ago, but norms change when there is impetus for them to change, and perhaps that hasn’t happened yet. My male friends have always grumbled about the lack of responses they get and complained that the risk of the first move is still on their shoulders.
The experience for women on dating sites is completely different than that of men. There is a thin line between not getting any notice and being deluged. Some women toss out flashier bait and get more hits. Others try to be very specific in their profiles, hoping to attract quality over quantity. However, everyone I’ve spoken with has seen her share of “form letter” responses, and many of us have gotten rudeness and hostility as well. That leads to my topic: women who take those rude and hostile responses and post them online.
If you give a man some level of perceived anonymity and then put him in a situation where he is both evaluating lists of women like products in an online store and risking rejection, you might not see his best side. Maybe he is putting extra armor over vulnerability, maybe he’s truly arrogant or abusive, maybe he reads those idiotic “pickup artist” sites, maybe a cultural difference makes his style seem off-putting to women he approaches. A lot of factors could come into play. In the end, though, there are a lot of awful things sent to women.
Is there a point at which it is fair or ethical to take those terrible responses and post them with possibly identifying details?
When I read them — and I do read them, because they’re fascinating — I experience waves of visceral emotions. I’m astounded, angry, and indignant with the women, but I feel the potential humiliation and anger of the men, too. I’m not sharing any links because I don’t want to be complicit in that.
The behavior of men who are abusive on dating sites is indefensible even if I might speculate about their motivations. It’s wrong. I’m sure it makes women feel better to know that they are not alone in receiving horrible things like insults, threats, manipulation, and unsolicited penis photos. I think I could have wallpapered a room with the number of those I received in my dating years, but ewww, what a room! Perhaps it’s useful to know that PrinceCharming666 has been a creep to others.
Many comments defending the posts have been on the theme of “a man fears that his online date will really be fat; a woman fears that her online date will really be a murderer.” Sure. There are times that men have reason for fear too, but it is predominantly a female reality. Maybe posting abusive responses is a method of protecting oneself by bringing the verbal asshattery out into the open, making it public rather than private.
If someone receives an online threat, I hope she exposes it to everyone she deems appropriate — the site moderators, friends, possibly the police, whomever. I think it’s fair game to post non-threats as long as identifying details are omitted. It’s a reasonable way to say, “This is what we’re receiving and it’s not ok.” But to me, a line is crossed when photos, usernames, or other details that might link back to a unique person are included. Subjecting someone to public humiliation for a private message doesn’t seem acceptable to me. Am I alone in this?
Of course, if insulting, stupid messages weren’t sent, there would be nothing to post. Bottom line?