I joined OK Cupid on a whim the first week I was in Canberra. I’d gotten bored of Tinder (apparently dirt bikes are an acceptable profile picture here), and I knew approximately two people in the whole of the ACT. So, bored and lonely (the reason anybody online dates, I suppose), I created a new account. Then I looked at the blank profile for a moment and decided I was more lazy than I was lonely, and there it sat for weeks, with my username (not telling you), my age (22) and my location (Canberra).
Eventually, I mustered up the energy to go online to the empty profile that had been sitting there for a month. There were three messages waiting for me. Not me though, really – the faceless, nameless, blank avatar that I hadn’t filled out yet, floating in cyberspace. My knee-jerk flattered reaction was quickly overtaken by the fact of the matter: some people are so unconcerned about what a woman is actually like, they will literally try to hit on a ghost.
These messages ranged from polite: “Hey how’s your evening going?” (from SilverFox4U, 46 – dude, come on), to kind of weird: “Lovely J” (from solal12, now deactivated).
As I write, I am celebrating one month on the godforsaken hellscape that is OK Cupid. I’d assumed that people would be a little more interested in say, conversation, since Tinder isn’t really designed to really know someone before you swipe. Spoiler alert: guys on OK Cupid are the worst. (Girls on OK Cupid are great though, where are you all?)
I’ve had 177 “conversations” on OK Cupid and a small percentage – maybe 10 percent – have been with people I wanted to talk to.
Another 20 percent are just…not built to interact with humans.
For example: one guy messaged “hello” to me, which went unreplied. Three days later, he sends me a small essay (354 words) about what he would do to me in bed. I won’t subject you to the actual content – it’s not very well written, and it’s pretty graphic – but it involves dildos and ends with a cumshot.
Normally, I’d straight up delete a message like that, but hey, at this point I decided that if I was going through all this, I might as well write a comedy show about it (look out for “OK Cupid Guys Have No Chill”, coming eventually to an open mic night near you), so I engaged.
“That’s kind of fucked up dude.”
Okay, so my goal of educating the masses on feminism, dating, and why it’s not okay to send someone an elaborate sexual fantasy about them when you’ve never even talked to them was overtaken by a need to just let him know he made a mistake.
And the thing is, I’m sure he knew that it was a mistake. I’m sure most men know that you don’t send women you don’t know photos of your penis or write essays about coming on their faces. I’m not sure why that guy sent that message – maybe he was just really lonely and wanted someone else to read his missive and say, “Hey, random guy on the internet. I have read what you want to do to me, and that sounds like fun.” Or maybe he gets off on it?
In any case, he eventually sent me back a message saying he’d been drunk. Which is the grown up equivalent of saying: “omg my friend sent that MSN message, I totally don’t like you.”
I’m not sure why I chose that message in particular to reply to and call out, but that exchange emboldened me to reply to more messages that I’d normally leave unanswered.
About 70 percent of my messages are from people I have no intention of talking to or seeing because of their photos or because of their personalities – harsh but true. As a woman, you hear a lot of stories of men losing their shit when rejected, and because of that, I just…ignore a lot of messages. But some people kept messaging, and messaging (and messaging). So what the hell, guy who sent me fourteen messages over two weeks, despite no answer:
“Hey, so thanks for the messages, but I’m not interested – hope it goes well for you!”
Then I sent the same message to another thirty people. My logic was that I didn’t have any identifying information on my profile, so the worst that could happen was online abuse on one website, which I could block pretty easily. And it didn’t even come to that. Some didn’t reply, some asked why, but almost everyone who replied…was nice.
I’m a feminist. It’s tattooed on my arm, even. I was expecting the worst of people, and I totally understand that for a lot of women, online abuse is the norm, and the reality of their lives. So I don’t know what to make of the fact that no one has tried to harass me after I told them I wasn’t interested. I’ve heard the horror stories, and I was proven wrong.
You know the ones – guys who say they’re “nice guys”, but are actually assholes. Clementine Ford wrote about Tumblr Nice Guys of OKC, and there are any number of people online who will tell you that online dating as a girl is difficult. Even if you’re a guy pretending to be a girl. The Nice Guys of OKC Tumblr itself is no longer active, but the spirit of it remains: people can be really creepy online, especially men, and especially when it comes to dating and sex.
The Hell is OK Cupid Tumblr is a good example of how some maladjusted human men firstly, are fine with messaging anyone remotely female and young, and secondly, react badly to being told ‘no’.
It seems that I’m lucky in that I’m not inherently confrontational. I still hold on to that one time I yelled at a group of men who were cutting the line to Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars at Disneyland as my peak badass moment. (They apologised and went back to their spot in line, I had to sit down for a moment to recover from all the blood that had rushed into my head.)
That’s not to say it’s women’s fault for being confrontational or blunt – plenty of polite rejections have been met with frothing anger, and I’m sure many blunt rejections have been received well. And why is it on me to have to turn someone down, worried he might start spouting expletives at me? The issue just seems to be that men don’t know how to behave online.
So here’s a handy guide for any men thinking of online dating:
- When someone doesn’t reply after one or two messages, stop trying. There can be grace in accepting defeat. There is no grace in sending a woman a dozen messages over several weeks.
- No, I don’t want to hear about your sex fantasy that features me.
- Actually look at the woman you’re messaging, and decide if you actually want to talk to her, or if she’s interested in you, even a little bit. Your willy-nilly messaging (giggle) is contributing to the noise that makes women not reply to 80 percent of the people who message them.
- Your profile picture shouldn’t be your dirt bike.
- Seriously, stop messaging me.
Image: Kristina Litvjak
Sharona Lin is a recent graduate and recent Canberra convert. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Pop Culture-y (popculture-y.com), has written for The Age, Tone Deaf and The Music, and has written several award-winning short stories. In the coming years, she hopes to publish her first novel.
This piece has been published with the support of the ACT Government.