Harassment & Abuse on Online Dating Sites

The other day, I wrote about AWOL, the upcoming women’s movement that is a week-long protest against gender bias in dating apps and social media platforms. Today is the first phase of the movement, where women are changing their social media profile photos to the AWOL logo to bring awareness. I am participating in this event, and this post will give a pretty good explanation as to why.

Being on and off dating sites for the past six years of my single life has given me a poor outlook on dating altogether, as I have mainly found it to be a complete waste of time. Spending hours sorting through profiles which may or may not be real or current is exhausting, not to mention the back and forth texting and lack of communication. Discovering the person you’ve been talking to is completely different in person is another downside to online dating. Even worse are the sexual messages received, oftentimes unsolicited dick pics, and overall insulting garbage.

As an experiment, I joined Plenty of Fish for a few reasons: a) I hadn’t been on there in several years; and b) it’s free. While I never actually expected to meet anyone on the site in person, I was open to the chance of possibly meeting a new friend. Given what I experienced, however, I now highly doubt that.

This time, I only have one visible full-body photo of myself fully dressed, not showing any skin whatsoever, my face visible but not that distinguishable. (I wasn’t sure what one photo would elicit, but I have a feeling that no photos at all would still have baited plenty of sharks!) I’d stated specific things in my profile that I knew would disqualify most of the men in my area. That wasn’t done on purpose; it’s all the truth about myself and what I’m looking for, and most simply aren’t on the same page. The messages I will be posting here were received within my first 24 hours of being on POF.

Since my horrible experiences with dating Trump fans takes up half of my blog, I specifically stated “no Trump fans” at the end of my profile, which seemed to have really pissed off some men. The fact that they took the time out to send me rude messages told me they are immature, abusive, control freaks that have no place in my life. The very first message I received from POF was from Ray, who thinks he’s a keeper but isn’t intelligent enough to keep his children off of his main photo. No one asked for his opinion, and the site is for meeting people to date, not to argue politics like people do on Facebook.

Instead of just going about their business and moving along, women get harassed online daily by men like Ray on both dating and social media sites. It’s men like Ray that a lot of women would never give the time of day, and they know it, and they use the opportunity to insult women behind their keyboards in order to boost what little self esteem they have. Ray was reported, but I’m unsure if he still has his account.

I never replied to Ray, however, after a certain amount of messages like these, it becomes hard to ignore. I am not the type of woman to “sit back and take it,” because if I allow them to treat me this way and don’t stand up for myself, it gives them a motive to continue their shitty behavior and do it to more women. I am the type of woman to put someone in their place, so I decided to start replying to these unsolicited messages. This is from another extremely unattractive man:

At least mpc65 understood he was being inappropriate, but there is no excuse to do this in the first place when you’re looking for love (obviously in all the wrong places!) Other inappropriate (and frankly, just weird!) messages when I politely decline men that I have no interest in dating includes being called names, such as a racist, when race has nothing to do with it. This man’s profile stated he was located in the UK (my profile specifically states to be within an hour of my location), so even if I was interested, it would never work. Besides, I got the feeling it was probably a fake profile.

I know I am not the only one that has experienced being called a racist, as SareyTales and several other women have also been called the same thing for not being interested in a man of another race. I recall one of her posts recently from an Asian male that played video games and had interests that most grown women don’t. When she politely declined him, he called her a racist and then went on to continue insulting her. It’s just another frightening way that men often project their insecurities to women online.

In my profile, I state that I have a 3-month rule for dating before having sex, as I know this will weed out any players. Apparently, some men had a real issue with that and sent me some pretty nasty messages. One I appropriately nicknamed the “Russian Asshole,” since he fits the stereotypical type that treats women like second-class citizens sent this barrage of mysogyny. Notice that he gets through the POF messaging system by spacing out the letters when he calls me a bitch.

I felt that Russian Asshole’s messages were extremely demeaning, antagonizing, and downright disturbing. After reporting Russian Asshole on Twitter, his profile magically disappeared from POF. However, I don’t know if that means he was blocked from my profile and still allowed to harass other women.

Even when I am online, my intuition picks up on things that seem shady or weird, even if I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is. This guy was interested, then suddenly thought he was “better” than me when I turned him down.

Even though “Better Than You” Dan has no opinions of me, he thinks he’s better than me with all of his world travel, success and money.

These are just a few of several messages I’ve received from men I’ve turned down – and this was only the first 24 hours! Out of approximately six pages of messages, about 20% of them were like this. To think that 1/5 of the men on dating sites are this awful is pretty discouraging, especially when the apps enable them by allowing these abusive men to keep their profiles and punish the women that report them instead. Women are fed up, and as a result, AWOL has been formed.

All Women Online Blackout – A Protest

If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you know that I have some experience with the online dating world. For the most part, my experiences haven’t been so great, as I often write about them. What makes them even worse is getting unsolicited dick pics, sexual harassment, threats, rude messages from men that I have politely rejected, nasty messages from men that don’t happen to like what I’ve written in my profile (they obviously don’t make the cut), being called racist for being uninterested in someone that happens to be a different race, and overall misogynistic attitudes. But this doesn’t just extend to dating sites; this happens all across the board with social media in general, with Facebook and Instagram being the worst culprits.

As for Instagram, there is no way to report an actual private message; only profiles and posts can be reported for obscenities or whatever goes against their terms. So when I received unsolicited dick pics from men I didn’t even know, my reports went unheeded, and those men got to keep their profiles. Yet, if I happen to screenshot the message, hide the dick pic with an emoji, and share it to my story – Instagram flags it and takes it down, even threatens to remove my profile. This type of behavior and inequality needs to stop. Right now.

This also happens with some online dating apps – you can report their profiles, but not their actual private messages in the app itself. If there is nothing violating the app’s terms in the profile, those men keep their profiles, even if the person sends a dick pic or tells a woman he’s going to rape or kill her. (Yes, this actually happens!) In some cases, the messages can be reported, however, often the abuser still gets to keep his profile. I suppose if the apps are making money off of these perpetrators, they don’t give a damn about the safety of women using their sites.

The real issue besides the idiots sending the messages is that these online platforms seem to cater more towards men in these cases. Oftentimes, when their profiles get reported, nothing happens. Sure, there’s the option to block them, but sometimes they make alternate profiles and continue the harassment. It sends a message to these men that it’s okay to harass women, since the block option is there. All it does is send them to the next woman, many of whom do not bother reporting them (or can’t), so nothing ever gets done about it, making it seem like it’s okay for men online to abuse women. Well, it’s NOT okay, and women are fed up.

Someone I have been following on Instagram for quite some time has exposed some of these jerks. Sarey Ruden of SareyTales was tired of the online harassment and misogyny, so she decided to make art “The Art of Online Dating” out of the awful messages received from men on dating sites; she even gave a TEDtalk about it. And now other women are joining in and revealing their online dating horrors – all very similar stories, and some even have the same types of messages from the same users in the same area. Even when reported, these men have no consequences, yet women who report them by outing them on social media (since there is no other option to report them within the apps) have actually been silenced and/or banned from the sites! Not only is this unjust, it feeds into the rape culture and perpetuates abuse of women.

On May 9th, a women’s movement is happening called AWOL – All Women Online. It is a week-long blackout on dating sites (also extended to social media) to combat gender-based dating app injustice and abuse. I will be joining it, along with thousands of other women (and also supportive men) in protest to the way women are treated unfairly by dating apps and social media apps that continue to fail us. To find out more and to participate, visit her website at SareyTales.com.