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.