Embracing online dating

With recent reports linking dating apps to crime, Stephanie Farnsworth defends Grindr and Tinder against recent criticism in the media.


Recent reports have laid the blame squarely at the door of dating websites and apps for numerous burglaries and assaults, as though there was something wrong with the fact that people want to date rather than the fact that some people want to hurt others.

While there has been a revolution online in the last ten or so years (the rise of Twitter, Tumblr, Buzzfeed and dating sites etc) some attitudes have predictably and sadly not progressed as quickly. There is still sneering about people who want to tweet their location or those who choose to find a date online, but I have to go back to that old question of why do people care so much about what others get up to?

There is still sneering about people who want to tweet their location or those who choose to find a date online, but I have to go back to that old question of why do people care so much about what others get up to?

Crimes may be directly linked to the use of certain sites such as Tinder and Grindr, but that does not mean they are the cause. One of the ridiculous comments that often gets trotted out is that when you meet people online “they could be anyone”. Wow, really? So when we meet someone in a cafe or a bar we get their life history, do we? We’ve never known who we are really dealing with whenever we first meet someone. We can know someone for decades and then find out horrific things about them. We can meet someone once and then have them try to rob us. It happens. Sexual assaults are far more likely to be carried out by somebody already known to the person.

This isn’t said to scare people from every relationship in their life but to get some perspective. All relationships are a leap of faith and particularly so if you are a women of colour, bisexual, gay and/or trans. People out for a target they consider easy may turn to an online dating site but years ago it might have been personal ads or whoever caught their eye on a night out. The problem is they want to harm someone. An abuser will find any method to do it.

People out for a target they consider easy may turn to an online dating site but years ago it might have been personal ads or whoever caught their eye on a night out.

People are all too quick to attack these sites rather than the behaviour because people still are shocked by the fact people embrace their sexuality and romantic orientations. There remains a persistent snobbery around bodily autonomy as well as a dollop of respectability politics to go with it. People sneer at why people need to use these sites in the first place rather than why people are going out of their way to target others. Apps and sites such as Grindr, Tinder and OKCupid have radically changed the way queer people can date. It’s now much easier to meet with people. LGBTQ+ bars are not the only option.

Apps and sites such as Grindr, Tinder and OKCupid have radically changed the way queer people can date.

However, LGBTQ+ people are also particularly at risk of being targeted. Trans people are regularly threatened online and offline and gay and bi men have been targeted through Grindr: both of which are hate crimes. Messages begging for threesomes and unsolicited dick pics are not uncommon for the inbox of any LGBTQ+ person. Yet this is no different to the fact that there are trolls online. There will always be those willing to commit abuse and harassment but the internet just gives them a new way to do so. It’s not as though harmful and abusive behaviour never happened before the invention of the computer. We were just less likely to hear about it.

We’re too quick to condemn an entire realm of modern life than actually challenge the specific issues at hand. The online world has made things better for LGBTQ+ people. It provides access to support and information sites and services, access to porn (and yes radfems, queer women often do like to watch women in porn and explore their sexuality) and access to the world of dating. As recently examined on this site, queer spaces aren’t always for all queer people. Many feel unsafe in LGBTQ+ spaces and are pushed out so meeting people via the internet is often the only way to avoid total isolation.

We’re too quick to condemn an entire realm of modern life than actually challenge the specific issues at hand.

If we want to tackle these recent assaults and robberies where certain sites and apps were used, then let’s properly do it. Don’t just scoff at how people date. The police need to take a better role within the LGBTQ+ community. Too many people won’t trust them or have had bad experiences in the past with them so that they would not report an assault if it happened to them. Perpetrators know this which is partly why LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be targets for abuse. The sites and apps themselves need to make it easier to report abuse and provide any information they can to the police if someone is accused of such a crime. Hate crimes legislation needs to actually be followed. It may exist in theory but the rates of prosecution are low so that is has little impact. If the law is designed at protecting vulnerable identities then it needs to actually do so.

Grindr, Tinder and OkCupid have their flaws (and almost all of them are the users) but they’re here to stay because they give freedom to so many people. I don’t see how anyone could look down their nose at that sentiment.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter (@StephFarnsworth)

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