t's been over two decades since the launch of Match.com, which is widely regarded as one of the first online dating services. In that time, the industry has grown exponentially, with new sites and apps popping up all the time.
And yet, despite this proliferation, online dating remains a minefield for women. Perhaps the patriarchal society we live in still plays a role. After all, traditional gender roles often dictate that men should pursue women and make the first move.
But there are also very real dangers for women who venture into online dating. Let's delve deeper into some of these challenges.
Apps promised to revolutionize dating. But for women, they're mostly terrible.
Dating apps might seem like a convenient way to meet potential partners, but the experiences can often be frustrating for women. In fact, a 2019 Pew Research Center survey found that nearly half of U.S. online daters described the experience as "harder in the past ten years."
One of the most significant issues for women is the sheer volume of unwanted and often crude messages they receive on these apps. From unsolicited nude pics to incessant and aggressive messages, things are bad. It's not uncommon for women to be bombarded with inappropriate and disrespectful behavior. This issue is compounded by the fact that many apps don't have effective reporting mechanisms in place.
In a study published by The Australian Institute of Criminology, a staggering 72.3% of online dating users reported some form of online abuse. And while men also experience harassment on these apps, women are far more likely to be targeted. Some estimates show that women receive up to 10 times as many offensive messages as men.
It’s worth noting that this happens on 'big name' apps like Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble.
Dating Safety Issues
The problem doesn't end with harassment, though. It's also vital for women to stay vigilant about their safety when meeting with someone they meet online. The same study found that one in three respondents had experienced in-person abuse, ranging from verbal harassment to physical and sexual assault. And even if the initial encounter seems safe, there's always a risk of things escalating in the future.
Finally, 10% of the respondents in the Australian study reported having their drink spiked or otherwise being drugged on a date.
Another emerging issue for women in online dating is romance scams. In this type of scam, the perpetrator pretends to be looking for a romantic relationship but is actually after the victim's money.
According to the FBI, these scams often target women who may feel more vulnerable or desperate for companionship. The scammer will often establish a strong emotional bond with the victim before asking for money. Sometimes, they'll claim to be in financial trouble or facing an emergency.
In other cases, the scammer may convince the victim to open bank accounts or invest in fraudulent business opportunities. In 2021 alone, the Federal Trade Commission reported that romance scams resulted in over $547 million in losses for victims. Most of the money was either gifted through wire transfers or gift cards.
Men need to address their deficits to meet healthier relationship expectations.
While these challenges seem overwhelming, they're also prime opportunities for men to step up. Society has traditionally put the onus on women to protect themselves. However, men must hold each other accountable and create a safer dating environment for everyone involved.
It's time for men to step up and create a healthier dating culture for everyone. That means rejecting harmful behavior and speaking out against harassment and abuse. It also means being willing to have difficult, but necessary conversations about consent and equality.
Let's work on feminism—towards a future where women can feel safe, empowered, and free to navigate the world of online dating with confidence.
Photo ©Jacob Lund via Canva.com