Safety first

The world of online dating (which includes apps) is essentially like the wild west.

There’s the bad guys and there’s the good guys. Of course I’m using the word guys to mean the ladies as well because let’s face it, the fairer sex don’t always play fair.

I’ve been using dating apps on and off over the past 3 or so years and I’ve learned a few good lessons along the way. Before you yawn and assume this post is going to be a self-indulgent diary entry about my love life, I’d ask you to please bear with me.

This long overdue blog post was inspired by a discussion I was invited to be a part of on BBC Radio Scotland for the Kaye Adams programme in the morning. What triggered this conversation was the horrific case of Grace Milane. While the 21 year-old from Essex was travelling in New Zealand, Grace went on a date with a man she had met on Tinder. Only a day away from her 22nd birthday, the pair spent the evening drinking cocktails before going back to the 27 year-old man’s hotel where he strangled Grace to death, put her body in a suitcase and eventually dumped her in the mountainous Waitākere Ranges. In between these events, he watched porn and also arranged and met another girl through Tinder.

I remember when I first read Grace’s story and how incredibly tragic it all was. This young woman who had ventured out into the world to experience a new country, meet new people and ultimately embrace life had been taken from her family and friends forever. I was livid when, as the investigation into her death progressed, her particular sexual interests were used to titillate anyone following the story and in many ways, put blame on the girl whose life was so savagely taken. There was a distinct air of ‘well, you asked for it’ about the whole thing. This illogical, outdated and deplorable attitude has no place in this world and I will continue to speak out whenever/wherever I see it.

This tragic story acted as a precursor to a more general discussion about safety in the online dating world and I was essentially the case study. I would like to say that in all of the dates I’ve been on, I have never felt like I was in any kind of physical danger. Generally speaking I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of nice chaps and enjoyed some really lovely dates. The only properly bad date I had was when I ended up in an argument over lunch with the guy because he said that some men who sexually assault/rape women ‘just can’t control themselves so it’s not necessarily their fault’. I’m not even sure how we landed on the topic – pretty sure it was something to do with Trump and the general shift in accountability for such things – but needless to say, we didn’t agree. I’m confident he isn’t my white buffalo.

Anyway, back to the radio -unfortunately the time for our particular segment on the show was cut short and I was left eager to say more and continue the conversation – hence this big ole post.

What is going to follow is just a few of my thoughts/lessons on the dating app world which I hope might help, comfort or even just entertain a few of you.

So this one I just have to get out of way-

To the guys who use their bios as reverse checklists, STOP. What I mean by that is shit like:

No vegans

No drama

No psychos

No full-time mummies

Darling, you’re not ordering a burger and asking for the pickles and the onions to be left off, you’re looking for a human being so wise up, attempt to develop the emotional intelligence beyond that of a grape and grow the fuck up. I’d hedge my bets and say there’s a female equivalent of this kind of moronic behaviour so please do enlighten me if so. What I’m trying to say is no matter who you are, this is an opportunity to talk yourself up, have fun, be positive and hopefully meet someone you connect with. Don’t waste it by making yourself look like someone who’s bitter, angry and small-minded.

Whenever I’m meeting an app date for the first time, I’ll tell at least 3 people where I’m going and what time I’m meeting them. This probably just seems like common sense to most people but it’s just a good habit to maintain. These 3 friends will also have seen one/two of the chap’s profile pictures. If I’m meeting a date at say 7pm, at least one friend will text me at least half an hour later to check that I’m ok and ultimately that my date is actually who he said he was.

The period before a date can be a lot of fun. You’re messaging and sussing each other out beyond that initial ‘photo’ attraction and it can really help to build the excitement before you actually meet. Guys might ask to move to WhatsApp in a way that seems akin to dusty ancient lines such as ‘why don’t we move this to the couch/bedroom/my flat mate’s beanbag chair?’ I tend to only give out my number if I know I want to meet someone and this can take a few days of chat. That’s something I’m comfortable with but others might need more or less time to get to that point. I have some friends who don’t give out their number until after the first date, knowing a 2nd is on the cards. However you want to broach this, never feel under pressure to do something you don’t feel comfortable with for fear of putting that person off. If you feel better talking to somebody for a week whether that’s through messages or even on the phone (this is actually a great way of getting to know someone on a deeper level without physically meeting them and will make it much easier to judge if the date’s going to go well) then that’s up to you. If someone gets arsey with you about it and gives you the ‘I’m not looking for a pen pal’ crap then just cut and run. So much of dating and relationships in general is about respecting boundaries and building trust, if someone can’t manage that at this point, walk away.

Something that’s also a risk when you give out your number is of course, the dick pic. Thankfully, bar one occasion, I’ve made it through the number exchange process unscathed. Obviously that person is looking to set the tone right away: all they want is sex. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Plenty of women just want sex too. I’m a firm believer that no one should ever be judged for their sexuality and how they choose to express it so long as any and every encounter is consensual, respectful and something both (or more) parties are comfortable with. But don’t sell someone the idea of the white picket fence and then snapchat your pecker.

Whenever you do reach the point that you’re going to someone’s home or they’re coming to yours for the first time, it’s always good to take precautions. Again, tell people where you’re going-at this point you’ll have an address and most likely a second name – and soon after you/they arrive just make a point of saying ‘oh sorry let me just text my friend to let them know where I am etc’. In this situation a date should never make you feel silly or paranoid and if they do and it’s not just a silly retort, walk away. As I said before I’ve never felt scared or like I had to get out of a date’s flat because I was afraid. However, as a woman, I have to think about my safety in a way that a man would never have to and unfortunately I’ve been in some horrible situations (not related to apps) which have forced me to act more cautiously.

My final bit of safety advice is to remember that you don’t have to divulge every piece of personal information during those initial messages or dates. If you don’t want to say exactly where you work or live, then that’s fine. Give enough detail to allow the conversation to continue to flow but don’t give so much that when your date gets home he could check out your house on google earth.

I’m not trying to paint a picture of fear and suspicion here. Online dating can be so much fun, you can meet lots of different people and enjoy casual or non-casual relationships with those you might never have met otherwise.

My biggest lesson for anyone who uses online dating or is thinking about giving it a go is this:

Be honest

Be fair

Be kind x

 

If you ever find yourself on a date with someone who isn’t who they said they were, or makes you feel uncomfortable for any reason and you need help – lots of bars now operate the “Ask for Angela” service. Simply ask for Angela at the bar and staff will do their best to get you out of the pub and safely into a taxi.

 

 

 

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