I recently found myself back in the world of online dating. While the system itself hadn’t changed much (other than a few technological tweaks), I found that I was in a much different place now than I was a few years ago. Back then, I remember thinking that aggressive behavior and direct-talk was just the way that it was and that anyone who wanted to date needed to be prepared to accept that and deal with it. That’s not to say that I liked it, but at the same time, I appreciated it for what it was. It gave me the ability to weed out possible suitors who I felt were too aggressive, or who didn’t have the same values as me. But this time around, it felt sleazy. It felt like I had been diminished as a human, and I began to think about this more from a societal perspective.
When I was in my early 20s, online dating was a taboo. If you met someone online, it meant that there was something wrong with you. I think that meant people had to be more genuine. If you met someone in a bar, you might flirt, but you certainly wouldn’t let them know that you’re looking for one thing and one thing only. With technology, we have the ability to hide behind a screen. I mean, I admit that I’m the same way. I am much more confident when sending a text message, rather than saying something out loud. Especially in the presence of a crush when the fear of rejection is minimized and you can chalk it up to misinterpretation if it doesn’t go your way.
During all this time, I thought a lot about the #MeToo movement, and I wondered if I could find my own stories to hashtag about. One of the things that you should know about me is that I tend to think about things – especially my life – in a very black and white way. There is either a right or a wrong answer, and rarely anything in between. The same goes for expectations that I put on myself. So when I think about the #MeToo movement, I would always associate it with sexual assault. Thankfully, that’s a camp I have never found myself in.
But the camp that I have found myself in, time and again, is being sexually harassed. To what extent should we consider aggressive online behavior to be sexual harassment? Or do we chalk it up to what I said before – people having more confidence and the simple landscape of online dating these days?
I don’t know that I have an answer to this, as I think it’s a delicate subject. I did want to share my experience with you for the same reason that I felt I didn’t have a #MeToo story – this is a really grey area. And perhaps someone who reads this will be able to relate (unfortunately) to this kind of behavior and will take steps to stop it.
All of that said, I was really surprised that this was still happening, especially in light of all the stories that have come out over the last couple of years. The sad truth is that we still have a long way to go, but the good news is that more and more people understand what is acceptable, and education is the key to making these kinds of changes.