What is love?
Maybe, an emotion that every conceited Raj, Prem, Kabir, or Aditya fights for in Indian commercial cinema. Or simply a subplot for Bollywood to incorporate remakes of songs in movies! Love can take us from a state of ecstasy to deepest despair. In the quest for love, people spend a lifetime to find “The chosen one“. But now, amidst the loneliness of this long pandemic, the multitude of potential lovers available at one’s fingertips is contained to Cupid, Ok?
Dating apps are crumbling all the binary myths about how they are not for, or only for inexorable current desires that spark pheromones and dampen them. In this large cesspool of varied possibilities to find or dodge love, what does it mean to be a woman and engage with this space?
Dating profile essentials
It’s difficult to build a bio, positioning it somewhere between an anonymous love letter and a professional resume designed to attract potential candidates, while also dodging the vigilant eyes of every padoswali aunty, just in case they are on these apps too, because they are everywhere!
The rigorous attention to curate your profile in 5 tags, 3 profile pictures and 3 prompts (obviously with good grammar), is no less than equal to building SEO (search engine optimisation) tools. Maybe, the following might help you to “hinge” with your “suitable“. If not that, surely, these aspects will help create a 100 per cent unique, swipe-able version of yourself that will satisfy your daily urge for validation.
“A picture is worth a thousand words“, they say. But I doubt that. On dating apps, it is often a well framed selfie that has the potential to spark flames. You must put up a picture with a relaxed face, flaunting that smile, so they can use it as an icebreaker compliment and remind you “why you should smile more often“, because duh! women must smile very very often.
Some dating apps do not permit you to put up a picture with exposed skin if it is shot inside your home. You can upload the same if you are on the beach or anywhere else, because that is a costume that aligns with the ‘natural settings‘ of the location and your activities. But otherwise, a picture with a plunging neckline, skirt or anything you want to wear, could go against ‘community guidelines‘. Well yes, women must behave and not disrupt community sentiments afterall!
Anything and everything on a female profile are worth lewd messages. But Yayy! You can enjoy pics of a man’s ripped, shirtless body on the beach, playing football, in the gym or wherever else, because that is quite the trophy!
Bios and prompts help to separate you from the ocean of read-alike profiles. As a woman on a dating app, your profile must check all superficial boxes even in prompts. Prompts have to be written to make your profile quirky, yet mainstream, but mysterious (you know what I mean!). You cannot tag your cliché interests, you have to tag things your future significant other might like (this is not catfishing, or, is it?). This will help you to cast a wide net with an appealing and impossible balance of conflicting descriptors. Just the right balance of making yourself appealing, yet not intimidating to the men who swipe on you!
After scoring a successful match, you potential girlfriend accumulators will start conversions with icebreakers, pick up lines and compliments. Strangely though, you may have to keep reiterating the difference between sexual harassment and flirting ( But, that’s not their issue, women are just being complicated, aren’t we?).
It is easy to dump someone on the click of your fickle thumb for another person holding their “marketplace vibe” board and ready to get matched. Most of the chats of these potential romantic partners are demoralising, toxic, but still in some strange way made to feel acceptable because a woman can only choose from what she is offered (or so we believe). Most women log in with a false sense of security by fobbing potential abuse or invasion off as typical or “to be expected“, leading to the further normalisation of dating app abuses.
Women know how to endure offensive language that is fatphobic, racist, or homophobic, as well as disrespectful name-calling, slut-shaming and ghosting. We are trained to, am I right?
It’s okay if someone bumbled around on these apps by offloading their frustration on you. These apps have offender profiles for transwomen, desperately wanting them to fulfil their kinks in any condition. In her Instagram reel Dr. Trinetra Gummaraju speaks about desperate sexual desire and objectification and how transwomen are expected to be up for all sexual fantasies by cic men.
After wearing a semi-anonymous shield on the internet, it’s way easier to hide behind the protection of gorilla glasses. Pilling up rejection from left and even right swiping, most men fail to understand a simple “No”. If you’re unable to appreciate the “nice guy’s” effort in sending countless messages even though you are not replying, questioning his “here for fun” behaviour, and not dropping everything to invite them over to your apartment will mean facing rejection violence.
Being a woman on a dating app
On these apps, dating is a cesspit of intentions. The sheer variety of people and their multiple cornerstone intentions is baffling. Switching on single-player mode, swiping left on hundreds of types of profiles from progressive men who mansplain women’s rights to the next door f*ckboi is a daily addictive activity. In the culture that advocates marriage and sanctimony, the idea of a girl stepping out on a first date with a total stranger defenestrates social norms.
From a technical standpoint, dating apps are safer now, but exposing personal information on the app still possess a significant risk for women and queer individuals. Though many apps show how far the person is, they cannot filter out the creep who might be cyberstalking and doxing your data.
On a dating app making the first move, asking your decent profile guy to meet is brave. But when? How soon is too soon? After sidestepping all pre-date jitters and ineptitudes, successfully passing all the dating app drama, who knows, whether or not a decent profile guy would turn out to be desperate and aggressive.
What if he got the green signal of consent, if you fixing your dress/hair in their presence, accept to enjoy drinks at night or simply laugh, leading to sexual coercion? The dating app has a magical wand that somewhat liberated women from the stigma of casual sex. On the other hand, the wand’s spell opens a Pandora’s box of cross-platform harassment and catfishing. The dedication of an introvert to get up and go out with someone straight up the abyss, sit through all agonising dinners and lunches while both of them run out of conversations, only to bring out the Machiavellian issue of the bill.
If at all a woman agrees for the man to pay, and later rejects him, she is a gold digger and comes for free dinner, the decent profile guy would assume. There are millions of “first round on me, if…” prompts but women are splitting the bill because they are capable, and also because they do not want to be harassed later.
Dating apps run on extremities, where people insensitively ask for sex or names for your future kids. It’s difficult to be a woman on a dating app. It’s like the cigarette from the movie The Fault In Our Stars, where ‘you put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing’.
After endless safety precautions and “agni pariksha”, if you’ve found a new best friend, a partner, a bae, a friend with benefits or a spouse, congratulations!
Featured Image: Ritika Banerjee for Feminism In India