Note: For the purposes of this post, heterosexuality is the premise. Things on dating sites are different (i.e. often better) for women seeking women. Men seeking men are often subjected to the same things that women seeking men are subjected to, but I cannot speak for their experiences.
I am an accomplished OkCupid counter-troll and I’m not private about it. As a result, every time some internet personality creates a dummy profile and writes up their experiences with it, well-meaning friends often think of me and link me. Last week, it was that Cracked article (written by a woman but geared towards a male audience). Yesterday, it was the Reddit post (which isn’t even original). There’s some defunct Tumblr I found after a quick Google search. Hell, some of my male friends have proposed creating dummy female profiles in order to see what it’s like for a woman on a dating site.
My reaction? Chagrin. It makes me wonder why more men don’t trust women’s experiences instead of setting up fake profiles. Have they never heard a female friend talk about her experiences? Do they not have female friends to ask about the matter? Or do they just not want to believe what we women say about our lives? To go back to my male friends, you’d think that years’ worth of talk from me about my OkCupid experiences would be enough for them to know that they could, you know, just ask me about it, or even just believe me when I talk about it.
I’ve helped male friends and strangers with their profile and messaging mojo. I’ve walked nervous men through initial messages, replies, and follow-ups messages after first dates. I’ve had male friends and acquaintances cry on my shoulder about being lonely, miserable, and rejected both online and afk. Not once did it occur to me to doubt them when they told me about their experiences. Sure, I sometimes wonder about all those unanswered messages I’ve sent to men who claim on their very profiles to be frustrated with the lack of women who initiate, but I don’t doubt the overall fact that many men don’t get replies or message on OkCupid. Enough men I know have told me about it for me to not immediately jump to doubting them.
There is certainly a more charitable view of the phenomenon of such fake profiles, one that speaks to men’s attempts, however flawed, at understanding women’s experiences. We live in a society where men are automatically considered more credible than women even when the latter are speaking of their own experiences. I’d only see the creation of fake female profiles by men as productive if the men were to learn a greater lesson about women’s credibility, one that enables the male experimenter to no longer need to pull such stunts in order to believe women. It seems like an ass-backwards way to approach the problem to me, but if it’s effective, I don’t know if I could complain overmuch.
Such a lesson would be contingent on all men conducting the experiment, though, rather than a few men doing it and sharing their results to the warm reception of other men. As it stands, we live in a world where women talk about their experiences, men doubt them, and then a few of those men pretend to be women and report their results to great fanfare. A random man pretending to be a woman on a dating site is somehow considered more credible and coverage-worthy than the majority of women who are using dating sites in earnest and speaking of their experiences. That women are inundated with crude, rude, ridiculous, and otherwise unsavory messages online is not some incredible revelation discovered by a man pretending to be a woman; it reflects the lived experiences of many women. We’d do well to trust the word of women more, even if it is curiosity and a wish to understand rather than a mistrust of women that drives some men to attempt to replicate women’s experiences.