What I wish all boys understood

The challenges women face while online dating

The difficulties of online dating as a woman. Graphic Maria Chabelnik

A couple of weeks ago, I downloaded Bumble, an online dating app in where women have to message the men they are interested in first. 

I was unsure of what I was looking for but I was driven by curiosity and the timing seemed right as COVID-19 measures were loosening. My friends cautioned me that I would only find creeps, or guys who were not serious, but I ignored all this. I thought to myself, ‘how else will I meet someone?’ I went in with no expectations. After days of swiping and a handful of unsuccessful matches, it seemed to me that dating is harder for women than it is for men. 

There is the obvious challenge of staying safe. Statistics Canada has reported an increase in domestic abuse and sexual violence cases since 2017, an issue that disproportionally affects women and minorities. Given this fact, I am always hesitant when meeting someone I know little about for fear of becoming another figure in these statistics.

Some men do not fully understand the fear women feel when meeting someone they met online. Most of the profiles do not appear genuine nor do they give off a reassuring vibe. I have seen profiles with only group pictures making it difficult to know which person you are actually speaking to, others with photos of a quarter of their face in the frame, and I even recognized one man who I have met before using a fake name under numerous different profiles. Why women need to take extra steps to stay safe is understandable. 

As a woman, I am constantly told to meet my dates in a public place. I was surprised when one guy I met online suggested taking me for a drive on our first date. Let’s get something straight, I will not get in a car with someone until I am certain they are real and do not present a danger. 

When I went on my first Bumble date, I did not take my own advice and immediately regretted it. The guy picked me up at home and we grabbed coffee. We were having a good time until we got on the subject of politics and it became clear that we had very different values. Had I gone with my own car, I could have left, but since he had picked me up, I felt obligated to stay. After the date, we both stopped speaking all together, but I am glad I took some precautions to stay safe, which included sharing my location with friends or not disclosing any extreme personal information, as it could have easily gone worse. 

While I quickly moved on, I was left bothered by one thing. My date had repeatedly told me that he had a good time and yet did not make any effort to reach out. I began to question whether he was interested in something serious to begin with. 

Going forward, I decided to make my intentions very clear. I wanted a serious, long-term relationship. I did not want to waste my time. I wished that all men would do the same. Many of them stated in their profile that they were looking for a serious relationship but later backtracked and began being interested in something casual instead. 

While men and women can equally be unclear with their intentions in this way, I still think it is harder for women. We are constantly judged for our decisions in a relationship. I have experienced this criticism from most of my guy friends. If I tell them that I went on a date with someone I am serious about, and I would like to take things slow, I am immediately called a prude or a tease. If I am on a casual date with a guy and just having fun, I am called promiscuous. 

All my female friends have faced this same judgment at some point in their lives. Society should stop criticizing women for simply existing. I sometimes feel pressured by societal expectations to act in a way that I would not normally do, including changing my outfits dozens of times before a date.

Understanding boundaries is important. While I may flirt with you online, it does not necessarily mean that I will feel comfortable doing so with you in person. After the trainwreck of the first date, the guy invited me over to his house and said that his parents would not be home. Though we had flirted before, I was taken aback by his suggestive invitation, as I had made it clear that I was not interested in a simple hook-up. I immediately felt uncomfortable. 

On another occasion, one of my matches insisted I go clubbing with him and pretend he was my boyfriend though I previously said that I was uninterested in going. Despite saying no, he continued to try and change my mind. A woman should not have to say no more than once for a man to get the message.

All in all, online dating is not as bad as some make it out to be. I have come across a few men who are respectful, and gone on out on some successful dates. While I do not see a future with every single match, I have learnt a lot about myself and my worth as a woman. As a swipe through the app, I came to understand that I am allowed to be picky and should not look past red flags. I will not settle for anything less than I deserve. I continue to patiently swipe and remain optimistic that I will meet the right guy.