Originally published on xoJane and republished here with their permission.
(Content Note: descriptions of sexual violence)
Fresh out of an almost three-year-long relationship, I found myself a little tipsy, sitting on my living room floor at 2 a.m. on a Saturday.
My roommate and I had just arrived home from one of our customary hazy nights out when she exclaimed, “Hey! Ya know what? You should totally download Tinder!”
My last relationship had been with a pretty serious live-in boyfriend, so I was a little skeptical about jumping into the online dating world, which I had no previous experience in.
My roommate was persistent, though, convincing me I could find my future ex-boyfriend with only a swipe of my index finger.
Since we have the same taste in men (we could never resist a dark, band-boy type), I figured I’d give it a shot. I reasoned with myself, What’s the worst that could happen?
After about a month of having it on my phone, I had to hand it to her — Tinder was pretty fun. It’s like being able to go out the bars and scope out all the hot guys in the crowd without actually having to get dressed up or leave the comfort of your couch.
Slowly but surely I got used to the weird, 21st-century phenomenon of trying to connect with a complete stranger, and when I came across Jim’s* profile, I got really excited.
For one thing, he messaged me first (which anyone savvy in the world of Tinder will tell you is a pretty big deal) and his message didn’t include a pun or creepy sexual innuendo.
Scrolling through his pictures, I thought, This is someone I can definitely see myself hanging out with. He had long hair, a kind smile, and an overall skater-boy look.
Within a couple of days, he had asked for my number, and we made plans to meet up. The plan was for him to come over the next Friday afternoon, have some beers, and go swimming at my house.
Jim was not my first Tinder date, and I had a pretty standard formula for meeting up with these guys by then: They’d come over to my place for a casual activity that showed I didn’t want to “Netflix and chill,” but also wasn’t up for a super-formal date.
This way, I could always ensure my roommate was home – in case they ended up being way different in person and I needed an emergency escape strategy. I really felt like I was in control.
The afternoon we were supposed to meet up, Jim apologetically texted me to let me know he would be late.
At first, this wasn’t a problem, but eventually the allotted time my roommate had set aside to be home before she had to work passed. She couldn’t wait any longer; she had to leave for her evening bar shift.
When Jim finally did show up, he was even more attractive in person. Standing at just over six feet tall, he towered over my five-foot frame and was well dressed in a green flannel and black skinny jeans.
As we sat down on the patio to talk, I found myself feeling even more dazzled listening to how he had lived abroad in New Zealand. It can be a rare thing to find someone on Tinder who is easy to talk to, funny, and has an interesting history.
I felt like I’d caught a winner. As the evening wore on, I fulfilled my hostess duties by offering to refill the drinks. He readily accepted my offer, and followed me inside, claiming he had to use the bathroom.
That’s when everything went downhill.
After retrieving the drinks, I bent down to close the fridge door, and when I turned back around, he was standing inches in front of me.
“You know something, you’re really cute,” he murmured. Before I had time to utter any sort of response, he was kissing me.
Wow, I vividly remember thinking at the time, this is happening a little fast. But, having had my fair share of sexual experiences, I didn’t consider making out in my kitchen to be that big of a deal.
What did start to make me feel a little uncomfortable was when, within moments, he had picked me up and placed me on my kitchen counter, pressing me up against the cabinets.
Women in our society learn from a very early age to be passive and submissive, especially in sexual encounters. Even though I have a strong background in gender studies, I still have difficulty speaking up at times for fear of making things “awkward.”
Despite the growing sense of unease in the pit of my stomach, I asked myself, If I tell him to stop now, what will happen? What if he thinks I’m not into him, or that I’m being a prude? I mean after all, isn’t hooking up what Tinder is for?
He didn’t leave me much time to argue with myself. Within minutes, he had literally torn my bathing suit top off of my body and was working his hand down my bottoms.
The aggressive turn this hook-up had taken coupled with his sudden intensity really freaked me out. Alarm bells started to sound in my head and I pulled myself away.
I told him that we needed to stop, and his response was to shrug it off and continue.
I was shocked. I had never had a guy blatantly ignore me when I told him “no.” What are you supposed to do when you’ve finally mustered the courage to speak up, but he won’t listen to you?
While he was attempting to take off my bottoms, I was able to wriggle off the counter and around him, immediately going to my room to get my phone.
He followed me and before I could get to it, he pushed me down on my bed and got on top of me.
I kept telling him this wasn’t what I wanted. When I tried to get back up, he pinned my wrists to the mattress and informed me that I “obviously wanted it.”
Afterward, I was furious, but underneath all that anger, I was conflicted. What he had done to me was obviously wrong, but was I somehow partially responsible?
In my studies at college, I’ve been taught time and time again not to victim-blame, yet when it actually happened to me, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt. It was Tinder – what did I expect? I was wearing a bathing suit and drinking beer; what kind of message did that send?
I went on and on with my list of hypothetical reasons I was to blame before I finally made peace with the situation: It was never my fault.
I’m not alone; one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college. I’ve heard countless accounts of how women feel somehow responsible for their assault. It’s time to start putting the blame on the perpetrator, not the victim.
I am not trying to attack Tinder. I believe Tinder can serve as a function of sexual liberation for many women. Tinder isn’t the problem, rapists and rape culture are.
Unfortunately, there are men who won’t take no for an answer on the other side of any dating site or app, just like there are in the real world. You can meet a rapist online, in a bar, at the grocery store or at work.
But there is a narrative accompanying hook-up culture that prescribes certain norms for women and holds them to a double standard. I invited a guy over from Tinder, so I “obviously wanted it,” in his eyes.
With dating apps and social media becoming increasingly prevalent, more young women are trying to figure out how to navigate this modern – and often confusing – dating world.
Whether you’re looking for love and a committed relationship or just a quick fling, it can only help when everyone starts to take a not-so-serious app just a little bit more seriously.
*Names have been changed.
When she’s not feeding all the stray cats in the neighborhood, Katlyn is usually found on ASU’s campus finishing her degree in women’s studies and psychology. A lifelong bibliophile, her areas of interest are social justice and gender studies.
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