Stuff that I think about. Mostly books.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Online Dating, Controlvees, and Street Harassment: A Musing

For better or for worse, and possibly against my better judgment, I've recently re-entered the fray of online dating. I make no defense, except to say that I meet people almost exclusively through book publishing these days, and straight single dudes are somewhat hard to find in that context. It's lost its stigma, ok? Digital Age! Social Media! Leave Me Alone!

Anyway, if you're a straight single woman of moderate attractiveness who has ever tried online dating, you know that you basically get two types of messages. The first type is from a guy who has read (or at least skimmed) what you've posted in your profile, found something interesting, and struck up a conversation about it. They might not do it very well, and their motives might not always be sincere, but they're at least trying to engage you and learn about you and get you talking.

The second type is from a different kind of man altogether, whom I like to call the Controlvee, based on his method of message-composing: Ctrl+C + Ctrl+V. The Controlvee sends exactly the same message, perhaps with some small variations, to every woman he thinks is likely to give him a boner. The Controlvees can themselves be broken into two separate categories. The Clueless Controlvee is probably a perfectly nice man in real life, but simply doesn't get it. His message usually goes something like this:

"Hey! I had a look at your profile and you seem like a really cool girl. I'm a confident 25-year-old who loves to get outside and enjoy everything this city has to offer! I'm looking for someone I can take out for romantic dinners, spend weekends on camping trips, and just relax and enjoy life. Write me back if you like what you see!"
While the Clueless Controlvee isn't trying to be offensive, he still is. Because nothing in that message translates into "I am interested in you as a human being, and would like to talk to you about things that you are passionate about, because we share common interests." It just translates into "I'm bored and lonely and I saw your photo and you appear not to be disfigured so I'm going to shotgun this form letter out to you in the hopes that you'll care enough to reply in a way that I didn't." Or, in other words: "I want you to make all the effort, because I'm lazy."

The other kind of Controlvee is a different breed altogether, and I have termed him Controlvee McDouche. Controlvee McDouche is, not to put too fine a point on it, an asshole. Like the Clueless Controlvee, he copies-and-pastes the exact same message to every woman within a 100-mile radius who doesn't look like she lives in a swamp. If you're lucky, his message will look like this:

"wow what a beatuful smile!!! do u have msn? check out my profile n let me know if u want 2 chat ;) xo mike"

It's always Mike.

If you're not lucky, it looks like this:

"dayaaam girl u gotta nice pair!!! lol jus playin' whut u doin this weekend? hit me up"

I'm not sure what Controlvee McDouche is thinking, but I can be sure of this: Controlvee McDouche is not at all interested in me. He's interested in what he can get out of me. To Controlvee McDouche, I am not a human being with experiences, interests, and values, some of which do not involve his penis. I am something he can use to accomplish what he wants. To put it another way, I am an object.

I've been reading The Sexist a lot recently, and Amanda Hess strikes up a lot interesting discussions about street harassment. What's been fascinating to me, as I navigate this nebulous world, is how similar the Controlvee is to a street harasser. His approach is the same as those guys who honk their car horn at you when you're walking down the street, or the guy you pass by who demands that you stop and chat with him for a while. The street harasser doesn't care about you; he cares about what you can provide him.

And just like the street harasser, Controlvees really, really hate being called out on their obvious misogyny and objectification. Some men get pretty peeved when they're told that telling a woman they don't know to "give us a smile" is offensive; they think us wimminz, being immediately wooed by compliments, ought to be flattered. Similarly, Controlvees see nothing wrong with their approach, and think that you're the one at fault because you didn't respond. What, you don't like hearing that you have a beautiful smile? What's wrong with you? Don't you like flattery? Everyone likes being told that they're cute! You're just stuck-up! Your standards are way too high!

I don't think my standards are too high, really. I just would like my opinions, activities, and interests to be acknowledged, even in a small way. I have a whole big list right there on my profile of things I like to do, stuff I like to listen to, what I do for a living, opinions I have. None of that matters to Controlvees. Because the only thing that matters to a Controlvee is the Controlvee.

Sigh. I wish I could go back to college. Life was much simpler back then.

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