Tinder and Hookup-Culture: A Help or Hindrance to Feminism? // Meghann Soby
Photo from : http://newscult.com/this-story-about-a-tinder-date-will-leave-you-on-the-floor-in-the-puddle-of-tears/
Many of us have probably at least heard of or even used the popular dating app “tinder.” The app allows you to browse through nearby users and either give them a “thumbs up” (swipe right) or a “thumbs down” (swipe left) based merely upon a few photos and a brief, sometimes sparse, biography.
Recently I decided to try the app and I had heard frequently that while the app was created for dating, it is primarily used as a hookup app. However, I figured it could serve as a potential distraction from my difficult breakup and did not see the harm in using it for an easy self-esteem boost as well.
Naturally I came across a variety of potential suitors. Some just looking for another person with similar interests to share casual conversation with, few looking for genuine relationships, and many seeking a simple no-strings-attached “hookup buddy.” I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for when I first downloaded the app, I certainly wasn’t ready for another serious relationship but the idea of casual sex with a stranger made me anxious.
At first the app felt like a great confidence boost, and picked me up a bit after feeling down. However, after a little while I began to become annoyed by the vulgar messages I was receiving and the expectation that I would meet up with these men for casual sex.
Then I began thinking quite a bit about tinder, hookup culture, and the implications these things have for feminism. In some ways the app and the culture are empowering. I am in control of my profile and can choose pictures where I feel pretty, and create a profile any way I wish – whether it be snarky song lyrics, or a full description of my interests. Then, upon matching with a man I deem attractive or feel I could have a connection with, I could meet up with him if I so choose. I could even have a one night stand or continue to meet up with said man for casual sex. I would have the opportunity to embrace my sexuality and my sexual needs that are so often suppressed or deemed “taboo.”
That said, there’s another view to the tinder argument. To what extent does tinder also hinder feminism? It seems that while some women feel empowered and enjoy using tinder as an outlet for sex, it also seems as though other women feel a certain pressure to engage with this hookup culture and may not feel comfortable doing so. I fully acknowledge that not all women may have this experience, however I feel that it is relevant to the experiences that many women do have. In some ways, is a part of me and other women specifically choosing photos and creating profiles that we feel will help us stand out and seem the most appealing to the array of men coming our way, rather than choosing and creating for ourselves? Of course. Further, while the attention may feel good, many of the vulgar messages are demeaning. Many men on this app expect the women that they are messaging to fall at their feet and give in to a night of meaningless sex, and when they come across a woman who doesn’t wish to have such casual sex or meet up, they are deemed a prude or told that they shouldn’t even be using the app. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with women using tinder to meet up for casual sex, all am I saying is that for many men this is the expectation and not all women are looking for that sort of relationship. This situation can leave the women who don’t wish to engage with these men feeling as if there is something wrong with them for not wanting to do so, or they may feel pressure to meet up with these men. For the women who do meet up with these men for whatever reason they have, often times once they’ve met for sex the relationship ends there or may continue purely on a sexual basis. Often times these women are viewed by their tinder match as used or tainted in some way, or potentially not worthy of anything other than sex. I have heard sentiments such as these from various women I have discussed tinder and hookup culture with, and I have come away feeling similarly. I did get the courage to meet up with one of my tinder matches and after a few meetings, I came away feeling disrespected and pressured into complying with his expectations.
Such expectations and treatment from men, potentially causing women to have reduced self-esteem and self-worth, could negatively impact the progress that feminism has made. How can society continue to move forward if so many men still view women as sexual objects existing to please them? Also then how as a society can we help women to recognize and feel comfortable with their own wishes: i.e. whether or not they would like to partake in “hookup culture,” and not feel pressured to do so? How can we establish that it is acceptable for a woman to seek a solely sexual relationship and that her “value” is not diminished for doing so? Finally, at the same time how can we establish that it is acceptable for women to feel uncomfortable with the nature of hookup culture?
I am hoping that this post and the questions I’ve posed will help to spark a productive discussion on this topic. I would also like to say that I recognize that there are varying viewpoints on this topic, but I do hope that others are able to recognize the potential harm that hookup culture and apps like tinder could cause to both women AND men and the feminist movement as a whole. I also would like to say that I recognize that this post is written from a heteronormative perspective, as this has been my experience, but I do acknowledge that others may have varied perspectives and opinions, which I would appreciate hearing and discussing further.