Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Queer women and straight men

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Queer, bi or lesbian women might actually mean it when they say they don’t want men as sexual partners. No, really, they might be serious about this.

If there is one thing in technology that I am not fully across (besides bitcoins and anything technical about how technology actually works), it is mobile dating apps. In the olden days, singles only had website-based dating sites like Grindr and GaydarGirls, or Christian Mingle and Heteronormative Hookups or whatever it was that heterosexuals used. These days, it seems there are dating apps wherever you look, especially if you look over the shoulders of people on buses using their iPhones. The mobile app Tinder seems to be the one that is currently taking the dating world by storm. It also seems to be exclusively for men who love taking photographs of themselves with tigers (I guess at least the tigers are alive, spared the shame of being killed by a pale white dude in a Bintang singlet).

It is not only men and women interested in dating or hooking up with men who are presented these thrilling examples of masculinity however, women who have signed up to Tinder exclusively looking to match with other women are also treated to these delights.

After reading several reviews of Tinder from websites that are primarily focused on women attracted to women (like Autostraddle and AfterEllen) and talking to people who have mainly used it for that purpose, it seems like the same flaw exists in Tinder that exists in the real world. That is, that everything is hetero-centric, and also that certain undesirable men can access us.

While I’m discussing women who aren’t interested in men romantically or sexually, I don’t mean that all men are undesirable (for once). Tinder’s settings allow you to be shown matches with men, women, or both. Unfortunately, if you set it, as a woman, to be matched with only other women, it seems you will still end up with 30-50% men showing up in your feed. And that is a LOT of swiping left; it could lead to carpalesbian tunnel syndrome.

This flaw occurs to some extent within all the gender and sexuality preferences, but men rarely show up in the feeds of men looking only for women. As a woman, I set my preferences for wanting ‘only women’ and swiped through, ending up being shown approximately 25% men. I then set my preferences to ‘only men’ and got shown zero women. It could be a design flaw within the app, but the fact that it seems to occur more often one way indicates that at least part of the cause is certain (genius) men adjusting their settings in the hopes of matching with women who are only interested in women.

This could be a cynical conclusion to draw, but this issue was not invented by Tinder and is certainly not restricted to Tinder. At least on Tinder you can just swipe away the problem without being approached. There are plenty of other apps where queer women are inundated with messages from men attempting to convince them that they just need a man.

The issue is not even restricted to the Internet. In the year of our Beyoncé 2014, the mindset of some straight men that you encounter online, within apps, out in the real world and in a lot movies is STILL that lesbians are just waiting for the right man to come along. Women can’t possibly be satisfied emotionally or sexually with only each other. The patriarchy benefits straight men the most, and some of them are bewildered and scared by the thought that women can somehow get along without them.

Nothing typifies this more than the ‘Dip me in honey and throw me to the lesbians’ bumper stickers. Guess what heterosexual male car-owners of the world? You are just going to end up lying by yourself covered in honey. A dog or fly might check you out, or maybe Winnie the Pooh will match with you on Tinder, but lesbians don’t love honey enough for it to change our sexual attractions. As a queer woman, I feel like the one bonus of being a non-heterosexual in a heteronormative world should be that when we plainly state that we are not interested in dating men, that this be taken seriously.

If a woman at a bar tells you that she is a lesbian, she is either: 1) probably a lesbian; or 2) so not interested in talking to you specifically that she has made up a lie in the hopes you will leave her alone. In both of these cases, she doesn’t want to talk to you and continuing to try to do so is pointless, desperate, and inappropriate. If a woman has signed up to a dating app and has made it very clear that she is only interested in dating women, that she doesn’t even want to see the men’s profiles, and you approach her anyway, what are you doing?

Is it that these men see it as a challenge? If so, try to challenge yourself to something you can (maybe) achieve, like not being the worst person in the world.

Is it that they are curious about lesbians? I understand that. I’m curious too. Try making a lesbian friend and asking her questions like a human being.

Or could it be that some men just can’t stand being left out in the cold? Are they are so used to being the centre of the world, and women existing for their sexual gratification that women who own their sexuality in a different way, who exist and are romantically fulfilled and sexually pleasured autonomously from men make them angry and scared, and they have to intrude into this world to try and show supremacy? I guess we can never know.

The problem is so widespread that dating apps have been developed purely for women wanting to meet other women. One such example is Dattch, a British app that has been developed by women and was built to cater for anyone who identifies as a lesbian, bisexual or bi-curious woman. Dattch has tried to separate itself from the pack by taking a visually heavy Pinstagram-inspired approach, and by also having a verification process in place to try and discourage male users from infiltrating the app itself (transgender users are welcome, the criteria is that you identify as a woman). Even though this is an app specifically for queer women, an app created in part to try and discourage men from signing up, an app where the users are very clearly not interested in anyone other than women, you will never guess what the creators find is still happening. That’s right, there are still men that attempt to sign up.

Some are trying to game the system and pretend they are women, and some are just (idiots) men who sign up as (idiots) men. When the Dattch team asks verification questions to male users such as, “Can you quickly tell us a bit about yourself and why you’re signing up to a lesbian dating app?” they receive responses like, “…because I am always interested in lesbians and they are hot, so I would like to get to know them around my area”. In another instance, a person was called on the telephone to be verified, and had confirmed that he identified as male. When asked why he bothered to sign up to an app for women to meet women, he responded, “I want to meet women”. When the Dattch representative explained that they don’t accept male users, the man ASKED. HER. OUT. ON. A. DATE.

This kind of blatant obliviousness could be amusing if it didn’t happen constantly. Perhaps it might be amusing if it weren’t that these men are continually undermining an entire group’s sexual identification.

All of this plays into the idea that two women together isn’t ‘real’, that we can’t ‘really’ have sex, that all women need a man to complete them, that men own women’s sexuality, that the default is man, and that men are everything. It is unacceptable that almost all women, regardless of sexuality, have had to endure unwanted attention and situations where a ‘no’ wasn’t taken gracefully and immediately. And it is beyond frustrating to endure that at the same time as having your sexuality dismissed and ignored. I think it’s time someone invented an app that somehow permanently stamps ‘PERSON WHO DOESN’T UNDERSTAND SEXUALITY OR IS PURPOSEFULLY TRAMPLING ON OTHER’S WISHES IN ORDER TO FEEL POWERFUL OR SOMETHING’ (or something pithier) onto the foreheads of those users.

Rebecca Shaw

Rebecca is primary caregiver and confidant to Tippi, the best cat in the world. She also likes writing bad jokes on twitter @brocklesnitch