Tinder and Casual Sex: The Social Double Standard for the Sexes

By Annie Zidek

Courtesy of  Giulia Bersani

Courtesy of Giulia Bersani

Sex has always been coupled with social scrutiny, both separating agency from sexuality and scrutinizing people who personally partake in casual sex. Today we see this through the perpetuation of double standards for the sexes with dating apps. Even though the apps are meant to be a level playing field for the sexes sexually, there is still a major disconnect between what men and women can ask from casual partners.

Now, it’s important to realize sex wasn’t always as normative as it is today. The Social Purity Movement, which moved sex from its religious context and into the secular sector in the late nineteenth century, was essentially the middle class policing sexuality and regulating it socially. The Social Purity Movement advocated a single view of morality for both sexes, critiquing men—married and single—who had sex with prostitutes outside of marriage reinforcing young women’s purity for marriage.

Not only was the Social Purity movement the start of the modern regulation of women’s sexuality, but it was also brought sex into public eye. Even though the movement consequently resulted in years of the push and pull of sex in the public eye, it was a necessary step towards its destigmatization. Thankfully, we have had feminists throughout history who have championed the efforts to normalize sexuality and its presence in our everyday lives.

In fact, feminism’s push for the normalization of casual sex pushed back the age of marriage. An Atlantic article from 2013 notes, on average, American women are ringing the bells of their first marriage at 27. So now your twenties are the time to take advantage of your own sexuality comparatively to when marriage was the standard. So now young people the cusp of adulthood engage in hook up culture and casual sex.

Though painted as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, hook up culture is meant to be the encouragement of sexual exploration with respect towards yourself and your partners. Casual sex is good; it’s beneficial. A cornerstone for third wave feminism, casual sex is meant to be empowering; it is about the self—with respect towards your consenting partner(s), of course. It is taking control of one’s own sexuality and expressing it liberally. Casual sex is about the self, about owning one’s sexuality. And dating apps cater to this sexual liberation while simultaneously feeding into social currency, the idea that social apps create your sense of self worth.

Dating apps like Tinder allow people to connect with others and meet up do what they want, no strings attached. It gives people a sense of sexual freedom, of agency and control. Casual sex isn’t harmful if done in a safe way. In her Ted Talk, sex psychologist Dr. Zhana Vrangalova even says casual sex is beneficial: The day after casual sex, most people experience positive emotions: adventuresome, pleased, desirable, and excited, for example. She also says casual sex encourages communication, which adds to a heightened sense of self-awareness.

But that’s the hypothetical, and we live in a world where the hypothetical isn’t necessarily the reality.

Nowadays, dating apps perpetuate slut shaming and double standards and, in turn, create an atmosphere of social inequality and an unsafe environment for casual sex, especially for women.

Apps like Tinder are meant to level the playing field—to allow men and women to find partners without shame through new technology. But it doesn’t. There’s a discussion surrounding the topic. In my History of Sex class, we discussed how women knowingly put themselves in positions where they can be harassed online through these apps: men use dirty pick up lines, dehumanizing the women and seeing them as something to be won.

One of the girls in my class, identifying as bisexual, opts to match with both men and women on Tinder, and she sees the striking differences in the communication from the genders: the women say, “Hi, how are you?” or “Hey, what’s up?” whereas the men can blatantly say, “hey wanna fuck?” There is a problem within the social currency of online dating. Women are harassed through chats on Tinder, and they know this. In a way, by using the app, they are submitting to (and expecting) harassment from the some of the men that use online dating apps. They’re willingly putting themselves in this position because they are so used to it offline.

Calling back on the Social Purity Movement, there still is a double standard for men and women when it comes to casual intimacy. Sure, a resurgence of “slut shaming” for men has come up like the word “fuckboy,” but women have had years—their own history, even—of sexual oppression and slut shaming:

Prostitutes were blamed for venereal disease throughout history (during the late nineteenth century, during World War I and II).

In the early 1900s, promiscuous women were often deemed feebleminded when institutionalized, and they were often sterilized.

Until the pill in 1960 and Roe v. Wade in 1973, contraceptives were scarce, and abortion was illegal, so women went to great lengths to terminate their pregnancies, ultimately hurting themselves.

When the pill came out in 1960, only single women in the cities and married women had access to the contraceptive, limiting access to people who needed it.

In 1991, people questioned the validity of Anita Hill’s case against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas regarding Thomas’s sexual harassment towards Hill.

(To name a few.)

Basically, women have faced a series of micro and macro aggressions throughout history, and today it translates into their treatment in online spaces. Their social currency is comprised of hyper-sexualization and societal expectations, which some men then warp and use to harass these women on online platforms. Sexual self-awareness, which can be achieved with the help of Tinder, is stripped away because men are dominating dating apps and leaving women in the confines of their gender roles and stuck in within the parameters of double standards.

In order to change the way we talk online, we must first reform the way we interact in person. While there are steps being taken, there are still many more steps to take:

Stop slut-shaming women. You cannot make women feel guilty for the number of sexual partners they have. They have agency and have ability too many sexual partners, and you cannot shame them for that.

Do not shame women for being blunt and assertive; she’s not a bitch: she knows what she wants. She is self-aware. If anything, she should be commended for

There needs to be more portrayal of single women in media. Hollywood needs to produce pieces of work where women are not chasing down lovers, where women are not relying on men emotionally and sexually. Literature needs to publish works that portray women as single women without a subplot of love interests. Get movies and lit to pass the Bechdel test.

These are only three ways to help revamp the way we look at women in regards to their sexcapades, two of them being moves you can make. Though small, they can start with you and help change the bigger picture of the way we treat women.

As for the portrayal of single women, Hollywood should make moves to release movies that show women as single women—happy ending or not. They should portray real women. If Hollywood, an influential industry, can change the way they see and show women, then the way women are viewed and treated as single people can change for the better. They can be seen as people that have autonomy and sexual expression.

Give women the sexual freedom they deserve.

Instagram, Doughnuts, and What it Means to be Popular

By Jaclyn Jermyn

I’ve had my Instagram account since early 2011—I like to think that somehow makes me ahead of the curve since the app was launched in October of 2010. In a way, I’ve watched it evolve and through it, I’ve watched myself grow up. A lot has changed—I started with a first generation iPod Touch in a hot pink case—and some things don’t—five years later and I still take a lot of pictures of my socks and dogs.

If we look at the apps we’ve had for the longest amount of time, it’s not hard to consider the relationship we have with our technology. Like any good relationship, our needs evolve over time. I went from using Instagram to edit grainy photos to put on Tumblr to cultivating and curating my view of the world. And like any relationship, once in awhile, you may find yourself seeking attention.

For the past two years I have had one elusive social media goal—I want to qualify for Popular Pays. For those of you don’t know, Popular Pays is a perfectly crafted marketing ploy that sets small items from local businesses (think a biscuit from Bang Bang Pie or a slice of pizza from Dimos) as rewards for Instagram users posting pictures of their treasures and tagging the store and their company. The only catch is that each reward has a qualifying number of followers tacked on to it. For those of you who do know what I’m talking about, you’re probably either in the same boat that I’m in—pining away for free stuff or you’ve already made it and you’re rolling in free doughnuts. Congrats if so. 



Why do I want free doughnuts so badly? Well, to be fair, I really do love doughnuts but I’ve bought plenty of doughnuts on my own accord before and it hasn’t done extensive damage to my bank account or my psyche. But with my 460-something follower count, I have been deemed “not popular enough to deserve free stuff,” and damn if that isn’t a weird psychological blow when you think about it.

I will be the first to admit that I probably spend too much time on Instagram but I find it hard not to have plenty of excitement about seeing the personal worlds of strangers and friends alike. These are the things that people want to share. Here’s what people are eating. This is where people are living. If I do something that I think was beautiful, I don’t feel silly for posting multiple times a day. Last year when I road-tripped to 16 states in a week, I was posting pictures constantly. I wanted people to share some of the raw joy I was feeling waking up in the Grand Canyon or playing in the Pacific Ocean. 

So it’s not all bad. I may be crossing my fingers daily that I get a sudden influx of followers and I can achieve arbitrary entrance into the “cool-kids-club” but while I wait that out, I’ve found a way to share my life with people, wherever they are. Screw authenticity—who doesn’t like a little validation occasionally?

Also, follow me on Instagram @tinyhorsestatue and maybe one day I can share my free doughnuts with you. 

Social Media As A Coping Mechanism

By Siobhan Roca Payne

Courtesy of Siobhan Roca Payne

Courtesy of Siobhan Roca Payne

TW: Mention of mental illness, ED, self harm

When we talk about being mentally ill on social media, we’re talking about a lot of things. We’re talking about how we want our sadness / anxiety / trauma to look. How we want to dress it up to help other people understand it and by association, understand us. We’re talking about social media breakdowns, airing out our pain and suffering to every single acquaintance, friend, and extended family member we have.

More than 450 million people suffer from some sort of mental illness worldwide. Of course, this is a number that represents those who have been diagnosed, who have a mental illness prevalent enough to show up in a census. It doesn’t count people who live in countries with no mental health policies or programs who can’t access treatment or tell their stories to therapists, so it’s easier to post about it on Tumblr.

It doesn’t count people who don’t realize that mental illness is a part of their brain chemistry, their every day experience. It doesn’t count people who know that something is wrong, but don’t want to access treatment. I can think of quite a few people I know who aren’t diagnosed or open about suffering from mental health issues, but are clearly going through something. I can tell by what they post. It’s unnerving.

There is a common image of mental illness that is shown to the general population through Buzzfeed videos and widely shared viral posts, a composite that is paraded to try and educate people who think they’ve never felt like this. It exists to show them what it looks like, so they can help the people around them who are hurting. 

“It’s like this,” it says. “Imagine a thin white woman. Her hair is a little dirty, and she’s wearing rumpled clothes that are maybe a little loose. She’s laying in her bed, looking up at the ceiling, and there are darkish circles under her eyes. If you were to ask her how she was feeling, she would say—‘I’m tired. I’m tired all the time, but I’m still sleeping too much. I can’t get out of bed, and I don’t want to do the things I usually enjoy. I’m quiet in class, or at work. I feel really sad, all the time, and I don’t know why.’ Now, after talking about how she feels, she bursts into tears and cries into her pillow, her body curling up into a fetal position, communicating: helplessness, fatigue, and fear. She is depressed. That is what it looks like.”

We show this arguably powerful composite image of ourselves to those outliers of mental illness because it's easy, because it's represented in the media, because it’s always better to simplify complex issues if you’re going for basic understanding. It’s logical in its simplicity. `

It’s also dishonest.

While I’m sure that image of mental illness really does exist somewhere, it’s genuinely hurtful to make such sweeping generalizations of such a personal experience. Mental illness manifests differently in all of us, whether we are diagnosed or not. 

I feel my depression in my hands most of the time—my hands are what I need to write, to touch my partner, to do my makeup and take care of my body. When I get particularly bad, my hands don’t work. They don’t want to do any of those things I need to do to be myself. 

Most of all, they really, really don’t want to write. They feel heavy and clunky, more like prosthetics than the able hands that I am lucky enough to have. This is a much more devastating part of my illnesses than not being able to get out of bed, or being tired—I’m used to that.

I’ve been depressed—probably—my entire life. It’s because of genetics, it’s because of circumstance, it’s because of how my mind processes emotions, interpersonal relationships, and self worth/esteem. It doesn’t matter why. What matters is how I cope. What matters is how much my illnesses stop me from doing the things I need to do. What matters is how seriously I take myself when I say “I want to die.”

It’s silly to think about, but when I am compiling my composite image of my own mental illness, when I decide what aspects of my treatments (or lack thereof) to share with the wider world, it comes with the additional stress of trying to cultivate an image, a brand, a career. I have to think twice before posting, because of my employment affiliations. I have to think twice before posting, because if my online presence is off-putting, magazines won’t want to publish me.

This complicates things, particularly because social media validation is one of my only sources of self worth and self esteem.

I could make a long-winded Facebook post about my recovery, about how I’m getting better, about how I am beating my illnesses. 

(Author’s Note: these sorts of posts, from anybody, are usually bullshit. Well-intentioned, but still bullshit.)

To someone reading, that could sound like I’ve done something really amazing with myself, like I’ve officially stopped binge eating forever, or that I threw away my self harm tools, or that I flushed my prescription meds down the drain and took up holistic medicine and meditation.

In reality, all that could mean is that I actually dragged myself to therapy today, or that today I was able to say, loud and clear, “I have an eating disorder,” or that I washed and dried the dishes. Those things are all herculean tasks for me, requiring a lot of strenuous use of coping mechanisms and my beloved prescription medication. 

We do what we need to do to get by. Some people need to portray their mental illness always through the lens of recovery, of improvement, of a far off, golden “someday.” Other people choose to live within the harsher and uglier realities, posting at length about their trauma, their poor decisions, and how jaded they are with themselves and everyone else. Some people choose to say nothing at all. 

Hey. Existing is difficult. We all get through it in different ways.

I cope with the validation I receive on social media, in the form of likes, shares, favorites, retweets, reblogs, comments, follows, and whatever else they’re calling it now. 

One of those things we don’t really talk about when we talk about mental illness is that living with all of this pain can often sap your personal reserves of not only energy, but also self esteem. It’s hard to love yourself when your brain is constantly telling you that you’re so worthless and that you should be dead. It’s hard to say, “I look pretty today,” when the image you see in the mirror is constantly distorting.

But likes on social media are essentially temporary hits of self esteem. It’s another human being saying:

“Yes. I like this, and in this moment, I can see you, I am acknowledging you, and validating your existence.” 

Or, even better: “I feel this way, too.”

That sentiment is meaningful. When you struggle every day with the validity of your existence, your place in the world, and whether or not it’s worth it to wake up tomorrow, you’ll take anything that makes you feel better. 

I don’t have a real following on the Internet. I don’t even have a modest following on the Internet. It’s mostly just people I know in real life who aren’t immediately put off by nihilism, constant swearing, and self-indulgent wonderings on various pop culture happenings. However, there’s also some people who aren’t afraid to tell me they feel the same way, which is a gift beyond all comprehension.

The people who follow me see me. They’re accepting me into their Internet world, whatever that means to them. And I can point to that and say, “Why, yes. I do exist.”