It’s not the dating apps that are hurting women, it’s the men on them

It’s not the dating apps that are hurting women, it’s the men on them

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, ‘Cracking the Code’, focuses on innovation in the fight against discrimination. But if we want gender equality, we need a new code of men respecting women, she writes Kirra Spiteri, Suzy McGregor and Tamzen Armer.

*CONTENT WARNING: This article is about rape

IN 1955, “she” was sexually assaulted by a man she met on a dating app. Unless, of course, you didn’t meet him on an app. He met her the way people did 28 years ago – through friends, at work or at a bar. Besides, it doesn’t really matter how you met him. She was sexually assaulted by a man.

You see, “date rape,” as it was called back then, is nothing new. It’s not because people use dating apps. The truth is that men have always harassed, stalked, abused, raped, and killed women they met in bars, bookstores, churches, and universities. Men choose to harm women. It’s that simple.

Still, he gets blamed somehow — especially when the attack involves a dating app like Tinder. You don’t use apps to get hurt – you use them because that’s how people meet now. She uses them because society tells her that a woman should try to find a man. Use them because you certainly have the right to date and be safe.

Addressing rape culture to prevent sexual harassment

UN Women Australia’s theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Cracking the Code: Innovating for Gender Equality”. (International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world on March 8 every year.)

“Cracking the Code” highlights the role that bold, transformative ideas and inclusive technologies can play in advancing equality. So, in keeping with this year’s theme, let’s innovate to make dating safer.

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But it’s always been innovative, hasn’t it? From sharing your location with friends, everyone knows when to return home, and then announcing that you’re home safely. He even carried keys between his wrists, avoided going out at night, made sure all his dates were in very public places, covered his drinks, ordered angel shots and proposed to Angela. Yet, despite all efforts, women are still hurt by men.

In 2019, he did the “right” things: met her in public, told someone where she was, and always had her key handy. Despite this, she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on a dating app.

She had no reason not to trust him. He told her how much he wanted to find his soul mate. He told her about the white fence dream. He shoved society’s expectations of women in her face and made her believe that she was safe. Then he decided to take it all away from her… the white picket fence and her safety.

He returned to the app in 2021 and is said to be still looking for his soul mate. This story can be different with innovation: through robust control systems and criminal checks. Instead, a man’s privacy seems to be valued more than a woman’s safety.

And yes, not all rapists are men, but let’s face it, 97 percent of sexual assault perpetrators are men. Women can rape, but the extremely low rate of sexual harassment committed by women is no argument against it. It needs to be talked about, but not with the intention of derailing conversations about the prevalence of male violence against women. And of course, when apps are problematic and we innovate to make them more secure, that’s a win-win.

Morrison's sexual harassment trolls women

When it was attacked in 1995, the rhetoric around consent was “no means no”. He believed that if men heard him, he would understand and respect him. Thought “no means no” would end rape and violence against women.

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However, even in 2023, 28 years later, nothing has changed. Him, “no means no” means nothing. You know the problem isn’t with dating apps, it’s with men. She is still seeking protective orders from the police against men she met on Tinder.

In 2023, we need innovative approaches to highlight how male violence can be made invisible. As we crack the code to make dating apps safer, we are distracted from where the real harm lies.

She didn’t “find herself stuck on a Tinder date” – she found a violent man who chose to harm her.

If we really want to innovate for a future of gender equality, we need a new code: one where attitudes change, victim-blaming stops, and men respect, not abuse, women.

What will happen to him in 2024?

If you want to talk to someone about sexual violence, call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or online chat.

Kirra Spiteri is a nurse and student currently studying politics, policy and international relations. She is a passionate advocate for human rights and a member of the Amnesty Australia Feminist Network. You can follow Kirra on Twitter @kirraspiteri.

Suzy McGregor is a learning strategy consultant specializing in leadership and project management. She is interested in ending violence against women and gender equality in the workplace and is an active member of the Amnesty International Australia Activist Skills Collective.

Tamzen Armer is a member of the Amnesty Australia Feminist Network. She has a personal and professional interest in women’s rights, especially a life free from violence and equal access to education and healthcare.

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