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Does Usage of Dating Apps Perpetuate Sexism?

Academic Article Dating apps provide an unregulated space for abuse and violence against women, perpetuated by toxic masculinity and gender-based social attitudes.


Sexism is pervasive within our society and that includes our online activities. Unfortunately the internet replicates the real world with women being twenty seven times more likely suffer sexist abuse online than men (Pearce, Suzor, Jane and Rackham, 2016 8.02m). Internet dating has boomed in the last decade with an estimated one third of Australians having used a dating app at some stage in their lives (Yougov 2020). Regrettably women also suffer constant sexist overtones and outright abuse whilst using dating apps. This essay will outline the extent that dating apps perpetuate sexism. 

Gender based stereotypes are clearly detected and enforced, abuse and violence against women continues, and sexist double standards are all conveyed through dating app platforms. Gender based social stereotypes are alive and well on dating app platforms. The Merriam Webster dictionary’s second description of sexism is: ’behaviour, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex’ (Merriam-Webster 2020). Conventional socially accepted gender based roles are child care and domestic duties for women, and providing financial support to the family unit for men (Eagly 1997). These stereotypes affect the social behaviour of men and women (Eckes 2000) in normal dating circumstances. Within dating apps role specific behaviour continues to occur with women being more attracted to men with superior jobs, income, and education level, with them placing less importance on physical appearance (Yasseri 2020). Whereas men are attracted to women with higher perceived physical attractiveness over all other qualities (Yasseri 2020). This is highlighted by the fact that men place more value on a woman’s profile photo than her profile text whereas women place equal value on both (Chappetta 2016). Furthermore, women who appear clever have less chance of success on dating apps (Yasseri 2020). This disappointingly highlights the social stereotype that men prefer women who are intellectually inferior to them. Lee’s study of Reddit conversations regarding dating apps found that men criticised women for being shallow, superficial, and condescending towards them (Lee 2019). This was a negatively perceived gender based stereotype that men had about women. Overall, dating apps provide a platform which allows, and even amplifies, stereotypical social roles based on gender to continue to play out. 

Dating apps give an as yet mostly unregulated platform for the perpetuation of abuse and violence against women. Dr Emma Jane of the University of New South Wales outlines that we need to take lawful measures against cyber abuse in Australia (Jane and Vincent, n.d.). Recently, particularly in digital spaces, practices of toxic masculinity have encouraged some men to position women as inferior through being sexually aggressive and valuing dominance and control (Hess and Flores, 2016). Dating apps like Grindr and Tinder create an atmosphere of online shopping where people are treated as objects for consumption with little intimacy being achieved before sex and people being discarded after sex (Conner 2019). Haywood found in a series of interviews that male users in particular have a habit of objectifying and commodifying women. In this scenario, men are portrayed as the consumers, and women as the products (Haywood 2018, 142). This can lead to perpetrations of abuse and violence on the part of some men which has taken many forms. These include cyber flashing (non-consensual sexually explicit photos of which the most well known are ‘dick pics’) (Thompson 2018), verbal abuse including slut shaming, fat shaming, and appearance based shaming (Gillett 2018). Also included are sexualised, gendered, and, sexually aggressive speech such as bitch slut and whore, and the non consensual circulation of sexually explicit photos (Thompson 2018). Also, slander across social media sites, and threatening, intimidating, and violent language including rape threats (Thompson 2018). Dating apps have even been used to help commit sexual assault (Hopkins 2016). The following are anonymous chat excerpts taken from the Tinder Nightmares profile on Instagram (Tinder Nightmares 2020). These demonstrate the type of everyday abuse received by women on the Tinder dating app: 

You like being choked? 

In a respectful way 

But not too respectful 

24 January 


Yo bitch I like your face 

27 October 2019 


 Girl did you fall out of a ufo because your forehead is fucking massive 


You’re fuckin rude Lol 

you tryna hookup 

22 December


U kinda ugly But we could still fucc doe 

1 May 2020


Hi sexy I’m gonna fist you 

15 Feb 


What’s good miss piggy? 

You tryna suck this dick? 

Lemme fuck those nostrils 

29 August 


Forgive me for being forward but I would suck that fat out of your ass

What an odd opener u chose to go with Fuck u 

19 December 


Hey Hello you U cute 


Is it weird im wanking to u? 


3 January


(Tinder Nightmares 2020) 

Sexist double standards that exist in normal dating have been carried through into dating apps. Whilst women who have many sexual contacts are stigmatised and derogated with terms like ‘tinderslut’, men are admired and rewarded (Kreager and Staff, 2009). Kreager and Staff’s study found that amongst adolescents the greater the number of sexual conquests a boy made the more they were accepted by their peers, whereas girls were negatively impacted by the number of sexual partners they had had (Kreager and Staff, 2009). The following is an example taken from an interview with a male tinder user: ‘Guys view everything as a competition, who’s slept with the best, hottest girls.’ (Sales 2015) says a man who claims to have slept with 30 to 40 women in the past year. And contrarily a young man speaks about a female peer who has shared naked photos of herself: ‘But girls like this I wouldn’t love. I don’t know why, I just wouldn’t love. I wouldn’t have respect for them … It might sound rude yeah but girls like that … I would just have sex with her and then leave her. I wouldn’t want to – I would talk to her, but I wouldn’t get in a relationship with her.’ (Ringrose, Harvey, Gill and Livingstone, 2013). Armstrong, a University of Michigan sociology professor, said in an interview; ‘For young women, the problem in navigating sexuality and relationships is still gender inequality’ (Sales 2015). Further exacerbating the problem is that women who don’t comply with social standards around their behaviour can be subjected to frightening forms of gender discipline (Thompson 2018, SOCI3025, Lecture 8, 2020).. This has included men responding with misogynistic forms of correctives such as shaming and threats of rape and sexual assault (Jane 2014). The internet replicates the real world and unfortunately, this also includes sexist double standards which are commonly enforced through corrective measures taken by other dating app users, in this case. 

Dating apps are a minefield of sexism that can leave women feeling anywhere from annoyed to psychologically or even physically harmed. Pervasive sexist attitudes and their liberal expression over this platform mimic the real world and perhaps even surpass it under the subjective anonymity of the online arena. The current lack of effective law specific to online activities, and its lack of enforcement in Australia, leaves women vulnerable to random acts of abuse ranging from mild to heinous in its intention and effect. It is clear that dating apps perpetuate sexism as gender based stereotypes, sexist double standards, and abuse and violence against women has been clearly documented and experienced by women in an ongoing basis. Regrettably, as victims of sexism it has been largely left up to women to try to combat and change these mindsets and behaviours. This puts women at an even greater disadvantage as it takes large amounts of energy and time which women could be putting to better use towards their own goals and advancement, as do men. 


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