Contrary to popular opinion, dating apps are not an entirely new concept. In the course of studying dating apps, I traced their journey to their predecessors in the 1980s and ‘90s; the internet chat rooms, which attracted its fair share of queer folks. Fast forward to 2009, Grindr was a game-changer in the market for online dating apps. With its launch and subsequent popularity, a number of such apps were launched for straight folks as well, including the much popular and notorious Tinder.
Not much has been studied by way of analysing how dating apps work for queer women, especially in the South Asian context. Research work aside, my personal experiences as a self-proclaimed feminist on these apps have been a combination of exhilarating as well as exasperating. Let’s begin shall we?
Believe it or not, but one of the first spaces I ‘came out’ to was on my OkCupid profile. The fact that I could choose the option ‘bisexual’ and not be met with smirks, side-glances or frowns was rather liberating. How this liberation encountered cisgender-heterosexual (cis-het) men is a story I will get into a bit later.
Given that we all don’t come from the sort of privilege that allows us to “seena thok ke” declare our queer identities in cyber spaces, the option of remaining anonymous or having a different name is essential. Those of you, who don’t mention their actual names on the profile, will agree with me that it helps keep creeps at bay.
Thanks to Papa Patriarchy, a majority of us suffer from some or the other version of body-shaming. We constantly belittle how we look and this gets exacerbated when we go through break-ups. I found myself on dating apps right after a break-up, but this turned out to be therapeutic for me. Online admirers (genuine or chance maaro-ing) really help picking your self-esteem up, and you really do push the demons of self-doubt, at least temporarily, to the back of your mind.
Some of these dating apps really go into minute details when you’re setting up your profile. They are basically trying to get as accurate a match for you as possible. This may seem taxing (the questionnaire can remind you of an MCQ exam), but it really helps in avoiding the scum of the earth, which exist on the internet. You know people who say, “You’re not like other women” and think that’s a compliment. Or “My uncle says I’m dating a Pakistani.” These gems came to me from people I actually dated; so excuse me if I don’t entirely trust offline spaces for providing amazing dating choices.
The tired old tale of ‘woman flinging is equal to slut’ is unfortunately not worn out. However, quite surprisingly the people I met through these apps, were not the annoying kind who would label you, just because you ticked ‘casual’ or ‘short-term’ relationship. In offline spaces, individuals have been more unforgiving and also annoyingly paranoid whenever I mentioned flings to them.
To be able to unabashedly tell my friends that dating apps will not leave me emotionally distraught. That I will not fall in love with people I’m only looking to fling with. It turned out to be a successful social experiment, where I unknowingly proved to myself and to others that women do NOT necessarily need love to be physically intimate with someone.
But of course not everything turns out as hunky-dory as we would expect it to be. Almost every third cis-het man I interacted with on these dating apps would ask me if I was interested in threesomes because, you know, I’m bisexual. RIP logic. Bisexuality has become less of a sexual orientation, and more of a fetish for cis-het men. It’s like they now have ready access to queer women and they can direct their misplaced fantasies in their direction.
It’s no secret that even within the LGBTQA+ community, there is an abundance of myths, prejudices and general mistrust towards bisexuals. Unsurprisingly there was considerable bi-phobia amongst the queer women who I would speak with on these apps as well. “Oh you’re so nice to talk to, but pity you’re bisexual.” Or the quintessential “My last partner was bisexual, she left me for a man.” Yes, yes, all bisexuals operate on these super evil genes where we hiss and laugh in the face of commitment and monogamy.
So in conclusion, online dating apps are a refreshing change from aimlessly sitting at the bar hoping to get lucky. At the same time, there have been cases of individuals facing harassment and/or threats from people they met through these apps as well. It’s a matter of being careful, but also trusting yourself with a new medium to explore and redefine what sexuality means for you. Life’s too short, and also FOMO people!