“But this isn’t chocolate boxes and roses. It’s dirtier than that, like some small animal that only comes out at night.” When Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker wrote these lyrics back in 1995, he eerily predicted the future. His lyrics brilliantly capture, in a Nostradamus-like fashion, the reality of mobile dating.
Welcome to a world where a plethora of faceless individuals thrust phalluses onto your screen as a greeting. And even when the penises are not forthcoming, smokescreens of requestable content mean they are never really far off. Don’t get me wrong, if a hot guy messages you with an attractive dick pic, it’s hard (no pun intended) to say no. But call me old fashioned: I quite like at least to see someone’s face and know their age before they drop their trousers before me, either in person or through a mobile screen.
The worst thing is when someone you have no attraction to or interest in continues to harass you. Even if you clearly say no, yet more unclothed pictures of their minute weapon they list as ‘XXL’ in their profile description flood in. Apparently, not responding to a message requesting “fun?”, is an invitation to be asked if you’d like to have group-sex outdoors, be offered £40 to kick someone in the balls or simply “bend over”.
What I find most unnerving, as a younger member of the non-heteronormative community, is that there’s no protection from unwanted attention. I’ve not yet found any gay dating app that follows the Tinder swipe-and-match feature, allowing you to filter the people who can talk to you. Create a profile on any such gay site or app and you put yourself into the lion’s den. Even if you clearly state your interested age-group, this doesn’t stop people who could be your great grandfather messaging you – repeatedly.
You open yourself up not only to the kind of people you wish to attract, but the ‘man-grid’ feature allows you to converse with anyone and everyone. This is not necessarily an entirely negative feature. Whatever your aim of using these apps, the man-grid does increase your chances of finding a date. I’ve dated plenty of weird people from these apps, but also some pretty sweet ones to whom I wouldn’t have necessarily have spoken first.
But then there are the frankly creepy old men who seem to prey on the young fresh meat. Fair enough, some guys are, in fact, looking for ‘daddies’ (older men to pamper them) and the app Scruff caters for all your daddy issues. But when a 75 year old repeatedly messages you, signing his name off like your Gran does, you can’t help but feel uncomfortable that someone nearly four times your age would like to meet up with you. Some of the chat-up lines and usernames can be hilarious. ‘BubbleButt1948’ makes me titter every time he tries to get me to send him dick pics. But you can’t help but feel disconcerted that these elderly men think it’s okay to repeatedly harass younger and more vulnerable men in a sphere that is already so daunting to navigate.
Much like Jarvis said 20 years ago, it’s definitely not a box of chocolates.