Nancy Jo Sales’s book on addictive, toxic mobile apps reveals how women still cater to men and blame it all on ‘misogyny’
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It amazes me that award-winning journalist Nancy Jo Sales even wants to have sex anymore. I’m further amazed she ever found dating apps addictive, which she discovered in 2015. She articulately presents how dating app companies engineer them to keep you swiping, swiping, swiping but not why she was so willing to settle for loveless, dysfunctional, often dangerous sex.
The author of American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers and The Bling Ring: How A Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked The World, which was made into a movie in 2013, dives into the dirty world of dating apps and hookup culture at the naive young age of 51. She details it in her new book Nothing Personal: My Secret Life in the Dating App Inferno.
My unrelatability stems from having been part of online dating since before it was cool, when I met my now ex-partner on a computer bulletin board system in the last days before the rise of the Internet. I was forced back into it eight years later and I thank Sales for explaining why my experiences have been so negative: 2001 was the year in which dating culture began to take an ugly, misogynist turn.
No wonder everything went — if you’ll pardon the expression — tits-up.
That was before mobile dating apps — several years down the road — redefined ‘dating’ to the point where they should no longer be called dating apps.
Rather, they’re ‘fucking apps’, in accordance with the very most cynical, emotionally absent and abusive toxic masculine ideals.
And we, ladies, let them get away with it.
Old habits die hard, and twelve thousand years of patriarchy won’t be undone in a few generations. We’ve been victims for so long we’re not really sure what genuine empowerment looks like. Take the cosmetic surgery industry, whose websites I visited this year as I conducted a client sales campaign. They marketed patriarchal beauty ideals wrapped up in cheap ‘empowerment’ crapola to women who buy it (literally). Just add that boob job and Botox poison injections to your shopping cart!
They offered Mother’s Day gift certificates, because nothing says I love you, Mom, quite like a gift suggesting she should banish those ugly wrinkles around her eyes. One site even promoted ‘pre-rejuvenation treatments’ for Millennials, because they’re never too young to persuade them to shovel over obscene amounts of cash making young, beautiful women feel insanely insecure about their looks.
They can’t get those choking aficionados on Tinder to swipe right on them if they look like they’re already falling apart.
So it’s not surprising fucking apps market their toxic dreams of ‘twoo wuv’ to women, when Millennial men are interested in anything but, and suggest it’s ‘empowering’ for women to have greatly expanded sexual choices even as they do nothing to keep women safe. Fucking app companies resist screening for sexual predators or users with criminal records. Women have been stalked, raped, and murdered through fucking apps and Sales finds their executives don’t want to talk about it, fuzz over what’s happening, and quickly change the subject.
And that’s the female execs.
Still, how can we blame only the app company C-suite, or even toxic males and The Patriarchy? It’s hard to ignore Sales’s descriptions of how much man-pleasing is as alive and kicking as ever, although today it’s more likely you’ll get slapped, punched, or choked in bed by GTAV389, thanks to the rise of violent online porn and its influence on former young boys (later men) who should never have had access to it, but somehow always did.
Hard to imagine, but the right, particularly the Christian right, was actually right about something. If for the wrong reasons.
We laughed during the Reagan years as studies drew correlations between porn and sexual abuse crimes against women, and for awhile there was little consistency. Today it’s become unavoidable to acknowledge how much violent online porn has influenced second-half Gen X’ers and Millennials and is now working its dark magic on Gen Z.
Women on fucking apps report often non-consensual violence during hookup sex: Slapping, punching, choking, and other dangerous or degrading actions. When Sales interviewed young men about why they thought young women enjoyed being punched, slapped, kicked, or even choked during sex out of the blue, they said they’d seen it in porn. They believed the ‘actresses’ liked it. “You can tell they do,” one of her own hookups told her, who she’d launched across the room via her feet on his chest after an unexpected choking. “You can see they’re enjoying it.”
She pulled up a choking Pornhub video and pointed out the tears in the woman’s eyes. She wasn’t enjoying it. She was paid to do this, and having a hard time faking liking it.
“But they say they like it on Tinder,” he protested, and he proved it. He swiped through and showed her profiles where the women claimed they liked violent sex and dug being choked.
“They’re telling you that because they know it’s what you want to hear,” Sales told him. Women say what they have to to get men. Men, of course, do the same.
Yeah, sure, honey, I love you and only you. You’re the only woman in my life.
I like it rough! I love it when you choke me!
“And you call yourself a feminist?” he asks. “The girls I know are really strong and know exactly what they want. Are you denying them their agency?”
I agree with both of them. Women aren’t blind, helpless victims of The Patriarchy, but creatures with agency, although they’re more vulnerable when they’re young and inexperienced. That’s when they’re most likely to tolerate abusive treatment because they haven’t figured out what they want yet. What they want is a man, or men, to pay attention to them. Their hormones are exploding too. They do what they must to get laid, even if it means having to put their own needs and desires on hold.
Like the desire to not get the stuffing punched out of you during sex. Or being utterly objectified as just another sexual release delivery order. Skip The Orgasms!
La plus ça change.
If you want to get a guy to ‘like’ you, if even only for an hour, you absolutely mustn’t can’t under no circumstances let’s be very clear on this act like you care. Sales describes the pervasive attitude on fucking apps as a competition to see who can care less. She falls in love with a guy half her age who doesn’t know she did, nor did she tell him. When people asked how he was and she hadn’t seen him in months and it was killing her, she’d shrug and say, “I don’t know, he’s around somewhere.”
Dating historian Zoe Strimpel told Sales, “What is at the root of the content to see ‘who can care less’ is the horror of seeming needy. Women are so afraid of seeming needy, because the ‘needy woman’ taps into something very deep in misogyny: this idea that women are this sort of bottomless pit of need and dependency and maybe even lunacy...”
And Darwin knows most young men on fucking apps don’t want to deal with neediness, unless it’s their own. Sales notes fucking apps have equalized sex somewhat. Women may get slut-shamed but not all of them are and not all of them care. I had a friend awhile back who was arguably the most promiscuous woman I’d ever met, and she couldn’t give a flying rat’s patoot what anyone thought about it.