My Side Of The Equation

On The Queer Calculus of OkCupid

According to Wired Magazine, Christopher McKinlay, my fiancé and partner “hacked” OkCupid in order to go on 88 dates and meet me, his 88th date. On Good Morning America, Christopher McKinlay is portrayed as the subject exerting his will and mathematical prowess in order to find the object: a fertile “Asian” female ecstatic to participate in a heteronormative marriage that supports and is supported by the state. The reality could not be more different.

In reality, McKinlay’s profile began to function like the profile of a 20 year old straight female after he “hacked” OkCupid. His experience of weeding through messages is similar to the experience of women weeding through messages from men. His profile was an object of desire for straight women.

In reality, many OkCupid users are queer, non-monogamous, and/or not interested in traditional marriage. (Unfortunately, OkCupid does not accommodate gender queer people) I was one of those users. Chris was concerned on our first date because I answered, “Yes” to the question, “Would you consider having an open relationship?” I searched for “6ft blue eyes” while I was in a consensual non-monogamous relationship with two other people, one male-identified and one female-identified. From his profile, I thought Chris would be an Asian-fetishist businessman type who would objectify me and would be fine to fuck but never date. Surprise! He actually cared about what my interests were and talked to me like I was a human being. When we first started dating I lent him the book, The Trouble With Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life by Michael Warner. The book helped him understand what queer sexuality, queer politics and polyamory meant. I was ecstatic to meet a straight guy who was curious enough to learn.

Profiles and questions are incapable of predicting the interactions required by real relationships.

The very word “found” also implies an objectification of the “found” person. It sounds like I am a lost object that can be put back into Chris’s pocket. In reality, the relationship between two subjects is a constant negotiation. OkCupid is a tool that collapses people with diverse subjectivities into easily digestible profiles. Profiles and questions are incapable of predicting the interactions required by real relationships. Chris and I fight; we share ideas and mirror each other’s expressions. After fighting, we change our communication patterns, we negotiate and we compromise. (Marshall Rosenberg’s book Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life is an excellent resource).

I didn’t decide to get engaged because Chris hacked OkCupid; I got engaged because I like the way we reconcile our differences. My partnership with Chris is not the result of unidirectional action. I am not a blow-up doll that Chris found on the Internet and bought with his skilled programming labor; rather I am a thinking/desiring subject that gazes and speaks back. Mainstream media uses our image to disseminate a heteronormative ideology of man-woman love but the truth is much more complicated and beautiful.

Christine Tien Wang is an artist and activist currently on fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Qatar campus. She completed her MFA in painting at UCLA in 2012.

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