Why do we date so many assholes?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been on more first dates than you can, or would like to, count. First dates don’t fill you with butterflies, they fill you with a sense of impending doom. He seems really nice, he has hobbies, he responded to your texts… You remind yourself why you’re bothering at all as you put on your mascara in a futile attempt to stay positive. A part of you still has hope, of course, otherwise you’d just be sitting on your couch in your favourite yoga pants scrolling through the Humane Society’s Cat Adoption page. Still, the hope is dwindling. You’re not sure this guy will be worth the effort of shaving your legs, sculpting your eyebrows, and driving all the way out to some non-threatening café/bar/restaurant. The last one sure wasn’t worth it, or the one before that.

There’s nothing wrong with dating a lot of people. It’s good to see who’s out there and figure out what you want and need in a relationship (or whatever casual dating situation suits you). The problem starts when it’s not fun anymore, when texting three new people every week is a chore you perform in an effort to not die alone, when you’d really be less stressed out if you stopped trying at all. But you can’t stop trying because you really don’t want to fucking die alone.

The more effort I put into dating, the more frustrated I got. Constant rejection isn’t fun for anyone, and I noticed it was starting to take a toll on both my self-esteem and my opinion of men in general. I felt like I had to keep trying to prove that I was worthwhile, that I was interesting and charismatic and hot, to men who just couldn’t be bothered to do things or want things or think about things. Hint: if Netflix is your entire personality, that’s not healthy.

And that’s just my experience with the guys who I got the wonderful opportunity to meet in person. For every guy I went on a date with, there were 5 who either flaked, or couldn’t stop making comments that made me uncomfortable.

Not every guy I went out with was a loser, but it felt like the vast majority weren’t just not my type, they were the kind of people who should be no one’s type. They couldn’t treat me with basic respect, and I wasn’t the only one having that problem. Read almost any article about dating apps written by a woman and you’ll see a similar pattern. It only gets worse if you’re gay/not white/not a size 2. Tinder and Bumble will destroy your faith in humanity, if you have any left.

It’s one thing to run into the occasional asshole when you’re dating. Some people are just awful, and you can’t avoid awful people forever. It’s another thing when everyone you meet treats you like a free sex toy. Was it how I presented myself? I mean, that profile pic of me in a sweater showing no cleavage at all definitely screams “ask me about anal”. Was it that I’m secretly the asshole here? I didn’t think asking what movies someone was into was an invitation to call me a bitch, but it’s possible I lack self-awareness. Or maybe my standards are just too high. I can’t have a guy who is both nice, and has a job, and has an interest outside of work- that’s out of my league, clearly.

It really didn’t make sense. The men I know in real life don’t usually make me want to go live on an island populated only by women. When I told my online dating horror stories to my male friends and co-workers they didn’t act like that was normal, they cringed alongside everyone else. I won’t pretend like they’re all great feminists, but at least they know it’s not okay to call a woman a ‘selfish brat’ (or worse) when she doesn’t jump at the chance to discuss her favourite sex positions with a stranger.

It only really clicked when I was ghosted, for the thousandth time. I had made plans with a guy I’d been out with before to go to a thing, and texted him the day of to confirm a meeting time. No response. Not even a “sorry, have to wash my hair instead” text so that I had time to make other plans. Since when was lying to a woman via text too much work? The flaking on me bit was annoying, but the not bothering to tell me bit was what made me angry. I just wanted the chance to make other plans.

I read an article about confronting men who ghosted. It seemed like such a strange concept- what was the point? Obviously, I was angry, and people shouldn’t be allowed to treat other people badly with no repercussions. But, if I said anything, clearly that would just be a sign that I cared too much and that I was crazy. Confronting him would only confirm, in his mind, that he’d made the right decision by flaking on me. So why bother? It wouldn’t stop him from doing it again next week to someone else.

That was when I understood. Of course men are assholes, there aren’t any consequences. Any woman who claps back is immediately psychotic. After all, the only explanation for why a woman would say anything negative is because she’s a) a crazy feminist who takes offense at everything, or b) she was super into you in a clingy, stalkerish kinda way. Any reasonable woman would either just send nudes or lose their number. If you have mutual friends, maybe you could talk to them and say, ‘hey, the way this guy treats women isn’t cool’, but, whether they’d believe you or write you off as a jilted lover is a toss-up.

No matter what you say, or in what tone you say it, he doesn’t have to take you seriously- and the more that guys do that, the more it seems normal and unavoidable. The more normal it seems, the more likely you are to just accept that no matter how much you hate it, you can either accept it and date these guys or you can just die alone. We all have friends who are dating people that aren’t treating them with basic human dignity and kindness. The reason we end up dating so many losers is because there is no incentive for them to change. These men are friends and coworkers of real women, so they know better, but behind closed doors there’s no reason why they can’t just demand what they want from 100 women and hope some finally cave.

So, what’s a girl to do, lost in a sea of assholes? Keep blocking numbers, keep reminding people that saying ‘tits plz’ isn’t normal as a conversation starter, not let your standards slip. It’s disheartening to have to face so many men who don’t treat you like a person, but it’s not just you. It’s everyone. If this is ever going to stop being acceptable, we just have to keep saying that it’s not. Over, and over, and over.

Oh, and, before a bunch of men jump in and remind me that women are assholes too- yeah, you’re right. But this isn’t about that.