The Dickonomics of Tinder

Yes, women are using Tinder to get laid. No, not with you.

By Alana Massey
Illustrations by Ana Benaroya

My Tinder match decisions had grown more rapid and decisive. Handsome but no bio and all shirtless gym selfies? Dick is abundant and low value. Lists only an Instagram as a bio? Dick is abundant and low value. Quotes Jack Kerouac’s “The only ones for me are the mad ones…” Dick is abundant and low value. Went to Burning Man…twice? Dick is abundant and low value. Member of an improv troop? Dick is abundant and low value. Those with whom I did match were hardly the boy band composed of chiseled pediatricians and dapper British bankers in Armani suits that some guys imagine women are choosing over them. It was an assortment of unassuming marketing managers, a few tech men who refrained from posting pictures of themselves wearing Google Glass, several vegans with cats they clearly adored, and the occasional Scandinavian giant for reasons I don’t have to explain to you.

Dick is abundant and low value. I had gotten my new motto amidst the worst break-up of my life. Shaken to my core by the degrading insults my ex had hurled at me but also mourning the permanent departure of some poetically good dick, I was spending a day mindlessly refreshing Twitter and reading up on how to spot sociopaths. I came across two tweets from Madeleine Holden, a lawyer and writer who regularly entertains the Twitter masses with her unapologetic analyses of toxic masculinity and her praise of amazing female-identified people:

In my memory, those last six words emerged from the screen with their outer edges glowing like the inscription in the Dark Tongue of Mordor on the One Ring. I was transformed, nay, transfigured, by the message.

Conversations were governed by the same rules as matches. Lead with a pussy joke about my cat? Dick is abundant and low value. Choose a meeting place that doesn’t account for my commute there? Dick is abundant and low value. Ask for nudes too soon? Dick is abundant and low value. Cancel twice? Dick is abundant and low value. Send an unsolicited photo of your lower body in your laundry-day underwear with your hand suggestively but not sexily placed over your semi and not even bothering to crop out your poor cat? Dick is abundant and low value.

Some will read my gleeful rejections on the many faces I encounter on Tinder as evidence of a disturbing uptick in malevolent, anti-male sentiments among single straight women. It is not. It is evidence of us arriving nearer to gender equilibrium where men can no longer happily judge the clear and abundant photos and carefully crafted profiles of women but become incensed when they take the opportunity to do the same.

It was not always thus.

When I joined OKCupid six years ago, I dutifully created a well-rounded profile complete with accurate photos and thoughtful responses to the site’s profile prompts; though I was 23, I generously set my age limit for prospects at 40. For my efforts, I was immediately rewarded with an inbox full of messages that were mostly variations on “hey ☺” and “What up” from an army of blurry and sometimes headless mirror selfies who had either not read my profile or actively sought women with whom they’d share only mutual disdain.

The first message I received that made specific reference to me as a human being delighted me so much in its novelty that I barely cared that he was 41 and had no profile photos. When I asked for photos, he opted to describe himself to me instead. Ever polite, I didn’t press the issue. But when he suggested that we meet, I said that I would need to see photos before finally agreeing. The photos were what I can only describe now as aggressively average in terms of both image quality and the vibe I picked up from the man wearing a golf shirt therein. Though the images weren’t in focus or close up, he was clearly a man of more years than he had reported and I simply was not picking up what he was throwing down. Already impatient and not especially moved by our conversation, I chose not to reply.

I hoped that the obvious would become clear and that he’d do what I would do when faced with rejection: slink away to a remote cave and hope to find a sudden and merciful death. Instead, he flooded both my email and Facebook page with accusations of egregious superficiality and a sudden change of heart regarding my own attractiveness. Even after the messages stopped, he’d occasionally attempt to friend me on Facebook and would appear often among the “People Who Viewed Your Profile” on LinkedIn. His entitled head atop a business casual outfit taunted me for months.

So I don’t mourn the wasteland that OKCupid has become. And, for all its faults, I still find Tinder delightful. I’m now 29, and I set my upper age limit to a reasonable 37, my lower age limit to a rather scandalous 23. No one can address me without my consent, which I can withdraw with an unceremonious “Unmatch” at any time. And when I encounter a blank profile or a grainy photo or a man who is lying through his teeth about his age, I am reminded of those unfocused pictures and the entitled rage of that first encounter. It is a special joy to left-swipe such profiles back into the bowels of Hades from whence they came.

When Tinder first came along, it was heralded by some as the Grindr for straight people and a hook-up app that women would actually use. Men braced themselves for what was supposed to be a rush of incoming babes, women who had been released from the confines of a Girls Gone Wild! VHS but didn’t expect anything so extravagant from them as a novelty T-shirt for taking their clothes off. Simple girls, horny girls. When Tinder matches occurred, these men stormed into our messages with all the social grace of Steve fucking Urkel but none of his endearing sincerity with appeals like, “Sexy dress. Hook up?” They used the precious real estate of their bio to complain about women rather than entice them. They wore jerseys for teams that suck. They attempted to order women to their homes as if they were chicken fingers on Seamless. And almost every last goddamn one of them found their whiskey habit absolutely fascinating.

When these tactics repeatedly failed them, these men surmised that women were so dense as to not even know the purpose of Tinder and took to the internet to complain about the gaggle of prudes who disappeared them into the abyss or went silent on them. One tweet reads, “My findings show that about 80% of women don’t know what Tinder is for.” Another reads, “I always get the girls on Tinder who act like they don’t know what Tinder is for smfh.” It would be sad that they inadvertently admitted that they actually just have no game if there wasn’t such a spiteful sense of entitlement in such sentiments. Bless their blue-balled little hearts. Meanwhile, a substantial number of other men guessed that women using Tinder might enjoy wild romantic gestures like using punctuation in sentences instead of winky faces, or asking which trains we lived off of to pick mutually convenient meeting places, or bringing their own condoms because safety is everyone’s responsibility. These men who care more about women’s realities than their own fantasies are the ones who still actually get laid on Tinder.

While some women only use Tinder to seek long-term relationships, the truth is that many of us are actively trying to find no-strings attached sex and even more are at least open to the possibility of it on an initial meeting. It is understandably non-negotiable for many women that this meeting take place in public because the law does not look kindly on us if we are assaulted after showing up at a new man’s home nor is it any kinder to women who welcome new men into theirs. I am one of many women who has upgraded these initial encounters into sex and have grown increasingly skilled at selecting for only the most exceptional sex with every swipe.

One guy was 20 minutes late to our museum date and it turned out it was actually closed so we went to Ikea for our date instead. Ikea where love goes to die! Ikea. I carried his clunky-ass light fixtures across an industrial part of town in August heat wearing skinny jeans and still let him see me naked that day. I halfway had sex with an investment banker who insisted on bringing his shitty little dog into my pristine cat’s lair. One man who works in media was so entertaining via text that I sent him a series of R-rated photos before we even met, partly because I wanted to and partly out of spite for some rectal blister who mere moments before had used a bad motorcycle metaphor as sexual innuendo then called me uptight when I was unmoved by this charmless advance. The truth is, sluts like me are everywhere on Tinder but we aren’t impressed by men who are positively beleaguered by the prospect of having to put effort into getting laid, nor do we like it when they mock the boundaries of our girlfriends who want to use Tinder only for traditional dating.

There are many for whom dealing with the boner-wielding heirs apparent of Beavis and Butthead is too much and have cast Tinder into the fire for good. Tinder for them is too littered with single word bios, out-of-focus selfies revealing bad tattoos, and messages inquiring about nudes before inquiring about your day. But I’ve found enough value on Tinder to keep going, swiping and unmatching bad profiles out of my life at the first sign of unreasonable expectations. Their corner of Tinder is a dark place, dense with hapless souls who didn’t realize that the centuries-long period of dick overvaluation is over.

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