The Dark Side to Online Dating in the LGBTQ+ Community

By: Rachel Iredale

Dating apps and online dating has changed the world of dating for recent generations and presumably generations to come. Online dating has opened the world to strangers whom they would never have contact with in any other situation. The Virtues and Downsides of Online Dating, an article posted by the Pew Research Center on February 6th, 2020, breaks down the statistics behind online dating and presents generalized opinions about online dating that are broken down by age, gender, education level, race, and sexual orientation.

There are many statistics and opinions throughout this article that surprised me. One of the most interesting that topics I had not thought of before is the LGBTQ+ community’s usage and thoughts in regard to online dating.  About 50% of LGB adults have used dating apps in comparison to 28% of straight adults. According to a different article posted by the Pew Research Center entitled Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Online Daters Report Positive Experiences – but also Harassment, this increase in LGB usage on online dating apps is possibly due to the smaller dating pool of those seeking same sex partners.

The LGB community not only differs in the number of people using dating apps compared to those of straight sexual orientation, it also differs when it comes to safety while using online dating. When asked about receiving unwanted explicit images, 56% of LGB daters reported receiving them compared to 32% of straight users. This is surprising because I did not think about a link between sexual orientation and the specific kinds of messages each community receives. Another darker part of online dating discussed in the article is harassment and threats of violence that users receive. While this article solely discusses the simple fact that overall about 28% of users have reported being harassed or called names online, an article entitled Queer People See More Harassment in Dating Apps Than Straight People, published by Advocate, reports 17% of online daters in the LGB community report receiving messages of threats of abuse in comparison to 7% of straight users. This number originally surprised me but with the hate that is unfortunately a part of society today, this number made more sense.

During my research for this assignment, I interviewed a friend from college who is 22, a part of the LGBTQ+ community and has experience with online dating. In his opinion, “Dating in the gay community is much harder than I think it is for straight people. There are so many people that are gay or questioning that aren’t out and open about it so it’s hard to know who a potential boyfriend is and who isn’t”. When asked about the darker side of being a part of the LGB community and dating online, he reports that he receives explicit images and messages that he did not ask for “all the time”. When asked about why he thinks this happens his response is that “a lot of people on dating apps, not just in the community, use dating apps as a sexual platform and not just for dating. Today’s hook up culture makes people bolder in what they say and do online, especially because everyone you meet are strangers”. When asked if he himself has ever experienced any harassment on dating sites he confirmed. He believes that it is a part of culture today. He does not take these messages seriously and does not let them interfere with the way he lives his life.

In comparison, I also interviewed a 24-year-old straight male who also has experience with online dating. When asked about the difficulty with dating in real life compared to dating online, he believes that dating online is easier because, “it’s less nerve racking to be able to talk to someone online than it is in person, it helps me to be myself instead of trying to impress someone”. When asked about receiving unwanted explicit images or messages he reports that it has happened to him but not many times and it is not concerning to him. He also reported that he has received no harassing or threatening messages during his time with online dating. These interviews support the statistics that the original article has found where the member of the LGB community reported more explicit messages and harassment than the straight person did.

Safety overall is an important aspect to keep in mind for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, while using dating apps. Safety was brought up in the article concerning harassment and threats but there were no tips offered on how to stay safe while dating online. I found an article posted by RAINN entitled Online Dating and Dating App Safety Tips that provide helpful ways to stay safe online. The best advice I gained from this article outlines how to stay safe while meeting in person. Some of the tips included asking to video chat before meeting, tell a friend where you are going, and meeting in a public place. I believe that safety should be a top priority for everyone and being educated on how to stay safe while online dating should be common knowledge for everyone.

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