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The Dating App Stranger Danger We Don't Talk About

Every time this happened to me, we were in the middle of this sexy tango of flirtatious banter and witty comebacks. I had already been texting with him for 45 minutes straight when the first guy said he was an amazing cook. So I asked him what his signature dish was — Lobster Risotto. Go figure. I said I’d only believe him if I tasted it, to which he teasingly responded that the secret ingredient was cooking it naked. Shocker. That’s every great chef’s secret ingredient. Should I bring Red or White? I truly loved the banter we had up until then, and so we quickly agreed to meet up Friday (three days from then). His famous last words: “I better go grocery shopping then!” I went to the kitchen to grab some chocolate and come back to find the conversation unmatched. Seriously?

Unfortunately, this isn’t a new trend at all. It’s a tale as old as Tinder. Two people match. Flirty banter ensues. Soon that flirty banter morphs into something more illicit. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I don’t recommend this route if you want something more substantial. If you’re not and are open to something casual (which this offer appears to be), then Godspeed. If everybody is on the same page and things are consensual, have fun.

Things get muddled when people come at these conversations with different intentions. No rule says dating apps are exclusively for finding committed relationships. No one should be shunned for seeking a casual encounter. The only requirement is that they are upfront about that goal. They don’t have to (and should not) be explicit about this. All that needs to be communicated is they are not interested in a serious relationship at the moment and prefer to keep things casual.

Being too overt about wanting to sate their carnal needs can be and often is off-putting. Men who provide this level of transparency are often perceived as predatory. They come off as boorish. Putting it out there so blithely is dehumanizing. Women this blunt attempting to bed a man come across suspect as many rely upon social proof when assessing potential risks. In their minds, knowing how fluid their standards are regarding sex, women shouldn’t have to be so obvious. When she is, men wonder why.

While it’s still dehumanizing when men are propositioned this way, it doesn’t have the same implications as when women receive such proposals. Unlike men, women are raised to believe the most important thing they have to offer society ( and a man) is their body. We are expected to comfort men with the same vessel used for pleasure and progeny. Being so abruptly approached with a request for sex reinforces that belief. Men are valued simply for existing. Anything additional brought to the table is deemed an achievement worthy of praise.

A significant contributor to why so many people get too invested in someone too quickly is they treat them like a potential suitor instead of the stranger they are. Juliette mentioned texting with one of her matches for forty-five minutes straight before he mentioned his love of naked risotto making. The longer the conversation goes, the more intense the connection seems and the higher the stakes. Therein lies the problem.

Familiarity brings out people’s inner creep.

The problem with those early flirty exchanges is that they quickly escalate to sexual innuendo. This is the crossroads many come to and never choose the right path.

Someone who introduces sly sexual remarks early in a conversation is telling you:

  1. They lack the self-awareness to know it’s inappropriate and likely are equally oblivious in other areas related to emotional intelligence.

  2. They don’t care if they offend you. That could predict future insensitive comments.

  3. They don’t understand a woman’s reluctance to join the fun. That leads them to deem a woman frigid or uptight. They also fail to consider the woman’s fear of being seen as “easy.”

  4. They’re looking for a woman who goes along to get along and is eager to please. Suppose she reacts favorably to his (usually clumsy) attempt at the sexy talk. In that case, he knows either she’s open to having casual sex (which is perfectly acceptable), or she’s willing to go there to keep his attention.

Once that line is crossed, it isn’t easy to reel the conversation back in. You’ve gone there. Now it’s put up or shut up time. You agree to meet offline in the near future. The line gets blurred. Are they interested in you as a person or just for a no-strings hookup? You can ask, but it’s doubtful they’ll tell the truth. The awkward dance begins. Is this a date or a formality?

That’s if things ever progress to meeting offline.

Bonding isn’t just for babies.

Many people wander the dating landscape, wondering where they are going. Or worse, they know exactly where they’re going but lie and say they don’t. They back off only when faced with taking things to the next level. Something within them gets triggered, and they realize they’ve crossed a boundary. It’s all fun and games until they’re expected to follow through. That’s when things become real, and they unmatch.

In Juliette’s case, the man she was messaging was likely married or unavailable. There’s also the possibility he never intended to meet her in the first place and was enjoying the attention.

Whether it’s a casual fling or a relationship you want, the intelligent course of action is to stay detached. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Keep things on the app. The more steps between your prospective date and your real life and identity, the easier it will be to remember this person is not your friend. Social media handles, phone numbers, email addresses, etc., are earned.

  2. Avoid terms of endearment. Someone you’ve never met calling you “sweetie” or “baby” should not be overlooked. Referring to you by these nicknames is intended to create a false sense of security. It’s not worth addressing, as anyone who does this either has poor boundaries, is uncomfortably eager for a relationship, or trying to manipulate you. Walk away.

  3. Be mindful of oversharing. If possible, neurodivergence can sometimes make someone more revealing than necessary.

  4. Limit your communications. We don’t just bond with people we sleep with. We don’t even have to touch them. Bonding can occur when we share experiences. Oxytocin, one hormone involved with attachment, makes us more trusting and lowers our inhibitions. It also aids in mothers bonding with their newborns. To say that the chemical is powerful is an understatement. ’You know how you get home from a great first date and feel confident you’ll hear from them again because you and they had so much in common? And then you never hear from them again? Blame the oxytocin. It makes you see and feel a connection that might only be one-sided.

The best thing anyone can do if they’re trying to date is value their time. The best way to do that is to invest in people and activities that enhance your life. Treating someone like a stranger doesn’t mean you must be emotionally withholding. What’s being suggested is you allot that person the same amount of time and thought as you would someone you randomly started talking to in line for your morning coffee.

That’s the level of intimacy you should maintain until they’re worthy of more.

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Exclusive members can RSVP below. RSVPs are required as I limit the sessions to about 10 people. See upcoming sessions here. Mar 14th is for Plus-Sized Dating, Mar 21 is for Dating With Disabilities, and Apr 4 for Dating Profile Writing Advice.

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