Dear men on dating apps,

I don’t like euphemisms. So here it is, straight up, no chaser: Women know.

We know that when you say “girls with daddy issues,” you mean “women who’ve been sexually abused, beaten, financially manipulated, or otherwise seriously harmed by their fathers.” We know that many of you find these women appealing to hook up with, but not to date or invest in emotionally.

We know that when you demand “pics,” you’re probably going to share them with your friends. We know you want to see naked photos of us not because you hope for titillation, but because you’re trying to assert your dominance over us. We know that it makes you feel “like a man” to manipulate total strangers into trusting you with their vulnerability, and that you have no intention of honoring our vulnerability with kindness.

We know that when you refer to a woman as “too damaged,” you mean she’s experienced more pain in her life than you want to deal with in a partner. Her pain has made her strong. Perhaps you’re intimidated by that strength or afraid of her tears. Maybe you prefer a partner who doesn’t experience flashbacks, or at least one that doesn’t tell you she does. 

Most likely, although you know perfectly well on some subconscious level that sexism exists, you don’t want to have to think about this in your private life. Trust me, neither do women. However, rather than owning up to your childish inability to face reality, you shame potential partners for having been “damaged” by a system that benefits you, because thinking about that fact kills your buzz.

We know that when you date women whose bodies you turn into status symbols, you’re allowing your romantic desires to be dictated by your own fear of not fulfilling society’s standards. We know that when you resolve not to publicly date a certain kind of woman even though you find them attractive, it’s because you aren’t secure enough in your sexuality or gender identity to embrace your own needs and desires. We know that when your porn history is full of women you’d never date in real life, you’re living with cognitive dissonance. We know that all of this harms you, but it harms us more. 

Oppression harms the oppressor, yes, but the oppressed are the ones whose bodies suffer the price. Women are the ones taught that romance is our job to accomplish, only to meet men who feel entitled to take what they want from us and abandon us when they’re finished. We’re more than a fetish, more than a toy, and trying to control the way our bodies impact you damages both of us.

We know if you’re the kind of guy who will dehumanize us. We’ve spent our entire lives in this culture. We’ve developed a kind of spidey-sense that can tell us, just by looking and listening to you, whether you’re a man who makes jokes at women’s expense. We know whether you truly hate women, or whether you’re just the kind of insecure man who goes along with it when your friends launch into tirades against women who aren’t in the room (which, for the record, isn’t better).

We know when you’re cruel to us because we turn you on and you just don’t know how to deal with that. We know when you’re cruel to us because we make you feel insecure or ignorant. We know when you’re cruel to us because your feelings are hurt and, like a five-year-old, you’ve chosen to lash out rather than acknowledge them. We know when you tell us you’re looking for a girlfriend, but really, you’re looking for a mother to wipe your tears and make your life easier.

We know when our relationship problems are really your fault. We know this, even when you blame us, and we know you’re fully aware that it’s really your fault. We know when you use cruelty, sarcasm, or degrading language because you feel vulnerable. We don’t always have the kind of confidence that allows us to laugh in your face and leave when we really should, but we know that we should.

You’re not getting away with any of this.

I’m not trying to “shame” you. I’m simply pointing out that if you are ashamed, you’re ashamed for good reason. You’re ashamed because doing these things (hopefully) means you’re not living up to your values.

Maybe you haven’t thought about your actions in this light. Maybe you’ve simply absorbed the idea that your comfort is worth more than someone else’s humanity. 

You can still be redeemed. You have less to lose than you think. 

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