Objectification and Self-objectification on Dating Apps

The unsolicited advice of staying within your league

Image licensed from Canva

I deleted all my online dating apps — for the third time this year. I’m like an addict, not willing to quit yet, but admitting already that there is a problem, recognising the direct negative consequences of her addiction.

I’m addicted to hope.

Hope is the reason that I am still lured back to the dating app world, even if up to this point all I have is a couple of stories — some good, some bad, some funny, some terrible.

For the longest time, I was living blissfully, free from the horrors of the dating world. I felt it was somehow below me. And I was scared to put myself out with a couple of pictures and some phrases that allow others to judge me for and decide whether I’m good enough for them or not.

I want love to happen without orchestrating it, naturally, you know… just bumping into each other on the street, or in a coffee shop, or anywhere… looking into each other’s eyes and boom, thank goodness I found you, ending up in love. Well wake up, you’re not Alice, and you are not in Wonderland.

I lost my dating-app-virginity and signed up first for Tinder, and the rollercoaster started. The thrill of swiping, matching, being complimented wears out quickly only to give room to the unsolicited sexual offers and disappointingly dull conversation starters or the soft rejection of someone unmatching me. It is spiked every now and then with the hope of finding someone interesting enough to exchange numbers and continue the conversation elsewhere. That leads to meeting for coffees and maybe for more (sometimes disappointing, sometimes not that much), or in other cases, it abruptly develops into receiving dick pics or being asked for nudes.

While the dick pic phenomenon was shocking, the other thing I didn’t see coming was getting unsolicited dating advice from random guys. Some trying to be genuinely helpful, others just plain stupid or rude. While some made me laugh, some annoyed me, there was one that made me furious.

Stay within your league, or else you will be forever single. Men are ranking women from one to ten. Below seven you have no chance to find anything more than a fuck.

Men are ranking women from one to ten. Almost exclusively based on the looks, deciding by their profile picture already. They’d fuck everyone above four, strictly a hit and run kind of encounter. But you have to be minimum a seven to have the chance to find anything more than that.

The concept makes me angry.

Not because I was rated lower than I expected or wanted. Not because I find six (what he ranked me) offensive. I don’t want to be a nine or ten either. It’s not about being ranked lower than I’d prefer or where I’d put myself. It’s infuriating because I am not a number! It reminds me of prisons and concentration camps, where you are degraded to be a number, stripped from all your layers, your dignity, your true self.

I refuse to be a number. Any number.

This only mildly helpful advice annoyed me for two different reasons:

1. First, objectification is a concept that needs to be addressed and talked about.

2. The second is that it completely ignores the fact that human beings are different, with different likes and different preferences.

#1 Objectification runs deep in society

Sexual objectification is the act of treating a person as a mere object of sexual desire. More broadly it means treating a person as a commodity or an object without regard to their personality, dignity or any other non-sexual trait. Objectification is mostly a societal feature but can also refer to individuals.

The societal level of objectification poses a huge problem as in being directed almost exclusively towards women.

It starts early… when as little girls we learn quickly that being complimented to be beautiful has a bigger value than being complimented to be a good person. Looking at it from a different aspect, if a woman is called fat, it makes you gasp, yet if she is called a bitch, you might even chuckle — suggesting that insulting a woman’s looks is worse than insulting her character.

Women are defined by their appearances a lot more than men. This is their most important asset that will define their worth. Good looks, attractive body, youthfulness, hotness, appeal to men… you get it, right?

A man’s appearance is not such a big deal. Commenting on his looks is not defining him, it has a completely different meaning than to commenting on women’s looks.

Men’s looks complement their personalities; women’s looks define them.

Any act of objectification confirms the societal belief that runs too deep: that the woman’s appearance is all that matters, and her only purpose is to please men’s eyes — and then some.

Dating apps are just platforms

I don’t blame Tinder for this experience. I truly believe that any dating app is just a platform. It is an inanimate piece of software, you can make of it exactly what you want to. If you are looking for love and marriage, and you stick to your expectations, it may be a long and difficult road, but you will be able to find someone who looks for the same thing. If you look for hook-ups only, then you will regard the dating app universe as a means to an end, to cater to your needs — your perspective is set on one outcome only, and refusing to notice anything else out there will make you believe that the only purpose Tinder has is to hook you up with someone.

Objectification and self-objectification

Objectification rewards the looks exclusively and sets impossible beauty standards. Self-objectification occurs in response to that. Being flooded by these messages from the media, showered with compliments, unwanted attention just as a result of feminine beauty make women start to internalize the message that they are not individual human beings. They are but objects of beauty, pleasure, and play for men, and they start to look at themselves and their bodies as such.

Image licensed from Canva

Social media is heaven for self-objectification

People on social surfaces, especially on the ones that revolve around visuals, such as Instagram or Snapchat (and let’s take dating apps here too) maintain a social media presence that is different from their real lives. You edit, you filter your pictures, you choose the perfect light, the perfect angle to create an image of yourself — that can be very far from the actual reality. All these flattering photos suggest that you have your shit together all the time, you are effortlessly waking up beautiful, and there are happiness and joy forever. This is a way of self-objectification — filters do not alter personality, dog-ears will not make you cuter, whiter teeth will not make you a better friend.

Beauty has become a negative, hurtful thing instead of a positive thing. Instead of women having natural beauty, beauty is what men give them in the form of compliments, attention, favours, promotions. In our society women are taught that a woman is only beautiful if a man tells her she is beautiful. Women will go out on a limb, cheat and lie, filter and edit, to make themselves beautiful in the eyes of men.

Body positivity tackles these issues, talking about it is already a great start. And the circle needs to stop at some point. It’s not just the responsibility of men, but also of women, who confirm this belief by conformally adapting to what is expected.

#2 Looks matter, but preferences differ

Surely, the media distorted the preferences of men about what beauty means, but did it change their preferences completely? Did the beauty standards’ existence render chemistry useless? Do we really think that all men want Twiggy type female bodies or inflated boobs or huge sensual lips? Do we really think that curves cannot be sexy? Do we really believe that freckles cannot be adorable and a little bit crooked mouth cannot crack an amazingly beautiful smile? That an asymmetrical face cannot be more attractive than a symmetrical face to some?

Did the media also destroy the ability of men to look beyond a pretty face or a hot body? Did it take away all their rational decisions to still appreciate fundamental values, a sense of humour or outstanding intelligence? Did they all become shallow beings, driven solely by instinct? I don’t think so. I mean, I really hope not.

Well go figure, I am more than my looks. I am even more than my personality. I am more than my kindness. I am more than my intelligence. I am everything I think, everything I do, every choice I make, every bruise I suffered, every moment that made me smile. I am the energy that I am radiating, and I am the strength that comes pouring from my pores. I am the sarcasm that can make you cringe or make you fall in love with me. I am the words that I use and the frowns that I make. I am put together from the learnings and sufferings of strings of events that are unique to me. I am not even one in a million. I am one in 7.5 billion.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I am not staying within my league! Because I have no idea what my league is. And I don’t even intend to find it out. Ranking someone this way is a clear sign of immaturity and trophy hunting. I am not a trophy, and I don’t care if I am ranked two, six or fifteen by a complete stranger.

Get to know me. Appreciate me for who I am. Find my beauty in my looks and my personality both — and fall in love with it. (Or don’t!)

And if I can do the same, then we are a fit regardless of our respective leagues.

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Writer. Dreamer. Hopeless romantic. Newsletter: zita.substack.com Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

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