How Do I Weed Out Creeps?

I am a woman back dating men again for the first time in many years which is stressful enough but I’m also in a complicated, non-monogamous situation that has me looking for open-minded, tolerant people to date. I’ve already had many creepy responses to my online dating profile and one chat with someone who seemed really nice but became scary and abusive pretty quickly. It was easy to end it and make myself safe but I worry about how it would have gone if we had been meeting in person. Any advice on screening out the creeps? I had decided to be honest in my profile hoping that would help with screening, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Also, most of the open-relationship people I’ve met online push pretty quickly to switch to text or phone calls and to meet in person. I can understand the push to find out whether there is a connection or not, but the idea of stumbling into another situation like the one I had before makes me really reluctant to move as fast.

Swimming with the Sharks

Dear Swimmer,

First of all, I am very sorry that this man abused you online. How upsetting and infuriating and awful — especially when you are making yourself vulnerable and reaching out and feeling nervous and anxious. Online attacks when you can’t see the person’s face or read his body language can sometimes be even more upsetting than in-person diatribes.

I’m sorry to say that every female I know who dates men has had this experience, whether she was monogamous or not. I’m sure this is not a surprise to you — if men are going to catcall and harass us on the street and in our jobs and at parties and in school, those same guys are going to continue it online.

I don’t think this has anything to do with monogamy or nonmonogamy; my experience has been that creeps exist in every strata of our society — and our incredibly sexist society means that you are going to come across abusive assholes like this sometimes. And I am so so sorry. It makes me really angry.

I think, though, that you already have the tools you need to avoid creeps either IRL or in text. Refusing to give out personal information too soon is a great tool. A reasonable person who asks for a meeting right away, will be totally cool with you saying you’d like to get to know them better online first and you’d like to chat online a bit longer. A person who pushes harder after you’ve just said no (whether you explain you had a bad experience before or not) has just given you really important information about himself: he does not respect your boundaries. He does not take ‘no’ for an answer.

That is not anyone you want to date in any situation.

I suggest you follow your gut — keep guys talking. Get to know more about them before you agree to meet (in a well-lit, public, non-alcohol-consuming place, and with all of his contact information in the hands of a trusted friend who will call you after an hour or two to check in). I think you’re doing great.Getting out there again after a long time not dating, and especially in a nontraditional context, takes a lot of strength and vulnerability. You’re doing the hard thing to hopefully find some joy. Good for you.

And FUCK those guys who make it an even harder thing to do than it already is. I mean, DON’T fuck them. You know what I mean.

This letter originally appeared in bitterempire.com on December 3, 2015.

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