Plenty of Fish is the Worst Dating Site, and Other Struggles of an Opinionated Woman Online
My hatred of Plenty of Fish (aka POF) is so well-documented it wouldn’t even be possible to link to all my past rants about them. If you’re curious, I’ve talked about them in my review of paid dating site upgrades and while I think there are many things wrong with the site, the thing that really set me off about them was when I encountered a racist on their site and they did very little about it. The twitter thread describing that situation can be found here but the TL;DR of that is basically a guy saw my political opinions in my profile and started referring to Black people as “chimps” who “deserve to die” and saying my generation was what was wrong with the country. I reported him multiple times, he only got a temporary ban, and when he was back I harassed POF on social media until they fully removed him.
A month or two ago, I decided to take a break from all dating sites/apps for a few weeks. I deleted a few lesser-known apps that I had been using sporadically and I deactivated my profiles on the sites that I figured I’d return to soon, but on POF I couldn’t find a way to do that so I just “hid” my profile. Three or four weeks later I came back to Bumble, Tinder, and OKCupid. However, I decided I was going to try to take the process a little more seriously, less mindless swiping, really try to meet someone etc., so I decided to change a couple of my photos so people would REALLY know what they were getting into as far as my personal views. I added these two pictures to my profiles:
I felt like these photos served a few purposes. The one on the right is just a hilarious photo (come on, me AND MY DOG are wearing ACLU shirts!!! and she’s sitting on the couch like a human!!! SHE THINKS SHE’S PEOPLE [bonus points if you get that reference]), while also showing I support the ACLU, and also if I’m being completely honest, my hair looks nice in that photo for once. The one on the left is a little more politically extreme but also serves the purpose of being a “full body photo.” Men are always complaining that women only post selfies and don’t post their full body, and I’m aware I’m not the thinnest girl (I am, according to men who catcall me on the street, “thick”) and I’m not trying to misrepresent what I look like.
On Bumble and Tinder, I had always had a line in my profile saying “If you voted Donald Trump save us both time and swipe left” and on OKC and POF, where you can write a little more, I had always had the following statement:
Along those same lines, it’s also important to me that you didn’t vote for Donald Trump. I can accept some political differences with a person I’m dating, and normally I wouldn’t really care who you voted for in a presidential election, but my fears and concerns about this upcoming administration go beyond any typical difference of opinion/political party/etc (let’s be serious, Donald Trump is only pretending to be a republican anyway, so this isn’t my way of saying I won’t date republicans). Most of my professional work has been in low income and minority communities so I have strong feelings about how his presidency will impact those populations.
So, these photos were really just a little extra reminder. It’s not as though I hadn’t mentioned politics before, and I felt like on OKC/POF I had really tried to explain my point in a respectful way.
I purposely did not reactivate my profile on POF because I hate the site, but at one point I was showing someone on Twitter how to hide her profile and I guess as I was going through the steps of how to do it and taking screenshots, I accidentally un-hid mine. I wasn’t aware of this for several weeks until I saw an e-mail come through about getting a message. POF is attached to an e-mail I don’t use that much, so I had missed all the other e-mails about messages I’d gotten over the past few months. Funny enough, I guess I was meant to see this particular message, because I logged on and it was a message from the original racist. He had started a new account and messaged me:
at this point, he sent me a few other messages and then blocked me, and while someone blocking you on POF erases your messages to them, I could still find a way to see his messages:
so to be clear, I told him to leave me alone, and he told me he was going to find me on Facebook. Beyond creepy. I reached out to POF, both through a report on the site and a Twitter DM, because when I had made my original thread about them they had DMed me. This was April 19 and as of May 10, he’s still on the site because POF is horrible.
This situation, while annoying, inspired me to conduct an experiment. I decided to change my POF photos the same way I had my OKC photos and see what kind of messages I got. I left the paragraph about not wanting to date Trump supporters in there, and just added the two photos and did nothing else. I stayed off the site unless I got an e-mail about a message, I didn’t look at anyone’s profile unless they messaged me, I avoided being active on the site in really any way unless I got a message. I wanted to see what would happen if I basically just existed on the site and didn’t do anything to invite messages my way.
Most messages flooding my inbox, of course, just said “hey how are you” because no one is original, especially on POF. But, I have gotten a few politically charged messages over the past three weeks.
I want to take a minute to note that I know people have a variety of opinions on how much to consider politics when finding someone to date. I have addressed this before in an article that was picked up by Thought Catalog if you want a more detailed explanation of my opinion on this (that’s not my real last name, so don’t bother stalking me). But the point is, these are MY values and MY preferences when it comes to dating. I don’t expect everyone to feel as strongly as me on this issue, and some non-Trump supporters may very well be willing to date a supporter, and that’s their choice. That linked post goes into why I won’t do so, but regardless, the point of a dating site is to find someone who meets your personal preferences. And again, I don’t think my explanation on my profile for why I didn’t want to date someone who voted for Trump was in any way disrespectful, it was just explaining my views and why they were important to me.
Anyway, over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten some random one-off Trump supporting messages such as:
I got a few from people who started out rude and then weirdly seemed interested in me:
We wouldn’t have a boring marriage?!?!?!?! Wtf?!?! I reported this one but he is still there.
I got some that just came right out of the gate with a lecture
Ahhhh, the classic move of calling a woman who disagrees with you fat. I reported this guy May 2, he is still there.
I got a few that started out non-political but later decided to use it as an insult when I wasn’t tripping over myself to speak to them
This is the ONE user from the past couple weeks that POF did remove. I guess “salty cunt” is where they draw the line!
This is just a sampling of what I’ve gotten over the last three weeks. I have occasionally had this issue elsewhere — I think something like this happened once on Bumble, but their awesome moderators took care of it right away, and it has happened maybe twice on OKC but I contacted them and they eventually removed the profiles in question. But on POF, this issue seems to run rampant — and again, this is ONLY a sample of ONLY politically-related messages I’ve gotten in three weeks. I’ve had a few other rude messages that I haven’t bothered including here.
My plan was to keep this up for a couple more weeks and continue collecting screenshots to make this post even funnier, but last night/this morning something else happened and I’ve decided it’s where I have to draw the line.
I got these messages from a guy last night:
His profile said he was a business owner, so I did a reverse image search on his pictures to try to figure out what his business was so I could be sure to never patronize it. I found his Instagram and Facebook, and the person from his photos is really a man that lives in Las Vegas (very far from where I live), and has been in a relationship with a man since 2015. At this point I either knew that his photos had been stolen or that some random gay guy in Nevada was posing as an East Coast straight man just to harass women. He had a lot of photos of this guy, too!
This morning, I messaged his boyfriend about it. I was a little afraid to message the profile directly in case it really was him, but I felt like someone should know. He confirmed they are indeed stolen photos and we had a good laugh about it, but despite me reporting this profile for rude messages and for fake photos, and tweeting at POF about the issue, his profile is still up. Granted, it has only been one day, but this is such an egregious violation of someone’s privacy that there is no excuse for this. When this situation is resolved I will officially be deleting my POF profile, not “hiding,” actually deleting, for once and for all.
However, this whole situation has been a reminder of a larger issue: how difficult it is to be a woman online, especially one searching for a relationship.
I will start by saying that I am aware that I am a heterosexual, cisgendered, middle-class, American-born, white woman. Aside from the fact that I’m not a man, pretty much all the other privilege cards have been dealt in my favor. Things are SO MUCH WORSE for non-Americans, non-white women, transgendered women/nonbinary people/etc., low-income women, women of color, the list goes on. I am fully aware of this. I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party or make it seem like I have it the worst of anyone. I’m just trying to talk about my experiences and how they make me feel.
I’m aware that I have a lot of opinions. And I understand that some of them are unpopular. In an old blog that I no longer have the domain for but can still be found online, I wrote a post in 2015 about the importance of speaking (or writing) your truth. I try to live up to that, even on challenging topics. And on many of the things I speak about (racism, classism, etc.) my understanding of the topics is ever-evolving, so I may not even always do the best job of speaking about them, but I really try. I feel like it’s my duty as a person of relative privilege to try.
I know that people in general don’t always take kindly to strong opinions, especially when they come from a woman. It’s just something we come to expect. However, while this was something I was used to in general, the idea of connecting these issues to a dating site is a whole new world to me. Last time I was on dating sites was several years ago; I was less politically aware and it was a different political climate. I didn’t feel the need to specify much aside from the fact that I wanted someone socially liberal (pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, etc.) This time around, my views are stronger and better-informed, and the world is a crazier place.
The point of a dating site is supposed to be to find people who align with you. You are supposed to describe yourself, your interests and values, and hope you can find someone who matches them. It’s bad enough to feel that you can’t find someone who you are a good fit with, but to be continually harassed just for having opinions adds a whole new layer to it. I wasn’t doing anything on POF to elicit these messages — it would be one thing if I messaged them first and they disagreed with me and said something rude (still unnecessary to be rude, but at least I could say I started the conversation). But I was just existing on the site, rarely even logging in. There is just no need for this.
If I am being completely honest, at times it makes me feel hopeless in regards to ever meeting someone. If a dating site isn’t the ONE place I can talk about myself free of judgement, then where am I ever going to find someone with the traits I am looking for? I am not saying I expect everyone to align with me, but I am saying that I wish people who disagreed with me on these things would just move past my profile. I understand it’s already going to be a struggle to meet someone fairly intelligent, somewhat politically aligned with me (I don’t even need to agree on every detail of things, just the big things), who lives in my area, that I can at least be mildly physically attracted to and is attracted to me. I get the deck is already stacked against me. But to not even be able to SEARCH for this person without getting messages about my looks, my weight, my intelligence, random slurs, etc. It truly wears you down after awhile.
I sometimes wonder if maybe I am just not meant to date seriously. I know that sounds very overdramatic, especially given that this time around I’ve only been single about a year and I’m still fairly young (28) and there are people who are single far longer and eventually do find someone, but I don’t mean it to come across as dramatic or self-pitying. I’m aware I may meet more people if I kept my social and political views more to myself early on, but that would be going against everything I believe in, and honestly, I’d rather increase my chances of meeting someone RIGHT for me, even if it means dating less overall, as opposed to increase my chance of meeting more random people that may not be what I’m looking for. I don’t even believe in soulmates; I think there are a variety of people you meet in life that you could make things work with. But lately, I genuinely wonder if maybe someone as strong-willed and opinionated and independent as me is meant to go through life mostly by themselves — if maybe there isn’t an appropriate complement to a personality this strong, this stubborn, this dogmatic.
I’m not saying this to get a flurry of reassurance or compliments or reminders that I will eventually be in a relationship again. I know I very well may be, but I have also considered the fact that I may not. And honestly, I haven’t quite decided what that means or how I feel about it yet. I don’t have very strong opinions on marriage or children; I feel like I could take or leave both those things depending on the situation and the person I was with. But I do enjoy being in a relationship in general, if it’s with the right guy. I have a very full and good life without a relationship — I have friends, family, a career I am extremely passionate about, I’m pursuing a doctorate degree, I travel when I can, I volunteer regularly — I have never been the type to “need” someone, but it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be nice to find someone. At the very least, it would be nice to be able to look for potential boyfriends without being constantly harassed and insulted for my views.
For now, I’ll be taking myself off of POF and trying to convince everyone I meet not to use the site. But long term, I haven’t really decided what any of this means to me. I usually like my posts to have some kind of punchy conclusion sentence or paragraph, but I am at a loss for this one. I guess sometimes all you can say is T.B.D.