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New Zealand Woman's Weekly. While the singles scene may be slightly over-represented in the group I'm with, the fact remains there are a lot of over-forties involved in the online dating scene.
Since its launch inTinder has become one of the most widely used mobile dating applications apps globally Lapowsky, Fifty million people are estimated to use Tinder across countries and the app is particularly popular among young people Yi, Tinder is touted as quick and easy to use, providing a fun and entertaining form of communication, as well as an obligation-free platform to meet new people Newall, Tinder is often portrayed as a risky app that heterosexual women should treat with caution or avoid completely De Peak,rather than focusing on the actions of the men who perpetrated such acts or fostering a broader discussion about the high rates of violence against women.
But such risks and acts of violence reside in the offline world and are facilitated by gendered power relations that abound in a patriarchal social and cultural context Gavey, In this paper, we begin to address this gap by examining the experiences of a small group of young heterosexual women in NZ who use Tinder.
What is tinder?
We then explicate what Tinder is and how it works, followed by discussing research on technologically mediated intimacies Farvid, a before presenting the project details and our analysis. The male sexual drive discourse posits that men are driven by a biological necessity to procure and engage in heterosex, and once aroused, must experience sexual release via coitus and orgasm. Within this discourse, women are positioned as passive and responsive to male sexuality, and as distinctly lacking a physical desire for sex.
This discourse positions men as sex-driven and women as offering up their sexuality to men in exchange for children and the security of a home life Hollway, Although this discourse is supposedly gender-blind, it is intersected by other discourses which affect men and women differently. Women are increasingly occupying a more active, agentic, and desirous sexual subjectivity Farvid, In what continues to be a society governed by patriarchal power relations, struggles against sexual assault and gender-based violence remain life-threatening risks for women Gavey, ; Vance, Such contradictions provide the backdrop within which women traverse technologically mediated domains such as Tinder, online dating and mobile dating.
Tinder is marketed as a social networking app that is typically used as a dating app or for making new friends in new places Newall, The app is deed to be quick and easy to use, with a simple platform that is sleek and visually attractive.
What is on offer with Tinder is an ostensibly authenticated Facebook profile that is used to set up a supposedly anonymous Tinder profile. The intersection of such anonymity with authenticity is what makes Tinder particularly interesting as a dating app platform. Unlike online dating, Tinder provides users the function of choosing the geographical range within which they would like to meet people between kilometresas well as providing parameters regarding age and gender.
The process is relatively anonymous as potential partners are unaware if a user has rejected them by swiping left. Technologically mediated intimacies refer to contemporary intimate contact, which is made or facilitated by some form of computer-based technology Farvid, a. Reasons given for using online dating are similar to those often given before its inception e. Heterosexual dating has historically involved profoundly gendered manifestations of goals, desires and strategies see Bailey, These encounters were casual in nature Peiss,and reflected the gendered negotiations women and men engaged in over the economic and social value of entertainment, female company, and sex Clement, The system of treating introduced a new mode of heterosexual interaction that continues to underpin contemporary systems of dating Bailey, Unlike conventional dating, online dating provides women greater access to a larger pool of potential male partners Korenthal, The face-to-face meeting is the ultimate test which then determines if a relationship forged online will continue, in whatever capacity, off-line Padgett, Women report online dating allows them to be more considerate as well as assertive regarding partner selection Schubert, ; Korenthal, The anonymity online dating provides has also been identified as a positive factor.
Online dating has recently been supplemented by many mobile dating apps e. The existent literature on dating apps has largely focused on Grindr, which was released inand is marketed at men who have sex with men. This research has either been quantitative and primarily focused on sexually transmitted infections e. Qualitative work has noted that Grindr redefines the boundaries between physical location and online space — producing a layering of space and place that is unique to location-aware dating apps Blackwell et al.
Users report enjoying being able to use the app while travelling to meet people from the same sexual community. While some men use it exclusively for obtaining sex, others use it to chat with other men and explore their sexual identity Blackwell et al.
Although some men value Grindr as a useful platform for meeting new people, for making friends, and procuring relationships or casual sex, others noted that the app objectified men and was distracting as well as time-consuming Brubaker et al.
Some men also reported frustrations regarding difficulties discerning whether users were genuine or merely using the app for curiosity and entertainment Blackwell et al. We also interrogate whether Tinder created more opportunities for the women to explore their sexuality, if it intensified the spectre of risk, as touted by the media, or whether there where elements of both possibilities.
Three of the participants worked in the health sector, one worked with youth, and one participant was an undergraduate student. The length of time women had spent on Tinder varied from three months to two years. Ethical approval for the project was sought and gained form the Auckland University of Technology Ethics Committee.
No dating, thanks, just sex
Participants were interviewed by the second author using a semi-structured style. Interviews ranged from 30 to 53 minutes, were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim producing s of data. Transcripts were anonymized before analysis, with all identifying information removed or altered all names are pseudonyms. Critical realism allows for an in-depth and critical examination of social phenomena, while allowing the researcher to make claims about the real life effects of research outcomes Easton, Inductive TA means that the data itself was used to derive the structure of the analysis rather than fitting the data into pre-determined.
Although the data was largely analysed at a semantic or surface level, looking at the explicit language and meanings conveyed by the women, it went beyond that to examine the cultural ideologies or discourses that informed the talk.
This analytic process was carried out by the second author, in full consultation with the first author. Tinder was described by the women as new and novel, as well as a contradictory and contested site of varied uses. Four themes were identified that reflect this tension: Tinder as a new landscape, Tinder as a multipurpose tool, Tinder as a risky domain and new technology, old norms? We discuss these below.
Tinder was portrayed as a relatively ambiguous interface that was vastly different to other forms of online communication:. That was something that interested me in Tinder Age: Tinder was also contrasted with online dating in terms of purpose and usability:.
Age: Here, Tinder is portrayed as quick, easy and simple to use, in contrast to online dating which is more thorough and labour intensive. Thus, it is considered by users to be more casual and less complicated. The women also spoke of online dating as carrying more social stigma than Tinder. Sarah: Like my friend and her boyfriend were like yeah you have to do this and they like sat down and made my profile for me.
Furthermore, rather than being a hidden activity carried out in solitude like online datingTinder use was something that the participants talked about, and used, with friends.
Situating contemporary western female heterosexuality
In comparing Tinder to Facebook and Snapchat, Bella bolsters its acceptability, aligning it with popular social media apps, rather than conventional online dating or other match-making technology. Tinder thus occupied a unique hybrid status, as both social networking tool and dating app.
Like do you just want like a casual root? Or do you want like to hang out? Or do you want, you know, to have like a relationship? Cassie contrasts Tinder dates with conventional dates, where the norms or social scripts are well-established. The purpose of Tinder and the intentions of its users were not always clear, and the app could be used to instigate various relational ties e.
Due to such ambiguity, the app was also seen as a lot more casual and obligation-free than conventional dating:. This was both digitally women could un-match a matchor following face-to-face meetings. Meeting via conventional means involved responsibilities or pressures from which Tinder, to some degree, was free.
The women largely spoke of Tinder favourably, reporting it was a useful tool in a variety of ways.
Tinder was often talked about as helping women move on from past relationships:. In our interviews, male attention on Tinder after a break up was a valued short-term distraction that resulted in feelings of desirability for women. Linked to this desirability, others noted that Tinder provided them with a quick ego boost:. Cassie: It was kind of, it was a bit of a confidence boost when you first get like, your first match.
The women also reported using the app to seek a variety of relational and sexual unions:.
KA: What kind of relationships have you sought on Tinder? Sexual, or relationships or just casual, friends. The above extracts demonstrate the diversity of responses regarding the types of relationships women procured on Tinder.
The women did not typically use Tinder to find longer-term romantic relationships even if some Tinder matches eventually became boyfriends. Tinder was a multipurpose tool that facilitated various relational or sexual possibilities, many of which were navigated on a case-by-case basis.
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Tinder offered women a platform to experiment with casual sex and other in-between- relationship scenarios like the one Bella articulates above. The quick and easy interface offered by Tinder, coupled with anonymity and access to otherwise unknown men, provided women the opportunity to explore multiple sexual and relational ties. In this way, traditional discourses of passive and responsive femininity were disrupted as the women openly described multiple desires and the purposeful pursuit of those Byers, ; Farvid, The notion of risk was invoked in two ways. Secondly, risk was apparent in stories where things had gone wrong or the women felt they could be in danger.
These extracts outline the potential dangers and spectre of risk the women considered. In a social context that places the burden of keeping safe on female victims, the women discussed various screening processes they employed in order to reduce the chances of encountering risk. This is a new kind of background checking Padgett, that the women engaged in, in order to feel safer meeting men in person. Cassie: I met up with this guy and he seemed really nice and he was really attractive … Well, I thought he was and um we were texting heaps and we like, he seemed really funny over text and then I met him and he was just not what I expected.
The incongruence between conjured images did not always match the reality women encountered when meeting men in person.