It’s 11 a.m., I’m up to my eyeballs in work, and a man I have yet to meet is asking, via text, how I like to be worshiped.
With your silence, is what I’m thinking.
Why I chose to relax my no-digits-before-dates rule this time is a mystery. Was it because he asked, politely? Because he seemed charming and harmless? Or was it just boredom?
Initially, I greeted his textual come-ons with jokes, then politely demurred when he tried to ratchet it up a notch. And yet, the worship talk continued. Soon he was asking for a phone call — and permission to call me “the sexy one.”
In the end, I nipped it in the bud and opted out, ending any possibility of a relationship before it started. Maybe I’m too sensitive, too literal, too self-protective. But somehow I can’t imagine how I’d transition from near-sexting to something of substance.
Most of all, I’m annoyed. And it’s this very kind of annoyance that I’ve been attempting to avoid with my standard “no digits before dates” rule. We can swipe and talk in-app to our heart’s content. But until I see your face for myself, you may not have my number.
When it comes to online dating, men and women are in very different worlds. Men seem to want — and be eager to share — their phone numbers before an initial meeting. I, like many women, would rather eat glass. From the desire to protect my safety to avoiding harassment to ameliorating serious time-sucks, here are the reasons I, and so many other female online daters, refuse to give out our digits before a first date.
You might call me. A lot. Like, 116 times in a night, as recently happened to one female friend.
Pictures that are not safe for work.
Opening a text to find an unsolicited picture of a man’s genitals is not most women’s idea of fun. It’s also not uncommon. According to a 2016 study from Match, 49 percent of single women have received an unsolicited — and unwanted — picture of a man’s penis. When we want to see you naked, you’ll know.
There’s an app for chatting.
That’s right, it’s the very app we connected on. It has messaging and communication built in. It’s safer than giving you my personal phone number.
Fear of stalking.
Try as we might to protect our information, phone numbers are relatively searchable. And that search could lead down a rabbit hole to a lot more personal information than I’m ready to share. “Providing a telephone number is a risk because it is an avenue to physically connecting with the person, whether that person expects it or not,” says Melissa Hamilton, visiting criminal law scholar at the University of Houston Law Center. “Those with bad intentions can use the phone number to get much more information about the individual.”
Harassment, fear of harassment and revenge.
For women, harassment on dating sites is common. According to a survey from Consumers’ Research, 57 percent of women and just 21 percent of men have felt harassed on a dating app or site. More than once I’ve been slow to respond to a man’s online advances and he has punished me with a volley of angry messages. It’s bad enough being called a filthy name and verbally assaulted on an app. Waking up in the morning to a string of texts calling me an asshole — or worse — or threatening me with violence is not a fun start to the day.
I can’t block you. I can’t block everyone.
In his profile, one guy said, “If you can’t have a quick conversation before meeting, swipe left. You can always block me!” The mere message is shudder-worthy. Plus, blocking someone isn’t just that easy. Some services require you to renew a block every 60 days, and sometimes even pay to do so. Plus, much like the “for a good time, call” graffiti of yore, what’s to stop you from posting my phone number for trolls everywhere? I can’t block everyone, and I don’t want a new phone number.
Hamilton also says that for those intent on revenge, such as people who’ve had an overture spurned, phone numbers have served as means for victimizing. “Revengeful men have posted phone numbers and names with such lures as ‘Call me: I like rough sex from strangers, and don’t believe me if at the time I protest,’” she says.
And yet, despite all my fears, I might be wrong. In the past, phone conversations have tipped me off about bad actors before we’ve met up in person. According to some dating experts, it’s safer to have a phone conversation with someone before a first meeting. It is easier to catch an impostor over the phone than it is over text or in an app conversation.
Still, I persist. Maybe I’ll reconsider my stance; maybe I’ll get a burner number that I give only to potential dates. Or maybe I’ll wait until we live in a world without unsolicited penis pics. For now, though, I’m standing my ground.