When Anna Gensler first downloaded the dating app Tinder in February, she didn't realize that along with your garden-variety single man, the app would bring her face to face — or phone screen to screen — as it were with a whole community of charming young men who say things like "there's only going to be eight planets after I destroy Uranus" and "you tryna get the pipe?"
But Gensler decided she wasn't game with this casual harassment. So, in a brilliant and hilarious move, the artist decided to turn the tables on these digital casanovas by drawing them naked — and sending them the sketches. Gensler also posted the creations to Instagram and, when that was taken down, to Tumblr.
"Maybe this makes me naive, but I was pretty surprised to discover that under the protective veil of the Internet, sleazy pick-up lines that in the past were really only acceptable to utter to well, maybe to paid sex workers, but more or less never, had become somehow acceptable to utter to real, live human beings," Gensler told PolicyMic.
"Yes, I chose by my own free will to download this app. Yes, I was fully aware that said app was for meeting, hooking up and possibly dating ... and I don't think that there is anything wrong with any of that. That does not mean that I signed up for men online to send rude, crude, sexist, objectifying messages to me (and keep in mind these were just their lines!)."
If you wouldn't use the line in person, then you shouldn't use it on the Internet, says Gensler. Too often there are no consequences for men who spew disgusting things at women online. It really seems as though the one's who do this regularly don't even see women as people--just "tight buttholes".
While reaction from women has been generally positive, the reactions of the men Gensler sent sketches to have been decidedly mixed.
"It's been very interesting to see how the majority of these men respond with hostility," she said. "I didn't expect that, although I probably should have. The second most popular response would probably be irritation over a perceived inaccuracy in their portrait. One man was upset that I made his nipples smaller than they are in real life! The responses have been beyond anything I ever expected and they are probably the most enlightening part of the whole project."
But one response stuck out in particular, Gensler added, precisely because it wasn't angry or demeaning.
"One man responded by saying, 'embarrassing but well deserved and it definitely makes a statement on the dis-inhibition of Tinder, and virtual communication in general,'" she said. "This guy actually was smart! It makes you realize that it's not only stupid, mean people who start with these lines. There is also the possibility of people being bored or like he said, being completely dis-inhibited by the Internet."
So far no one has responded by drawing her, but Gensler said she'd love it if someone did.
That one rather anomolous response aside, Gensler said that many drawings later, she still doesn't really understand what motivates some of these men to make the comments that they do.
"I think that some of these men truly believe that if a woman is on Tinder and she swipes yes, the man has the right to send sexually explicit messages," Gensler said. "Swiping yes does not mean that the woman wants to have sex with you, it simply means that she is open to hearing what you have to say."
The idea that wanting to talk is basically the same as wanting to have sex or to be spoken to vulgarly is a very perplexing one, Gensler added, and has led to many guys to imply that because she was using the app, she automatically "wanted" that kind of attention.
"That is the argument I've seen again and again this last week said by men who disagree with the project" Gensler said. "'She is a (insert random insult). She has no right to be upset because it's her fault for putting herself on Tinder.' I cannot imagine that this sexist, stupid approach ever works, but anything is possible. While there are plenty of creeps out there, there are also a lot of nice, normal, smart men, too. It's just these creeps that are spoiling things for everyone else!"
Image Credit (all): Anna Gensler
Ultimately, Gensler's foray into the world of Tinder has not resulted in much actual romantic success. But that doesn't mean online dating can't be an effective way to meet people.
"I have a number of friends who have dated through Tinder and found various levels of success in relationships to come from the app," she said.
"The argument that Tinder is only for people looking for a one-night stand and therefore it is OK to blatantly objectify women on the site is completely invalid, even though I personally have not found anything successful through Tinder. Even if the site was only for one-night stands (which it is not), swiping right is not an agreement that you would like to have sex with the person and engage in a sexually explicit conversation right off the bat."