In case you’ve lived in a bubble over the last few years, the #MeToo Movement is a global movement for survivors to stand up and speak out against sexual abuse, violence, and predatory behaviors. It’s easy to feel compelled to stay silent when your abuser is a superstar celebrity and you feel like no one will believe you. You may also stay silent due to a sense of shame or fear. However, the purpose of this campaign is to share our stories, whether they happened last night or last year, so we’ll be seen, heard, believed, and supported, and predators will face the consequences. And it’s working.
This movement has had a major impact on the way we conduct ourselves and our relationships in public and behind closed doors, including how we communicate with our dates, define and express our boundaries, what types of behaviors we’ll accept or shut down, and beyond. And although we're technically still in a #MeToo world, women and non-binary folks are navigating the dating scene in different ways as a result.
Although we’re still meeting people in the same ways — through popular dating sites and IRL encounters — we ARE changing how we carry ourselves and interact with those potential romantic and/or sexual partners.
If you’re still single and mingling today, here are our 10 tips for women and non-binary people on how to date safely, with lessons from the #MeToo movement in mind.
1. Hold people accountable
“Online dating has to take some responsibility for making #MeToo dating behavior easier to get away with, largely because of the anonymity of dating sites and apps,” dating expert Trish McDermott tells Top10.com. McDermott, who helped build and launch Match, was the site’s dating guru and spokesperson for a decade, and is now on the founding team of social network Meetopolis.
However, that element of anonymity doesn’t mean you have to let people slide for abusive behaviors, whether verbally, emotionally, or physically. Having these conversations and holding people accountable can help us all stay safer and more educated on the realities of the dating world today. “Looking beyond dating sites and apps, and thanks to the #MeToo movement, dating and relationship behaviors that we once refrained from speaking about are now front and center in our conversations. While some have called this a politicization of dating, suggesting this movement has drawn lines in the romantic sands of our lives, there’s nothing political about wanting to walk through life, or one's love life, assault free.”
2. Learn and understand the reality behind the movement
The #MeToo movement has also helped us to better understand the prevalence of sexual crimes and harassment that take place around the globe, explains TL Robinson from The U.P., an app for sexual assault survivors and survivor supporters. “More importantly, it has pushed people into having much needed conversations about patriarchal elitism and the abusive behaviors of some people (mostly men, per studies).” Robinson believes that these conversations, along with the constant stream of news cycles and public imagery, have forced the masses to change their biases about who can be a predator and who can be victimized. This ultimately helps us understand that we are all empowered to speak up and fight back and better inform our dating decisions in the future.
3. Take time getting to know your dates
There’s no rush to settle down with someone new! Progress your relationship on a timeline that feels right for you. Pay close attention to red flags, questionable behaviors that don’t sit right with you, when dates become too pushy, and if/when they cross a boundary. Also tune in to how you feel when you’re together. Do they make you feel comfortable? Do you feel like you’re being coerced or pressured into doing anything that you may not feel 100% ready for? Take note, and only spend time with those who respect you and won’t rush you into doing anything beyond your comfort level.
4. Do your due diligence before going on dates
Research the person you’re about to date before you actually go out with them. Simply punch their name into a search engine and see what comes up. If you find any published complaints about them or prior arrests of theirs on the internet, especially for sexual misconduct, you’ll know to stay far away from them. See if you have any mutual friends on social media. If so, consider asking that friend for their thoughts. Do they know anything about this person? Go into your dates as informed as possible. However, you still want to be careful on your dates, even when you do as much research as possible.
5. Update friends and family when you go out with someone new
This tip showcases the sad reality that most women feel endangered while dating, but this is the world we live in. Inform others when you go on a date with someone you’ve never met before, or someone that nobody really knows well. Send a close friend or loved one your date’s name before you go out with them. Also consider texting them the address of where you’ll be meeting and dropping them a pin location when you change spots. Whatever you do, keep someone in the loop so they know you’re safe.
6. Communicate your wants, needs, and intentions
First things first, it’s important to understand what your wants and needs are, both personally and in a relationship. From there, you can confidently share them with your date. Of course, respect should be a bare minimum in all relationships, but communicating your desires and limitations will enable your date or partner to fully hear where you stand so THEY can check themselves and act accordingly. “People are at all different levels of a spectrum when it comes to self awareness, relationship experience, communication skill, and pro-social values,” says Aviva Kamander, LCSW and psychotherapist at Authentic Vida. “Misunderstandings are common when people don’t talk about expectations and preferences, but improving communication skills will improve outcomes,” Kamander continues. “If we set the bar at civility, caring for the needs, beliefs, and identity of others without degrading people, we can move the culture forward exponentially.”
7. Establish clear boundaries
“Women have found their voices as dates, being both clear and vocal about behaviors that are unacceptable and attitudes that are unattractive in a potential date or partner. Men have had to consider the choices they make and the attitude and beliefs they bring on a date,” says McDermott. While some have suggested #MeToo has further complicated dating, she believes this way of thinking lets us all off the hook regarding our responsibility to understand right vs. wrong in our romantic lives, and set clear boundaries. Friendly reminder: “There's nothing at all complicated about treating our dates respectfully.” Firmly set and express those boundaries so the lines are drawn as clear as possible.
8. Consent is ALWAYS key
Heading back to someone’s place after a date doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to have sex with them. You might just be enjoying their company and want to keep spending time together without anything getting physical. Whether you’re going into the date looking for a spouse or you just want a one night stand, the principles remain the same. If you want to hook up with your date, then ALWAYS grant and receive consent prior to initiating anything sexual. If not, make sure they’re well aware of your intentions prior to accepting any invitations.
9. Speak up if you’re uncomfortable
If you feel like someone is crossing or has crossed your boundary and they’re disrespecting you, let them know by voicing your concerns ASAP. Inform the person that their behavior is NOT okay, explain what they did and how it made you feel (if you feel comfortable doing so), and leave as soon as you can. If you believe their behavior is criminal or you feel they may be a danger to other people in the future, consider filing an official report and speaking up on a public level, through social media and/or reporting them to the dating app you met on (as long as it’s safe to do so).
10. Know that you’re not alone
If you’re a survivor of sexual assault or abuse, please don’t feel alone — because you’re not alone. There are groups and communities who are ready, accessible, and willing to support you. After all, that’s what the #MeToo movement is about: sharing and listening to people’s stories so you feel empowered enough to speak up about your own experience in an effort to protect others from experiencing similar situations in the future.
Following these 10 tips can help you safely navigate the dating world during the #MeToo movement. Whatever you do, always trust your gut when something doesn’t feel right, protect yourself as best as you can, and feel empowered to speak up when necessary. By doing so, together, we can make this world a safer place, where hopefully one day #MeToo will be a thing of the past.
If you’re experiencing or have experienced sexual violence and are in need of support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).