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 celeb and you feel like no one will believe you. You may also stay silent due to a sense of shame or fear of judgment. 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. Let’s take a look at what's changed in the past few years and whether this heightened awareness of (mostly men’s) detrimental, abusive, and/or indecent behaviors have made dating "easier" or "harder" today, and what consequences and complications have arisen because of it.
The Impact Of #MeToo On Dating
“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 and was the site’s dating guru and spokesperson for a decade and is now on the founding team of social network Meetopolis. “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.”
Despite the hardships along the way, #MeToo has had an overall positive impact on dating, according to McDermott. “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.” 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. Friendly reminder: “There's nothing at all complicated about treating our dates respectfully.”
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, understand that we are all empowered to speak up and fight back — and ultimately making dating easier.
Tips For Dating Post #MeToo
Although we’re still meeting people in the same ways - through the best dating sites and apps 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 tips for women and non-binary people on how to date safely, with lessons from the #MeToo movement in mind.
1. Take your time getting to know your dates
There’s no rush! Progress your relationship at the 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, or even if 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.
2. Communicate your wants, needs, intentions, and boundaries
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.”
3. 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 touching them. If not, make sure they’re well aware of your intentions prior to accepting any invitations.
4. 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! 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.
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 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 the same in the future. 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).