A disclaimer: I am, by no means, a dating expert.

Truth is, if there is one thing that makes me happy about being in a relationship, aside from having a constant person who will gladly remind me that I am gaining a few pounds and that I should say no to that extra slice of cake, is that I don’t have to wade anymore through that morass people call dating.

Admittedly, I can’t help but feel for my single friends who fret and frown over this convoluted game of filtering potential partners—yet another task to juggle with one’s many adult responsibilities.

Recently, I was watching online this “social experiment,” where a girl supposedly pretended to be a bystander, to see how safe Manila’s streets were. Out of the five people who approached her, four turned out to be predatorial dickwads who tried to get her to come with them. Despite how a lot of people speculated the video to be scripted, one can’t help but think about all the creepy men out there waiting to pounce on unsuspecting women, desperately attempting to get in their pants.

Though it also makes me wonder how difficult dating has been for a lot of straight men nowadays, in this #MeToo era. While there is no defense for unwanted sexual advances, the challenge is trying to understand when someone is simply being coy or really being evasive. Not everyone is attuned to subtle verbal cues and body language, and one can easily mistake friendliness for an invitation to flirtation.

It doesn’t help as well that we pressure women to be friendlier. Society expects women to be subservient and accommodating—demanding that they try to avoid as much friction as possible. Women are called out for being “bitches” when they refuse to comply, or even aspire or assume positions of power. (Men easily get away with asserting themselves—nay, they’re even praised for doing so.)

Maybe straight people can learn a thing or two from how gay guys date. An argument I read stated that dating for gay men is easier: gay men have no qualms about rejecting other gay men, and sex can be seen as something purely physical—sans the baggage of purity and emotions and monogamy. Gay men can be very upfront.

To digress though, while a lot of gay men do not pussyfoot when it comes to their desires, and that these desires are all the more amplified and/or aggravated by online dating (wherein one can easily filter potential dates by physical characteristics such as height, weight, sexual positions, and race, among other things), they come with their own problems as well.

In the online gay world, it isn’t rare that you hear about incidents of outright racism, misogyny (in the form of femme-shaming), as well as body-shaming. (Gay men can be utter jerks too.)

I think that technology is slowly helping women to stand up for themselves, specifically with the way they date. The rise of online dating platforms creates a sandbox of sorts outside the awkward, terrifying real-life social settings. In these online spheres, both sexes have the explicit understanding that these are spaces to look for potential dates and partners. It provides a safe distance, as well: Online, a guy sending a dick pic is a minor inconvenience that can be done away with by a quick block; in its real-life equivalent, a stranger flashing his penis in the hopes of getting a bang afterwards is outright sexual terrorism.

Technology can be a tool to make people act more civilly. As the country marketing manager of Blued, arguably the largest gay social app in the world, I have noticed how some features can actively encourage certain behaviors—such as how we nudge people to be more authentic by adding a special badge on their profiles after verification. Anonymity, at times, brings out the worst in people. Without the fear of repercussions, people sometimes turn into monsters.

Of course, one can only do so much. Changing people’s mindsets cannot happen instantly. Fighting against one’s baser instincts is a lifelong challenge, and many of us fail every now and then.

Yet: I have hope.

Whenever I look at one of my friends—a girl who has successfully found a partner on a dating app—I can’t help but believe that there is hope, still.

Maybe it’s not really the platform. Perhaps, what’s more important is how we approach dating and people, whatever the space may be, online or offline. If we only treat the person we’re talking to with respect and courtesy, and if we honestly communicate our desires respectfully, dating can be a more pleasant experience for everyone.

And maybe, if we could only learn to love ourselves more, and find humor in this messy, embarrassing, and all-too-human encounter, we could laugh at every “Not interested,” “seenzone,” or swipe left that the world throws at us.

Then again, as I’ve said, I’m no expert. Excuse me as I end this now: my boyfriend is telling me that we should go eat. If you think the mixed signals you get from dating is difficult, wait until you get the many contradictions a relationship brings.

About The Author

Evan Tan

Evan Tan is the administrative head of The Red Whistle, a pioneering HIV advocacy organization which collaborates with artists and businesses in the fight against the rise of HIV and AIDS in the Philippines. He is also the regional director for Southeast Asia of Freelancer, the largest freelancing marketplace in the world which provides access to online jobs to professionals. Visit his website, www.writerinmanila.com.

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