kink online: how not to cruise

You know, I’m sensing a bit of a theme here recently. I hope you’ll all forgive me for carping on it; I just feel like it keeps coming up in one guise or another, some positive, some not so much, and that makes it a constant buzz in my mind. That theme is entitlement.

Today’s post is of the not-so-much-positive variety. Today I direct my critical mind at the people who send friend requests to strangers online, or more specifically, the mind-boggling sense of entitlement demonstrated by some people who do so. It’s not the what, it’s the how… and how!

Anyone here explored the site FetLife? I joined it not too long ago. Simply put, it’s the Facebook of kinky people. It’s still in its toddlerhood, and as such it’s got some odd little glitches and such, but by and large it’s really cool. As opposed to or other such cruising sites, this one is explicitly set up Facebook-style so that people can have an online network made up of their friends. I don’t spend a heck of a lot of time on it, but it’s definitely neat to have an all-kinky network there, and others tell me that the discussion boards are absolutely excellent. I’m sure your mileage may vary, but so far I’m hearing tons of super-positive reviews. Kinksters all over the world are signing up. You should too!

Of course, like anywhere else (Facebook included), there will always be people out to cruise; especially here, I don’t find this surprising since it is, after all, a kink site. Now, I’ve been on the receiving end of pleasantly few Facebook cruises from random strangers, but this week I received two different cruise notes from guys on FetLife. And both of them managed to piss me off rather royally.

My approach to profile-based networking sites is simple. If you’re my friend in real life, then by all means let’s be friends online. If you’re not my friend in real life, then I do not want to be your friend online. The sole exception to that is if we’ve connected online via some other means – say, a chat group or by e-mail through another friend or a discussion list – and we really, seriously think one another are the bee’s knees, and possibly we’ve got mutual real-life friends who can vouch for your sanity. Then maybe we could be online friends. Otherwise, if you want to be friends, then let’s find a way to meet up in person and figure out if we actually get along. If you don’t want to do that, I’m not interested in you. There are a variety of reasons for this personal policy, and none of them make me unfriendly – but I’ll get to that in a minute.

If you’re a person who has not bothered to read my profile and find out who I am and what I’m interested in, and you send me a note that very clearly shows me you have not bothered to read my profile and find out who I am and what I’m interested in, and especially if you include with that note a picture of your cock or your breasts or your spread-open legs as I specifically ask you not to do, which you would know if you’d read my profile and found out who I am and what I’m interested in… then I am going to ignore you and probably block you. To me, this feels entirely reasonable as a response to unwanted messages that feel like the typographical equivalent of a telephone breather. But ya know what? If you don’t agree, that’s very unfortunate, and you can go off over there and have your opinion, and I still don’t have to be friends with you. That’s entirely my prerogative. Beyond that, I also feel no obligation to respond to unsolicited e-mail from strangers who don’t bother to find out what I’m about when I took the time to fill out a fucking profile in the first place specifically to make it possible for them to do so.

(On a side note, I just recently deleted my profile entirely because the vast majority of the people who’ve messaged me there over the past two years have done all the things I listed just now. Sure, there have been one or two gems… but really, the junk mail vastly outweighs the benefits. )

Now, back to the situation at hand: this week’s suitors.

Conversation with Guy A went something like this: Guy A sends me a friend request with no message. I send him the following message:

“Hello, Guy A. Have we met? If so, can you refresh my memory? I generally only accept friend requests from people I know in person – no offense intended, it’s just how I manage my accounts as a general rule. Let me know, and if not, perhaps we will meet in person someday, in which case I invite you to come and say hello! – Andrea”

Guy A responds with the following:

“Andrea – The proverbial chicken and the egg. We have not met to the best of my knowledge, and will not meet if someone doesn’t blink first and say hello to new people, even harder when your geographically challanged. However, I liked your eyes and really at the end of the day just wanted to say Hello, So Hello! – Guy A.”

Let’s stop and analyze this little exchange for a moment.

We start with a wordless request for friendship. No indication of why this person finds me interesting, or where we might have met. Because it’s more empty than rude, I take the time to inquire and to explain my personal policy in clear but genuinely friendly terms.

Guy A’s response seems relatively innocuous at first glance (though poorly spelled). But it made me instantly grouchy. Why? Well, let’s look a little closer. What is Guy A truly saying?

1. “I’m here to meet new people and possibly cruise them. Therefore, all people on this site must be here to meet new people and possibly cruise them, and if some girl decides that’s not why she is here, clearly she’s in the wrong.”

2. “Equally clearly, I’m well within my rights to be condescendingly patient with her as I explain to her what the true purpose of this site is, and how terribly inconsiderate she’s being in her failure to conform to my expectations of what she should be doing.”

3. “I’m also well within my rights to try and make her feel guilty for that lack of consideration on her part, because, well, she’s hurting my feelings! And she should feel guilty for that. Because I am right, and she is wrong, and I am wounded. I’m also living in an isolated community, and it’s of course her responsibility to make my life easier despite that choice on my part. In addition, it’s perfectly appropriate for me to attempt to manipulate her via a calculatedly martyr-toned guilt trip into being my friend despite her earlier clear indication that she was uninterested in doing so unless we had already met. And it’s also perfectly appropriate to imply that if she rejects my friendship now, not only is she wounding me, but she is showing herself to be unfriendly, cruel, and one of those awful people who makes this community less welcoming to all. (Cue “Koombaya.”) Surely that’ll work, as these women love to build community and be nice to people.”

(Is anyone hearing a similarity to the classic lines “You don’t want me? You frigid, castrating bitch!”? Or is it just me? Sure, it’s several notches down from that level of verbal violence, but the premise is exactly the same.)

4. “If I conclude on an appropriately complementary and mildly pathetic note, she’ll surely see that I’m just a nice guy who wants to tell her I find her attractive, and she’ll agree to my request despite her clear statement about how she manages her account. If I were there in person, I’d give her a long-suffering sigh, and puppy dog eyes. That’ll be the kicker. I’m being so nice, despite her cruel dismissal of me, that surely she’ll see I’m right and she’s wrong, and do what I want her to do.”

So here is my response:

“Hello indeed!

If you’re worried about the geographically challenged thing, perhaps you might try a place like Midori’s yahoogroup (divamidori is the name). That’s an excellent way to get to know people without asking strangers to friend you, and it’s a great place to connect with people all over the world. Those connections can easily develop into real friendships, whether in person or not.

I’m careful about friending people on sites like this one because to me, saying someone is my friend is like vouching for them, and I’m not willing to do that with strangers. I take friendship seriously, and because of that other people in the community trust my read on folks. I’d hate to casually friend someone and find out later that someone had taken that as my seal of approval and ended up in an unsafe situation with someone I’ve never even met. Especially in the world of BDSM I think it’s important for community members, particularly women, to help each other stay safe. I’m sure if you are a respectful and community-minded guy you’ll understand exactly what I’m getting at and why this is important.

Again – do come say hello in person if ever you find yourself temporarily geographically unchallenged!”

Honestly? I think I was too nice. I don’t actually want this guy to come anywhere near me if we find one another in the same space. He’s already made it amply clear that he doesn’t hear or value my “no,” doesn’t really care what my reasons for saying no might be, is manipulative, and has poor boundaries around who’s responsible for his well-being. Now I think he’s fucking creepy, and if he came up and said hello, I’d shake his hand and head to the other end of the room. (One wonders if he’d get the message, or perhaps think I were playing hard-to-get – ick, ick, ick.)

Tellingly, Guy A has not responded. I wonder why. Perhaps because he would then either have to admit that he’s not a respectful and community-minded guy, whether by agreeing with me retroactively (i.e. mending his ways, which means he has ways in need of mending) or by continuing to argue the matter with me, thus further proving my point. Tough one. Oh well. Terrible shame.

The second exchange I had with someone went in a very similar fashion. Guy B sent me a friend request and a note asking to be my friend. I replied with the identical “have we met” note (copy-paste is useful). His reply?

“Hi,that is fine,so many people are so afaid to ad someone ,,that si why the site is for to get to know people first and then met in person.thank you for replying.”

I’ll give him credit for being a lot more forthright with his uncouthness. Maybe it comes with being much more egregious in his lack of good spelling. He gives the same first message as Guy A, and the same second one, except that we can replace “condescendingly patient” with “righteously frustrated.” Wow. Amazing. I must be such a twit! Thanks so much for letting me know, kind sir, that I’m a coward and that I’ve completely misunderstood the purpose of this site. (Cue the Barbie giggle.) I’m so silly! I’m sorry, I’ll get right with the program. Oh, and while we’re at it, how would you like your cock sucked? (Cue vapid smile.)

He definitely makes the same third assumption, though perhaps in a less explicit way; it’s more of an underlying thing. Fourth one too. And then he also sends a fifth message:

5. “I am clearly superior to her, and therefore I’m well within my rights to approve or disapprove of her actions, and to let her know about that approval or disapproval.”

Because really, I was waiting with bated breath to find out whether he thought it was fine for me to manage my accounts this way. It was the first consideration on my mind. Really. His opinion means the world to me.

Despite all this, I sent him the same message I sent to Guy A about my reasons for choosing this particular way of managing my kinky social network. He replied as follows:

“You are right ,thank you for the explainatinon,i do hope ,we can meet at some event,for me it is this way you meet people here and then get to know them by chatting ,and after you meet in person at least you know them somehow.but some people are ,the opposite first they prefer to meet in person and that is fine too.take care.”

Now this is an interesting one. (You know, these guys do come in all varieties. Kind of like weeds.) Starting with “you are right” and “thank you” – well, maybe we’re getting somewhere. He’s at least willing to expand his perspective and attempt to integrate the fact that perhaps the entire world does not function around his own personal preferences.

But he kinda kills the whole thing with his reiteration of his right to approve or disapprove. In other words, he has now been educated, and he has declared that upon thinking about it, I am right. He may have declared, with equal authority, that I was wrong, in which case I have no doubt he would have been just as forthright about telling me so. Again – because clearly, I care about the rules he’d like to impose on my manner of managing my personal accounts. His disapproval would crush me, or make me toe the line. So it’s a good thing he approves. Phew.

This kinda reminds me of when I came out as queer to a guy I was dating many years ago, and his reaction was, “Okay, that’s fine with me.” Um… did I ask you if it was okay? No. I told you that’s the way I am. This is not a matter requiring your approbation. It is a fact. If you don’t like that fact, you can deal with it as you see fit in terms of your own choices, including the choice to leave the relationship, but the existence of my queerness is not up for negotiation and requires no stamp of authorization from anyone. Why? Because my sexuality is mine.

Likewise, my choices around how to manage my personal correspondence and networking services is mine. By taking the time to explain my choices to you, I am the one doing you a favour and going out of my way. I have no obligation to justify those choices, especially to a complete stranger. I have no obligation to respond to an unsolicited e-mail at all, especially when my profile, as usual, explicitly indicates that my dance card is quite full, and that even if I were looking, it would likely not be in your demographic. If I choose to tell you why I’m rejecting you, I’m already putting way more effort into this exchange than it properly deserves given your short but highly relevant history of disrespect toward me and my explicitly stated preferences.

This does not make me unfriendly. I’ve gone out of my way to remain quite friendly – so friendly, in fact, that I’m seriously considering toning it down the next time I encounter such disrespect because I’m being more friendly than the situation deserves.

This does not make me a destroyer of or hindrance to pansexual community-building or a hopelessly ghettoized queer. In fact, I’ve become FetLife friends with two het male doms this very week – whom I met in person first and who came across as interesting, engaged, respectful and friendly guys. They each sent me a note asking quite politely if I’d be cool with friending them, and leaving room for a respectful “no thanks” if that’s how I’d felt – which I didn’t, because for all intents and purposes they appear to be good people and I like their vibes. Yay for connecting with community outside my preferred demographic!

My approach to rude people does not make me frigid, or a cold-hearted castrating bitch, or a man-hater. It makes me a young woman who chooses to make online friend networks of actual real-life friends and acquaintances, and that’s where it ends. Everyone else can and should manage their own friend networks in whatever manner it pleases them to do so; nobody will receive any criticism from me because it’s none of my bloody business, and if someone doesn’t wanna be my online friend, that’s entirely their prerogative. If I got bent out of shape every time someone did their networking differently from me, I’d be twisted up beyond all recognition.

Anyone who feels entitled to criticize me, guilt-trip me, condescend to me, correct me, accuse me, get angry with me, disapprove of me or approve of me in my personal choices about how I manage my personal affairs, most especially when doing so as part of an attempt to cruise me (!), is clearly so far off the mark they’re never getting anywhere with me no matter what reparations they make. So far, I’ve chosen to respectfully educate these people, but you know what? I don’t owe them that either. They’re not entitled to my patience or my kindness. They pretty much forfeited that when they took their rude and oblivious approach to me in the first place.

There are lots of ways to become my friend. Cruising me in a disrespectful and pushy manner is not one of them. Attempts to make your disrespect into my failure as a human being are of even less interest to me, and I can absolutely promise you that they will not get you into my pants or under my boot.

13 thoughts on “kink online: how not to cruise

  1. Timely. I’ve had a half dozen friend requests this week on facebook from people I haven’t met. And that might be okay if there was a note, or some connection/explanation. But there’s not. In one case the person didn’t even have a photo so I couldn’t tell if we’d met. I don’t need the “in person” connection as there academics I talk to all the time who I haven’t met and may never meet. But no explanation? It baffles me. I emailed one man back to ask if I knew him and he said no, that he had just liked my photo. Honest at least. Again, a note saying that prior to the friend request might have started a conversation and helped his cause.

  2. I think this is a generational thing. I’m 23. If I get a message on facebook or fetlife from someone I don’t know, I just delete it without thinking twice, and within 30 seconds I’ve forgotten somebody sent me something. I’m sure most of my peers would do the same. This idea of stopping to ask if we know each other in real life, or replying to explain why I’m not friending them, is so far from my frame of reference I’m not even sure how to think about it.

  3. Mynxx – I’m not a heck of a lot older than you, so I’m not sure about the generational thing. For me, there’s a difference between a social networking site like Facebook or FetLife and a more cruise-oriented site. In the latter case, I do exactly as you do and ignore the losers. On the social sites, though, I’m more concerned that I might have actually met the person (especially since I travel and teach a lot) and be forgetting their name or face, or not know their scene name, or whatever. It would suck to reject someone I actually like, so I take the time to check. Which of course doesn’t mean you should do the same. But I think this may be more about our account management styles than about a generation gap.

  4. sexgeek,

    thanks for writing this up. i love your deconstruction of the messages from the guys! something like this really ought to go on every computer sold in the world, or it ought to be included in the very first e-mail people get from their ISP. then, a refresher copy every other year? maybe we could substitute this for that hackneyed list of urban legends/darwin awards that starts out with the guy who strapped a rocket to his vw beetle?


  5. I’m not as convinced as you are that the second guy was a jerk. I mean, okay, he tried to cruise you and you told him it wasn’t gonna happen. So what does he do now? He can either not respond and withdraw the friend request (if possible), or push and insist that you be his new playbuddy, or try to explain why he contacted you and what he uses the site for, much as you explained why you won’t be his friend and what *you* use the site for, and it looks like he tried (awkwardly) for the third option. I mean it can be hard, person A does something differently from person B, for A to explain their methods without sounding like they’re trying to convert B, so A says “but your way is okay too!!” which then sounds like they were trying to give B permission, even though that’s not what they meant. I know this is a tangle I find myself in frequently.

    Also, some day I’d like to talk to you about the word around. I have fairly strong opinions about it and I’d like your feedback.

  6. I read a similar post on Collar me about year or so ago.

    Now, I’ll admit, I’ve gone through Facebook and other social networking sites to find people to talk to that have similar tastes as I do. Then again, from what I understand, that’s one of the great things about those sites. Just like I added you to my favorites list on here. I enjoy what you say, and how you say it.

    Then again, I’m also cruel to the trolls. In my profile on the kink sites it states I’m straight, and I’m a Dom. When the Dommes send me messages about how they’ll make me beg, I just turn it around on them. Keeps them from doing the same again.

  7. Hmm … well, this post gives me pause about online profiles being seen as implied cruising invitations. I’ll be curious to note my FetLife cruise:noncruise ratio, given my specific request to talk to other bootblacks . Because I am a nerd, perhaps I shall track this on an Excel spreadsheet and share a graph sometime (assuming I get any contacts at all — I mean, a slope of zero is rarely publishable!).

    Jake, it’s interesting that you’re always a green Amish snowflake quilt within this thread. I maintained a particular snowflake pattern within a previous thread, which was somewhat reassuring as I’m not sure how I feel about melting. When I hit (so exciting!) here, then we shall see whether my previous snowflake quilt pattern is fixed or whether it varies among threads. Perhaps a collaborative paper submitted to the Journal of Irreproducible Results is in order. Let me know if you are interested. Here goes …

  8. Ha! My snowflake quilt pattern is fixed *among* as well as *within* threads! This is an exciting advance in our understanding of WordPress snowflake quilt population structure. I’m hungry now.

  9. Thalassa – Thanks for the props! I think the unfortunate bit is that the people who most need to understand where they go wrong are exactly the ones least likely to be reading this. Ah well. That’s what “reject” buttons are for.

    Jake – I totally get what you mean. You’re right, the whole question of how to indicate understanding without trying to phrase it as approval could be challenging, especially to people who clearly don’t have Shakespearean writing skills. I could very well have been overly hard on Guy B. … Except that he’s now messaged me again re-insisting I become his FetLife friend. Either he’s got a goldfish memory or he’s a true pain in the ass. Again, that handy “reject” button… Anyway, let’s have that “around” discussion sometime, for sure!

    Travis – I totally get that there are sometimes good reasons for contacting strangers; I have nothing against it and do it myself sometimes. I think the distinction I’m drawing here is that contacting someone to say, “Hey! We have this thing in common and you seem kinda neat! Wanna chat?” is not the same thing as asking to be on their friends list before meeting them, and a respectful and no-pressure approach is not the same thing as rude insistence. Again, it’s not the “what” so much as the “how”… Anyway, yes, the whole “I’m so domly you’ll fall to your knees” line makes me want to barf, regardless of the gender of the person producing it. Flipping the tables is one more strategy for dealing. Kudos.

    medici – You are an unfailing source of amusement. 🙂

  10. You know, I do understand wanting to discourage the wrong kinds of people from contacting you, but I really think you’re being a little needlessly harsh. I for one have been one of the unlucky people that have recieved responses such as yours. And, at the end of the day, the only interest and intentions I have are good. I think it’s a little presumptious to assume automatically that this is an example of “entitlement”. When I write a message like that, I am not feeling “entitled” to anything. I just would like to meet someone with similar interests and hold a conversation with them and perhaps make a new friend.

  11. I imagine that if you were interested in meeting someone with similar interests, you’d take the time to read people’s profiles to find out if your interests were actually similar; and if they were, you’d also take the time to read whether or not they were interested in connecting with strangers; and if they weren’t interested in connecting with strangers, that you would respect that wish and leave them alone. Further, if you had determined that your interests were in fact similar and that the person were in fact open to conversations with strangers, I imagine that if you were interested in holding a conversation, you might actually start a conversation. Y’know, something along the lines of “Hi, my name is Scott and I’d love to talk with you about xyz topic that seems to be of mutual interest.”

    Such an approach is not at all what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about people who don’t read profiles and who don’t start conversations. Rather, these people see an individual whose appearance they like, ignore the available information about that individual’s preferences, and send friend requests with no attempt at conversation. This seems to be a misguided bid to collect online connections with pretty women as though we were feathers in their caps. Add the peeved response when questioned in the friendliest of ways about the appropriateness of their approach, and I can’t help but see such people as being hopelessly entitled and as such, really quite creepy.

    I doubt that most of the men I’m talking about consciously feel entitled – it’s not quite as simple as that. It’s more a question of their underlying assumptions about whose desires are more important, whose voice should get heard/read vs whose can be ignored, etc. Those assumptions speak loud and clear whether the guys in question are conscious of them or not, sometimes all the more so if they’re not.

    For people like that, I can’t tell what’s harsher – a friendly “no” or a simple click on the reject button. I always thought a polite response was the kinder option. But these days, five months after writing the original post, I’m actually more inclined to do what Mynxx does and simply hit the reject button. I don’t want to bother wasting my time on educating people who didn’t do the very simple, basic work I described above, especially those with whom further conversation only serves to confirm the reasons I wasn’t interested in the first place. They can go on wondering why they have such poor success with women, and I can save my fingers the effort of typing responses to them. We’re all happier in the end. 🙂

    As for you, Scott – perhaps you have unfortunately encountered some needlessly harsh people. If that is the case, you have my sympathies. On the other hand, the more rejections you get, the more it might be wise to re-evaluate your approach and ask yourself some hard questions about what you’re doing that might cause women to push you away or take offense. I can’t possibly know what’s going on with you from this vantage point, but I do know that most guys who complain about women cruelly rejecting them pretty much create the situations that cause that rejection, and the more time they spend complaining about it, the less likely they are to be doing the sorts of things that might solve the problem. Women are not a cruel and mysterious species. We’re human beings who like to be respected, listened to and taken seriously. Frequent rejection is not about bad luck. It’s about poor choices. The bad news is that it’s probably your fault things happen this way. The good news is that you can make different choices so things go differently in the future. One way or the other, good luck!

  12. Hi
    Great article!
    I have been on FETLIFE since it started I suppose, on off , and I always leave due tomsimilar issues: the men that cruise on the site, set up sock accounts, and think that due to the nature of my profile and pics; and that he is on a BDSM site, im
    Into open suxual friendships with them when my profile askes politely to please respect my ownership status on top of the fact I am in no way seeking a guy to fuck in so many words!!! Its insulting , invading and causes a complete back if of emails that I simply do not bother even respinding to. Its redicules!!! Would you do this on FB ? Hell no!! The ones that in my opinion abuse the website snd clearly think it is a dating hook up
    Site and all the women on FELLIFE are open game to randomly approach to hook up!
    I love the friends Ive made, all over the world, and I unlike you make friends with peolple that I dont know, vet them of course rigourously, and now have several cery close friends in London, Dublin, California, Oregon…and I live on a small beach in the deep south in a very conservative boring social scene. I am going to reup my profile and look for BDSM people in my area and see if I can avoid the poser nutbags that cruise the site for nefaruous reasons!

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