Nancy Jo Sales’s book on addictive, toxic mobile apps reveals how women still cater to men and blame it all on ‘misogyny’
Photo by Mad Mags on Flickr Creative Commons CC0 2.0
It amazes me that award-winning journalist Nancy Jo Sales even wants to have sex anymore. I’m further amazed she ever found dating apps addictive, which she discovered in 2015. She articulately presents how dating app companies engineer them to keep you swiping, swiping, swiping but not why she was so willing to settle for loveless, dysfunctional, often dangerous sex.
The author of American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers and The Bling Ring: How A Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked The World, which was made into a movie in 2013, dives into the dirty world of dating apps and hookup culture at the naive young age of 51. She details it in her new book Nothing Personal: My Secret Life in the Dating App Inferno.
My unrelatability stems from having been part of online dating since before it was cool, when I met my now ex-partner on a computer bulletin board system in the last days before the rise of the Internet. I was forced back into it eight years later and I thank Sales for explaining why my experiences have been so negative: 2001 was the year in which dating culture began to take an ugly, misogynist turn.
No wonder everything went — if you’ll pardon the expression — tits-up.
That was before mobile dating apps — several years down the road — redefined ‘dating’ to the point where they should no longer be called dating apps.
Rather, they’re ‘fucking apps’, in accordance with the very most cynical, emotionally absent and abusive toxic masculine ideals.
And we, ladies, let them get away with it.
Old habits die hard, and twelve thousand years of patriarchy won’t be undone in a few generations. We’ve been victims for so long we’re not really sure what genuine empowerment looks like. Take the cosmetic surgery industry, whose websites I visited this year as I conducted a client sales campaign. They marketed patriarchal beauty ideals wrapped up in cheap ‘empowerment’ crapola to women who buy it (literally). Just add that boob job and Botox poison injections to your shopping cart!
They offered Mother’s Day gift certificates, because nothing says I love you, Mom, quite like a gift suggesting she should banish those ugly wrinkles around her eyes. One site even promoted ‘pre-rejuvenation treatments’ for Millennials, because they’re never too young to persuade them to shovel over obscene amounts of cash making young, beautiful women feel insanely insecure about their looks.
They can’t get those choking aficionados on Tinder to swipe right on them if they look like they’re already falling apart.
So it’s not surprising fucking apps market their toxic dreams of ‘twoo wuv’ to women, when Millennial men are interested in anything but, and suggest it’s ‘empowering’ for women to have greatly expanded sexual choices even as they do nothing to keep women safe. Fucking app companies resist screening for sexual predators or users with criminal records. Women have been stalked, raped, and murdered through fucking apps and Sales finds their executives don’t want to talk about it, fuzz over what’s happening, and quickly change the subject.
And that’s the female execs.
Still, how can we blame only the app company C-suite, or even toxic males and The Patriarchy? It’s hard to ignore Sales’s descriptions of how much man-pleasing is as alive and kicking as ever, although today it’s more likely you’ll get slapped, punched, or choked in bed by GTAV389, thanks to the rise of violent online porn and its influence on former young boys (later men) who should never have had access to it, but somehow always did.
Hard to imagine, but the right, particularly the Christian right, was actually right about something. If for the wrong reasons.
We laughed during the Reagan years as studies drew correlations between porn and sexual abuse crimes against women, and for awhile there was little consistency. Today it’s become unavoidable to acknowledge how much violent online porn has influenced second-half Gen X’ers and Millennials and is now working its dark magic on Gen Z.
Women on fucking apps report often non-consensual violence during hookup sex: Slapping, punching, choking, and other dangerous or degrading actions. When Sales interviewed young men about why they thought young women enjoyed being punched, slapped, kicked, or even choked during sex out of the blue, they said they’d seen it in porn. They believed the ‘actresses’ liked it. “You can tell they do,” one of her own hookups told her, who she’d launched across the room via her feet on his chest after an unexpected choking. “You can see they’re enjoying it.”
She pulled up a choking Pornhub video and pointed out the tears in the woman’s eyes. She wasn’t enjoying it. She was paid to do this, and having a hard time faking liking it.
“But they say they like it on Tinder,” he protested, and he proved it. He swiped through and showed her profiles where the women claimed they liked violent sex and dug being choked.
“They’re telling you that because they know it’s what you want to hear,” Sales told him. Women say what they have to to get men. Men,
Hot hookup last night. Photo by Monstera from
of course, do the same.
Yeah, sure, honey, I love you and only you. You’re the only woman in my life.
I like it rough! I love it when you choke me!
“And you call yourself a feminist?” he asks. “The girls I know are really strong and know exactly what they want. Are you denying them their agency?”
I agree with both of them. Women aren’t blind, helpless victims of The Patriarchy, but creatures with agency, although they’re more vulnerable when they’re young and inexperienced. That’s when they’re most likely to tolerate abusive treatment because they haven’t figured out what they want yet. What they want is a man, or men, to pay attention to them. Their hormones are exploding too. They do what they must to get laid, even if it means having to put their own needs and desires on hold.
Like the desire to not get the stuffing punched out of you during sex. Or being utterly objectified as just another sexual release delivery order. Skip The Orgasms!
La plus ça change.
If you want to get a guy to ‘like’ you, if even only for an hour, you absolutely mustn’t can’t under no circumstances let’s be very clear on this act like you care. Sales describes the pervasive attitude on fucking apps as a competition to see who can care less. She falls in love with a guy half her age who doesn’t know she did, nor did she tell him. When people asked how he was and she hadn’t seen him in months and it was killing her, she’d shrug and say, “I don’t know, he’s around somewhere.”
Dating historian Zoe Strimpel told Sales, “What is at the root of the content to see ‘who can care less’ is the horror of seeming needy. Women are so afraid of seeming needy, because the ‘needy woman’ taps into something very deep in misogyny: this idea that women are this sort of bottomless pit of need and dependency and maybe even lunacy...”
And Darwin knows most young men on fucking apps don’t want to deal with neediness, unless it’s their own. Sales notes fucking apps have equalized sex somewhat. Women may get slut-shamed but not all of them are and not all of them care. I had a friend awhile back who was arguably the most promiscuous woman I’d ever met, and she couldn’t give a flying rat’s patoot what anyone thought about it.
Not caring what men think: Now THERE’S a feminist lesson for all of us!
If fucking apps are a massive backlash against feminism — and Sales makes a great case for it — they also give men a taste of their own medicine when they get treated by women the way they’ve historically treated them.
These men assume that if they matched, it was automatic agreement to have sex, and they got angry if she ghosted them. Why’d she swipe right if she wasn’t going to put out?
Who cares what he wants? I can fuck whomever I wish. Or not.
Fucking apps idealize the most loveless, abusive toxic masculine environment you can imagine. One in which some young women pretend to like violent sex while a few, I assume, truly dig it and the rest hope he’s not one of those.
Sales claims studies show Millennial women associate sex more with fear than pleasure or enjoyment. She notes only 40% of Millennial women report having orgasms with hookup males (it’s 80% for males) and one complains she only gets orgasms from her vibrator.
In addition to women claiming they ‘like it rough’, some cater to porn-fueled male rape desires by claiming they’d like to be raped, or at least pretend to be.
With the rape rate rising, how much of it comes from men thinking women like it because of porn, and women don’t challenge them on it?
Even claim they want it?
We can’t blame only The Patriarchy when we’re going along with it. Time to start Just Saying No to ‘dating’ as defined by men who haven’t a clue how the female body works because porn only teaches them to beat off to violent, degrading, dehumanizing content and tell themselves if the women in the videos don’t actually enjoy it, they’re at least getting paid for it.
Women have agency. We need to own our needs and personal safety, however repugnant the idea is to victim feminism, which teaches women they’re never ever expected to hold themselves accountable, like making sure they don’t put themselves in dangerous hookup situations.
‘Rape culture’ is a joint effort. Always has been. Consider how ‘rapey’ popular novels written by women, for women are, like Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty quartet along with Fifty Shades of Grey.
When Is Rape Culture Totally Hot? When women write misogynist kink for women. Because, like, pirate rape empowerment or something
We’re still catering to men’s very worst misogyny. We still say what they want to hear or at least don’t specify ‘Absolutely no choking, hitting, punching, spitting, kicking, or other violence. I’m not into BDSM, and if I were, there’d definitely be rules.”
No wonder dating is dead, Millennials aren’t marrying, and many women are deciding it’s not worth it to have babies. Not only aren’t they affordable, but look at what you have to got through to get pregnant!
Sales speculates whether the rise in alcoholism in Millennial women is connected to hookup culture and theorizes it might make it easier to have loveless, possibly violent sex with a guy you don’t even know in a Tinder culture one man describes as ‘the most efficient pussy delivery system’ ever devised.
And we call this sexual empowerment.
Sales is a feminist, but she tends to damn men for actions of which she herself is at least somewhat guilty. (Like perpetuating hookup culture.) She’s certainly guilty of creating many of her problems by doing the sort of seriously dumb shit I castigate women (including myself) of doing.
I Did Dumb Shit I didn't get raped, but I sure made it easy for them
She snarks about her daughter’s sperm donor who wanted nothing to do with raising their child. Yet she went condomless and I strongly suspect she was hoping to get knocked up, because one marriage failed, the relationship she left her husband for turned abusive and failed, and she wanted a child. She even claims she sometimes forgot about condoms. The woman came of sexual age in the 1980s. Who the hell ‘forgot’ condoms at the dawn of the AIDS crisis?
If one wasn’t available women might argue, “Oh, it won’t hurt this one time,” or they didn’t insist upon them since men whined about how ‘they didn’t feel as much’. Gen X put men’s needs ahead of its own as Millennials and Gen Z do today.
We must share responsibility with The Patriarchy for the state of modern f̶u̶c̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ dating.
Patriarchy is the primary offender, but let’s be clear on women’s role: We carry a lot of misogyny between our ears, and victim feminism discourages us from examining that. Twelve-thousand-year-old habits die
Trust me, he’ll still fuck you. Photo by Monstera
hard, but it shouldn’t have to take another 12,000 to convince women we need to start holding out once again for what we want rather than what he wants.
I don’t castigate anyone of any age for man-pleasing. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else.
I’m asking us all to wake the fuck up and start setting new rules.
Yes, I know, a 360 right back to 1950s dating rules. La plus ça change. But now we don’t hold out for a ring and a baby, or to ‘punish’ men. We hold out for what we want too, respect, kindness, empathy, and getting to know us first. Most of all, not having sex until we’re ready to have sex.
If he can’t wait he’s not good enough. He can go back to Tinder.
Good sex should exclude sexual choking or hitting unless that honestly is your thang.
The question is, What are we going to do about it? Are we going to do anything about it?
Sales’s book is heavily sympathetic to women, without questioning nearly enough — most of all herself — why so many allow toxic masculine behavior to dehumanize them. Like why the hell did she continue hooking up with Millennial ‘train wrecks’ when her first started with fears the guy was going to murder her when he arrived?
Feminists like Sales pay plenty of lip service to female agency but deny it when it’s convenient, as Sales did with the notion that all women who claim to like violent sex are doing it to please men, whether they realize it or not. I say this not to defend male violence, but to defend female agency.
No one forces women to robotically swipe even almost in the middle of fucking the hookup de l’heure, to keep the conveyor belt of man-pleasing ‘feminist’-identifying pussy moving. Sales states, and I agree, dating apps are designed by men, for men, to please men, and ultimately to dehumanize women, who are very very good at pleasing men. La plus ça…oh never mind.
What I found most compelling was the connection between feminine man-pleasing, often personified by Sales herself, and how it perpetuates and rewards violent, misogynist, dehumanizing sex. I ask: What would happen if women stopped playing by these manchildren’s rules? What would dating look like if women refused to have sex until they were ready? Who insisted on getting to know the guy before she decides to have sex with him? And felt entitled to her sexual and emotional needs being 100% as important as the man’s?
I’ve only just come around to this myself in the last few years.
Online porn isn’t within our control, but Just Saying No to hookup culture and the violent shit sandwich it serves women is. If we can make Trumpers feel ignored in the dating world — and we do — we can make misogyny and violence a liability for getting laid.
Delete the damn apps and force them to meet you in the Real World, virtually or face to face, if he wants your attention. Every Misogynist An Incel! Let them watch porn.
This originally appeared on Medium in August 2021.