THE BLOG
10/09/2013 12:30 pm ET Updated Dec 09, 2013

Sexist While Dating

Dating sites are the second most common way individuals meet their partners today. The list of bizarre dating sites competing on the Internet seems endless. For example, a few less mainstream sites receiving attention recently include Diaper Mates, Furry Mate, and Hot Sauce Passions. Although the preferences many unconventional dating sites cater to may seem strange at best, most do not believe enthusiasm for a condiment is an inappropriate criterion for a romantic partner. Many individuals undoubtedly object to dating sites that promote sexism and gender stereotypes. Simply put, some dating sites and services subscribe to the idea that women should not be bringing home the bacon but rather just be frying it up in the pan.

While dating and mating are activities in which preferences and arguably criteria for a partner are acceptable and potentially necessary, the promotion of superficial criteria, such as income, as critical goes beyond supporting gold digger behavior. Sites like Sugardaddy.com cater to a young, attractive female and an older, wealthier male demographic. Although financial prospects are certainly important in determining a partner's viability, Sugardaddy.com is reinforcing a traditional male breadwinner-female homemaker model. While popular in the 1950s, the breadwinner-homemaker model is not realistic in an economic climate in which two breadwinners are the norm. The Sugardaddy.com model promotes women's economic dependency as desirable.

Other dating sites directly facilitate women's dependency, especially those catering to a demographic interested in mail-order brides. For example, Anastasiadate.com is a site for American men seeking brides from Eastern Europe. Online dating sites that arrange "Fed-Ex" marriages or relationships between U.S. citizens and foreign women inherently create relationships involving an imbalance of power. By virtue of their age, citizenship status, and financial status, foreign women are at the mercy of their spouses. In fact, sites like Encountersinternational.com are rife with cases of abuse and have been found liable for their practices.

The format of an online dating site itself may also promote sexism. For example, on the site Whatsyourprice.com, men are the bidders and women are auctioned off as dates. If a male bidder is interested, he proposes a price. The woman may accept his price and go on a date or reject the offer. Individuals on the site do not exchange messages just cold hard figures. Arguably, other hard things may be exchanged later that evening as well. While many, including myself, argue that a dating market exists, What's Your Price's direct institution of a market dynamic that is inherently sexist and borders on prostitution is highly problematic. Educated women cannot be sold on the open market. Users are not bidding on a commodity. So I guess What's Your Price customers should also bid on wheat and citrus, because most intelligent women would not subject themselves to the process.

Online dating sites unfortunately do not have a monopoly on sexism, dating services reinforce traditional gender roles as well. On Speed Dating, a New York-based speed dating company, regularly hosts events with a sexist twist. For example, On Speed Dating hosted a "Skinny Minny" event that received a lot of attention. To attend the "Skinny Minny" event women had to be a size eight or under. Male attendees were not held to a similar standard. Another event I discovered with a similar bent is the "Stacked" event. To attend, women must have a C or larger cup size. My question is whether the hosts of the event cop a feel at the door for verification?

Given that the male attendees are not held to any attractiveness standards, it is unclear why any woman would choose to attend these events. Do women blindly buy into the philosophy that women should enter into an exchange on the basis of their looks? Notably, the goal of the "Skinny Minny" event may not be accomplished because there are no height standards for the event. For example, a woman who is five feet tall and a size eight does not have a comparable figure to a woman is five foot eight and a size eight. I hope that observation will not lead to the introduction of scales and skin calipers at future "Skinny Minny" events. Let's hope that most people choose to use sites that do not reinforce roles that lead to unbalanced relationships.

Subscribe to the In(formation) email.
The reality of being a woman — by the numbers.