“Girl on the platform smiled….” Yeah right. When does that ever happen – at least in London? And call me cynical, but surely using a ‘natural’ meeting to advertise an online dating service is something of a contradiction in terms? Why not go with, “Some people are fortunate enough to meet their boyf/girlf in a bar / sport club / through a mutual friend, but for the rest of you unhappy singletons, why not post a bunch of photos and some oh-so witty-but-complete-waffle-text in a box and see how many ‘wink’ at you”. They could even expand the tagline with “Just think how many great nights out you can have pretending to be someone you’re not, trying not to swallow your tongue as you listen to yet more stories of how they grew as a person while shagging a fellow traveller on Bondi Beach at 3am on Christmas Day”.
Call me cynical, I do myself. But seriously, how on earth did we get to the point where we are imbibing alcohol and casually fornicating with strangers, when Mummy taught us not only to not talk to strangers, but not to get into their cars? And WHY on earth are we going back on Mummy’s advice when we – almost daily – hear stories of rape and assaults on women all because they were in the ‘wrong place’? As a vocal advocate for women’s rights, I believe we have the right to do, say, wear, see, be…. whatever we so wish without fear. And as much as it sometimes feels like a lot of effort, dating can be fun. But I want it to STAY fun and not worry that I might end up on the news.
I’m considered cautious and untrusting because I won’t tell a guy where I work, give him my number, or go back to his until I have been out with him many times. Decent men will understand this, and want you to feel safe and at ease around them. If you are rolling your eyes at this, imagine it in reverse – would you want to be out with a guy who is clearly scared, anxious and plotting an escape route? Shy is endearing – scared makes you feel like a monster. Or that person is assuming you are a monster based on your gender – both of which kinda kill any warm and fuzzies. That said, if you feel the need to run, do it! (Though I must confess I was puzzled when a serving Met Police officer was surprised at my wanting to play it safe – surely if anyone should understand, it was him!)
Guys invite me back to theirs, I decline. Sometimes they are blatant about their intentions, sometimes they are not. I’m well aware that online dating does work. I know happily married couples who met online. But I also know that those women are smart, sensible and protected themselves. The rush to find love and happiness can cloud judgement and that, mixed with alcohol, can lead to some tricky situations. It’s tough being a woman, and if the brutal attack on the Indian student in Delhi (I believe in upholding the anonymity of rape victims) has led to one thing, it is increased international awareness and anger at violence against women. Most men would never dream of laying a finger on you. But when meeting someone you don’t know – and let’s face it, you DON’T know them until you have met them, let’s play it safe. True intimacy – and the best sex – comes from trust and feeling safe around someone. So follow basic safety, minimise risk, and let romance be the prevailing emotion.
- Whenever you are going out to meet someone you do not know well, leave details of where you are going, who you are meeting and when you expect to return – if your plans change, tell someone.
- Arrange your first few dates in a busy public place. If you are replying to a lonely hearts’ advert, never give personal details such as your address or surname.
- Trust your instincts. If someone makes you nervous or uneasy, leave the situation immediately. However this does not mean that someone is automatically safe to be alone with just because they are charming and make you feel at ease.
- Plan how you are going to get home at the end of the night. If possible book your taxi before you go out.
- If you are drinking alcohol, be careful not to let it affect your judgment or your ability to take care of yourself.
- Watch drinks and food to ensure that nothing is added to them. If something tastes odd, do not eat/drink any more of it.
- If someone you do not know well or trust offers to buy you a drink, you should either decline or accompany them to the bar and watch that nothing is added to your drink.
- If you feel ill or light-headed tell a member of staff straight away and ask for a taxi to take you home.
- After the date, do not go home with someone until you know and trust them. Avoid sharing a taxi home but if this is unavoidable do ensure that you are dropped off last so that your date does not learn where you live.
- Think about your email address or user name. A fun, sexy name may be successful at attracting dates but will they be the type of date you really want to meet?
- Consider setting up a separate email address purely for dating purposes.
- Avoid giving out your full name, phone numbers or any other contact information or form of identification until you have met the person and are comfortable about them. Don’t feel pressured into doing so just because they give you their details.
- If you receive any correspondence that makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable, do not reply and report it to the site organizers.
- Avoid anyone who wants to talk about sex or finances before you’ve even met them.
- Be wary of anyone who declares undying love within hours of meeting them – either online or in person.
Thanks to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust for the safety tips.