When I noticed OkCupid asked if users had rape fantasies, I figured it must be an oversight. For starters, the term “rape fantasies” sounds beyond oxymoronic. An online dating website promoting rape fantasies seemed like an amusement park promoting gun violence. I’ve never walked by a sign at 6 Flags asking “Do you daydream about shooting people?”
In what appears to be an effort to help match members, OkCupid asks a series of questions to create a type of personality profile. However, when the question on my screen went from “Could you date someone messy?” to “Do you have rape fantasies?”, I almost willed my computer to sleep. By doing this, the site is giving the message that rape fantasies are a basis for finding a match. Should they ask the ladies “Do you have Bobbitt fantasies?” Where is this headed? That’s not a first date I want. Fast forward to the wedding: “I knew Bob was the one for me because we shared the same rape fantasy.”
They could have that question when people sign-up, to potentially weed-out the “yes” answers, but to have them in the section for matching questions implies it is for matching. If we open that box, there may be a rather horrific potential here to imply down the line that someone can want to be raped. Why would anyone want this on a dating website?
I reached out to the company and brought this matter to their attention, asking they remove it from their site. OkCupid support emailed me back the following response (names removed for privacy):
From: [email protected]
Thank you for your feedback, and we do appreciate your concern. The higher-ups have talked this over and have decided to leave the question in. The reasoning for this is not to promote rape fantasies or rape culture at all, but to allow people to filter out members who may think differently about sex and sexuality. While questions like this can be difficult for some people to see, we think it’s better to allow people to be as informed as possible about who they’re potentially going out on a date with, and so questions like this can be critical to help find an appropriate match. Of course anyone can choose to skip and not answer the question if they’re not comfortable doing so.
Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns, or if there’s any other way I can help.
Upon receiving this, I emailed the company again asking them to reconsider and even ask a female higher-up. Their response was that they had asked a female higher-up and were still refusing to remove the question. I wrote to them a third time asking them to reconsider. I received no reply.
Rape isn’t sex. Rape is a crime. It’s not about sexuality. It’s using force, coercion or intimidation to violate someone against their will. Furthermore, the reasoning in that support email is nonsense and it is an (unsuccessful) attempt to override my sentiments. While they seem to trust that people would answer that question honestly, I’m not convinced anyone “fantasizing” about rape would openly admit it. Let’s attempt to follow the trail of logic here: Does the site want people with rape fantasies to admit it, so no one will date them?
The support person also suggests the company is trying to do me a favor by having that question. According to RAINN, 1 in every 6 women, and 1 in every 33 men has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. What those millions of women and men went through deserves to be respected, not minimized as a “fantasy” or pseudo-rationalized as a sexual matching question for a date. If their support team is doing me favors, I urge them to understand this: Rape is a form of violence that should never be downplayed or dismissed. By presenting this question on a dating website, in the way it is posed and phrased (and defending it, in the way it was defended), Okcupid manages to do just that. It’s disrespectful and irresponsible.
Moreover, why would anyone on a dating website want that image in their minds? We live in a time when we as a collective, world culture are becoming increasingly aware of our ability to create and impact our realities with our thoughts, words and the images we hold in our minds. As such, the visceral and energetic impact of such a question on a dating website needs to be considered. If the site is responsible for the energy they put out into the world as revealed in every aspect of their site, and what they are inviting by virtue of those aspects, one wonders what they are creating and inviting simply by having that question. I cannot imagine Cupid would ever ok that.
We all deserve a space to build our romantic lives, in an environment (online or off) that doesn’t normalize fantasizing about rape. I believe it is distortions such as this that contribute to a mindset where, for example, over 30 women can come forward to discuss being raped by a male celebrity before their messages are accepted. If the first one had been honored and protected, would there potentially have been 30+ other victims? If you feel similarly, I encourage you to be empowered to take action and contact OkCupid yourself about this.
-Written by Julia Hyun, M.S. Psychology