Sign up for no-strings misery
Internet dating used to be such a sweet and innocent thing. Those who made initial tentative forays into that terrifying arena about ten years ago were nervous, they were slightly ashamed, and they’d invariably begin the “About Me” section of their profiles with the phrase “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” Then they’d delete the next bit that said “But frankly all my other options are currently exhausted and if I don’t make a bold, slightly desperate gesture such as this I’ll be destined to spend the rest of my days holed up in my flat in Wolverhampton watching Brief Encounter on a loop while burying my reddened, creased face in a tear-sodden tea towel”, and replacing it with “I really like having fun.”
But, against all the odds, internet dating caught on. Those participating no longer felt as if they were involved in a 21st century version of the sitcom Dear John; it became a copper-bottomed way to hook up with people – if not for a lifetime of wedded bliss, then certainly for a-not-completely-excruciating evening getting hurriedly pissed in a branch of All Bar One. People were no longer coy about admitting they were internet dating; indeed, their anecdotes about the triumphs and, more frequently, the disasters, became dinner-party staples. But with thousands upon thousands of people showing a willingness to pay hard cash each month for the privilege of sending tentative emails to single people they want to get off with, internet startups moving into the field are having to adopt eye-catching tactics. And what we’re getting as a result is a slow blurring of the line between dating websites and swinging websites; the new-found respectability of the former coupled with the promise of no-strings encounters of the latter. But the essential message of them all is: “Sign up in order to have sex with a woman.”
You can understand why they’re targetting blokes. If you can rely on men to do anything (and there’s a concept to struggle with) it’s to spend time thinking of ways they can massively increase their chances of having sex with more women. And some of them are obviously willing to fork out cash up front. One website is advertising widely on London Underground at the moment; it’s totally free for women to join, while men excitedly type in their credit card numbers on the promise of having “real naughty fun” with “hot naughty singles” who like having “saucy adventure”. I’ve just had a look at the site itself, which presents an array of members on the front page; top of the list is a “Single young 55 yr young hot blooded male that just luvs to have a lady in bed for good fun”, while second is “richard i am a boxer i live in my own flat i drive a bmw m5″. The women’s descriptions, however, are littered with saucy asterisks in random places to give the illusion that they’re desperate to get it on with pretty much anyone – so something like “I am quite **** and it doesn’t take long for me to ******* and I love ****** every day” might be the strapline, but on joining it’s perfectly possible that the profile would say “I am quite adept at Sudoku and it doesn’t take long for me to complete this intriguing number puzzle and I love buying The Independent in order to do at least one every day.”
More depressing are the press releases I’m regularly receiving from an “extra-marital dating website”, which I shan’t bother to dignify with a plug because the whole concept makes me sigh wearily and despair at humanity. I mean, it’s not as if, historically, human beings have needed much encouragement to get distracted from a moribund relationship and opt to lunge awkwardly at a colleague in a stationery cupboard. Such things always ends messily and in tears, which is why the upbeat optimism of this particular website grates so horribly. “If you don’t feel comfortable talking dirty to the mother or father of your children,” reads the press release, “maybe you could find a naughty lover to scold on our website.” Or, in other words, pay a premium in order to have a discreet, potentially exciting but ultimately pointless and depressing encounter with someone equally as unhappy as you, before returning to the unspoken, grinding misery of your existing relationship, which you’re too repressed to explore, discuss, repair or indeed end, you duplicitous cretin.
Or maybe I’m just a prude.
Photo: Getty ImagesTagged in: internet dating, misery
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