Tinder doesn't cause rape, rapists do

Date

Eleanor Robertson

Sydney's Martin Place where the event allegedly took place.

Sydney's Martin Place where the event allegedly took place. Photo: Louise Kennerley

"Police are warning online daters to be careful of meeting with strangers after a tourist was gang-raped after being introduced to a man she met on mobile dating app Tinder." 

That this is the police response to an alleged gang rape that occurred on Saturday night speaks directly to some of our most toxic beliefs about sexual violence.

The victim was a 28-year-old woman who had flown to Sydney from New Zealand for business when she decided to meet up with a man she initially met through the dating app Tinder.

The woman told police she met the man at a Kings Cross restaurant before going with him to a bar in Martin Place. After this a number of the man's friends showed up. 

She has since retracted her withdrawn her complaint to the police. 

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Be careful, 'online daters!' police cautioned in response, but we all know that translates to, 'be careful women!' 

Why wasn't the message "Police warn men away from using social media to victimise women"? (Because not all men are rapists? Well not all tumours are malignant, either but we still educate people on the risks). Why wasn't it "Police encourage women to report threatening or illegal activity they experience in the course of online dating"? (Because we have crimes to solve, little lady?) Why wasn't it "Police remind all citizens of NSW that sexual consent must be given freely and voluntarily"? 

"Detective Inspector Haddow suggested those meeting strangers online should think about bringing a friend along," the warnings continued.

We know that approximately 70% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. We know that warnings like these are a classic form of victim blaming, and serve to psychologically demarcate "rape victims" from "sensible people": she should've done this, she should've done that. The victim must be stupid; I wouldn't have been so stupid. She must be a slut; I'm not a slut, so I'm safe. She must have been outside, exposing her naked vulnerability. She must have been existing while female. She should have shielded herself with layers of social and physical armour. Worn more clothing. Been less drunk. Distracted men from how few barriers stood between her inner life and their God-given entitlement to get what they wanted.

That the police would blame Tinder for a gang rape underscores how we love to avoid accurate explanations for socially emergent phenomena, like sexism. It's easier to believe that rape is the work of perverted and peculiar figures of horror or the result of a scary and modern new form of computer dating.

The Tinder rape case is a normal, everyday rape case. A garden variety rape case but the people vested with the power of framing its significance have isolated an irrelevant piece of minutia to distract us, in this case online dating. 

These distracting messages not only put the blame on the victims actions rather than the perpetrators but they are part of a set of well worn and damaging myths about rape. Ideas like "she was asking for it" through to "she should have fought him off". These myths serve the interests of perpetrators, who are largely men. Not because men are intrinsically evil, but because the way we conceive of masculinity is itself formed by a very long history of unchecked male domination.

The safety warnings issued by police pass on inexcusable beliefs about rape down generational lines. Young women on Tinder are given an updated version of age-old nonsense about what they have to do in order to avoid being blamed for their own rapes, and young men are told that the women must earn the right to be recognised as human by performing this farcical ritual. I just can't wait till I'm 95 years old and my great-granddaughters are told to make sure they teleport using the buddy system.

Tinder is not the problem. Rapists are.