Throughout gradeschool, college, and the various jobs I’ve held, people who don’t know me have always addressed me by my legal name initially, until I clarify my preferred nickname. They deferred to formality as a gesture of politeness. So, why on online dating sites does this deference to formality no longer apply?
In my experience with online dating, men have routinely, casually, and (seemingly) carelessly tossed around pet names with the finesse of a young child learning to splatter paint.
My inbox is cluttered with vanilla men addressing me as babe, baby, baby girl, cutie, darling, girl, honey, love, sexy, sugar, sweetie, etc., and kinky men addressing me as Goddess, Miss, Mistress, etc., right off the bat in their initial or near-initial messages. And no, gentlemen, throwing in a few winky/kissyface/hearts-for-eyes emojis does not help.
The problem is that pet names and kink titles are to be negotiated, not gratuitously spewed upon strangers. These men have no way of knowing what I would enjoy being called, nor do they care that I haven’t given them permission to address me as anything other than my username. It’s romanticized name-calling.
For example, take this man on Twitter, who wrote to me out of the blue:
He’s forcing me to accept his title for me “as a term of respect,” then immediately sends me an unsolicited photograph of his bare crotch and continues to address me as “goddess”.
That’s not respect. How could it ever be considered respectful to assume that I would want to be called whatever he wanted to call me? Respect would have been asking permission to address me with a title, in the first place, the same way it’s basic human decency to ask for consent for any other sexual interaction.
And yet he wants me to own him? What does he think ownership would mean if he can’t even present his request respectfully?
Newsflash: If you’re doing anything against someone’s will, it’s — at a minimum — harassment, and it’s unacceptable.
Worse yet, here’s a man on OkCupid who doesn’t even pretend to have respect in mind. He’s proud of blatantly ignoring his partners’ consent:
I agree; I’m not the type for him. My deepest sympathies to whomever he decides is the type for him. The only credit I give him is for leaving the conversation when it was clear that I wasn’t enjoying his sexual advances.
One of the most offensive aspects of this communication tactic is the creepiness of it all, like when you get a skeevy sense that someone’s trying to sell you something you don’t need, for an inflated price you don’t want to pay.
When men do use unsolicited pet names and kink titles with me, I feel as though they are attempting to trick me into playing along with the conversation under the guise of an implied promise of a future relationship — a sexual relationship, a dating relationship, a Dominant/submissive relationship, or some combination of the three. It’s subtle but manipulative. After all, addressing a person with a desired title or pet name is usually something people do in the context of relationships, not something one stranger sloppily tosses at another.
To me, this behavior is also uncomfortably reminiscent of men at college parties who, while dancing with me, would nuzzle their chins against my neck and shoulder, or would grab my hands and weave their fingers through mine. These actions struck me as oddly possessive and relationshipy at the time, like they were trying to trick me into letting my guard down by offering the same comfort that a committed partner might, with the goal of enticing me to feel more inclined to accept their sexual advances.
In either circumstance, their behavior instantly makes our interaction feel exploitative, like they are just looking for cheap sexual titillation at my expense in that moment but aren’t actually interested in investing any real time or effort for a relationship with me.
These men assume that their behavior is an acceptable way to address others, but it isn’t. I find it demeaning and objectifying, and I’m not into that.
That’s not to say that I have a problem with negotiated pet names and titles; I enjoy them, when they are used appropriately. For example, I loved how one of my high school boyfriends used to call me “sweetie”, and how a college boyfriend used to call me “darling”, and how a post-college boyfriend used to call me “sweets”. Those all felt good at the times they were used because they were relevant to our relationships and strengthened our intimacy, much like how my current submissive and I both enjoy when he addresses me as, “Madame”. However, to hear anyone else address me with a non-negotiated title feels insincere, superficial, and just plain gross.
Gentlemen, please nix the pet names and titles unless, or until, you’re given explicit permission to use one. You have no way of knowing if the recipients of your attention will want to be called whatever you’ve decided to call them (many won’t), and that’s what makes doing so offensive. There must be negotiation, not just you imposing your will in an I-know-best-and-this-is-for-their-own-good way.
I cannot emphasize this enough: consent is vital for any interaction, even when that interaction is strictly verbal.