It’s been two years since my divorce, and in the interim my friends have declared me to be an expert when it comes to online dating. Those of us who have had the good fortune (or misfortune, depending upon your point of view) to frequent dating sites often pool our resources to figure out what works and what doesn’t. In that vein, a couple of days ago my friend asked me for some advice when she needed to choose between services to find a “Mr. Right Now.”
After sizing up her needs better than any insurance salesman, I directed her to Tinder. Its selection criteria are minimal: Can you present yourself as reasonably attractive in a photo, and are you close enough that you could arrange a meeting in less time than it takes to reconsider your potentially horrible life choices. Within a few minutes she reported back that she had found someone who had those exact qualifications (what were the odds?!) and that she was meeting him in an hour.
“Give me his name and the address. And call me when you get there,” I said.
She didn’t understand. No, I wasn’t planning on serenading them like a scene out of Say Anything. I was worried about her safety. Like many women (and to a certain extent, everyone), she was blinded by the ease with which she had arranged an assignation. This had led her to treat her date like a pizza delivery, except with Tinder, you get sausage. However, unlike the pimply teens who I entrust with the transport of my delicious and/or cheap meals (yes, I still am mad at the porn industry for giving me unrealistic expectations) meeting someone online has an extra degree of risk. And this was even before I heard the name Yaniv Nahman.
Nahman, an investment broker, was accused in 2015 of drugging several women that he met while partying in Tel Aviv nightclubs. The women all told similar stories. Each had started talking to Nahman, and then awakened hours later in his apartment with no recollection of the intervening time. The case went to trial, but was ultimately settled with a plea bargain. He confessed to one count of rape, and was sentenced to community service instead of prison. This caused an uproar over the treatment of women who had suffered sexual assaults, as well as the limitations of a justice system which could legitimately view the plea deal as a “win” since he didn’t just get off without any punishment at all.
But what does this have to do with my friend’s Tinder hook-up, you ask? Well, it turns out that Nahman’s photo was spotted on Tinder recently. That’s right. If you can be introduced to a man on a dating site who was already convicted of rape without warning, who else might you be visiting or inviting into your house? This is why I reminded my friend of the precautions necessary to stay safe when arranging a date with someone you don’t know.
I kept it realistic. Under perfect circumstances, you should never meet a stranger in a secluded location for your initial contact. However, generally speaking, a Tinder hook-up is not a perfect circumstance. The Tinder flame logo can now be found under the dictionary entry for the term “settling.” So, how can you make this type of encounter less risky?
First, make sure someone knows where you are, and whom you are with. Tell your bestie who would take your secret with you to the grave, may that be a long way off… tfu, tfu, tfu. It’s the 21st Century, we aren’t judging you.
Second, find a way to let the person you’re meeting know that someone cares about you and is expecting to hear from you. Say you got a message from a friend while you were on your way that you have to answer, and casually drop in your current general location and the guy’s first name. Promise that you’ll check on some pre-arranged activity and that you’ll follow up in a few minutes. This way, if the guy you’re meeting is a creeper, you’ve already established that someone is waiting for you to contact them, that you might have to go, and that he will be suspect number one if he messes with you.
Third, and this goes for all dates, bring your own protection so that you can engage in the activities of your choice with the lowest level of risk. Don’t rely on the other person. And establish clearly what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. If the other person isn’t willing to respect your boundaries, leave. This isn’t the time to be polite in spite of feeling uncomfortable.
I know this seems like a lot of work, and maybe it would be easier if Tinder just kicked guys like Yaniv Nahman off of their site. But given the sheer number of people who use the app on a daily basis, it’s unlikely that this will happen. Additionally, I personally have privacy concerns about Tinder having access to things like arrest records. I think the best way to handle these types of situations is to be proactive about self-protection. And may all of us online daters be blessed with a pleasant experience. Remember to hold the sausage.