When I pulled into the Lowry Center on Jan. 26, I couldn’t wait to get on Tinder. I had spent most of the past year living at home, watching Bridgerton uncomfortably with my parents and single-handedly funding the triple-A battery industry, so some harmless swiping was the thrill I needed. What surprised me wasn’t the local Ohioans proudly holding up their dead deer or the Kenyon boys using bad photos of themselves to make it clear they’re not taking Tinder too seriously, but the fact that many of my Kenyon friends were hesitant to join the app. They all wanted to meet someone and had no problem looking over my shoulder as I swiped, but felt like creating their own account was awkward or embarrassing. As a Tinder fanatic who believes in the practicality and usefulness of the app, I strongly believe that there is no shame in joining Tinder and hope to empower my peers to start swiping today.
By no means should you be breaking quiet period guidelines and putting our community members at risk for the sake of a Tinder date or hookup. It’s not worth it. However, you can still chat, browse, and swipe through Tinder without needing to meet up in person. If you’re looking for a romantic relationship, I would encourage you to opt for a masked walk outside or a FaceTime date. And, if you’re really just that horny, you can always put Kenyon’s top-notch creative writing education to use and give sexting a try.
When speaking with fellow Kenyon students about why they were hesitant to join Tinder, the most common response I received was, “I don’t want people to see me on there” — translation being, “I would feel embarrassed if people knew I was on Tinder, looking to hook up with someone.” Tinder has always been stigmatized, and while it’s common to feel embarrassed or ashamed of having an account, these feelings rely on stereotypes and internalized misogyny. For women in particular, it’s not a stretch to imagine that this hesitation is deeply rooted in the fact that women have always been made to feel ashamed of their sexuality, like it is something that should be hidden or kept private, rather than advertised on classmates’ phone screens. Women are too often slut-shamed for being sexually open or for expressing their sexual desires. Therefore, it makes sense that women also feel nervous to be seen on an app that is stereotyped as a place where people look for casual sex.
But to those worried about “being seen on Tinder,” I say this: Firstly, Tinder is not just a tool for finding casual hookups. Like many people I know, my last long-term relationship began as a Tinder match. While many people start swiping just to get some action, others are swiping to date, receive external validation or, most commonly, for entertainment. Simply having a Tinder account is not the equivalent of sending out an “I’m horny” allstu.
Secondly, I would remind those who are on Tinder for casual sex, specifically women, that there is nothing embarrassing about pursuing sex simply because you are horny. After living through almost an entire year of a global health crisis that eliminated all opportunity for physical touch, it would be shocking if you weren’t. Remember that if someone sees you on Tinder, you see them too. And if we are not shaming men for being on Tinder just to get laid, there should be absolutely no reason women cannot have the same motivations.
Another reason I would encourage you to hit download and start swiping? Because, right now, Tinder is practical. Given that the pandemic has eliminated parties and other impromptu gatherings, there are few ways to meet people while social distancing, unless you’re bold enough to walk up to your crush in the servery (which I can say with absolute certainty that zero percent of men at Kenyon are). Swiping through Tinder doesn’t have to mean that you will immediately meet up with a match and swap DNA — it’s simply a useful tool to suss out who on campus is looking for a connection, message privately to see if you vibe and then discuss how you can comfortably and safely connect.
There are plenty of other fears that I hear from those who are hesitant to sign up for Tinder: “What if I run into a match on campus?” or “Why can’t I just meet someone naturally?” While these are valid concerns, the awkward campus run-ins are inevitable and a small price to pay, whether you matched on Tinder or made out in a crusty Old K basement pre-COVID. If I can coexist peacefully with a Kenyon student after saying, “Cancel Kavanaugh, am I right?” in the middle of a hookup, then you can manage a servery run-in with a Tinder match, especially with masks making each person less recognizable.
And to those who wish you could have a meet-cute rather than a manufactured Tinder match, I would suggest a shift in perspective. Downloading Tinder is not giving into the artificial dating world, but rather it is an empowering way to take control of your dating life. And if you’re someone who struggles to take your desires into your own hands, don’t sweat it. All you need is a confident pointer finger.
Mia Sherin ’22 is an English major from Wilmette, Ill. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org