28 Feb 2016

The Complicated Game of Love

From Spectrum, 12:10 pm on 28 February 2016

By Sonia Sly

Lions in love

Photo: Francois de Halleux / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

He loves me... he loves me not... he loves me... he loves me not.

Once upon a time you might have been surrounded by a small, but growing mound of daisy petals meditating on thoughts of love, hoping that the object of your affections might someday return his / her affections in kind.

But today, the smart phone replaces the dainty daisy stalk and the method of plucking petals – to determine whether he loves me – has morphed into the action of swiping a finger left or right on a handheld device. Technology gives us greater control of the possible outcome when it comes to that search for love – or so we like to think.

Do I like him? Maybe... maybe not... DELETE!

The abundance of online dating sites and apps might be convenient, but are they proving productive?

Sonia Sly explores the ins and outs of online dating, polyamory, and the importance of smell when it comes to finding the perfect match:

Lena Duffin

Lena Duffin Photo: Supplied

Twenty four-year-old Lena Duffin enjoys the immediacy of dating app Tinder. She isn't desperate to settle down and is confident that there are plenty of fish in the sea.

“I can be on Tinder swiping left or right for hours [and] if one guys doesn’t work out, I'm on to the next one,” she says.

Duffin has a high match rate on Tinder, but while she actively uses the site she also feels that people are less likely to commit, and adds that plenty of bad behaviour plays out online. 

“What I consider bad etiquette is people being vulgar [or] making crude comments. I’m [also] not interested in seeing a picture of a guy naked before we’ve even met. [When that happens] I un-match them” ~ Lena Duffin.

Duffin believes that people operate without boundaries far too often if they're behind a keyboard.

“I’ve had friends where guys have been really mean to them,” she says. Again, she cites the use of offensive comments made. "It's definitely not acceptable behaviour."

So do apps like Tinder propel us towards the idea that we're all slightly disposable and that love is meaningless? And are our efforts to meet genuine people online all in vain? After all, if someone new is just a swipe or chat message away, why not take another dip in the online ocean?

Jay is in her thirties and went shopping online for her perfect match, only to find herself in an awkward situation where a man she met on Trademe didn't live up to expectations. “We hadn’t spoken before, so we arranged to meet for lunch and unfortunately he wasn't wearing his cap and sunglasses from his online photo," she says.

Jay explains that the man she had agreed to meet had disguised his features on his profile photo.

"To put it simply, he was not attractive. He was a little bit bald [and] when he spoke I could see all of his teeth, including his gums," she says. "I don’t think I’m ridiculously superficial, but he also had a speech impediment [and] when he spoke, some of his food landed on me. He was also sweating profusely, and might I add, it wasn’t a particularly hot day…”  For Jay, that date has left a lasting impression.

But while dating online comes with a host of issues, how does dating work when you're an individual whose gender isn't clear cut?

Sam Orchard was raised as a girl, but today refers to himself as a trans-guy. He looked fleetingly at online dating, but says meeting a new partner is complex. Earlier on, body issues  played an inhibiting factor in his desire to get involved in the dating scene.

Sam Orchard says relationships are tricky if you have a complicated body.

Sam Orchard says relationships are tricky if you have a complicated body. Photo: Supplied

"I hardly dated at all [and] I think I had a block about wanting to be intimate with people. I was coming across as quite a butch woman [but] you never see butch women in the media portrayed as hot, so I thought I was just a yuck person" ~ Sam Orchard.

A comic strip by Sam Orchard explains the complications of dating and being gender queer.

A comic strip by Sam Orchard explains the complications of dating and being gender queer Photo: Sam Orchard

"It's really complicated when we have complicated bodies, but for me that's certainly part of the attraction of being attracted to other trans or gender-queer and non-binary people."

Orchard feels more at home these days as a trans-guy who hangs out in the bear community: "They're basically hairy guys with big bellies," he laughs, "Just like me." Orchard has dealt with his body issues and says open communication is imperative, whether dating online or meeting someone at a bar. One of the main differences, he says, is the laborious task of having to explain his body to potential new partners.

Today, having experienced both sides of the gender coin he admits that dating and relationships aren't so different now to when he was perceived to be a girl.

"I'm still the same person and relationships are hard work and wonderful, just like other relationships," he says.