I remember a time when that little red Jack’d notification would pop up and I’d get excited to see who was trying to get to know me. The conversations often led to exchanges of nude photos, then addresses, and then hooking up. But after nearly 10 years of using the apps and websites, the truth is I’m tired. I’m tired of the empty feeling I get now every time the door closes, and I go back to my room wondering when the next will be, and who it will be with. Tired of “You looking?” before a person even says “Hello.” Tired of how convenient I’ve allowed my body to be without ever once making sure my mental was strong enough to handle my feelings of disposability.
Now, every now and then, the apps have provided me with a winner. A person who wanted more from me. A person who actually wanted to get to know who I was. A person who even if we didn’t become partners, still found a space for us to be friends. For that, the apps have been great. And for years, the apps worked for what I actually wanted versus what I thought I was looking for. During my twenties (which weren’t that long ago) I was at my sexual peak. I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed having it with a lot of different people. I’m not ashamed to say that or that I don’t know my body count, and nor do I care.
But now, the hookups are less fun, the body is getting older (I’m 33) and I’m learning that things like my mental, emotional, and spiritual health need to align in order for me to enjoy sex as much as I used to. As I sat with myself during my 33rd birthday this week I realized that part of my issue was leaving my desirability in the hands of people not worried about my permanent existence. The “You look good” and “You got a bubble” and “You sexy” meant nothing. They were gateway statements, much like a drug that could be used to lead to something more.
For years, I lived worried about how I looked to others. One of my love languages is words of affirmation, which can be detrimental to a person like myself. The compliments give me the feels. They give me the something that I need when I am feeling my lowest. The app gave me an out from having to deal with the voids I wanted to ignore. I allowed myself to meet up with people who I ordinarily wouldn’t just to feel some type of desire.
I can honestly say that apps, convenience of compliments, and not doing the work on myself have fucked up my own desirability politics. I easily became weak to the flesh because I wasn’t strong in the mind. I am a very sexual person, but I am also smart enough to now know that my spirit has shifted in a way that I have to align my sexuality with my mental. The one and done works for my body, but not for my mind. The feeling of emptiness is not worth the 30 minutes of fun (which ain’t been that fun lately).
And it’s not just the dating apps. All of the apps have played a role in the shaping of what and who we see as desirable. The likes and comments on particular people’s posts play a factor in that. We watch all different types of shaming framed as discussion, when most folks need to keep their thoughts to themselves and let people just be. And this isn’t to say that I haven’t played a role in that, but I do know that I find beauty in people in a much different way than I was conditioned to do for so long.
I’m tired of seeing people I care about be hurt by others who don’t find them desirable. I hate seeing people be fat shamed. I hate seeing people be slut-shamed, and victims of transphobia, and one that I deal with, poz shaming. I hate that our community fell right into the mold of how the heterosexual community has always been. I hate that our community had a chance to get it right, and that at many times we have dropped the ball.
We have unfortunately become shackled by conditioning. The fats and femme vs/ masc preference and discrimination conversations. The colorism conversations around beauty and desire. I am but one person who is attempting to step outside of the constraints of what I thought I should be attracted to and allowing myself the freedom to be with who I feel I should be with innately.
The removal of the dating apps has brought me clarity. The inability for me to just log in and get a nut has helped me to learn what intimacy with myself looks like, and how to find that intimacy I want in others on a real level. There are no more notifications. No more “unlock your pics” for me. I envision a space where the queer community one day stops worrying about everything we have been taught and told, because it was never meant for us to begin with. For those on the apps, I ask that you stay truthful to whatever your ask is and never compromise that.
If you want an LTR, go for that. If you want to just hook-up, keep it buck. Whatever it is that you want, make sure it is for you and don’t let shaming or loneliness ever make you feel like you aren’t worth the love of a significant other.