Charlotte Kyle discusses the Instagram phenomenon that is ‘@beam_me_up_softboi’, and how much it reveals about the attitudes of some men towards dating, relationships, and women.
As a woman who dates men, finding connection in the 21st century is a truly wild phenomenon.
Don’t get me wrong, cackling at the perverted, pathetic and downright terrifying messages that my friends and I receive from men on dating apps has been a hobby of mine for some time now. In my opinion, the desperate attempts of mediocre men to entice women will never not be funny.
@beam_me_up_softboi is well worth a follow for anyone who needs a good laugh, as well as providing a space for solidarity and a sense of community to those looking for reassurance that you’re not the only person who is disillusioned from the world of dating.
The account consists of screenshots that women have submitted from their experiences on dating apps, and let me tell you, the entertainment is endless. A personal favourite of mine is this screenshot from a man’s Hinge profile prompts:
I would love to say I think this man is being satirical but, unfortunately, I have a sinking feeling that this was said in all seriousness. Alternatively, in the run for most simultaneously hilarious and disturbing message we have this absolute goldmine:
I think this one serves as a reminder that there is most definitely a correlation between a man’s lack of grammar knowledge and his lack of knowledge of cis female genitalia.
So, I think it can be concluded that this account is raw humour at its absolute finest. But despite the entertainment that this account provides, it also paints a terrifyingly bleak picture of the contemporary world of dating men. Not only does the account show men’s pathetic attempts to appeal to women (which often involves trying really hard to seem emotionally developed – what does “make love to your notions and perceptions” even mean?), and their poor understanding of sex and the human body, but also disturbingly demonstrates their common aggression and disrespect for women.
There is, therefore, a much darker side to the messages which get submitted to the account. As we begin to reflect on the themes of these messages, and the magnitude of women who experience them, the culture of misogyny which underscores straight dating today becomes all too clear.
As much as I can appreciate that these posts are, at first glance, pretty funny, I think they also provide an insight into many men’s attitudes towards women. In a good number of the posts, there is a strong correlation between rejection and aggression. And while this isn’t a theme which is exclusive to the modern dating world – many readers may have been met with a ‘well you’re ugly anyway’ when refusing to kiss a boy in the school playground – dating apps have provided adult men with a platform to enact this dynamic under the protection of anonymity.
In neither of the above conversations has the post submitter said anything offensive or aggressive (in fact, one girl didn’t say anything), but the men have responded with disgusting insults. Why is this something which seems to be becoming normalised on dating apps? This phenomenon implies a dangerous fragility of the male ego. I know I have received similar messages after expressing my lack of interest in a man, including one particularly scary voice note where abuse was quite literally screamed at me after I told a guy who I’d been on one date with that I wasn’t interested.
The insecurity behind the aggression was particularly clear with him – after my lack of response to the voice note I woke up to a predictable “it’s definitely because I’ve put on weight recently isn’t it” message.
And I don’t see it as a coincidence that we are experiencing a rise of this misogynistic behaviour on dating apps alongside the rapid growth of incel culture. ‘Incel’ (the word being an abbreviation of ‘involuntary’ and ‘celibate’) is a term that has been coined by a group of men who, mainly via internet forums, discuss their rage at the constant rejection they face from women. Part of their twisted, conspiratory philosophy includes the belief that these men are entitled to sex, and thus women are to blame for their lack of sexual intimacy. While incels, therefore, are often viewed as an extremist group (having committed murder in the name of their movement), divorced from the behaviour of men in mainstream society, I think the beam_me_up_softboi account demonstrates that the misogynistic beliefs of incels are not exclusive to a tiny sub-group of society.
And messages such as this emphasise the cyclical nature of incel culture. The more misogyny they display, the less likely they are to connect with women, the more they blame such women, and the depressing cycle of hatred continues. Frustrated with their isolation, incels have had to devise a whole theory to explain why they are being rejected, rather than going inwards to examine what it is about their misogyny that women find so repulsive. For example, the message above, an opening message to a woman on a dating app, shows a man brutally insulting her as a means of trying to get her romantic attention.
And so, I’m sure you’re beginning to see what led to my recent deletion of dating apps. And I don’t think I’m alone. So many of us are feeling disillusioned at the current dating world. And with behaviour from men like this, it’s no wonder why.
And while there are apps designed to give more power to the woman, ultimately, I can’t help but feel that the online dating world has become a space where sexism is all too common to women’s experience. Saying that, I can’t shake the feeling that in a month I’ll be redownloading Hinge to get my fix of validation from mediocre men once again…