No matter if you are dating people you met online or in person, your safety is a top priority. But many of us fall into the “won’t happen to me” mindset and do things for a potential new lover that could compromise our emotional and physical wellbeing.
Quick quiz for all you single and looking folks…
Would you go on a date with someone with 12 followers on Instagram that follows 1683 people?
Would you take a drink you didn’t order from your date that didn’t come from the bartender or server?
Would you text a stranger your door code so they can get in your building to meet you at your door?
Would you show up on a date without your wallet?
Please tell me you said no to all of these. If not, let’s talk more privately…
Ever see the video floating around the internet a while back that some comedians did to illustrate the differences in how women prepare for a first date vs how men do? She told her friend the places she planned to go and shared her location (in case she goes missing), had her friend take a picture (in case she goes missing), arranged for a code text (all emojis in case the cops should be called), checked to make sure she had her taser and pepper spray (in case he attacked her), and said she had an extra pair of panties and that she hoped he was “the one” as she skipped happily out the door. She acted as if was all totally normal, and her friend knew what do, just in case. Clearly, these characters have had this conversation before.
He, on the other hand, had a 5-second conversation with his roommate, made sure he had his wallet, keys, and phone, and hopefully condoms, and left the apartment without a word. It’s comically over the top, but it illustrates that women are being conditioned to take precautionary steps such as these, whereas men have no worries at all meeting a stranger for the first time.
There are millions of wonderful people in the world, but gentlemen, there are people who want to do nefarious things to you, as well. You may think you’re about to meet that cute gal with long brown hair for a first date, but really, you’re about to walk into a loft with 5 men waiting to rob you. Are the chances of this happening slim, sure. But, there’s still a chance! I want to discuss ways to stay safe when you’re dating. Whether you met online, through a mutual friend, or in-person while you’re out an about, you can take steps to feel like you’re going to be safe when you meet for a date.
First, there’s avoiding catfishing. Does everyone understand that term by now? Just in case, it means that someone is presenting a persona online that is not their true selves. This could be a woman using an Instagram model’s photos because she’s not happy with her body, or it could be a guy using some hot friend of his’ Facebook pics to try to lure you to an apartment to do you harm. There’s a wide variety here. Spotting this is more like checking out a culmination of things.
– A “perfect profile” is probably too good to be true.
– Google them! Duh… trust me, a quick look can be eye-opening or put your mind at ease. Don’t cyber stalk them once you find them. Just verify information for now.
– Reverse image search pictures from their profile, or that they send you via text. This is especially true if they have all high-res photos that look like a photo shoot.
– If they want to jump to email, don’t. Why waste time like that? Plus, it’s could set you up for online harassment later. Don’t give out your email address.
– Check out their social media pages. If they have very few followers, or they are all from somewhere overseas, that’s a sign. Also, check their tagged photos. We aren’t looking for things to rule them out, but rather checking the facts.
– Be quick to initiate a FaceTime, Skype session, or phone call. If they don’t want to talk or video chat before meeting in person, could be a red flag. BONUS: Use this opportunity to set up the first date if you hit it off. You can tell a lot about how you’ll interact in person by how you talk candidly for 15 minutes.
Now, let’s discuss the actual date and how to stay safe.
Overall, you have to stay in control. You have to stay aware of your surroundings. You have to decide what power you will keep, and what power you will give up. For example, do you have your date pick you up or do you meet them at the location? It’s all about your comfort level with control and power. What would you do if your date started to go in a different direction than the restaurant? This is what you have to consider when you make your choices ahead of time.
– While it’s maybe sort of romantic for them to pick you up, maybe save that for the second time you meet in person.
– Have a friend as your check-in buddy. I don’t care what your gender is. DO IT! They should know your date’s name, have a pic, and know where you’re going. The girls in the funny internet video weren’t totally off base. You can turn on your location sharing with your friend for added comfort. Have a system in place, whether that’s a phone call or a text check-in, to let them know it’s all good. Again, this goes for gals and guys! Please, gentlemen, have a safety buddy, too.
– Meet them at an event where you’ll have you peeps there. For instance, if your friend has a show at a gallery, invite your date. In fact, invite them to bring a friend to join your group. You all can have a good time and make friends with each other. Plus, it can be sexy to see your potential partner in a situation like this. You may both be more relaxed since there is less pressure to come up with the entire conversation yourselves. Plus, you can use your friend’s instincts if you’re worried about trusting your own sometimes.
Once you’re on the date, you have to still be watching for red flags as you have a good time, which can be a delicate balance.
This is where I have to say trust your gut. If your date says or does something that makes your spidey senses tingle, listen to that! To put it bluntly – fuck. being. polite. You owe people nothing if your gut is telling you that something is off. Your safety is your priority. Being polite is not. This isn’t just for people that are in a first date situation. People, on the whole, are good, but there are people out there that want to do you harm sometimes. And sometimes that comes out weeks, months, or years after you’ve started a relationship.
-To say you shouldn’t invite someone back to your place or go to their place on a first date is sort of judgy, and I can’t say I haven’t done it. What I would say is, meet in public first. Then use your best judgment about if this person can be trusted. Or, get a hotel room.
– If you decide to go back to either person’s home or a hotel, be upfront before you get there about what you intend to do. Will you just watch some Hulu and make out? Or do you have condoms and you’re ready to get down for whatever? Setting expectations will help you both feel confident and if you get push back about your boundaries – red flag! Do not pass Go. Also, be cautious – he or she could seem nice, but they could be casing your home, too.
– Consent…we need to talk about the emphatic or enthusiastic yes. Consent is something that a lot of people are talking about these days. What does consent sound like to you? I like hearing “hell yes!” or getting a “yes” with eye contact or with a smile. I’ll even be fine with “I’m open to trying that.” When I hear “okay” or “maybe”, I don’t proceed until I ask more questions and gauge what’s either holding them back or sometimes it’s just that the communication wasn’t there with their initial response, as in they said “okay” but meant “yes”.
Talking about what you and your partner like in bed before you get in is a door to the consent talk. It helps you state your boundaries, and not just what you won’t do, but what you really enjoy doing in bed. I can’t take credit for this, I saw it on a TED talk once…
Would you order pizza without talking to the person about what they do and don’t want on their pizza? Sure you can, but it’s kinda rude! They could have allergies, or just not like all the things you like on a pizza. Point is, talk about what you like and don’t like before you get freaky, because you deserve to have the kind of sex you want in life. Plus, you’re less likely to have an uncomfortable situation later. State your boundaries, stick to them, respect theirs too. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel your enthusiastic yes isn’t there, or your response is not being respected.
And remember…Consent can be withdrawn at any time.
Consent for one act does not give consent for more acts, for instance, consenting to a kiss doesn’t mean they can put their hand down your pants at the same time.
Consent for something once doesn’t mean there is consent for it automatically later.
Have more questions? Email, reach out via social media or call me.
Kristen Thomas is the Owner and Head Coach of Open the Doors Coaching, LLC. She helps people nurture their love lives as a relationship, dating and sex coach. Follow Kristen via Twitter @openthedoorskc, Facebook, and Instagram. Need help with your sex life or relationship? Striking out on dating sites? Looking to host a private group event or workshop with a coach? Email her at Kristen@openthedoorscoaching.com.