Imagine you go on a date with a girl from OKCupid only to discover on first meeting that she is a short-haired feminist. Your face contorts into disgust, and you ask why she didn’t have a single short-haired picture on her profile, or mention her aggressive political views. “What are you talking about?!” she replies. “I’ve got two pictures with short hair, and a link to my tumblr. You’re the one who didn’t say anything about your height or how obsessed you are with weight lifting.”
“My heights listed and there’s a whole paragraph on how much I love my gym,” you reply. You each pull out your phones and load your profiles, only to discover that the profile you built and the profile your potential match was shown are radically different.
The company removed text from users’ profiles, hid people’s photos, and even told some users they were exceptionally good for each other when in fact they were in fact an awful match.
Why did OKCupid deliberately lie to it’s users about their matches?
The company admittedly performed these experiments just to see what would happen.
Just to see what would happen.
Feminist critics have often said that consent is not possible if one party withholds important information and wildly misrepresents themselves. In this case, both the man and woman might represent themselves honestly on their profiles and OKCupid withhold, hide, or change the information the other person actually received. If OKCupid withholds information, and tells “some users they were exceptionally good for each other when in fact they were in fact an awful match” has OKCupid muddled consent and caused rape?
This isn’t an empty accusation. Imagine if I did what OKCupid did on an individual level. Imagine if I made made up a false identity, told my date I agreed with her on questions she considered important in a match when I really didn’t, and somehow masked my appearance. She might think we are perfect for each other and give her consent on a false basis. Then, right as my penis was gliding into her vagina, I tear off my mask and say “Actually, I don’t agree with any of those questions, and this isn’t even what I actually look like.” Her eyes go wide and she asks me why I lied. I shrug. “Just to see what would happen.” Do you think she’d withdraw her consent or accuse me of rape?
OKCupid did that on a mass scale.
Did OKCupid Put Unsuspecting Users On Dates With Rapists?
OKCupid has tried to minimize the damage of their experiments by saying that “the worst thing could have happened is people send a few more messages, and maybe you went on a date you didn’t like.” However, as one critics notes, “going on ‘a date you didn’t like’ isn’t a frivolous thing.” It involves real world travel, expenses, an hour or so of time, and a significant emotional impact.
When I read an user’s OKCupid profile, I scan for red flags. One in four women take medication for a diagnosed mental illness. I would not consent to a date with a girl who showed signs of mental illness. If you replace “maybe you went on date you didn’t like” with “maybe you went on date with someone with a diagnosed mental illness” the situation becomes more grave.
Plus, if you add to that rape statistics and sexual assault as a potential outcome, OKCupid’s experiment becomes even more dangerous. One of OKCupid’s match questions is “Does no always mean no?” Most women I know rate this question fairly high, because they don’t want to wind up on a date with someone who will rape them. If OKCupid changed users answers to the question “does no always mean no?” and put unsuspecting women on dates with men who might rape them, is OKCupid an accomplice to rape?
Terms of Service Is Not An Excuse For Rape
OKCupid will probably respond that their terms of service allow them to do whatever they want. First, most terms of service are already ethically and legally questionable. Second, terms of service do not apply to sexual consent. Sexual consent must be explicit and can be withdrawn at any point. If sexual consent worked like terms of service, I could put some text on the door of my house that said, “by entering these premises, you agree to butt-stuff” and then force anal on anyone who entered my home.
OKCupid is the middleman in men and women’s sexual relationships. If I put on my profile that I’m married, or have an STD, or don’t believe “no means no,” OKCupid hides that information, and a woman has sex with me under false pretenses, who is liable in that situation? To the best of my knowledge, I disclosed that information. Could the woman hold OKCupid legally responsible? This is new legal territory created by the internet.
OKCupid prides itself on being a liberal company. They previously changed their homepage to attack Modzilla CEO Brendan Eich’s stance on gay marriage. You’d think they would understand the basics of consent. However, like many tech companies they love data more than consent. I don’t know if anyone who went on an OKCupid date based on false information given during the companies experiments could have lawsuit against them, but someone should at least try. You know, just to see what would happen.
Read More: How Women Train Men To Rape