Our interviews were a little unconventional. Because of the sensitive nature of our questions, we decided to interview people in a 1:1 Zoom conversation to promote vulnerability and make the participants feel more comfortable. I’ve changed each of their names for this blog post to preserve the anonymity of our interview process.
Naomi was the subject of my first interview. A recent School of Art graduate and black woman, I found that Naomi’s experiences with dating apps and relationships on campus were very relatable. She used Tinder, Bumble and Hinge, but sparingly, and didn’t participate in random hookups. She felt that the culture of UArk’s campus was one geared toward marriage and relationships, but hasn’t found the same connection in her own experience. Naomi also expressed her frustration with a bad emergency contraception experience: she wasn’t able to get a Plan B alternative for women outside the 160 pound weight range quickly enough to be effective, and instead risked her health and well-being by opting for the less promising Plan B option.
My second interview was with Tyler – a senior UArk journalism student who had used Tinder in the past but, much like Naomi, never met up with anyone from the app. He described his experience as a “shy” guy who didn’t think about his sexuality often – likely because “being straight is the norm” on campus. He opened up about the “unspoken rule” that “it doesn’t matter what your personality is” on Tinder. “It’s like an advertisement of yourself,” Tyler noted.
With both of these conversations fresh on my mind, I can’t help but be surprised by how hookup culture manifested in these two interviews alone. Both Naomi and Tyler use dating apps as an afterthought – and, in Naomi’s case, for affirmation. This is something I’ve heard from many women who use dating apps. Because the culture is for “men to reach out first” (according to Tyler), it’s easy for women to sit back and let matches appear, leaving men dejected and vulnerable.
I think we have a lot of work left to do to identify a space for freshmen that promotes safe sex, but these interviews gave me an interesting perspective – specifically on how one man and woman use dating apps and view sexuality in a campus setting.