“To All the Men Who Have Fetishized Me Before,” by Kimberly Davis

By Kimberly Davis •

“I’m a gentleman lives in _____________ looking for a long term relationship dating also hanging out. I believe in treating a woman with respect and honor I am 5”11 prefer African American and Hispanic types of women no offense at all just my preference of what I like also open to dating outside my race I like weightlifting cologne movies tv shows coffee hanging out with friends shopping football bowling boxing taking walks I hate games and lies I never cheat either a one-woman type of man.”

This poorly written blurb is an excerpt from the newest screenshotted bio from my iTnder hall of shame. Over the years, I have compiled many messages and bios like this, and honestly, this one is the tamest. These days I use Tinder for shits and giggles, but there was once a time where I thought Tinder was the place to meet your prince charming. My online dating journey began just a few weeks before college. I downloaded my first dating website one week before starting my Freshman year. I was still 17, and still never had a date, boyfriend, or real kiss. I thought this was my moment. I took my sexiest pictures, i.e., duck lips, trying to imitate porn star boobs, and making myself look as thin as possible (catfish wasn’t a thing back then). I dressed each picture with a filter that hid my acne scars, and facial discoloration, and was ready to go. I remember staring at my phone with anticipation waiting to meet the man of my dreams. Over the next hour, my phone dinged so much, my mother threatened to throw it out the window. Most of the men in my inbox were between the ages of 28-45. Their profile pictures were grainy, and most of their bios were along the lines of “DTF.” All of their first messages were either “you’re beautiful,” “you’re sexy,” or “nice t*ts.” As a sexless, insecure teenager, I was hooked.

I spent the next week replying to each message with butterflies in my stomach. I flirted, played along, and even thought to make serious plans with one or two of them before I went off to college. There were one or two men who still give me chills to this day. One man claimed to be a sugar daddy. I forgot his name, but he looked like a buff Einstein, so I’ll call him Einstein. He was fifty-something years old, and his photo gallery was filled with pictures of his v-line and the luxuries he had. When he messaged me, I was intrigued. He instantly promised me money, shopping sprees, and then proceeded to flood my KiK inbox with pictures of Black women he had splurged on.

A part of me was flattered. I had never had a man take such interest in me, especially not a white man. Growing up in a white suburban town meant that white men were off limits to Black girls. Hell, Black guys were even off to Black girls. For years I watched my fellow white female peers get the male attention I wanted, and now the tables were turned. Knowing this man was solely interested in Black women made me feel like I had the power in dating for once. I was too young to understand that fetish extended past feet, I was too young to understand the exploitation, and I was too young to understand that this wasn’t even an inkling of what love was. I wouldn’t learn that lesson till several years later. He told me stories about how he put some of them through college and promised me the same if I would meet up with him. I thought about it hard, and even harder when I thought about fleeing the college future that was just ahead of me. He begged, and pleaded for me to take a train to visit him, but I denied, and eventually blocked him out of fear that things could get dangerous. That fear would carry with me for months.

There was another man who still gives me bad chills to this day. I forgot his name as well, but he wore a white-collared button down in his profile picture, so I will call him White Collar. White Collar was a tall white man in his mid-40’s. Back then, his constant flattery and persistence to drive over a half hour to visit me made my heart swoon. We couldn’t meet at his place for unknown reasons, and I could not bring him into my mother’s home so he had suggested we meet in his car, and he would give me my first real kiss. That creepy, eerie feeling fell over me again, and I blocked him.

Tinder introduced itself to the world during the spring semester of my Freshman year. I remember sitting in a classroom with friends writing papers for mid-terms, and we all decided to download it. At the time no one had caught onto the fact that it was an app meant for hookups. We each signed up love in our eyes and nervousness in our chest from all the guys on campus we were about to swipe through. Each of us wishing by some chance our dream guy would pop up, and we would both swipe right. Over the next few weeks, I became addicted to the app. I had the perfect system in place. If a guy messaged me with full on flattery, and I found him even somewhat attractive, I would give him my Kik, and we would message for a few days until he ghosted me. I never ghosted. My friends became worried when they saw me swiping right without even looking, and texting five guys at once. I was addicted to the flattery, the constant notifications, the promise of physical contact, and most of all the feeling of being normal. My Freshman year of college was coming to an end, and all I had to show for it were sweaty beer laden bump, and grinds in frat house basements, and a weird make-out session in a sophomore boy’s room. Messaging all of those guys gave me hope that someone out there found me beautiful and amazing with sober eyes.

My serial online dating fiasco ended the summer after my Freshman year when a guy I met on Tinder, and he actually agreed to meet in real life. He had tattoos like Adam Gontier, and called me beautiful, even after he saw me on webcam, and not in skinny angled pictures. He picked me up in a car he could not afford, and drove me an hour away to his father’s house that he had for the weekend. We spent two nights, and one day together. I told my mother I was staying with a friend from high school, but we both knew that was a lie. I never left the house as a teenager, so she did not try to pry. I told my friends all the details, and sent snaps for proof to fool myself. That weekend I experienced many firsts, and many lasts. On the ride home I said he was my boyfriend, but he never said I was his girlfriend. He left a yellow hoodie with me, and played the game of ghosting over the next two weeks. We met up again at my home then he never spoke to me again. He took his yellow hoodie with him. I knew it was because I never fully put out, and I lived an hour away. He made a cost-benefit analysis, and I was a poor investment. His last text was “I don’t want to string you along. You’ll find a great guy.” Some days I think of contacting him, and letting him know it’s been nearly five years, and all I’ve found were men worse than him.

Kimberly Davis is a writer, feminist, and activist who has her B.A in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and is starting graduate school in the fall at the University of Chicago for social work.