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Disses, Dick Pics, and Other Delights of Modern Dating
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After one too many hostile dating app encounters, Alexandra Tweten set up the Instagram account @ByeFelipe, a place for women to protest the horrors of online dating, and to share stories and screenshots of their own experiences. Three years later, the account has become a forum where women can fight back against the men who have made them uncomfortable, scared, and embarrassed — and to laugh at the appalling men they encounter.
The name of Bye Felipe is a nod to the “Bye Felicia” meme, which Urban Dictionary defines as a cool dismissal of a noxious person. In that spirit, the book helps women navigate the perils that come with swiping right and provides practical steps to overcome the harassment rampant in the dating app ether. Blending humor, feminist theory, and solidarity, this “field guide” provides profiles of the worst types of guys (also known as “Felipes”) — from the classic fat shamer to the mansplainer to the surprise sociopath — answers questions like “How do I react when a guy sends me a dic pic?,” and gives women the tools they need to take control of their dating life. With stories, screenshots, and Riot Grrrl-esque graphic art throughout, Bye Felipe empowers women to stand up for themselves and uphold the confidence and self-worth Felipes try so desperately to steal.
Let’s be real. You probably picked up this book because you’re a fan of the viral Instagram account @ByeFelipe and already know about the fresh hell that is modern online dating, or you have no idea what “Bye Felipe” means, but the phrase “dick pics” caught your eye and you were intrigued. Either way, hello and welcome! I’m Alexandra, and I started Bye Felipe, a website that calls out men who turn hostile when they’re rejected or ignored. It’s basically just screenshots of terrible things dudes say to women online, which the women send to me, and I share publicly. Kinda like this:
Now you’re probably like, “Oh, I get it, but WTF is this book about?” Well, after years of being inundated with thousands of dreadful examples of men being complete assholes to women for politely declining or ignoring their desperate pleas for attention, I decided there was much more I wanted to say about modern dating (and misogyny) that wouldn’t quite fit into a tiny Instagram square. Hence, the idea for this book was born. I wanted to start a conversation about the problems women are experiencing in online dating (and just navigating through life online) because the abuse and harassment don’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. I receive about twenty submissions a day with the worst insults from women’s inboxes, and with questions about how they should respond or what they can do to combat the abuse.
I also spent the majority of my twenties doing online dating in Los Angeles, and after more than two hundred dates, I’ve pretty much witnessed it all in terms of straight dudes’ bad behavior. It’s downright brutal out there if you’re a single woman right now. I wanted to write a guide to avoiding all the mistakes I made when I first started meeting strangers from the internet, and wanted to make fun of all the awful men.
Is this book going to tell you how to catch a man? NOPE. There’s already enough of that BS out there as it is. Straight and bi women, femmes, queer, nonbinary, and trans people, anyone-who-is-not-a-straight-cis-male, YOU’RE FINE. It’s mostly straight cisgender dudes who need to get their acts together. As such, this book is for anyone, regardless of identity, who is an unfortunate target for straight guys.
I wanted you to be able to use this book to learn how to best spot, avoid, and effectively take down asshole dudes you encounter. And I hope you’ll have some laughs along the way, because, well, there’s pretty much no way to read some of these absurd interactions and not cackle.
You down? OK, cool. Now that you know what to expect, let me answer your next question: How the heck did this all start?
In August 2014, I woke up one day and discovered that my friend Miranda had added me to a secret Los Angeles–based Facebook group called “Girls Night In” (later to be known as GRLCVLT—because we were basically a feminist cult). It was like a giant online sleepover with fifteen hundred ambitious, successful women and non-binary identifying people who talked about anything and everything, from career problems to relationship issues. The group was diverse and included lesbian, bisexual, and trans women; immigrants; women of color; sex workers; CEOs; models—everyone. However, it was kind of similar to Fight Club: what happens in GNI, stays in GNI. Anyone caught leaking info is kicked out. Hence, there was a sense of freedom, openness, and frankness that you don’t find on your regular Facebook feed with everyone’s grandparents. It was like a whole new world, a paradise where no man could butt in and derail or explain anything. I’m not exaggerating when I say that being added to GNI changed my life.
One day, a member of GNI posted a screenshot of a message she had received on the dating site OkCupid. It was a dude’s dopey, long-winded, boring message, like any of the hundreds you typically receive if you’re a woman on a dating site. She didn’t respond, and then twelve hours later, he just said “asshole.” I thought it was hilarious.
It just so happened that I had received a message a couple of days before that on OkCupid, where the guy had been sending me the same message over and over. When I finally responded and said I wasn’t interested, he lashed out. He had sent me multiple messages, starting like this:
Seems nice, but when you get as many messages as women do on OkCupid (hundreds), you start to develop a spidey sense for generic copy-and-pasted messages that guys send to hundreds of women without reading their profiles. Still, I looked at his profile, and none of his pictures actually showed his face. (Red flag!) Sorry, I’m not trying to date a torso. I ignored the message. However, he kept trying.
I continued ignoring them, hoping he would get the hint and go away.
A few weeks later, he tried yet again, and I finally said, “No.” And then this happened.
At the time, I was kind of freaked out. This guy seemed unstable. Was he going to keep messaging me? Would he try to find me? I didn’t want to deal with it. So I blocked him. This wasn’t the first time a guy had insulted me when I wasn’t interested, but it was the first time I actually felt queasy from the unprovoked anger and rage of a man on a dating site. As I would later learn, this sort of thing is not rare. I posted the disturbing screenshot from the lawyer in the GNI conversation.
As the thread got going, more women added examples of increasingly offensive messages they’d received on dating sites. They all seemed to have something in common: we’d ignore a guy’s messages or politely decline his advances and then get a shitstorm of abuse. We agreed that online dating was often as frightening as it was entertaining.
We talked about the double bind of being a single (straight) woman: You get a message from a guy, and if you answer no, the guy gets angry. But if you ignore it, the guy gets angry anyway. There’s no winning! The only way to avoid making an entitled man hostile is to agree with him. Do these men expect us to go on dates with everyone who’s interested in us? We also talked about how we hated declining men, because we expect this aggressive reaction. And we normally don’t even acknowledge it; it’s just an everyday thing that we accept.
We had already come up with our own lingo for dismissing dudes: “Bye, Felipe,” a riff on “Bye Felicia,” the classic quote from the movie Friday. (If you’ve survived this long without hearing that slang phrase, it’s basically a dude’s way of dismissing a woman who’s an irrelevant whiner.)
It had been our inside joke for a few weeks. Someone’s boyfriend is being shady? Bye, Felipe! Someone went on a date and he ghosted her? Bye, Felipe! A dude got caught cheating? Girl, you need to Bye Felipe him. Some asshole sent you a rude message on Tinder because you didn’t respond fast enough? BYE FELIPE.
This is one of the first screenshots someone added to the original Facebook thread:
“Someone should make an Instagram with these!” one member said after what seemed like the eight millionth horrible screenshot went up. Making a split-second decision, I did. I created the @ByeFelipe Instagram account as a protest against assholes who insult and even threaten women online and to publicize that abuse like this was common and widespread. I wanted to take the therapeutic experience of GNI and give more women an open forum in which they could post nightmare text exchanges and bond over the horrors of online dating. With the blessing of my fellow GNI members, I uploaded the first few posts.
Exactly two weeks after I created the Instagram account I awoke to a nonstop stream of push notifications blowing up my phone. I watched, astounded, as likes and comments scrolled across the screen, sometimes too fast to even read. That morning, The Atlantic had published an article about online harassment, featuring @ByeFelipe and calling me a “Feminist Tinder-Creep-Busting Web Vigilante.” I went into my Instagram settings and turned off notifications. I had no idea the concept would touch a nerve with so many people. I didn’t think anyone outside of GNI would even get the joke. But as it turned out, a lot of people got it. The followers of @ByeFelipe grew from about six hundred, just among GNI members, to thirty thousand the following week, and they continued to grow with every news story.
As the account received more and more media coverage (Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, Good Morning America, The New York Times), I received thousands of sub-missions. They were all examples of truly horrific messages women were dealing with. There were submissions with deluges of insults, from “fat whale” to “cunt” to “whore.” There were text messages running multiple pages, describing why they thought these women were awful and unworthy of respect. Occasionally, women would send me the rape threats or physical threats they’d received. This is when I realized the truly incredible magnitude of the hatred women face online on a regular basis.
It became clear that there were certain types of harassers, and there was a distinct pattern of a very large problem. People were constantly asking me, “What causes these responses? Why are men like this?” Maybe if I could find a pattern to the harassment, I could learn the warning signs and make women more aware. Or maybe I could somehow come up with specific defenses to each type. I started putting the submissions into categorized folders when I received them: “Dick Pics,” “Nice Guys,” “Racists,” “Weirdos,” etc.
The examples people sent me from dating apps like Tinder were wild. Some of the men’s profiles practically screamed “I’m a bigot and I hate women!” Their Tinder taglines were littered with “No fat chicks” and “Too many skanks looking for attention on here.” But some men seemed fine at first glance, yet, as soon as you took a shower or accidentally fell asleep while messaging them, their impatient, entitled side would come out. These awful reactions to rejection came from everywhere. Most were from dating sites like OkCupid, Tinder, and Plenty of Fish, but there were also submissions from Facebook, gaming apps, and real-life interactions that the submitters described. The issue is larger than just dating sites, but it is especially pronounced there and it’s easier to document.
Four years later, Bye Felipe has more than 400,000 followers on Instagram. I host a popular podcast and have watched Bye Felipe become young women’s destination of choice as they ask the age-old questions: What the fuck is wrong with these men? What is it that makes some of them think it’s okay and perfectly acceptable to catcall and harass women? To send them dick pics? To turn hostile when we shut them down? To treat us like inanimate objects?
We know that online dating harassment is primarily a woman’s problem because a whopping 57 percent1 of women report feeling harassed on dating apps, compared to 21 percent of men. Our patriarchal society, rife with misogyny, and the male-dominated culture we all grow up and live in, call on men to be sexually aggressive, unemotional, and violent. This is toxic masculinity, and it is at the root of the interactions I see on Bye Felipe.
Toxic masculinity is responsible for the same general attitude that ended up electing a known and admitted “pussy-grabber” as president of the United States. Evidenced by how the 2016 election turned out, apparently a lot of Americans are VERY okay with misogyny. And make no mistake: Donald Trump is a textbook Felipe. The quotes from the notorious bus video read exactly like a submission I’d get: “I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden, I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything.” Translation: “I hit on her, but she wasn’t interested. Well, she’s ugly anyway.”
Under President Felipe-in-Chief, the dating landscape feels shittier than ever—and the work of Bye Felipe has never felt more important. The day after the 2016 election, a friend of mine was walking into a Los Angeles 7-Eleven, having just stepped out of her Bernie Sanders–stickered car, when a man in a Make America Great Again hat grabbed her between her legs and said, “Are you scared now, you liberal cunt?” I have heard many stories like this since.
I’m not saying that Bye Felipe alone can solve our culture’s perennial problem with misogyny or harassment—or even the more recent problems of online hate and abuse. Women, especially women of color, knew that the world was like this long before the 2016 election. We had the evidence not only in our personal experiences from walking down the street in public, but also in our online inboxes. The ideologies that enabled Donald Trump to take power are the same beliefs that reinforce the notion that women are lesser. From the institutional sexism in pretty much every industry, to the micro-aggressions we deal with on a daily basis, it’s a wonder every woman hasn’t gone postal at some point.
What I am saying is that drawing together to share our collective experiences feels like survival work now. And laughing about it feels like one of the best ways to cope, because what the hell else are we going to do in the short term? Real long-term solutions involve a comprehensive plan of attack, from demanding safety and security from app makers to changing social norms and public policy. I’ll talk about some of this kind of big-picture advocacy work a little later on, but, in the meantime, this book is going to help you laugh and find your people so that your life as a woman online becomes a little more fucking bearable.
For now, there’s little you can do to avoid these maniac men if you want to live a normal functioning life in public as a woman in the digital arena. They’re everywhere: Tinder, Bumble, Facebook, Twitter, the bar down the street, the White House. So you might as well learn to anticipate them, be prepared with strategies to deflect their insults and threats, and commiserate in knowing that you’re not alone.
If you are just dipping your toes into online dating—for the first time, or the first time in a while—this book is for you. This is the book I wish I had had when I was first starting out as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Tinder noob. I’ll take you through many of the tribulations you’ll undoubtedly face in this strange internet dating world, and we’ll learn how to get through them together.
OK, I get it. Why would anyone put themselves through internet dating? You’ve seen the horror stories, whether they’re from Bye Felipe or one of the dozens of viral news stories that come out every few months about a man doing something so ridiculous, you’d think it’s a headline from The Onion. (Except it’s real.) I see your point; however, online dating is not weird anymore, and pretty much everyone is doing it or knows someone who’s doing it. And here’s why: no one meets in real life. We’re all addicted to our phones. Have you ever gone to a coffee shop, talked to a stranger, and then gone on a date with that stranger? If you’re under thirty-five (a millennial or younger), probably not.
We do everything with our beloved phones, so why wouldn’t we use them to get out of our isolation caves and establish some real human contact? A lot of people just want to find someone to love, and it’s hard to meet people otherwise. If you’re not in college, and if you don’t really have many friends who can set you up with other nice single people, how exactly are you supposed to meet someone in public when their face is buried in their phone at all times? At bars? Only if you want to meet aggressive creepo-s who put the moves on countless women in hopes that one of them will bite. If you turn one of them down, you know he’s going to hit on ten more.
The types of guys I’m into would never go up to a woman and aggressively hit on her in public because—and I’ve heard this from my great guy friends—they “don’t want to ruin her day.” The normal, self-aware, nonasshole guys usually are not going to hit on you in public. And isn’t that kind of a relief? Anytime I’m walking down the street and I pass a man, I’m usually thinking, “Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me.” Because I know it’s almost always going to be something to make me feel uncomfortable—a “Hey, you should smile more” or an unsettling whispered comment about my boobs.
Maybe my millennial generation is a little bit socially inept from all the internet usage we grew up with. But at the end of the day, let’s face it, online dating is just more efficient. I like it because it’s fast, easy, and I can eliminate deal-breakers before I agree to meet for a date. I also just like meeting lots of new people—and I’ve met some really interesting and wonderful guys I would have never met otherwise: ER doctors, entrepreneurs, scientists, minor celebrities. There’s no way I would have run into these people through friends or in my neighborhood. For whatever reason, we may not have been compatible, but I’ve made a ton of guy friends from online dating. I’ve even met some of my best girlfriends through guys I met on an internet date.
The great thing about the current state of internet dating is that there really is a niche app or site for everyone, so if one of them doesn’t work for you, try another one. In my quest for love, and in the name of research for this book, I’ve tested them all so you don’t have to.
Guide: Which Dating App Should You Use?
TINDER: Swiping app centered around pictures only. (Swipe left if you’re not interested, swipe right if you are. If two people both swipe right, they match and can chat.) Use this one if you’re looking for a hookup. Or a date. Or if you want to network. Basically, if you want to meet a stranger for any reason at all based only on their appearance. Pretty much everyone is on it—straights, gays, bi, cis, trans, nonbinary folks. As well as polyamorous couples, monogamous people, cheaters. This requires you to wade through lots of people as there aren’t many filters besides age, gender, and location, and a lot of profiles don’t show many details. Useful if you’re traveling on a backpacker’s budget for free food or travel guides. (Just kidding—but not really.)
OKCUPID: Generally more for relationships. Profiles are more detailed, and you can answer questions to get matched with compatible people. The filtering features are nice. I met my ex-boyfriend of two-and-a-half years on OkCupid, and I’ve met some other quality guys on there, too. Try it if you want to know some weirdly specific facts about a stranger before you meet them, like how they’d answer this question: “While in the middle of the best lovemaking of your life, if your lover asked you to squeal like a dolphin, would you?”
BUMBLE: Like Tinder, but women have to message first, and matches disappear in twenty-four hours if you don’t talk. It was started by Whitney Wolfe Herd, the woman who co-founded Tinder. She later had a falling out with the other douchebro founders of Tinder, sued for sexual harassment, and won a settlement. In my opinion, Bumble is OK. But I know lots of women who swear by it. The gender roles of messaging are reversed, which is kind of cool, but you have to message a bunch of guys before one of them responds. About 10–15 percent of guys I match with usually respond, which seems like more effort than with other apps.
HAPPN: Kinda like Tinder, but it shows you everyone you’ve “crossed paths” with. It’s supposed to work if you pass someone on the street or see them at the same restaurant, and you think they’re hot, but you’re too afraid to talk to them. You can check Happn and, if they’re also on it, match with them to chat. I have never once actually used it in the scenario it was created for. In reality, it brings up a list of people who have probably driven past your apartment at one point. That said, I’ve still met a few solid dudes on Happn.
HINGE: When I first started using Hinge a few years ago, it was all rich bros from Santa Monica, which is not really my scene, and it was premised on having Facebook friends in common, which was nothing special. However, they have since completely overhauled the app and are now more focused on creating relationships. You have to have six photos or videos on your profile and complete three writing prompts like “I’d donate my kidney for___.” (I said, “putting Trump in jail.”) It’s a middle ground between Tinder, where you don’t know anything about the person, and OkCupid, where the profiles are long and tedious. There’s also a place to indicate important deal-breakers, like whether you want kids and if you smoke weed or not.
MATCH.COM: Everyone says that you should join Match if you want to get married, because you have to pay for it, and dudes who pay for their dating apps are SERIOUS (apparently). In my experience, Match is the worst matching algorithm, created on a website that looks like it was designed in 2003 with the blandest guys who hardly fill out their profiles and don’t have a clue about how to start a conversation besides copying and pasting something generic and calling you beautiful. It’s also full of outdated profiles of people who haven’t been on the site in months. I joined for six months (FOR SCIENCE!) and didn’t see one guy I would ever want to go on a date with. Try it if you’re looking for someone with a personality like plain oatmeal.
THE LEAGUE: It’s supposed to be for people who went to prestigious colleges, but they let me on it (I went to a non-Ivy League university), so IDK. I got approved a year after I signed up because they say they go through each application by hand. You can pay to get approved sooner, but I’m glad I didn’t because they gave me three matches a day, and they all seemed like rich douchebros. Maybe that’s someone’s type, but not mine. Try it if you’re super into dudes who went to the Ivy League.
COFFEE MEETS BAGEL: This app/site works by sending guys a selection of twenty-one women. The guys indicate who they’re interested in, then they provide the chosen women with the guys who liked them, so you get the final say. It’s nice to only be presented with guys who you already know are interested. It’s more relationship-oriented.
HUGGLE: This one was co-founded by Stina Sanders, a model who publicly shared a dick pic someone sent her, in order to call out his sexism. The app is based on places you go, and you can only message someone if you have a public place in common. The reasoning behind it is, Sanders says, that guys are less likely to send dick pics to people they see in real life. Huggle is also focused on helping people make platonic friends at the places they frequent. Try it if you’re new to a city and want to make friends with the regulars at your favorite coffee shop.
RAYA: “The secret Tinder for celebrities.” You allegedly have to have some sort of clout to join this app. Anyone can apply, but they’re going to judge you based on how many Instagram followers you have, if you’re a famous person, and if you have phone number references from three people who are already Raya users. I tried to apply once with the @ByeFelipe Instagram account and was waitlisted. However, I know some regular people who got on it in the beginning and have played around with their accounts. It’s mostly a sprinkling of DJs, models, actors, and a few sort-of famous people like Moby. They try to keep it a secret, and you get kicked off if you take a screenshot of any profile.
PLENTY OF FISH: The bottom of the barrel. I don’t really know why anyone uses this. I get a lot of Bye Felipe submissions from POF, if that tells you anything about the types of guys who use it.
FEELD: This is the threesome app. It used to be called 3nder (yes, thrinder), but then Tinder sued them so they had to change the name. If you’ve ever wanted to go on a date with a couple, this is your app. However, I’ve tried it out and matched with some pretty hot single dudes who were nice. People are very up front about their sexual kinks and talk about hooking up right away, so if you’re looking for something casual, this might be good to try. I’ve also never experienced a Bye Felipe situation on this app.
JSWIPE: Like Tinder for Jewish people. I haven’t tried this one, but it exists.
JDATE: Like OkCupid for Jewish people. Also have not tried it (because I’m not Jewish).
ZOOSK & BADOO: They say they have millions of users, but too many features are behind paywalls, no one fills out their profiles, and the interface is bad. No thanks.
Bye Felipe is the dating equivalent of a life vest for women! What a relief to have an honest, pragmatic and often hysterically funny guide to navigating being a 'Woman on the Internet.' It would be harder to find a more vivid, compelling and on-point discussion of the nature of gender and sexual relations today."
—Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger
Funny, upsetting, silly, sad, terrifying, provocative, and ultimately incredibly enlightening and affirming.... This book is a great resource for folks of all genders who'd like to learn how to behave better and how to expect better. Boundaries are a beautiful thing, but Bye Felipe is here to find the humor in people who have never met a boundary they couldn't cross."
—-Sara Benincasa, comedian and author of Real Artists Have Day Jobs and DC Trip
- On Sale
- Aug 21, 2018
- Page Count
- 192 pages
- Running Press