Nov 15 2021
#ConnectRespect: Consent in the Digital Age
Written by Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape

“I never saw this man’s face,” Lily* wrote, “and I was disturbed.”

Lily is describing an incident of sexual harassment she faced over a dating app last year. She matched with a man during the summer of 2020. They were flirting over the app when the conversation suddenly turned “extremely graphic…the things he said were creepy, and I began to feel more and more uncomfortable… he almost wanted to be controlling me.”

Lily stopped replying to his messages, and he responded by video calling her over the app. She was certain that picking up would have led to more intense and graphic nonconsensual sexual communications.

Feeling invaded and uneasy, she told him the video call was crossing a line. He retaliated by insulting her with misogynistic slurs and then called her repeatedly until she was forced to block him. More than a year later, the incident still troubles her.

6 in 10 women on dating apps have faced similar digital harassment.

That’s why we’re launching #ConnectRespect, a hashtag for dating profiles to indicate a commitment to consent both online and offline.

#ConnectRespect is about respecting your matches and their consent. Consent doesn’t become important only after you’ve met in a physical space. It begins the moment you view someone’s profile on an online dating platform.

By sharing the hashtag in your dating profile, you pledge to respect the people you communicate with over the app, including their freedom to grant or withhold consent.

That means:

1. Understanding that the existence of a dating profile is never “asking for” sexual invitations or conversations, no matter what platform it’s on. No photo or aspect of a public dating profile amounts to consent for sexual activity or sexualized comments; such consent can only be issued in private conversation.

2. Understanding that uninvited sexual comments are not compliments.

3. Never engaging in sexual harassment (and understanding what behaviors this includes).

4. Accepting romantic and sexual rejection with grace. That means never responding with hostility (especially of a sexualized nature), or refusing to cease communication after your match has expressed a desire to do so. That also means not attempting to find a match that has previously blocked you on another website or platform.

5. No unsolicited sharing of intimate photos.

6. Never using geo-location services or aspects of a public profile to track someone’s physical location, or sending them messages alluding to or threatening knowledge of their location.

7. Exchanging explicit and non-coerced consent (and understanding what this consent looks like) with your match before sending intimate messages or photos. Consent is not permanent, but must be expressed each and every time you and your match engage in intimate activities online.

8. Never sharing intimate images or conversations with others, or saving them without consent through screenshots.

9. Understanding that consenting to engage in digital sexual activities does not imply consent to engage in in-person sexual activities, and vice versa.

Sharing this hashtag on your dating profile means you accept your responsibility to respect your match and their consent to sexual activity the moment you see their profile, and that you’re looking for matches who will do the same.


*Name has been changed.


Story by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape