4 Steps I’m Taking to Avoid a “Catfish” Situation
As a person who spends most of my life either on my computer or on my phone, I have never hesitated to online date. Sure, I’ve had creeps make me feel gross after they sent an inappropriate sexual “compliment” in a message… but that’s also happened to me on the subway. Just like I take the good with the bad when dating in the real world, I’ve moved on quickly after negative experiences online. But one thing has made me pause a little while longer. It’s an MTV reality show, it’s a popular hashtag on twitter…It’s “catfish.”
The term “catfish” was made popular by a 2010 documentary, (by the same name), and it refers to any time a person lies about who they really are—from their name to where they live to what they look like—in order to forge or maintain a romantic connection (or just to maliciously deceive someone). And as I said in my latest vlog, From Manti Te’o to Catfish: Men & Online Dating, I now know too many of “catfish” horror stories to ignore how often it happens. Still, I have no intention of excluding the internet as a possible place to meet “him.”
Here’s what I’ll be doing to make sure I never meet a catfish:
1. Updating my online profile: As of right now my online dating profile is a great look at who I am, what I like to do for fun, and what I’m looking for in a guy—but I will be adding what I’m NOT looking for too. I was recently telling a guy friend how it’s a huge turn-off when men bring up sex right away, and he asked me if those exact words were in my profile. They weren’t! The conversation made me realize an online profile is basically a living document—meant to change as you have experiences that change you. Also going in: “Loved the movie Catfish, but never want that to happen to me.”
2. Going beyond the profile picture: Too often we are distracted by how FINE someone looks in their profile pictures (pleading the fifth on whether this has ever happened to me), but when you see someone you want to meet, it is so important to read his or her entire profile. Not only does this force you to think about whether this is a person you’d want in your life, but if you like what you read, you can use it for conversation fodder when you’re messaging. Bring up the fact that he said he loves soccer, or that she said she enjoys cooking. Ask follow up questions, and see if the story holds up.
3. Checking out my “friends of friends”: What better way to make sure someone is real than to ask your old classmate, co-worker, or best friend who knows him or her personally? To me this a no-brainer! Meeting someone who knows one of your Facebook friends means you have access to a co-signer (a.k.a. someone who can vouch for him or her).
4. Being honest about my needs: I have always believed in meeting up with online dates right away, as in-person chemistry is very important to me. But to be honest, now-a-days I’m suffering from a little dating-fatigue and I’m finding it less of a priority in my busy life. For the first time, I can see how getting to know someone just through messages in the beginning could be very fulfilling. Sometimes all you’re looking for is an ear… someone to talk to. But once I’m ready for romance, at the very least, it’ll be time for a skype date.
What are your tips for avoiding catfish? Have you ever been lied to online? Would love to know how you handled it!
Online dating can lead to some interesting encounters on MTV’s Catfish. But how do people miss the signs that something just isn’t right? As Wes explains, “when we want something bad enough, we’ll sort of let the details slide…”
GQ: You interviewed students all over the country about sex. What school had the horniest population?
Savage: Tulane [laughs]. Tulane, hands down. It might as well be a school in the New Jersey state system.
5 Handy Facts for STD Awareness Month
When we think of April, two things come to mind—rain and STD Awareness Month (not necessarily in that order). We recommend an umbrella (or a romantic spirit) for the first and our friends over at GYT for the latter. You’ve probably heard the stat—one in two people will get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) by age 25, and most of them won’t know it. The GYT campaign aims to reduce the spread of STDs (which, BTW, we at Bedsider refer to as STIs for sexually transmitted infections) among young people first through information (and prevention), then through testing and treatment as needed. On their site you can find a testing center, get tips on talking to your partner and your provider, and read about STI prevention, a.k.a. condoms. You should head on over there right after you check out these 5 handy facts we put together for your STI-awareness-raising arsenal.
1) Going for your routine pap smear/check up is really important, but don’t assume because everything is normal with your pap that you’re in the clear for STIs. Generally you have to ask to be screened for any STI you’re concerned about. (And if you’re nervous about bringing up sex with your doctor, we’ve got tips for making that less awkward, too.)
2) HPV is really, really common. Still, there are things you can do to reduce your odds of getting it like getting vaccinated, being selective in terms of partners, and using condoms. Screening to make sure you don’t have it, or to keep an eye on it if you do, is also super important.
3) We hear nasty rumors sometimes about the pill causing infertility, but science has shown that to be the stuff of myth. Actually, if you’re worried about your fertility—current or future—the best thing you can do is get screened for STIs. Take Chlamydia, for example—somewhere in the neighborhood of three million Americans are infected with it each year. STIs like Chlamydia or Gonorrhea, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can cause scarring in the tubes connecting your ovaries and uterus and make it hard to get pregnant later.
4) Some STIs don’t have any symptoms, so you can’t always tell if you (or someone you want to sleep with) have one. Do you see where we’re going with this?
5) Oral sex is not a free pass. Or rather—oh, puns!—it can be a free pass to STI transmission. So always use a condom or a dental dam for oral sex if you don’t know your partner’s status.
Speaking of knowing your partner’s status, there is actually (would we joke about this?) an app for that. In fact, we know of at least two—Qpid.me and ChecMate—that help make sharing your status easier.
If this is all old news for you, pass it on to a friend. Don’t feel like scrolling up? Here’s that GYT link again. And check back here for our next Method Monday—we’ll be posting about that magic method that protects against both pregnancy and STIs…condoms.
Sex advice and a road trip? (Sign us up.) Savage U kicked off Tuesday with a visit to the University of Maryland. A choice excerpt from a random conversation with a guy waiting to get tested for STIs at the school health center:
Dan Savage: “What kind of safety precautions do you take with [your girlfriend]? …do you use condoms?”
Mike (guy in the waiting room): “I don’t.”
Lauren (Dan’s travel companion): “Is she on the pill?”
Mike (guy in the waiting room): “No.”
Dan Savage: “Are you insane?”
This is gonna be good…
Sex on TV: 5 Reasons I’m Not Sorry I Missed Spring Break
Turning the reins over to Roxanne again. Honestly, her post got WAY more acclaim than all of mine put together either way, so… you’re welcome.
I was first introduced to what “spring break” really meant in elementary school when I used to sneakily watch MTV when my parents weren’t around. While I don’t remember the exact year I first came across MTV’s Spring Break, I can safely assume it looked something like this…
Unlike many of my friends, I have never done the “typical” spring break. This past spring break I had friends in Cancun, Cabo, Barbados, Puerto Plata, and Miami. Usually I would spend my spring break visiting friends at other schools or relaxing at home. Of course all of these schools are in the Northeast, so I was always really jealous of my friends’ tans when it was time to get back to class. Other than the weather, I can’t say I ever felt like I was missing much. So if, like me, you skipped the crazy and wild spring break experience this year, here are a few reasons not to be too broken hearted over it:
Reason 1: Alcohol + heat = a mess. Most college kids are drawn to the above-mentioned locations because of the alcohol. Resorts are all inclusive and have open bars. For those who haven’t reached the coveted age of 21, many of these locations serve alcohol to anyone over 18. Not surprisingly, all this alcohol is bound to get a lot of people drunk. The drinking happens all day long, probably outdoors, probably in extreme heat. Instead of hydrating with water, students drink (more) alcohol. I don’t know about all of you, but being on a beach with a ton of really, really drunk people—probably watching someone throw up on the beach or next to the pool at one point or another—sounds pretty awful… especially if that person is one of my friends and I have to take care of them.
Reason 2: Mystery hook-ups. This can happen anywhere, but on spring break it’s even easier for people to omit information—or even lie—about their sexual history. Both you and your “partner” know that this is a one-time thing and you will probably never see each other again. In the few moments you actually spend talking to this person, you’re unlikely to feel super-comfortable asking about STIs and birth control (can’t say I blame you, it’s a mood killer). But because you know so little about the person, it’s even more important to make sure you are making smart decisions. You don’t want to leave your spring break with an unwanted parting gift like an STI or a pregnancy.
Reason 3: Body shots. Due to the constant lack of clothing, body shots are popular at spring break, but it seems pretty gross to me. Why would I want to take a shot off a stranger’s body or vice versa?
Reason 4: You’re stuck. If you’re going away for spring break, when you get there you can’t leave until your plane ticket says so. So if your dream spring break trip turns into a disaster—say you made a fool of yourself by drunkenly dancing on the bar and undressing—you can’t just take a cab home to get away. Since you basically see the same people every day, you will be noticed throughout the rest of the trip.
Reason 5: You’re spending a lot of money for what’s basically just a college party. A major motive to go on spring break is simply having a bunch of horny, college-aged people in one place. (And yes, the bathing suits are definitely a bonus.) Students go because they feel they have an endless supply of new potential hook-ups for an entire week. Sorry to break the news to people, but you can get this experience just about anywhere and for a lot cheaper. Spring break trips can range in price, but it is definitely going to cost at least a few hundred dollars.
These reasons are good enough for me to limit my “spring break” experience to television, but I know a lot of people disagree. It’s not the idea of spring break that bothers me—it’s students’ attitudes towards it. They openly acknowledge that this is the time to use bad judgment and make dumb mistakes. Do you really want to end up like these people? Seriously… what were they thinking?
“MTV Spring Break 2010” image by mattworkman.
Lauren Mann works in The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy’s Entertainment Media department. She’s been blogging about sex, love and relationships among twenty-somethings since she first joined the Campaign as an intern in 2009. Check out her personal blog at whatjewtalkingbout.tumblr.com.
Happy National Condom Week!
As if national condom week weren’t exciting enough in its own right, some of our favorite folks ever—the ones over at Get Yourself Tested (GYT)—are running a sweepstakes this week giving away Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and a trip to NYC for two. To enter, all you have to do is tweet your answer to @MTVact’s question of the day. All the questions—and yes, that means just two more for the week, unless you’re really fast tonight—can be answered by checking out the GYT party interactive video. So basically it’s a win-win (or a win-win-win?) proposition—you get to watch an interactive video, learn about STIs, and possibly win prizes. (You know, besides the prize of being better informed about STIs…)
And while we’re on the subject of condoms and STI prevention, we just happen to have a new Fact or Fiction video for your myth-busting viewing pleasure.The question at hand: Can you get STIs from oral sex?
PS—Have you checked out Lucky Bloke yet? While you’ve got STI prevention on the brain, you may want to see whether their monthly condom subscription service—which also offers female condoms, dental dams, and lube for good measure—could be of interest…
In Review: A Ray of Hope for the Little Monsters
It’s funny the beacons of hope that can emerge in popular culture. Those of us who produce independent music tend to hold fast to do-it-yourself altruism and ideals, often at the expense of reach, but I for one have always had an unabashed love for pop. It is no easy thing to craft a hook. Mainstream popularity can also offer clues to the needs of a generation and new paths to reach them. My band mate has a tattoo on her arm-–“The Promise of Song”–-and it hits that nail right on the head. Music is for everybody. Music heals. Music nurtures, agitates, and awakens.
Lady Gaga is one such beacon, particularly for youth who identify as queer or who are questioning their sexual identity or orientation. Recently, she set the media abuzz when she appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards as her male alter ego Jo Calderone. She was being honored for her song “Born this Way,” and Jo accepted the award on her behalf. As Murray Hill (New York City queer artist and celebrity) noted, Jo’s presence was powerful and inspiring because there are so few mass media representations of FTM transgender people in mainstream culture. I posed the question to my friends on Facebook-–what do you think of the new Lady Gaga video “You and I” (which, incidentally, also features Jo Calderone, in this case making out in some scenes with the Mama Monster herself)—and the overwhelming feedback I got was centered on Jo’s hotness (even if Britney Spears did turn down the chance to lock lips with him). A number of my female friends commented about their attraction to me in private, too. Jo is sexy, powerful, and chaotic—and from what I gather, he appeals to both girls who like girls and girls who like guys.
Many popular musicians have attracted and engaged queer audiences over the years, but Gaga takes the work off the stage—and LGBTQ community leaders agree. Whether advocating for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, making the case for gay marriage, or reaching out to disenfranchised queer youth, Gaga walks the walk. She tried to reach out personally to some fans, and clearly felt the loss of Jamey Rodemeyer, a fourteen-year old fan who took his life after being bullied for being gay. Gaga told press immediately how unacceptable the current climate for gay teens is. She leverages her popularity to address LGBTQ issues and, while I first thought it might be strictly a marketing ploy, I have grown to believe she does it from her heart and soul.
Gaga hasn’t stopped pushing boundaries with her music videos and public presentation, either (though some hooks from “Born this Way” are very reminiscent of Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” and comparisons between the two women abound). In “You and I,” along with the scenes of Gaga and Calderone making out in a Nebraskan cornfield, we see Gaga as a topless mermaid with no nipples. At one point she lures a man into a washbasin. The only thing going through my head during that entire scene was that the female representation (a genitalia-less mermaid) was a sex object incapable of reproduction. A final scene at the end shows an apparently human begowned Gaga tying the knot with the man from the mermaid scene. Another shot at the opening shows our heroine wandering a country road with a robotic arm.
The imagery incites the viewer to think about gender, self, attraction, identity, sex, location, memory, narcissism, illicit love, and seduction—and offers no real conclusions. The bride scene at the end stands in stark contrast to some of the rest of the video—but it made sense to me that Gaga would show so many kinds of sexual representations and pairings and then cut to a scene of a heterosexual (dare I say vanilla?) rural union. The main question I had was this: are we to believe that all of those characters reside in the same person? In the same spirit and psyche?
Pop culture icons do have the power to shape public thought—even those who are not explicit in their political stance. A recent blog post on the secret feminism of Nirvana talks about how many young women were able to be fans of that loud rock band and not feel the hyper-regular masculine overdrive rock music often engenders. Many girls found Nirvana, then went on to explore some of the band’s friends—L7, Bikini Kill, Hole-–and ultimately pick up instruments themselves. Interviews with Kurt Cobain and his subsequently published journals make it clear that he was a man who rejected the gender binary and strict notions of masculinity and femininity. In her multifaceted way, Lady Gaga is doing the same thing—and in a culture in which there’s still so much pressure to define ourselves in binaries, I feel more safety and joy on any dance floor where her music is blasting.
Katy Otto is a social justice activist, writer and musician who grew up in the DC area. She works in nonprofit management and development.
Some Condom Love for World AIDS Day
In honor of World AIDS Day (today!), we’d like to take a moment to appreciate the condom. Sometimes we get caught up in our excitement over super-effective, low-maintenance methods like the IUD and the implant, but the condom will always hold a special place in our hearts for being the only available method capable of protecting us from unplanned pregnancy and STIs.
There are so many things we’d love to share with you about condoms… but we know you’re busy, so we’ll stick with a few highlights.
- One of our favorite Bedsider Real Stories features Michelle talking about which condoms she likes best and how she makes sure her partner uses one every time. Let’s just say we believe her when she says it doesn’t have to be awkward.
- Steven Petrow’s post “Queeries: When He Won’t Wear a Condom (World AIDS Day Edition)” has some great tips for anyone, woman or man, dealing with a guy who doesn’t want to wear a condom. Bottom line: where there’s a will, there’s always a way to be safe.
- For an alternative to male condoms, let us not forget the lady counterpart—the female condom. The female condom also protects against HIV and some people seriously like it! We also happen to have a podcast about it featuring Mary Ann Leeper, the woman behind the method.
Of course World AIDS Day is about a lot more than condoms—considering that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. are HIV positive and don’t know it, testing and treatment are a huge part of the equation. So what are you waiting for? Find out where you can get tested, bring a friend, pick up some condoms along the way.