How to Screen for Creeps on OkCupid

by Pamela J. Hobart

OkCupid is a great place to meet people — I used it very happily for several years myself. Fears that online dating is dangerous can put a damper on the fun, but with the OkCupid plugin "Predator Alert Tool" (via On The Media), you can make online dating safer and save yourself some time and worry by automating your weeding-out process for creepers. After you've installed it in your browser, the Predator Alert Tool draws your attention to questions that make a profile-holder sound as if he or she, well, might be a predator. For instance, you'll want to know right away about a "yes" answer to:

Have you ever been in a situation where you tried, but for various reasons did not succeed, in having sexual intercourse with an adult by using or threatening to use physical force (twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.) if they did not cooperate?

The tool also scans faces in an attempt to match them against a sex offender registry (although I wouldn't put too much stock in those results, because facial recognition technology still leaves much to be desired).

I wonder whether the Predator Alert Tool would have blocked me from seeing the OkCupid cannibal cop who fairly recently used the dating site to browse matches literally in my precinct (to my knowledge, neither one of us contacted the other, thank goodness). Perhaps more importantly, I wonder whether it would have red flagged my now live-in boyfriend, who I met on OkCupid. He's a great guy, but we've on several occasions discussed just how vague some of those match questions really are. For instance, the Predator Alert Tool looks at the OkCupid match question:

"Do you feel there are any circumstances in which a person is obligated to have sex with you?"

A "yes" answer is deemed problematic, obviously. However, some of the people answering "yes" might be men (and women) who, for instance, think that spouses are in some sense "obligated" to have sex with each other, but that that obligation does not extend to any particular night or cover extenuating circumstances like illness. Those individuals are not necessarily rapists waiting to happen (but they maybe could have thought twice before putting a red flaggy answer like that on a dating site without further explanation).

Still, if you're a young woman dating in NYC (that is, almost certainly screening huge amounts of incoming messages and other OkCupid activity), the Predator Alert Tool could be a good place to start in narrowing things down. Just don't be lulled into a false sense of security — you're probably just screening out the dumb men who don't take consent seriously, and not the deliberately manipulative serial rapists we now know are real.