“I honestly don’t know whether to fuck you or kill you.”

That wasn’t a message I expected to find when I opened my Tinder app. The words, followed by an oh-so-important slanty-faced emoji, brought me up short. I don’t know if Niall meant them to seem charming or funny, but they sickened me. At this point, it had been 19 hours since I’d received his message; in that time, I’d thought over and over about what could have prompted it.

The information he had about me is pretty standard: Justus, 22, University of Iowa. All my bio said was that my parents got my name from the obituaries. [It’s  question I get a lot and an easy conversation starter.] My pictures showed me in my cubicle in a newsroom, at a friend’s wedding, on graduation day, and dressed in ’90s grunge for a themed day at work. All this prompted him towards murder how?

I was part-way into writing a bitchy response to Niall, telling him exactly who he could go fuck, when I wondered who this line had worked on. I assumed that, as a 23-year-old boy confident enough to message a woman on a social app, he had spoken to a human woman at some point in his life. How did that experience make him think that his words were appropriate as the first he ever said to me?

The only person who could answer that question was Niall, so I swallowed the bile rising in my throat and messaged him back.

“Why is that how you started a conversation?”

Simple, direct, and polite enough that he might actually respond. Though truthfully, I assume he wouldn’t respond, I figured it was worth a shot. Waiting, I started thinking about the most cringe-worthy messages I’ve gotten from boys on Tinder. Ranging from the straight-forward “Sex?” to the much more thought out “So hot” and every “Your hot” in between — yes, they spelled you’re wrong — it had been enough to nearly persuade me to delete the app I had activated only three days before Niall’s swoon-worthy words came my way. I had downloaded it after moving to the country, figuring it would be a good way to meet people and make friends. So far I’d found no one I wanted to befriend.

Quite shockingly, Niall responded to my blunt message within a few hours.

tinder-screenshot“Some pics you look great and I’d fuck you, others you look scary as fuck so I’d have to kill you before you killed me.”

Don’t worry; he softened the insult of implying I was a murderer with a laughing emoji.

I didn’t reply again. I had my answer, albeit an unsatisfying one.

Following his logic, a better opening statement could have been “You look like a badass in some of your photos.” I’ll admit that might have flattered me into continuing the conversation. He also could’ve tried “Wow, you’ve got a ride range of looks.” [I don’t.] Or “Hey, what’s up?” or “Hi,” or “I’m a rude pig.” [I’d respect the honesty at least.]

But no, Niall chose to take away my autonomy. It wasn’t my decision whether we’d have sex; he’d decide whether he fucked me. I had no say in whether he decided I was a threat; he’d evaluate and decide if he should kill me.

I doubt he was aware of his implications, of making my heart stop then speed up when I read his message, but Niall had reduced me to an image. I have no idea how sex and violence became tied together in his mind, how he believed it would entice me to make me feel like an object only useful to be fucked or murdered, but I deserved better.

Women deserve better.

People deserve better.