Voices: Tinder’s new $500 feature gives the green light to harassment – if you can afford it

Tinder Select will allow users to message anybody they want to twice a week  (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Tinder Select will allow users to message anybody they want to twice a week (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Can you put a price on love? The romantics among us would like to turn our noses up at the very prospect: of course not, the best things in life are free, and that includes a steady relationship. Right? Well, maybe not. Everyone knows how complicated today’s dating scene is – if you’re single or have single friends, that is – and now, it finally looks like there is a solution. Only it will set you back a cool $499 (£409) a month.

This week, Tinder announced its latest paid membership option: Tinder Select. The invite-only subscription, which will only be available to less than one per cent of the app’s users, gives members more access to users, ensuring they’re included in its “most sought-after profiles” compilation, meaning by dint of sheer probability, they have a higher likelihood of matching with someone they could fall in love with; after all, modern dating is nothing if not a numbers game.

So people with too much disposable income are being easily seduced by the corporate dating app industry machine. There is the added bonus of being able to show off your special VIP status by putting a “SELECT” badge on your profile, because apparently telling everyone you’re paying $6,000 a year to land a date is going to make you seem extra attractive. And people will also be able to see your profile unblurred in their “Likes You” grid, regardless of their own subscription status.

But there’s another feature that is slightly more contentious. Those who are allowed to join Tinder Select, thought to be the most active users, will also be able to send messages to users without having matched with them. Yep, up to two times a week, Tinder Select members will be able to contact whoever they like on the app granted that the user hasn’t opted out of receiving DMs (a small-print feature that isn’t widely advertised).

To any woman who has ever been on a dating app, this particular component of Tinder Select will sound alarm bells almost instantly. Usually, the entire process is predicated on consent: only two people who’ve mutually liked one another have the option to chat. I’ve written a lot about the downsides of dating apps, but this particular component – which seems to be respected in the majority of mainstream apps – is something I have a huge amount of appreciation for. I’d even go as far as to say it’s the only thing that makes meeting someone on an app better than meeting somebody in real life.

Think about it. No one you haven’t explicitly agreed to speak to can approach you. It’s brilliant. It means you won’t receive unsolicited messages from someone you don’t fancy, nor will you have to deal with any harassment that might ensue. Why would Tinder want to neglect these measures and turn itself into a free-for-all playground for the wealthy few who can afford its Select membership? Don’t we give them enough power in real life already?

I think Tinder realises this – hence why it has put a limit on the amount of times Select members can send unsolicited DMs (only twice a week). Even so, I can’t help but think this feature will have a disproportionate effect on female users, who are in all likelihood already dealing with enough unsolicited behaviours in real life. This last month alone, for example, I’ve been catcalled, touched inappropriately on the Tube, and had to move train carriages because someone kept trying to send me images via AirDrop.

My point is: I don’t need to experience anything unsolicited on a dating app as well, and neither does any other woman. It might just be two messages a week, but the fundamental message is a dangerous one. Because no matter how much money you have to spare, no one should be given the green light to do what they want without consent – on or offline. Let’s hope Tinder recognises that soon.