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What Men Say In Tinder Bios And What They Really Mean

One woman’s public-service mission to translate the seemingly innocuous phrases used on dating apps

By Aileen Barratt

“Tinder is the worst, and yet here we are.” – Me, in my Tinder bio.

We may be well into the 21st century, but misogyny is very much alive and well. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of dating apps. Anyone who presents as a woman will have encountered sexism in their everyday life of course, but the way a lot of men speak to women on Tinder (or Bumble or Hinge or whichever new app has launched since I wrote this) is different from how they speak to women in person. And by different, I mean worse.

When I first heard about dating apps, I had no use for them. Tinder was launched in 2012, a time when I was 27, happily married and highly smug.

The idea of swiping left and right on people’s photos as a way of finding love (or whatever) was wild to me. I thought it was super shallow, looking through a directory of faces and deciding which ones you fancied and which you didn’t almost instantly. Never mind that this is effectively the same thing I did in nightclubs on every night out of my single life. I remember saying the actual words ‘Tinder is everything that is wrong with the world’ more than once.

I know, I must have been unbearable.


The idea of swiping left and right on people’s photos as a way of finding love (or whatever) was wild to me

Of course I, like most people, had no idea how much of an impact this one little app – and all those that came after it – would have. Before the dawn of smartphones (that’s just normal phones to Gen Z) and dating apps, online dating was more of a niche pursuit. It was something gently suggested to the perpetually single: ‘Have you thought about trying online?’ Dating sites like Match and OKCupid were seen as the internet extension of lonely hearts pages in newspapers (ask your parents). Although these platforms grew in popularity throughout the late ’90s and ’00s, it wasn’t until we could swipe left or right from the comfort of our own phone that online dating became the default for daters everywhere.

So, cut to four years later. Tinder is now the norm, the dating landscape has changed drastically, and my marriage has broken down. It was really shit, I was suddenly single, and I downloaded Tinder within three months (this is not a course of action I’d recommend to any newly separated person, but it’s what I did).

Actually using dating apps hardly changed my attitude to them. I still thought they were pretty much the worst, hence the line in my Tinder bio. I just went from being smugly judgemental to reluctantly resigned. There’s fun to be had, but fucking hell you have to wade through a lot of crap, especially if you are mainly swiping on cishet men.

Author Aileen Barrett

Online, men seemed much more willing to talk to me as if I were an object, or to belittle me. It was impossible to escape how quickly half of them turned the conversation to sex. Not in a subtle, suggestive way either. There is nothing sexy about the way these men approach sex. It usually goes something like:

Step 1) Exchange pleasantries.
Step 2) Make a graphic sexual proposition or reference. And it’s not uncommon to skip step one.

We became hardened (pardon the pun) to the objectification and sleaze pretty quickly. Like most women, I built up a folder of screenshots of these kinds of interactions, whatsapping them to friends so we could all giggle and gag over the audacity and ickiness of these dudes.

It’s not that I think online dating turned these men more sexist, just that the relative anonymity unmasks their misogyny. I suppose it’s like any form of social media, where people are emboldened to be vitriolic in a way they probably couldn’t muster in person. But it seems to go a step further with dating apps – the sheer volume of men being completely inappropriate is wild.

Free from the constraints of public opinion, men who hold misogynistic views (and sadly that’s a lot of them) can do as they like. It doesn’t help that there are little to no consequences for sexualised pestering, or even throwing insults around as a way of coping with rejection, in these spaces.


There are some dating app behaviours that are pretty obviously misogynistic, but the subtler stuff takes longer to notice. It’s often hidden in the repetitive, pithy statements that dating app bios are full of. ‘Looking for someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously’ and ‘no drama’ are two absolute classic stock phrases. They’re so commonplace that after a while you stop thinking about them and what they actually mean. Even if what they mean is ‘I hate women but I’d like to do sex’.

Every bio, however generic, has a subtext.

My Instagram page @TinderTranslators began as somewhere I would ‘translate’ awful bios I found into non-dating-app speak. It was a cathartic way for me to read douchebags for filth, and it made coming across several soul-destroyingly awful bios a day a bit more bearable – at least they were good content!

Soon, other women (and the occasional man) started sending me awful bios to translate. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re in Manchester or Melbourne, the same stock phrases abound.

What I soon realised is that these phrases provided a way to talk about so much more than just Tinder. They gave me a jumping-off point to talk about how misogyny plays out in the world at large and especially in our personal relationships.

They started conversations about how men treat women and why we often don’t expect more for ourselves.

Every bio, however generic, has a subtext

The general fuckery of men, something that is enabled and exposed by the immediacy of dating app culture, has led to a pretty low bar for what generally constitutes a ‘good guy’. There are so many arrogant dudebros talking over us about their favourite novelist (literally always a white American man from the 20th century), or creeps sending us dick pics, that when a man listens to us for more than a minute and, you know, doesn’t sexually harass us, we immediately think he’s a dreamboat.

Seriously, the bar is currently melting somewhere near the Earth’s core. And there it will remain until men aren’t applauded for extending us the most basic human courtesy.

But the bar being generally subterranean doesn’t mean yours has to be. You can decide exactly what you want, and not settle for any other nonsense. Knowing what you want can make the whole dating process feel a bit less like swimming through raw sewage.

Raising your standards and sticking to them involves a little bit of bravery in a world that tells women we aren’t complete without the love of a man. This kind of thinking traps some women in unfulfilling relationships and makes others feel like they should go on underwhelming dates. Whenever I talk about raising the bar and not settling, I always get responses along the lines of ‘but what if I keep my high standards and don’t find anyone who meets them?’

My response is always the same: think that question all the way through. Because the answer to ‘what if I don’t meet anyone who can get over the bar I set?’ is that you’ll be single. Maybe for a long time. And that’s ok.

And if you are thinking of going on Tinder, here are some of the phrases you need to know.

“Please be able to hold a conversation.”
Translation: I don’t really want a conversation. I’m not interested in listening to a voice that isn’t my own. I am, however, interested in establishing that it is you who must impress/entertain me when we match and not the other way around.

(A note on travelling)
Travel is not a personality. Beware those who list the number of countries they’ve been to as if the world exists merely for them to collect experiences. Lots of people have travelled extensively, some haven’t travelled at all. It is not an indicator of how interesting or worldly they are. Anyone who has been in a far-flung bar and heard someone shouting slowly ‘I WAAANT A BEEEEER’ at a barman who probably speaks better English than they do should know this. Of course, you might connect with someone over a shared love of exploring new places, or of a specific country, but this whole ‘45 countries and counting’ bullshit has big coloniser energy.

“Just looking for someone to ruin my life.”
Translation: I mistake volatility for passion, and if that isn’t a red flag for you then, honestly, get some therapy.

“Not looking for anyone vanilla.”
Translation: I shame women into sex acts they aren’t comfortable with.

“Good vibes only”
Translation: I hide my inability to deal with conflict or, indeed, the full spectrum of human emotion behind a façade of being a really positive person who just, like, can’t be around negativity.

“No drama”
Translation: Don’t have emotions or opinions, or challenge me in any way. A personality is acceptable, as long as you tone it down a bit.

This is an edited extract from Tinder Translator by Aileen Barratt. Published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $26.99. Available in stores nationally


BY Aileen Barratt

Aileen Barratt is a writer and commentator. She has been 'ruining the minds of decent women' via her Tinder Translators Instagram account since 2019

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