DATING apps have seen a surge in popularity during the deadly coronavirus outbreak, as millions of single Brits face at least three weeks stuck at home alone.
Yet while many women find love through these apps, others come away with horror stories – from unsolicited "d*** pics" and chilling remarks to YEARS of online harassment.
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London worker Andreea is one of the not so lucky ones – she had just finished playing pool with her OkCupid date when he turned to her and said: "If I was to kill you, I'd probably cook you as I'm a chef."
Laughing nervously, the 25-year-old then listened in horror as her date described how he would turn her bottom half into ham and hang her upper half in his room "because you're beautiful".
From harassment to vulgar insults
"I immediately told the guy I needed to catch my last train home, despite knowing full well I'd missed it already," she tells Sun Online. "After that, I stopped going on online dates for a long time."
And Andreea's far from alone – new research reveals 88 per cent of women using dating apps have been harassed, while more than 90 per cent have been called offensive names like "f***ing wh***" and "b****".
And a worrying 38 per cent reported being threatened with physical violence by someone they met on an app, according to the figures by CyberNews.com, which surveyed 2,321 women.
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In recent years, dating apps and sites – such as Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, Hinge and Match.com – have become incredibly popular in Britain, with around one in three relationships now starting online.
And with Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week imposing a police-enforced lockdown on the country, it is likely that the number of Brits looking for love and companionship online will only soar – though they'll have to wait a while to meet their potential matches in person.
Here, Andreea and two other women living in the UK reveal their own dating app ordeals…
'My OkCupid date said he wanted to cook my body, turn me into ham and hang me up in his room'
Andreea, 25, lives in London and works at a marketing company. She was on a date with an OKCupid match when he chillingly told her he wanted to cook her body.
Andreea says: "I met a London-based pastry chef on OkCupid two years ago.
He seemed like a perfectly normal guy and even made me a Spotify playlist of his favourite songs, which was nice. The conversation was flowing so when he asked me out, I had no reason to say no.
For our first date, we decided to play pool, then go for some drinks.
He was a bit late, which I didn't like, but I thought, 'It happens'.
He said he'd stabbed another pupil when he was at school – then told me 'they deserved it'
Yet when he finally arrived, the guy didn't look like he did in his pictures. I knew he wasn't my type at all – but I didn't want to be rude, so I still went ahead with the date.
I wasn't very good at pool, so we had a few laughs about that.
Then the conversation got a bit deep. He said he didn't have the best childhood and had experienced some issues with school. When I asked him to elaborate, he said he'd stabbed another pupil.
I remarked that he probably regrets it now – but he said: 'No, that person deserved it'.
I suddenly started to feel very concerned.
I didn't think he would hurt me there and then, but I wanted to remove myself from the situation. I nervously made a joke about him being the dangerous 'bad boy' type.
In response, he said if he was to actually kill me, he would probably cook me because he is a chef.
But he said he'd only cook my bottom half. He told me he'd turn me into ham because I have nice legs and the upper half he’d hang in his room because I’m beautiful.
He told me he'd turn me into ham because I have nice legs
I know it was probably meant as a twisted compliment, but it made me feel more uneasy. I told the guy I needed to catch my last train home, despite knowing full well I'd missed it already.
He wasn't very happy about it – he'd wanted me to come over to his place.
But fortunately, he walked me to the station then let me go.
Later, the guy text me trying to explain why I needed a 'bad boy-type' in my life. I replied saying I didn't feel attracted to him at all, and the conversation ended there.
Name-calling, stalking and 'catfishing'
MORE than 2,300 women were recently surveyed about their dating app experiences.
One participant, Esther, reveals: "I stopped replying to a guy who I decided I wasn’t interested in and he continued to message. With every message, they got more aggressive.
"I blocked him and he messaged me off another number calling me a b**** for ignoring him."
The survey, published by cyber security news website CyberNews.com this month, found:
91% of women have been called an offensive name
88% have been harassed while using a dating app
74% have been continually contacted despite turning down someone's advances
71% fear being stalked by someone they're talking to online
67% have been sent unwanted sexually-explicit photos
65% have been left feeling worse about finding love
48% have been left feeling worried for their safety
38% have been threatened with physical harm
32% have been contacted on another messaging platform by someone they met on an app
19% have been 'catfished' – where someone pretends to be someone else online
After that ordeal, I stopped going on online dates for a long time. I downloaded a different app – Hinge – recently to give it another go, but I'm rarely on it.
I feel more comfortable meeting people organically. Yes, there are some lovely guys on these apps – but there are also questionable characters, like the chef.
I think it's important to follow your gut feeling and remove yourself from a situation as soon as you're feeling uncomfortable. It's your right to say no."
'I was bombarded with unsolicited d*** pics, branded a "f***ing wh***" and stalked for YEARS'
Abby, 28, is a marketing manager from London. She was living in France when she was bombarded with X-rated pictures and abusive comments by Tinder matches.
Abby says: "I moved to Paris after my then-boyfriend dumped me. I decided to join Tinder a few months later – but was never really into the whole online dating thing.
I'd say 80 per cent of the 20 or so guys who contacted me on the app were sleazy. Some of them then added me on Snapchat, Instagram and other social platforms.
I’d get all sorts of images sent to me – including guys showing me their erect penis. A lot of the time it was just the shape of it through clothing, but I got completely nude ones too.
They'd tell me, 'This is what your photo has done to me'. As well as the usual d*** pics, I also got topless ones. I even had someone send me a photo of their feet, asking if I'd send one back!
Some guys sent me awful insults when I didn't respond to them.
In 2016, not long after joining Tinder, I started talking to a guy coincidentally called Paris. He messaged me saying how beautiful I was, and asked me where in the capital I was living.
I had some chit chat with him, but he got intense really quickly.
He came off a little creepy straight off the bat.
He called me a 'stuck up b****' and 'f***ing wh***' – but I was too scared to block him
As soon as I deleted Tinder – for the sake of my mental health – Paris added me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where he began sending me messages and liking my photos.
I ignored him – which made him furious. He started insulting me – calling me things like "stuck up b****" and "f***ing wh***" – and asking me who the guys in my stories were.
I was too scared to block him in case it made his reaction even worse. You don't know what these people are capable of. He knew what area I lived in, so I avoided riling him up further.
I just waited for the harassment to fizzle out.
Finally, in December last year, it did.
Today, I'm back in London and dating someone I met at work.
It's not OK to be abused when you're simply trying to find love
I definitely don’t want to go back to online dating.
I think people, including women, are pretty blasé about it. You sort of expect a certain amount of abuse or harassment when you join dating apps – but that attitude isn't right.
It's not OK to be abused when all you have done is put yourself out there to try and find love."
'I was sent sexual messages by creepy Tinder match – who called me a "chocolate midnight snack"'
Emmanuela Agu, 19, is a student nurse from Hertfordshire. She was horrified when a Tinder match told her he'd "never done it with a black person before".
Emmanuela says: "I joined Tinder out of curiosity aged 18, having been single forever.
It was a bit daunting, but not in the way that dating is in real life. You don’t have to worry about shaky speaking or sweaty palms, but I did worry about who was seeing my account.
My first bad encounter was with a seemingly normal guy, who was 23.
At first, we were having a normal chat and getting to know each other. He was really open on his profile. He talked about what uni he used to go to, what he did now, and his two dogs.
He messaged me late at night saying 'I fancy a chocolate midnight snack'
One day, I replied to him at around 11pm because I'm a night owl and it was a busy day. My message wasn’t remotely sexual in any way, and I apologised for responding so late.
He replied with: 'Oh, it’s fine, I fancy a chocolate midnight snack'.
I remember sending him a question mark because I was very, very confused. In response, he said something along the lines of: 'Don't be shy, we all know why we are on here'.
Annoyed, I explained I wasn’t on the same page as him. But he kept going, asking me to add him on Snapchat and telling me: 'I have never done it with a black person before'.
He then sent me a picture of himself topless on another social platform.
I felt so uncomfortable and fetishised, and stopped replying to him. But he continued sending me messages well into the morning, saying, 'Hello, you there?' and 'I am just horny'.
I reported and unmatched him, but I ended up feeling guilty – like it was my fault
From past experiences, I knew he wouldn’t take it well if I simply told him he made me feel uncomfortable – people like that aren’t very self-aware.
So I reported and unmatched him – but I ended up feeling guilty.
I felt it was my fault for some reason.
Not long after, I deleted Tinder altogether.
Other users had added me on platforms like Instagram and sent me unsolicited pictures of themselves naked. Some had got angry when I didn't respond fast enough.
Now, I no longer use dating apps because it's just so messy.
People need to be more aware of the harassment taking place on them.
So many women are forced to take action themselves – and blocking doesn't necessarily stop the harassers. It can be quite a scary world sometimes."
'Zero-tolerance' towards harassment
DATING apps and social media platforms have guidelines in place to help tackle harassment.
Tinder advises users to "always be cautious when interacting with someone you don’t know".
It encourages them to report all suspicious and offensive behaviour – including harassment, threats and inappropriate actions – via the app's self-reporting tool or by contacting its team online.
"We have a zero-tolerance policy on harassment," the company states on its website.
OkCupid also says it does not tolerate harassment, hate speech, or bullying.
Before users can interact with others, they must first agree not to send any harassing or unwanted sexually-explicit messages.
The site encourages users to report any suspicious profiles or inappropriate messages to its moderation team.
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