The Tinder Game
By Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., CSAT-S
Executive Director & Co-Founder
Triune Therapy Group
He was handsome and he knew it. “I landed my first modeling gig,” he exclaimed via text message, with a smug giddiness. Then he sent a shirtless picture. Having just relocated to Los Angeles, Marc was the kind of good looking that commanded a room when he walked in. Kara was no stranger to such attention, as she too was very attractive, but Marc had the kind of enthusiasm for his own appearance paralleled only by Narcissus himself. This would be their second date and his modeling gig interrupted their plans for dinner. He begged her to meet him at a historic hotel in Hollywood, known for hot parties and daily celebrity sightings. This was where his photo shoot would wrap at ten, but she could come at 9:30 to watch them finish, he suggested. She rolled her eyes and begrudgingly got in her car, wondering whether or not it would be worth a second shower on a Tuesday.
The hotel was quaint and antiquated Hollywood gem, with an understated charm and well-hidden patio. Marc lit up when Kara entered the room, and immediately introduced her to all the other models there for the shoot. He had a charm about him that endeared everyone to him and he drank up the attention like a thirsty beast. She watched and rolled her eyes while he worked the crowd; instant friends with everyone he met. Kara’s boredom was apparent. Marc swooped her into his arms and whispered in her ear, “Let’s take a walk. The patio is as beautiful as you are.” She wrestled free from his muscular arms, fixed her hair, and made a bet with her self about how long it would take before Marc tried to get frisky. Kara was no stranger to men’s desire, or their objectification of her. She had learned to spot the entitled ones fast, and Marc was proving true to form. He could not keep his hands off her, despite her attempts to wrangle free of his grasp. Maybe there would be another man there who would rescue her from this veritable Gaston! She laughed to herself, and remembered no one needed to rescue her. After all, her 5” heels and “go fuck yourself” glare made quite the weaponry when needed.
Marc went on and on… and on and on…. about himself as they strolled around the patio. She stopped covering her yawns and started openly looking for the exit. After all, those reruns of Game of Thrones weren’t going to watch themselves. Marc, closely monitoring Kara’s every move, noticed her boredom and led her to the bar where two men sat drinking away the memories of the day. The two men were the producer and photographer for the shoot Marc was in earlier that day. Grateful for the reprieve from her role as doting arm candy, Kara struck up a conversation with the photographer while Marc and the producer stroked each other’s egos. The photographer and Kara made small talk – LA weather, his wife and child, her job, etc. The sanctuary of their small talk was interrupted when Kara overheard the producer say, “and my wife can only fuck twice a day!” The record scratch of such a bold statement caught Kara’s attention and she listened for a few more minutes while this man berated his wife’s sexual appetite, or lack thereof in his mind, and flippantly shrieked, “I masturbate at least eight times a day! Ugh – men just have a higher sex drive than women, so I watch porn or call an escort. What am I supposed to do with twice a day?” Kara was curious and given her sensitivity to sexual entitlement, chimed in. “Wrong. Not all women have a low sex drive, and not all men have a high sex drive. Sex twice a day and with a young kid? Your wife is a sexual superhero.” Marc’s jaw dropped. This producer was the conduit for future modeling gigs and Marc nervously cracked wise about how he was also a self-diagnosed sex addict. Of course he was. Kara mentally rolled her eyes so far back in to her head that her brain cramped.
The producer’s physical appearance was underwhelming at best, especially standing next to Narcissus. He was sloppy and disheveled, and coupled with his less than dazzling personality Kara pondered the mystery of how his wife managed to have sex with him at all. Someone give this woman a cape or an Oscar. As if he could read her disapproval of him, the producer scanned Kara’s body head to toe and licked his lips, in what could only be described as an effort to put her in her place. Then he laughed and said, “Do you guys want to play the Tinder game?” Marc let out a boisterous laugh and said, “We already have – that’s where Kara and I met!” Adam glared at Kara, as if to say, “I knew it!” and very self-satisfied with whatever assumptions he had made.
Barely skipping a beat, the producer described the Tinder game, which he made up to replace the game he used to play when he was alone at a bar, in which he would glue a quarter to the ground and watch people struggle to pick it up. Seriously, when does he find the time to masturbate? “The Tinder game, best played when alone and drunk,” he continued, “starts by finding the ‘hottest guy in the bar and taking a picture of him.’ Then, you make a fake Facebook account, which is needed to create a Tinder account.” Once on Tinder, he swiped right on only “the fattest, most unattractive women” on there, because “they are the most desperate.” Kara had to hold back the instinct to gut punch him, in response to his overt body shaming.
Next, he flirts with them, posing as the attractive man in the bar, and invites them to the bar for a drink. The real delight, he giggled, is watching “how fast the women stroll in on heels they can’t walk in,” mosey up to the targeted “hot” guy, and watch the subsequent confusion on his face and “anger, shame, and disappointment” on the women’s faces when they realize they’ve been duped. The producer cackled hysterically and gulped from his drink. The photographer winced and shrunk in his chair, and Marc laughed so loudly it shook Kara from the frozen state of her horrified amazement back into the reality of this Twilight Zone of eroticized rage. Kara asked the producer, “What do you get out of this game?”
Eroticized rage is a concept that explains a fusion between sexual arousal and negative feelings such as anger, shame, fear, and humiliation. In other words, someone gets turned on, sometimes unconsciously, to an element of this fusion. Generally, eroticized rage is present relationally in at least one of four ways:
- an effort to restore a sense of power, when someone feels slighted or less than
- the humiliation, shaming, or vengeance/retaliation against another
- breaking of boundaries and violation of social norms
- or possession via obsession.
When someone, like the producer, exacts a plot of humiliation, it is because somewhere along the course of life he experienced some kind of mixed message about shame, degradation, and sexuality, likely through some kind of traumatic experience. Perhaps, he was reacting to his own fears of inadequacy, or he was humiliated when he approached a beautiful girl in school. It is hard to say, but what is clear is how unaddressed eroticized rage can become the foundation for toxic masculinity and toxic femininity, objectification, infidelity and sexual addiction, and other forms of relational acting out and resulting pain.