I have every dating app blocked on my phone. Embarrassingly, being able to do that means parental controls are enabled on my phone, but I’d argue that I am actually protecting my mental health.
I’m sure many people can agree with this sentiment. The toxicity of dating apps is addictive and ruins our ideas of romance. Everyone has vastly differing experiences with dating apps; my best friend met her boyfriend on Hinge, while I have too many men I don’t remember popping up on my Instagram timeline. Dating becomes worse when you look a little different, however.
It’s not revolutionary to state that people get treated differently depending on how they dress. We look at people who still wear skinny jeans as geriatric, while someone in the latest bloke-gorpcore or coquette-blueberry milk-aesthetic outfit is someone you want to be friends with. When you delve deeper, you come across subcultures; people who live their lives by how they look, what music they listen to, and what norms they live by.
One persisting sub-culture that has significant amounts of notoriety are goths. We all know how a goth looks – just look at my profile picture on The Mancunion website. We all listen to Bauhaus and worship Robert Smith as our god, while painting eyeliner to our temples. Goths have been the most prevalent subculture since the ’80s, being born out of counter-culture movements like punk in the ’70s. Goths are also responsible for the existence of emo, scene, and grunge. All these subcultures – for the sanity of the reader – will be grouped together and known as ‘alternative’ from here on.
So, why am I talking about dating? What does being goth have to do with anything?
In the last six years or so, there has been an arising trend that was born out of ‘chronically online’ internet culture surrounding an obsession with alternative girls. The common depiction is that alternative girls take a dominant role in the relationship, being nurturing and motherly whilst also being hyper-sexual and dominant: essentially the men who popularised this idea of alternative girls need a long chat with their mothers. Of course, because internet trends are the most pervasive within Gen Z culture, the idea of the ‘goth gf’ became mainstream.
My not-like-other-girls yin told me that when goth girls were put on a pedestal as an object of sexual desire, it was a good thing. This motivated me to explore my dating potential. I revelled in the constant stream of male attention, from men I never expected would ever pay attention to me: normal men. You know, the type of man who’s just an average dude; he listens to The Smiths and loves Quentin Tarantino’s artistry. However, the disturbing and ugly yan disrupted the peace I found in my delusional land of male attention.
There is a particular malice behind this type of attention, and it’s one you don’t realise until you’re deep into the addiction of playing into the ‘goth gf’ aesthetic. The conversations were consistently sexually charged; any attempts to shift to any kind of meaningful conversation would be met with all the negative reactions you could possibly think of. It creates a wall for women like me to form meaningful relationships with people outside of our subculture, and unfortunately, the ‘goth gf’ fetish (because that’s what it is) has bled into our own subcultures.
The forms of fetishisation are often misdirected, as well as repetitive. Those who seek a ‘goth gf’ approach all alternative women, often mislabelling an emo as their desired ‘goth gf’, for example. While not a major issue, it is frustrating for those within alternative subcultures as the labels we give ourselves are essential to our identities – they help us find a family with people who are exactly like us. However, all alternative people who have been subjected to this fetishisation can agree that it’s nothing original.
“Step on me,” “kill me,” “put me in therapy,” “crush my head with your thighs” – we have all heard variations of these before. Those who are invested in the ‘goth gf’ trope often use these phrases as – and I cannot believe we allow this to be socially acceptable – pick-up lines. It’s so embarrassing to navigate the big wide world of dating when you’re only perceived as a sexual object to dominate men. However, the most problematic is men asking for their mental health to be ruined by their ‘goth gf’.
There is a common view that women who are a part of alternative subcultures – or even just have a septum piercing – are mentally unstable. Large parts of this does come from the music we listen to, in which conversations of mental health, self-harm, and suicide are commonplace. Alternative music like emo and post-hardcore are often used as escapes for those who are struggling with the aforementioned, and contain extremely explicit discussions. The stereotype of mental instability among the alternative is, and this goes without saying, extremely harmful. It creates the perception that we are all toxic partners who are incapable of creating safe and loving romantic attachments.
You can now see my gripes with dating apps. They are a one-way ticket to being bombarded with fetishisation due to Gen Z’s ‘chronically online’ nature. It’s a painful reality I have to live with daily. That isn’t to say I don’t experience fetishisation in person either; often this is just men asking me two sentences into a conversation what my kinks are, so no different to my conversations on Hinge. At least these conversations, however, are less frequent.
Usually, I would end on a solution but I’ve become so disillusioned by the amount of fetishisation I’ve been bombarded with that I don’t think there is a solution for this. Fetishisation is a timeless concept, that morphs with the times and trends. That’s why it’s so easy for me to give in to this issue. Eventually, the ‘goth gf’ trend will die and alternative people will be able to finally date in peace, but I don’t see the funeral for this trend anytime soon.