Cracking down on the dangers of online dating

The NYT reports that the growing online dating scene isn’t without risk, and the private and public sector are starting to take notice:

For a small fee, a nascent crop of companies wants to help you find out by running background checks on the potential flames you encounter on, eHarmony or any of the nation’s nearly 1,500 dating Web sites.

At the same time, at least two states, New York and New Jersey, have begun regulating Internet dating sites, and legal experts say they believe changes to the liability laws that protect such sites are on the horizon.

This is not just fear-mongering or profit-seeking, of course. Cases like Jeffrey Marsalis, a serial rapist who met his victims online, are evidence that all of us need to be cautious about the ways in which we use online spaces–romantic or otherwise. There is no official data, as of yet, about crime related to online dating.

I hope these burgeoning businesses and pending legislation won’t make women feel fearful about finding love and sex online. As with all of the other technological trends that are shaping our lives, the online world inevitably mirrors the offline world (even if the mirror can sometimes seem more fun house distortion than accurate reflection.) Sexual assault is an all too common reality. Period. Whether a woman is assaulted by someone she met online or at a bar or, well, let’s be real, at church or in her own family–there’s only so much vigilance she can exercise.

Of course, if utilizing some of these new background check apps and/or having the security of more fine-tuned liability legislation makes folks feel freer to pursue their own desires, I’m all for it. I just hope that it won’t become another weapon for victim-blaming (Why didn’t she conduct due diligence? Was she asking for it?) or work people into a fear-based state about online dating. People deserve pleasure and fun and love without hiring private investigators.

I’m curious about readers thoughts, particularly as I’ve never done online dating myself.

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