Tasting the Forbidden Fruit of Online Dating Knowledge

I know something about my date that I shouldn’t know. I found out on OKCupid, where we met, that he isn’t enthusiastic about giving head. I came about this information honestly; the website allows members to answer user-generated questions either publicly or privately. You can see which questions people you might be interested in have answered publicly, and to see what their responses were, you must make your own answer public.

The website’s method is smart, a little tit for tat, and it keeps my hunger for juicy tidbits in check, as I’m not keen for others to know my every sexual preference right out the gate, not to mention random people who might happen across my profile; from OKCupid, I now know that one of my coworkers likes it rough. Not sure what a gift that knowledge is.

Besides, when you publicly answer questions on OKCupid, your answers can travel far; they get posted in a sort of message feed ala Facebook that users across the website can see. So odd things happen, like when I answered, “How many children do you want?” and got a message from a friendly-looking young guy in Texas saying, “Lets have children then! LOL.” The dynamic in sharing intimate truths with an anonymous audience of potential partners can create a dynamic that is part funny, part benign, and part creepy.

My knowing this fascinating oral sex fact about this guy I went on one date with isn’t foul play; he knowingly posted this information, and apparently doesn’t care what women might make of it. In fact, a lot of the guys whose profiles I’ve read are amazingly candid; maybe they just have a different attitude than I do about sexual transparency.

I’m all for sharing sexual truths with a partner; it’s just that I want to develop intimacy and trust before putting it all out there. Getting to the point in a relationship where we can talk openly about our hopes, expectations, desires, and past experiences is one of my favorite early-relationship moments. I love making Yes/No/Maybe lists, learning about my partner’s perspective and beginning the adventure of finding a mutually satisfying sexual communication style. And it would be natural at that point that I would find out if a given guy was into oral sex or not, right?

I guess there are arguments that could be made for the total-transparency method. If a lack of enthusiasm for giving head was a complete deal breaker for me, for example, I could see this online revelation as a total lifesaver, and not go out with this fellow again. I’ve certainly done the same over issues that are really non-negotiable for me, like for men who don’t want children and express it on their profile.

Isn’t the dream that we can winnow out a near-perfect match for ourselves through the miracle of technology? Why should I go through the trouble of dating and potentially getting attached to a guy who has a trait I know from previous experience that I find problematic? OKCupid could spare me that pain.

On the other hand, maybe this fruit of knowledge really is rotten. People answer these questions quickly, cursorily, and it’s way too easy to read into their answers and assign them great meaning. While having this foreknowledge might spare me some pain, on some level, it’s not a substitute for the work of actually getting to know a person and finding out how we mesh in face-to-face interactions. Maybe the oral sex thing is something he could learn to love. Maybe I could learn to accommodate having it be a side dish rather than a main course. I’m not saying one response is necessarily right or wrong, just that there are a variety of potential conclusions to this situation, and his answer to that question could end up being an honest-to-goodness issue in our (hypothetical future) relationship, or maybe just a side note.

I’m just trying to figure out how I feel about having access to what seems like highly personal information about strangers. As I said, I’m pretty clear about what I am and am not comfortable with strangers knowing about me. But when potential dates put all that information out there, for any random person to peruse at their convenience, it can be quite titillating. In some ways, you could say it spoils the surprise, like reading the last page of a novel to see how it ends. In other ways, it can be a lot of fun and maybe it could lead to you finding an extremely compatible partner.

Like it or despise it, the information age has infiltrated the realm of romance. How do you negotiate it? How much information is helpful, and how much is too much?

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