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Even Pakistani Tinder Isn’t Safe From Married Men Exploring Their Fantasies

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“What were you doing on Tinder?”

Khadija* was expecting anything but this. She was talking to the wife of a man who had recently deceived her. She had met this man on the dating app Tinder where they had immediately struck up a lively conversation. He had told her that he was divorced and she had taken most of what he said on face value, convincing as his tales of the everyday seemed. Even when she met him in real life, she did not think anything was amiss.

But several months later the game of deception had finally come to an end when Khadija found out about his wife and children through a network of women online who have each other’s backs in matters like these and keep a check on philandering men through various whisper networks.

This is what had brought Khadija and Sameen together to talk about the man who had deceived them both. The most notable part of this awkward conversation was that the wife wanted to know why Khadija had been on Tinder to begin with.

“Because I am single”, sputtered Khadija. I also told her “You should be asking your husband this question, not me”, she says, putting her glass of ice-filled cola on the table and trying to control herself.

In any civil society people would not judge each other for being on a dating app. They’d rather judge when a man lies about his marital status and thinks of himself as a trophy that women are dying to take home.

Some two decades back, we used to have chatrooms like MSN, Yahoo, MIRC, or ICQ for meeting/dating new people. You could have entered a chatroom and befriended a boy disguised as girl. This can still be considered comparatively better than finding yourself dating a man who has not put his legitimate marital status on the table.

Internet connectivity improved further, and everything became on-the-go, courtesy smart phones. Eventually, these rooms got replaced by exclusive dating apps such as Tinder, OKCupid, or the latest Muslim sensation called MuzMatch – a halal way to date.

Unlike West, Pakistan has nothing to offer to adults for casual socialising and that is when we resort to modern mode of dating.

According to Zaafir*, a young engineer who regularly uses Tinder, dating in Pakistan is an act of rebellion – a way of resisting against cultural and social norms that bar you from meeting singles and knowing them. A country where women are still objectified and considered as “ghairat”, dating openly can be extremely dangerous.

Pakistan, where dating is anyway a taboo, such apps not only create room for potential companionship but also test users’ level of trust in strangers. An average Pakistani finds it safer to look for a date online as compared to his or her surroundings where a judgmental society is always out to find ‘faults’ in their character.

Hasan* met his girlfriend on WeChat, a Chinese multipurpose messaging app. He is a 26-year-old, full time student who accidentally found his partner on this app. Initially, the girl he met was using a fake identity for safety purpose but over the time, as trust developed, she revealed her real identity. Two years later, they are still together. Hasan* thinks, it is unethical for committed or married people to be on a dating platform.

He further added that Pakistan being a culturally restricted society limits the chances to date or get-to-know a new person. Also, men and women have conflict of interest where men are mostly looking for one-night stands, or rather a time-pass, while majority of women go for something meaningful.

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Pakistan is a tough country for single women and it becomes quite difficult for them to put themselves out there on dating platforms. In case you happen to be independent, outspoken and opinionated, Pakistani men tend to take you for granted and consider you as “available”. The sense of entitlement is quite evident on dating apps like Tinder where our desi men shamelessly date to demonstrate their masculinity.

Tinder already has around 57million users worldwide and can be ranked as one of the fastest growing dating apps in Pakistan.

Ideally, any dating app should be a hub of singles looking for 50 shades of romance but, we rather find 50 shades of shadiness. Back in 2015, Global Web Index, an independent survey of Tinder, found that around 30% of its users were married and 12% were highly committed in their relationships.

Such statistics only speak in figures, but cannot gauge the motive or the level of authenticity of the users!

Farheen*, a 33-year-old media professional, consumed by her work-life, gave Tinder a try. Just like Khadija*, she met a too-good-to-be-true guy, Mr Z, whom she dated for a little over two months and eventually discovered that he was not only married but was also a father of two. Unfortunately, Farheen* was not his only prey. Mr Z was a compulsive liar who had a wife, a steady girlfriend, and few side flings through dating apps.

Being married is not a problem. What is problematic is deceiving multiple women at one point of time. Farheen* added, that such incidents can make people bitter and thus lose out on any chance of finding a reliable man.

Most men get away with such situations because they know how easy it is to be a man in Pakistani society where they can be “themselves” in the name of patriarchy. Tinder is full of profiles where men literally write in their bios “Let’s not judge each other for being on Tinder”, as if being on a dating app is a crime or a mortal sin.

While writing this piece, I spoke to many women who were duped by married men by showing themselves as single, separated, or even divorced. These men kept a smooth relationship for a month or two at max, and eventually their identity would get revealed. The most appalling part is that when wives learn of these incidents, they question the victim of deception before they question the deceiver – the husband.

In a country like Pakistan, where sex and dating both are considered as best kept secrets, these dating apps are giving avenues to married men to explore their fantasies.

Razee*, a 45-year-old married male, used OKCupid while going through a rough patch in his marriage. According to Razee, he could never find a match because he was honest about his marital status. OkCupid was his escape from marital life, responsibilities, and temporarily answered his fanciful desires in life.

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Duplicity is an art, and not everyone can master it. Hence, Razee* had to withdraw himself from these dating apps where honesty could not get him a single date. Also, he mentioned that he did not have the guts to maintain an alternate identity just to fancy himself on cupidity.

But what makes a married man lie about his marital status?

“Well, it is all about how a man is raised because this is what leads to ineffective emotional awareness and communication with partner”, says Shazia Ahmed, a counselling psychologist.

According to Shazia, men are not taught how to recognise their emotions, and the only emotions they can have without shame are anger or aggression. Our primary issue begins when socially men are told that they are entitled to everything because they are men which eventually takes away their basic human need of being emotionally vulnerable.

Pakistani marriages are pre-dominantly arranged by parents leaving hardly any chances for two people to understand each other and test their frequency-matching. Mostly in arranged setups, it’s the men who have supremacy in relationship which takes away the idea of equal sharing of responsibility and feelings towards each other.

In order to sustain a long-term partnership, man and woman both should work on it. Unfortunately, in Pakistani society, we put women through emotional labour of child upbringing, handling in-laws, and entertaining husbands. On the other hand, the only standard expectation from a man is to be breadwinner.

While most Pakistani wives are consumed in their chaotic marital life, their husbands find time to fulfill their fantasies and satisfy their egos through online means.

Shazia further explained that men lack emotional awareness and fancy themselves having some attention from unknown women who are not bound by the constraints that their wives are. Married men enjoy the attention and entitlement under the pretext of being single.

In a typical desi setup, where your parents choose your partner, you are very unlikely to develop that deep and secure emotional bond. Only this kind of bond can give you the capability to communicate freely with your partner and share the weight of relationship, equally.

The time a man spends while talking to his Tinder match, he can choose to spend that same time with his wife while helping her with daily household labour.

Unfortunately, most men are neither brought up in this manner nor do they see other men helping their spouses. The way married men explain their fantasies to their online dates, they should rather try explaining them to their partners without any fear of being misunderstood.

If you do not have principles in your marital life, one cannot expect you to have them on Tinder. The amount of creative thinking and labour our men put into creating an alternate identity in online dating world, they should probably put that into their marriage.

This will save many women both time and energy.

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