By Maddy Budd
OPINION: I don't think anyone will deny that Married At First Sight NZ star Andrew Jury's Tinder messages to Maria Mo were wildly inappropriate.
I was shocked when I read his messages and it made me very sad to hear how they impacted Maria, it had happened two years ago but she was obviously so upset by it his face stuck in her mind since then. This certainly isn't the first story like this I've heard and I have had similar experiences myself, after all I am a female and I use the internet.
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I have definitely felt fetishised (I am Chinese) in the past and have also felt the pressure men put on women to be sexually available to them, while also feeling societal pressures to be virginal but also not a prude. I have seen people use the cloak of the internet to behave in a way they may not in real life and I'm sure many others like me are all too familiar with these situations.
There are a few reasons why the messages he sent were extremely problematic, apart from the fact that they were obviously really rude. I'm going to break it down a little so, hopefully, everyone can understand this a little bit better. Sorry to some people who will read this and think this is all really obvious, but clearly some people (like Andrew) don't quite get it yet and hopefully this will help shed some light.
"Fancy satisfying my Asian fetish?"
We'll start with the first message. This opening line is wrong for so many reasons - he didn't even say hello or try and make a cute joke about her photo of her pet cat.
He just gets straight into fetishising her and that is definitely not okay. If you are fetishising someone, that means you're attracted to them purely because of their race. Doing this immediately strips that person of any worth beyond their appearance and the stereotypes associated with their race. It's a bit like saying to someone "I'm only dating you for your looks".
If you think this is a onetime thing then let me tell you: it is most definitely not. A friend I had spoken to about this incident showed me an Instagram account run by an Asian girl who posts all of the fetishising and racist comments she gets from men on her Tinder, and there are a lot of them.
While it may seem harmless to say things like "I only date [insert race here] people", you might not realise what saying that really means, and you probably haven't thought about how that might make the person you are dating (or trying to date) feel.
Maria said it made her like she was being treated like a "sex toy" and that is exactly the mentality behind fetishising. It's demeaning and her response "ew, go f**k yourself" was completely called for.
Fetishising is the reason for terrible racist phrases like "yellow fever". It's a form of objectification and dehumanisation and it is definitely not a compliment.
The message is also a direct request for her to satisfy his sexual desires despite the fact that she had never even spoken to him before (unfortunately, this approach from guys is not uncommon on Tinder).
Male sexual entitlement
We need to ask ourselves, why does someone think it is okay to speak to a woman this way? The reason males feel it's appropriate to speak to women like this is because of the way society normalises the expectation men have for women to have sex with them. It comes from a place of entitlement - male sexual entitlement.
A lot of archaic behaviours, that vestigial from a darker time in our past encourage this kind of behaviour; the way promiscuous men are idolised (James Bond), the way sexual needs of men are put before women, the expectation for women to dress a certain way, the normalisation of cat-calling, "locker room talk"... the list goes on. While individually these things may seem harmless, they are all symptoms of a larger problem, and encourage men to treat women in an inappropriate way when it comes to sex and dating.
This mentality often results in aggression, because a male feels they are owed sex - simply because they are male, and sometimes altercations can get much worse than an angry message on Tinder.
Then there is Andrew's response, oh boy. He was extremely aggressive in an almost scary way, telling her "Go f**k yourself up you right whore", and saying she was ruining the world by being a prude. He called her a "piece of shit", a "mutant" and told her to shave her head because he didn't like her haircut.
This response is also a great example of the unrealistic expectations put on women to be feminine, kind, polite, sexually available but not too promiscuous but also not a prude. He actually called her a "whore" as well as a "prude" - a very confusing oxymoron. His comments about her appearance and her haircut speaks to the expectations men have for women to look a certain way.
Andrew's response is a great example of this frustration and aggression males feel when they are rejected, even after having just made a terribly inappropriate advance toward a woman. He can't comprehend why she wouldn't want to have sex with him or date him, despite the fact that she did not know anything about him. He was probably unaware of how offensive his first message was too.
But to top it all off, his last message asks her to go out on "a date", after the abuse he had just sent her speaks volumes about how entitled he feels to getting some kind of sexual encounter.
I understand that some people might think it's not a huge deal, or he was joking around. However, there are much more extreme examples of when males who feel they're owed sex react in an aggressive way when they are not able to get it consensually.
Sexual aggression often turns deadly
Brock Allen Turner was a 20-year-old freshman university student infamous for forcing himself on an unconscious woman.
Then there's the Isla Vista killings, where a 22-year-old killed three women because he wanted to punish women for rejecting him, and killed three men because he was jealous of all of their sexual activity. I'm not saying Andrew's particular situation will escalate to that level, but it's important to recognise that this anger is coming from the same place - the frustration of not being able to get the sex he feels he is owed because he is a man.
We tend to compartmentalise different levels of violence and aggression. But it is important to acknowledge that the reason behind this altercation can also be the cause of aggression that leads men to do things much worse.
How can we stop it?
We can help stop this from happening by creating some awareness around how and why it happens. We can instil better values in our boys and men and treat women in a way that doesn't encourage these attitudes.
We can see people as equal and love them regardless of their race. We can discuss these things with our friends and family, and there are organisations like the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network who have speakers who can speak at schools, workplaces and events and help by teaching people about how to have healthy relationships based on respect.
As terrible as these stories are, it's not all bad because you can use them to highlight the problem. You can talk about why this is happening, how it is affecting people, and let people know what we can do about it. And maybe that will get some of the problems with the way people treat each other moving toward a better direction.
Awareness around what is right and wrong can also help young women to recognise when they might be being treated inappropriately, so they know when to say no and speak up. It could help them deal with any possible Weinstein situations they may come up against too.
So next time you hit on someone, make sure it's for the right reasons - and if they're not keen, don't get mad about it. They don't owe you anything.
Maddy Budd is a freelance fashion writer based in Auckland and New York.