An inside look: My post
While the moderator said that there are an average of 600 individual views per post, to get a better idea of the response that someone on the site obtains, I created a fake email and submitted a minimal, two-line profile.
I was surprised to open my inbox two days later to find 22 emails.
Wading through the sea of winking emoticons and innuendo, I determined a clear distinction between two types of people who replied to my post: some wrote personalized responses, while others seemed to copy and paste the same message to every address that catches their eye. Some went as far as to upload pictures of themselves, while others invited me to share my photos with them.
Based off of the feedback I received at the time of this writing, the popularity of the page is worth noting. My profile was not detailed, it was posted the same day as ten other profiles — but it still attracted 22 individuals, suggesting UCD DTF’s widespread popularity. If that many responses could be had from a fake profile, it is implied that the turnout for a real, serious poster could be much greater than that.
Picnics in the Arboretum, couples sharing romantic strolls downtown, horny college students cramming their way onto fraternity dancefloors … spring is just around the corner and love is in the air.
Traditional dating isn’t for everyone, and for those who want to make romantic connections, blind dating and random hook ups can make for an awkward experience if both parties are not wanting the same things out of the relationship.
To avoid any embarrassment down the road when expectations don’t mesh, an upfront, no-holds-barred place exists where students are encouraged to seek out exactly who and what they want out of a partner.
The UC Davis DTF community is part dating site, part bulletin board of physical descriptions and part casual deviation from checking Facebook for its more common uses. In recent months, this community has gained popularity and attention, and new profiles are uploaded every day.
“I would say [the page’s inspiration came from] a combination of conversations with males and females on campus and in my personal life [which] led me to believe there was a niche for something like this. Turns out, there is,” said a third-year anonymous moderator of UC Davis DTF in an email interview.
The page follows a format to similar Facebook groups which focus on the postings of anonymous visitors. Through a secondary survey site, students are encouraged to submit their physical appearance, contact information and description of what they want in their partner — or partners — of choice, which is then sent to the moderator of the site.
“Submission of this form is not tracked by any moderator in order to protect privacy. It is completely anonymous. However, if the person submitting the form would like a response to their ad, which is typically the reason they are posting, they must leave a form of contact,” the moderator said.
Most of the contact information left on the site seems fake, but the explicit and strange email addresses and aliases like “Jon Doe,” “Chocolate Goddess” and “Boobie Dumas” are intended to be overtly artificial for sake of anonymity. These “burn” addresses are created and used for the sole purpose of DTF correspondence. Others are a bit more brazen with their information.
“Some people do actually leave their phone number. This can be tricky because you don’t want people posting their friend’s phone number or your grandma’s email, so we always verify the phone number first by using an email to text message method,” the moderator said.
The language and profanity content on the page teeters at a PG-13 range, and it stays that way thanks in part to moderators who methodically review each profile before posting it to the page.
Reasons for use of the website vary.
“Originally, I was just looking for someone to talk to, show interest in me, make me feel important. I recently got out of a serious relationship and missed the feeling of being wanted. I’ve met 3 people in real life, none of which went further than just meeting up to talk. It wasn’t because they weren’t nice or attractive, but I just got really nervous and backed out each time,” said an anonymous female first-year linguistics major.
Others enjoy participating for the thrill of anonymity and meeting up with strangers.
“I most likely would not participate in the DTF page if it were not anonymous. The anonymity adds to the mysteriousness and fun,” said an anonymous male second-year political science major. “I want to find a few fun flings, only a small number of times. If I feel like finding a ‘fling’ then this is one of the best and only ways really to find others with the same interest. [I have met up with] a few guys, most of them bisexual or straight and curious. One time even with a couple. [Meeting up went smoothly twice] but other times the situation was awkward.”
While posting personal descriptions of oneself online usually results in smoothing over flaws and imperfections, UCD DTF community members try to be truthful about their appearances.
“I’m 100% truthful about describing myself, and as far as I’ve seen, others are, too. I feel like there are a lot of people who use the DTF page, and that there is a wide range of what people find ‘attractive.’ I’m completely honest when talking about myself, because I need to know if they’re willing to meet up with me. It usually goes with the idea of ‘reply back if still interested.’ If they don’t, move on to the next email in my inbox,” the linguistics major said.
There is more to the site than hooking up for casual sex, as many are able to find a social outlet and an emotional boost from talking to and meeting with those who reply to ads.
“It’s human nature to want to connect with others. Some people have more difficulty doing that, connecting. This is a place where that can happen and there is no judging,” the moderator said.
Regardless of how the page is used, when meeting with or exchanging personal information with a stranger, an aspect of danger exists. STDs, rape and violence are all very real hazards when corresponding with a stranger, especially in a setting where sex and emotional ties are involved.
For those who are interested in using the page, certain precautions should be implemented to avoid dangerous situations that could stem from meeting a stranger for intimate relations according to Jacquelynn Cole, victim advocate at the UC Davis Campus Violence Prevention Program.
“Have a conversation with your partner(s), create a safe word if necessary and know that consent can be revoked at any time. I might also recommend letting a friend know where you’re going and who you are meeting up with,” Cole said in an email interview.
The range of safety action taken by those interviewed was basic, trusting intuitive feelings to decide if they should go through with meeting the person they met online.
“I have [a] history of meeting up with strangers through different methods such as phone apps like Grindr and this page. I do not really take any precautions; [I] mostly go by if they ‘look creepy’ or not, but [I] also will leave a message on my phone when unlocked in case something happens that actually honestly explains the situation (how I contacted them and the plans),” the political science major said.
Although there can be an inherent risk to meeting unsavory characters online, there is also the possibility of requesting, and getting, a desired relationship or encounter otherwise unattainable through UCD DTF.
“I have heard of a few connections. It’s pretty neat. As students and adults we are all busy people,” the UCD DTF moderator wrote. “And some people lack social skills. I would say it is a very eclectic and widespread group of people that use the page. I’m glad that people have the opportunity to connect, whether it be for cuddling, video gaming, a walk in the park or whatever their desires.”
HANNAH KRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.