Serial Dater or Serial Killer?

If you’re a guy who has tried online dating, I almost guarantee that you’ve probably had a conversation like this by text or e-mail before the first date:

YOU: Would you like to meet up for drinks sometime this week?

HER: Sure, I’m free Thursday.

YOU: Perfect. Do you want to meet there, or should I pick you up…?

HER: Let’s meet there. I need to make sure you’re not a serial killer, LOL.

YOU (trying to figure out what a serial killer would say in response so that you can say anything but that): Sure, sounds good!

hannibalThere are many variations of this conversation, and they usually happen before the first date. Sometimes it’s about the ride (although I rarely even offer that anymore since I usually get drinks after work for a first date, so both of us have separate cars). Sometimes it’s about the location. But the point is that I’ve heard the “serial killer” line at least a handful of times.

I don’t think I’m alone here–rather, I think this is a throwaway line that women use all too often. I think there is an important truth underlying that line that I’ll get to in a minute, but it’s the line itself that always makes me uncomfortable when I hear it.

The line says a couple things to me when I heard it. The first is, “I don’t trust you.” Of course, there’s no reason for the woman to trust me yet. We haven’t met. However, I haven’t done anything for the woman NOT to trust me either, so why is the default a lack of trust?

The other thing I hear is that a truly terrible label is being applied to me by someone who doesn’t even know me. That’s disappointing to me, and it certainly never feels good to hear. You’re telling me–albeit in a half-joking, LOL kind of way–that a part of you is worried that I’m a murderer. Not just any murderer, but someone who gets off on the thrill of murdering a series of people. Isn’t that a terrible thing to suggest to someone you don’t even know? Even in a joking way.

Now let’s get to the root of that phrase, because I think there is a very real fear there that has nothing to do with accidentally going on a date with a serial killer: Women are afraid of being hurt or violated on a date. There are many women I know who have gone on dates with guys who turned out to be really creepy, guys who stalked them  or forced them to do things they didn’t want to do. This is a legitimate fear.

However, the majority of first dates happen in public areas–bars, restaurants, parks, etc. Are women afraid that a man will hurt them in public? I’m asking–I truly don’t know the answer to this.

So rather than use the “serial killer” term, why not say it like it is? Just say, “I don’t know you.” Or just establish that you’re meeting in a public place and not say anything about the guy at all? Does any variation of the line need to be said?

Now, I think it’s totally different if the guy is trying to convince a woman to come to his house before the date or for the date. Again, I don’t think the serial killer line is warranted, but if the woman says no and the guy asks, “Why not?”, what do you say? Well, first I would throw up a giant red flag that the guy is pressuring you into coming over to his place before you’ve ever met. But if you’re still set on seeing the guy, what about, “I’m looking forward to meeting you, but I’d be more comfortable hanging out for the first time in public.” If the guy still pressures you after that, don’t meet him. It’s not worth it.

I was talking about this topic with a female friend the other day (she’s actually writing a blog entry on this topic from the female perspective today), and she reversed the tables on me. “Are men comfortable meeting women for the first time in private? Are you?”

It’s a good question. My perception is that men don’t harbor the same fears that women have regarding dating. I don’t. Although my go-to first date is always drinks, if that weren’t the case, I would have no problem or fear inviting a woman over for dinner or drinks or going to her place. Although it’s possible for a woman to open the door with a gun or a sexual threat, it doesn’t occur to me as something that could actually happen. Thus I’m not afraid of it. Should I be?

I’m curious what other men (and women) think about this topic. For the men, have you heard that line, and how do you react? Would you be worried to meet a woman for the first time in private? For women, have you ever used that line? Have I accurately touched upon the true root of that line and that fear?


9 Responses to “Serial Dater or Serial Killer?”

  1. Katy says:

    Jamey-
    I think you’ve presented this remarkably well (much better than my take), and pinpointed the root of this fear accurately. I’m definitely more weary because of past online meet-ups, as well as past relationships I’ve been in that turned sour. When I mentally question whether or not a potential date is a serial killer, I think what I’m really questioning is if he’s a sociopath, or someone with controlling tendencies.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks for the dual post, Katy. I hope to hear from other men and women, as I worry that I’m making too many assumptions and presumptions in this post.

  2. Katie says:

    I wonder if that fear comes from the fact that online dating is still seen as somewhat embarrasing for some people, even in this age of social media overload. I think for many people (especially those that have never tried it) there is still a deep-rooted misconception that there must be something “wrong” with people that do online dating because they are unable to meet someone the “normal” way.

    So while these women understand that the guy they are going to meet isn’t really a serial killer, I can just hear a nagging mom or friend in the background warning, “But what if he’s a mass murderer? Don’t make me say ‘I told you so’ when they find you laying facedown in the gutter. No one thought Ted Bundy looked like a serial killer either.”

    As for me, I’ve never used that line, mostly because it just sounds silly. But I do take common sense precautions. I would say the same thing you mentioned–that I just feel more comfortable meeting out somewhere on a first date. I have heard of or had experiences with a few guys where I’m later thankful they don’t know where I live. Usually it’s just because they can’t take a hint (or an outright statement) that you’re not interested, but you can’t really know after only a few emails back and forth if someone will ever cross that line between bothersome and troubling. I’d love to be trusting enough of people to think that something like that would never happen, but emotions can run high when dealing with relationships and feelings.

    Maybe it’s just because my dad was a cop for 25 years, but I don’t see the harm in having a small amount of suspicion until you know someone a little bit better. There are a LOT of strange people out there, and I don’t think it’s wrong to be smart and decrease the risk factors for having a crime committed against you. Sure, it’s not nice to assume that your date would slip you a roofie (in public, at a bar, to answer your question), but I’m not going to leave myself wide open for someone that I might have misjudged to take that opportunity either.

    I don’t think you should have your feelings hurt because a woman is using common sense. Think of it this way: would you give someone your credit card, Social Security number or PIN on a first date even though they hadn’t yet proven themselves to be untrustworthy? No. You safeguard it and do all of the things you were taught because you just never know.

    (Side note: I actually have (what turned out to be) a funny story about letting a complete stranger into my house in a sleepy haze at 3am one morning. As soon as his foot crossed over the threshold though, my mind jolted awake and I remember thinking that I’d just made the last mistake I’d ever make, because I was about to be murdered in my own home. It was a truly terrifying moment. Seven years later I can still remember that feeling, and I don’t ever want to feel it again, that’s for sure.)

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Katie–Thanks for your thoughts on this, and I’m glad that the 3am visit ended up being a funny one and not a scary one.

      As far as hurt feelings go, that really just applies to the “serial killer” comment. I completely understand a woman being cautious before going out with a stranger–I’m all for that. But the serial killer label just seems uncalled for.

    • Elaine says:

      I don’t think it’s the fact that it’s “online dating” … As I have that uncertainty meeting anyone for the first time. Blind dates, for example – so even having a friend vouch for someone … I still need to meet the guy in person before I’m willing to drive with him somewhere.

      One other thing … if I’m being picked up for a “drinks meeting” then I’d be putting a LOT of trust in the guy not to drink too much and to be in a condition to drive me home still. Is that crazy to worry about? Maybe. But I’d rather have control over my safety on the ride home than potentially be in a car with a guy who was drinking beer after beer.

      Just another angle on it … but for me, it’s truly about “I don’t know you yet. Maybe next time.” After 3 dates with a guy a few years ago, he was even reluctant to ask me to meet at his place before the 4th date because he didn’t want to pressure me into a situation I could have been uncomfortable. (Ironically, his reluctance made me MORE comfortable.)

  3. Christine says:

    A number of years ago, when I dabbled in online dating for a bit, it never would have occurred to me to say something like that to a guy. I don’t really find it funny for the same reasons you mention above. However, I always insisted on driving myself to the first few dates (not just the first) and meeting in a public place for at least the first and probably the second as well. I never really got a bad vibe from any of the guys I dated and I’ve never had a bad experience on a date—other than just being a bad or boring date—but I always thought it important to be careful.

    On a different note, what do you think about background researching a date? In Wisconsin you can look up public court records by name online for free. It’s a very common thing for women here to do after a few dates (or even one) especially if you’re online dating. It’s a fuzzy area, but I know women who always, always insist on looking up their dates. I used to roll my eyes at the practice until a friend found out a guys she’d been out with a few times had a number of domestic assault charges and a few restraining orders against him and another acquaintance who found out he’d been dating a woman who’d been locked up for accessory to murder. It’s similarly untrusting, but if the information’s out there, would you use it? I don’t know if they have something similar in Missouri.

    • Katy says:

      Christine,
      Similar websites exist for checking criminal history or court cases in Missouri, but I think actually looking up a person prior to the date is extremely mistrusting. Even with my level of suspicion and weariness about meeting up with men from online dating, that’s not something I would actually do.
      In the past, a guy I was dating actually told me to go look him up, just because he wanted to know how I would react to seeing that he had a “record,” (his offense was something to do with hunting without the proper permit, which resulted in a court date and a fine). Had he not suggested I look him up, I never would have even thought to do such a thing.
      For some women, that’s just one step in the pre-date process though. A friend of mine happens to be married to a police officer, and in the past has offered to have him run potential dates through his computer. I’ve always declined, but know that other women in our circle (including his sisters) have used that level of pre-screening before committing to a first date.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Christine–I definitely agree that it can’t hurt to be careful on the first few dates while you’re getting to know someone.

      As for researching a date (this applies to the following comments as well), I wouldn’t blame someone for looking into my background. I think the only time I’ve been uncomfortable when something like that was brought to my attention was when a woman looked up my address and told me where I lived in one of the first few e-mails we exchanged (I wrote about this a while ago on the blog). I can’t even say exactly why that was so creepy and offputting, but it just was.

  4. Katie says:

    I require a criminal background check, a resume, a credit check with salary information and at least three personal references before I’ll even email someone back. 😉

    I’m laughing, but the sad part is I bet there are some women who are close to that extreme.

Leave a Reply