Last week, I matched with a self-proclaimed serial killer on a dating app.
He wore a thick beard and a creepy wide-eyed expression, which made me want to look away. His responses to the prompts on his profile referred to a liking for stalking women, holding his breath as they pass by and climbing up pipes to peep through their window. His ideal first date, he wrote, would involve a trek to a remote place with no witnesses.
There were also other pictures on the profile, in which he appeared to be on stage holding a microphone. Once the initial shock wore off, I put two and two together. This was probably a wannabe stand-up comic, scouring for material on dating apps because the rest of his cushy life as a cis-het man was too dull to milk for jokes.
It wasn’t clever. It was not even remotely funny. It was tone-deaf and insensitive as all hell. And it made me feel anger, disbelief and helplessness in turn, which is why I accepted his match just to tell him off.
And when I did, he admitted that he was indeed a stand-up comic “doing satire”, and then proceeded to call me an “elitist” who didn’t “get it”.
But what was the joke? That men don’t find matches on dating apps, so they need to do unhinged things like this to stand out? Is it the overdone trope of girls passing over the boring ‘nice’ guys to go out with the despicable ones? This attempt at humour seems ghastly, especially when viewed against the number of women and girls who get stalked and killed by men on a daily basis and pay the price for freedom with their lives.
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The rage spiral was exhausting, so I was ready to forget this happened and move on. But it turned out, this was not a one-off thing. In the following days, as I kept swiping through the app, I came across other men who also alluded to the serial killer life, expressing desire to take women on dates to remote spots, and murdering them (“the halal way, don’t panic,” one gentleman wrote).
And then there were those who had pictures of popular TV serial killers like Dexter Morgan (of Dexter) and Joe Goldberg (of You) on their profiles, some with no explanation whatsoever, and others with enlightening captions such as “my life behind the scenes”. Good god!
Has popular television gone so far down the road of humanising violent criminals and telling “their side of the story”, season after season, that it is now considered desirable to be one of them? Or to pose as one?
This is a serious red flag. A man, who is flippant about the violence that women and girls brave every single day—on the streets, in public transport, at educational institutions, at the workplace, often in their very homes—is at best ignorant (therefore comfortably complicit), and at worst, a habitual offender himself.
The former is a type we’re all familiar with — the typical urban man about town, the tech dudebro, the average Joe who has no skin in the game, but confidently asserts that *insert city name* is “relatively safer” for women. He insists that women in big cities are not oppressed or in danger anymore, that the feminists are overreacting. The increasing reports of horrendous crimes against women easily fall in his blindspot, even if there is general outrage about one or two of these.
The patriarchy protects men and favours them at the expense of women. So, he lives in a happy bubble where his own wants and needs are all that matter. He’s the one on stage at open mic nights, telling stale wife jokes. He’s also one among the audience laughing along. He’s not interested in recognising the harm he is doing or taking accountability. He thinks he’s one of the good ones, and therefore separate from the problem. This is standard edition urban Indian misogyny that everyone has learnt to somehow live with. So what if he thinks nothing of getting on a public platform and saying he would very much like to stalk and kill women? He’s just joking—it’s satire, lady, relax!
So how does one know the difference between a man, who is joking about being a serial killer, and the man who is chatting up women on dating apps, while the last one he killed and dismembered, sits in trash bags in his fridge? Because that happened.
I’m reminded of something comedian Louis CK said in a 2013 HBO special titled Oh My God: “How do women still go out with guys, when you consider that there is no greater threat to women than men?” he asks the audience. “We’re the number-one threat to women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. We're the worst thing that ever happens to them.” A few seconds later, he says to the men, “You know what our number one threat is? Heart disease.”
A few short years later, Louis CK was accused of sexual misconduct by five women. The irony of it has largely been forgotten over the subsequent years as the comedian has issued an “apology”, and gone back to performing more offensive material than ever in front of packed audiences.
The stand-up comedy scene in India is notorious for its misogyny, casteism, classism and general bigotry. The biggest names of the industry have a long history of making abjectly unfunny, revolting bits that injure women and girls and yet, they continue to fill out venues and bask in the glory of being rebels who “push the limits”.
So perhaps, our ‘serial killer’ friend would fit right in, even make it big one day.
As for the women? It looks like we’re on our own.
Indumathy Sukanya is a Bengaluru-based writer and artist