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A woman called into a radio show I was on recently, talking about online dating, and asked, “I heard all guys look at are the pictures. ” The undertone of this question-slash-fear is, “Are looks the only thing that matters to a guy? That’s like saying you shouldn’t ever have to make an effort and so, yeah, go on a first date without showering, wearing whatever you rolled out of bed in. Also, we weren’t there at the Halloween party and thus don’t know what a huge hit your Carrie costume was (though now we know what you look like covered in blood). But I Just Want Him (or Her) to Love Me for Who I Am! Are you someone who makes an effort to be sexy, appealing, attractive? You don’t want people to think twice—especially when one click and they’re onto the next person. Why would you think that the way a person appears to you doesn’t matter? If you think a guy isn’t going to look at your pictures first, then you’re nuts—especially when chances are it’s the first thing you look at, too. This is just one of the many things I find confounding about people’s expectations around online dating: We’re still humans, not data bots.We all want someone who piques our interest and pleases the senses. I know you may think differently, but that forced sexy/moody look doesn’t look as great as you think. A smile is welcoming, warm, and shows you in your best light. Do not, I repeat, post the following: You in a costume, you sticking your tongue out, you making a quirky, stupid face. We don’t realize that you were going for Indiana Jones and not the Village People.And since this is digital dating, the only way to approximate what you’re like is to show your best self; i.e., not looking like a total slouch. The whole point of looking at your profile is to see what you’re “like” on an everyday basis.I can’t even believe I have to even say this, but it appears I must: Prospective dates don’t want to know what you look like on a Sunday when you haven’t run a comb through your hair, or shaved, or put on a stitch of makeup. As a rule, women tend to fudge their weight while men fudge their height. Not one day when you decided to make yourself look weirder than usual. It’s not the worst idea in the world to get some nice shots done of you.Someone you date may eventually see you that way, but I wouldn’t say it’s what you lead with. Sure, you looked great in 1992, but since I don’t have a time machine, I can’t meet that person. And both lie about their age (something I do NOT recommend). So don’t go on a whole rant in your profile defending your age, etc. Dudes are especially prey to this kind of digital dismemberment. Either way, the person viewing it is wondering what you “really” look like. I have a friend who decided to do this, and has some really great pictures, that yes, she uses on her dating profile, but she also has.

Reason being, the “here I am holding up my i Phone in the mirror”—especially when we can see the phone—is, well, extraordinarily lame, no matter how you slice it. Do what you can with lighting etc to create a more flattering shot (tip: shooting up at yourself with your camera isn’t going to be your best angle). The picture should be you now, not you ten years or ten pounds ago. When else would you ever have cause to only ask a disembodied face out on a date? So having some shots of you where we can at least see what the head is attached to is a good idea. I’m not going to be holding a conversation with your abs. I’d love to see some full-body shots, sure, but preferably clothed and in a normal context (you on a beach or whatever), not you doing your best impression of a centerfold. I thought, what on earth gave this woman the idea that this would help her situation? There are plenty of places online to view naked people. Dudes, no one wants to see random naked body parts. Like any dog owner knows, it’s a nice way to break the ice. Or worse: a picture of you with your arms wrapped around some blonde whose FACE YOU HAVE DIGITALLY SMUDGED OUT. And rather than less authentic, I find professional shots MORE authentic—because a professional can capture you at your best, at your most natural.

The oldest picture on your current profile should be less than 2 years old. I will say I saw a woman’s profile recently in which she took what had to be the most unflattering shot of just her body—in an ill-fitting, horizontal-striped top. Or, maybe they do, but they don’t then want to meet it out for a beer. But as soon as the focus of your profile starts to be animal centric, you’re in trouble. While you may think this is an attempt to keep it anonymous, protect her identity, it looks so bad. We can’t help but wonder what happened to that person, and if you hate her or aren’t over her, or vice versa. Even if you crop down that picture, if all we see is a well-manicured hand on your shoulder, yeah, there’s something creepy about that too. They’re paid to show the essence and beauty of someone’s personality—which you never will in your bathroom mirror.

Ladies, if you’re showing a ton of stuff on your profile pics, or focusing in on specific anatomy, don’t be surprised when the guys who fill up your inbox are NOT the kind of guys you want relationships with. It’s great to showcase your interests, whether it’s skiing or apple-picking or rock climbing. Please don’t bother with a 50-yard shot of you on a mountain in a hat and glasses. We don’t really want to see what you did on your summer vacation; we want to see who we’ll be sitting and talking to for the better part of an hour. One man called in specifically to say he did not want to see a woman’s cats on her dating profile. Don’t introduce these human dramas into your profile. Don’t tell me those are all the pictures you have of yourself. If you’d like some help with your online profile–and dating in general–I have a few slots open for new coaching clients.

As long as we can see your face, a little context may add some interest, so sure, go for it. We get it, you like water sports—but you in gear does nothing for us. AND: New York locals; I have a photographer at the ready who can help you with some great shots.

If you really want us to see your vacation shots, we’ll see it when we become Facebook friends.

I can’t tell you how many guys seem to be under the impression that if they include pictures of a rugged mountain range or the Eiffel Tower, I’ll want to run away with them.

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