Should Couchers.org make it clear that the platform is not for dating?

  • Yes, we should somehow specify that it’s not a dating app to new users
  • Only if there is evidence of abuse - we can’t prevent this kind of behavior, but we can send warnings or reminders
  • No, but an improved reference system/community standing should prevent it naturally
  • No, but better search options should help limit unwanted encounters
  • No, users should be allowed to use the platform however they’d like

0 voters

This topic has been extracted from another thread. The options here reflect those expressed by members in the original discussion, which started here.

The how is quite important too.

If you sign up and there’s a big message “Hey you! This platform is not for dating! Don’t even think about it!” That’s too negative to be presented with at the start imo.

On the other hand, it could be great to have a “community spirit declaration” when signing up which has a few different statements about openness and also “We will not use Couchers as a dating site” and “We will be respectful of others feelings and boundaries at all times” etc.

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Good point, maybe “hook-ups” is better. (As in, Couchers is not for hook-ups)

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In this context, I think it would be defined as using the platform with the purpose of pursuing a romantic encounter. Some examples that might make another person uncomfortable, but are not necessarily going to lead to a “hook up” could be…

  • Compliments on appearance/physical features
  • Flirting
  • Suggesting a romantic activity (i.e., dancing, stargazing, being alone in an isolated place, watching a movie alone at home/in a bedroom)
  • Offering to pay for the other person
  • Bringing a gift
  • Being too close to the person, (i.e., in their personal space)
  • Making a physical move on the other person

Before you laugh, these are all real examples of things that have happened to me with hosts I stayed with or surfers I met at events/hangouts. I’ve only one time been hit on by a surfer, and the thing he did was:

  • Make negative comments about my partner
  • Suggest he was better than my partner
  • Try to suggest we share a sleeping surface

I say these things “might” make someone uncomfortable because there are plenty of people who would like these things probably, and I respect that. It would also make me happy if I was interested in the other person.

The issue, however, is that by making it clear that the platform is not for dating, the point we would make is that no one should expect a positive response to this behavior from the community at large, regardless of what the two people actually did. If that makes sense.

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You’re not wrong. However, since our community is a sample size of the population, and one that could potentially work together to curb this behavior, to some extent, I think it’s worth trying. We’re all here to change the world, aren’t we? :upside_down_face:

In some sense your standpoint plays into the whole “boys will be boys” thing. Which is really dangerous, imo.

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Sorry, I thought that my wording was clear. Some parts of your standpoint suggest there’s nothing we can do to stop people from using the platform for dating. I disagree with that specifically, because I think there’s a lot we can do.

My suggestions are also targeted at your stated goal. I do believe that the rules you set on the platform could potentially guide the behaviour of people that use it. I do believe it is necessary to ensure a degree of safety on the platform (via references or verifications) I do not believe that including “not for hook-ups” in the “About” section will accomplish either of those things. I also do not believe you can (or should) try to dictate what two consenting adults may do after they meet.

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Thank you for clarifying! Sorry to have misunderstood you.

All good. Perhaps I should apologise for not being clear.

Not in itself, but it makes it clear that using the platform specifically to find hook-ups will get you warned/suspended/banned. Of course it needs a good moderation/references system too.

Definitely not! The key I think is that meeting people for cultural exchange and to make friends, and along the way it becomes more intimate, is totally fine! But sending messages to people you don’t know to try and sleep with them is not.

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Well why stop there then? May as well throw in “not for cult formation” and “not for murder” while you’re at it. For clarities sake.

“using the platform specifically to find hook-ups will get you warned/suspended/banned”
And how would that be policed or moderated? Are you also going to start a high court of Hospex user motivations? Sounds like a bigger project.

Hence my actual suggestion. You can’t (and shouldn’t) stop travellers from hooking up. They/we always have done and always will. All you can do is create a framework in the platform that discourages abuse from those that have that in mind as their primary motive. Basically, you want mechanisms to filter out sex pests. I’m sorry, I just don’t think a mission statement, no matter how it’s worded, will have any actual impact on that at all and if it’s worded wrong, may just serve to put off legit users.

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I agree with @XpXnx on this point. CS had tons of ‘policy’ on the issue but it didn’t achieve anything. Largely, this has to be done through the design of the platform itself and the reference system. This does however involve communicating how that system works, and how expecting hook-ups from the platform is a sure-fire way to make people uncomfortable. We can also put a bit more effort into a good reporting system that feeds in with community moderation.

We must also have clear policies so that community moderators know what is and is not in violation if something is reported. This also involves communicating those policies to the community effectively so everyone knows what is and is not allowed.

A softer approach that could be good to test is through the verification process. We’re going to encourage new users to meet up with verified, trusted member (e.g. at an event) to verify their IDs, and part of that process can be the verifier explaining the rules of the site, which can include an explanation of this stuff. I think to a lot of people came to CS explicitly with notions that they could hook up easily, and having someone there to tell them that it’s not the point and that it won’t get them far could potentially go a long way. I think this would be a lot more powerful than written posts.

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I voted yes, but suggest not framing dating/hookup as one big issue that then shows itself on these different levels:

  • message spammers
  • unwelcome advances by hosts/guests
  • sexual offenders

I think these are different issues that should be addressed within distinct contexts. Like message spamming within online community conduct. Unwelcome advances within hosting/staying guidelines. And staying safe from offenders within general safety and emergency support.

Regarding unwelcome advances, I could imagine bringing it up alongside other ‘things you should not ask/expect/are not part of hosting:’

  • expect/suggest/ask for money
  • expect/suggest/ask for sex

My assumption is that the most common justification for making advances is that you are just asking, would never force anyone, so where’s the harm done? (at least I remember I had this attitude as a younger guy towards most stuff). Putting it algonside asking for money might just make it a bit more clear that it’s not a neutral suggestion, no matter how fine you are if the answer is no.

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Yeah, I felt that mostly occured in the original incarnation of CS. (Not the ID verification but everything else) Given less ‘functionality’ on the platform, people generally gravitated to ‘doing more’ in person. You weren’t long at any given event before some ambassador or experienced user hipped you to the problem people in attendence.
“Watch that guy, he just tries to get in every girls pants”
“Don’t waste too much time with Dave, he’s mostly just here to get people into his Amway pyramid scheme”
I still err on the ‘less is more’ side of design.

Hi, I’m new to the forum, but very curious about this topic, which is indeed quite complicated and multi-faceted. I would like to suggest a different approach to the matter, which is not based on tools to implement but on a wider perspective on these points:

  • Since the negative experiences of unwanted avances and their repercussions (less trust in the platform, less willingness to host male travelers or strangers at all, among others) affect mostly women/queer folks, what about having a team of these people lead the discussion/decision making about these points?

  • A consequence of this unbalance on the issue is that safety is after all a matter of inclusivity, beginning from how these matters are discussed. How do we make sure we can get opinions on the issue from people with first-hand experience, make sure their words can help people not affected by this issue to understand what does it mean to host someone in their home and feel uncomfortable and not safe, and not have those words drowned by a majority of comments by those not affected?

  • A step back which can help find good solutions also on this matter: what is the identity and what are the values of this new community? For sure, hosting and being hosted is about trust. But what does “trust” mean for the founders of this website? How does the community makes clear to users that “trust” is something vital for its very existence? Where does “trust” come from, and how is it incentivized and mantained? What does it mean to be able to have trust and appreciate what this platform is doing?
    I mean: yeah, the core is meeting people/hosting them in your home/being hosted in their homes, but then how is that different from dating/meeting/accomodation websites? The next CS I hope for has to have something more, a vision on what are the shared values of the users it attracts.

Uh, I just noticed a topic about this has been created already, but hasn’t been much a success. I would suggest the founders and all the community to give the right amount of importance to this issue, which is imho vital to the success of this project.

Cheers :slight_smile:

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Welcome to the forum, Francesco! :slightly_smiling_face:

These are all very good and valid points! We currently have provisional Forum discussion rules where we point out that we won’t tolerate prejudiced comments and denying first-hand experiences. Asserting these rules has already led to some disputes, but we’re serious about their foundational value.

We want this to be a safe and inclusive platform and we prioritize this over members being able to do or say whatever they feel like. We’re currently working on integrating this into Community guidelines and the overall approach to moderation, so this aspect gets the importance and visibility it deserves. I hope we can publish this soon and I’m very much looking forward to everyone’s feedback then!

Thanks for your reply, I look forward to them :slight_smile: please don’t be afraid to take bold decisions on how to discuss these issues, guidelines and their enforcement can help but we all know how easy it is to hijack a conversation in a sneaky way, shifting the focus on the discussion with useless noise, or to end up in an all-male conversation on these matters. For the same reason that women give up on hosting, they can give up in participating in conversations that don’t value much their points of view.

I realized just after writing there are in-depth analyses on the website on what can be done differently than CS had done, especially here. I really like both how they’re written and their content. I think that if the community shares those action points, it would be good to bring these bits here to the forum and find out:

  • how to implement those points in how the website communicates its identity (vision, mission)
  • how to make clear to users that these things are important in several steps of the website experience.

To be more specific, and regarding previous posts in this thread, and sorry if I’m blunt:

  • I don’t think it’s very positive or useful for the importance of the discussion comparing hitting on your host to asking them for money, or saying “this website is not for murder” is like saying is not for dating
  • I think references are just an ex-post tool to avoid these kind of interactions (someone has to have had the bad experience in the first place) and it would not help much in terms of educating surfers on the matter (they will still think “hey but I didn’t do anything wrong”)
  • I think an approach based on how to implement a message before assessing how that message is an important part of the vision you have for the website can only produce timid solutions, which was a problem on CS: they would write “not for dating” but I don’t think it was so clear to male users “why” and what did that mean
  • I do have the feeling this discussion is very male driven and therefore probably not the ideal to take a decision on how to make clear that if a girl hosts you, while you are consenting adults and can do anything you want with consent, it’s easier than you think to make their experience of hosting you an unpleasant one. When I was younger I sure wished this was something discussed more on CS.

It could be a good idea to try and get in touch with the people at Host a Sister (just an idea) and see if they could help shaping a platform that really addresses this issue of trying to have users respect their boundaries and educating them to do so?

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We’ve reached out to Host A Sister to some extent but it seems they’re working on projects of their own. For the time being we’ve been looking to find more female perspectives from various other groups on social media, but we are open to more ideas! It can be hard to get the word out when so many of the female communities have strict rules on what kind of content is allowed. For instance, I’m finding that most places we’d want to post in forbid outside links.

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On this forum, trust is build around user trust levels. I just posted information on this in Understanding user trust levels.

I dont think trust on the platform is (or should be) built around a merely technical implementation, but staging access to different functionality based on feedback and requirements is also part of it.

E.g. you can only start to host once you are verified to a certain degree. Or I could imagine having messaging limits as long as you don’t have a minimal positive feedback from reviews.

I tend to believe that when it’s not a problem for women, it’s most likely solved across boundaries.

That’s missing the point. Cult formation and murder aren’t grievances a lot of people voice about couch-surfing culture. They aren’t problems writ large. The reason to specify something about dating/hookups is because unwanted sexual advances, unlike murder and cult forming, is an actual, pervasive issue in the culture.

I agree with you that simply putting it in our policy/mission statement/etc isn’t going to suddenly dissuade people from pursuing sexual relations, and actually the intent ISN’T that doing that will just magically change the way people act. The intent of it is to make it clear where the platform stands on the issue. And let me clarify: the platform is against unwanted sexual advances, not mutually consenting adults engaging in mutually consensual activities.

So yes, of course we need to work this philosophy into actual features that help shape the community. But we also need make it clear in our messaging as part of our identity - because that will provide the framework for the kind of hospex culture we want to grow.

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