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Peter lived for nearly a half-decade in China, including two as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is the author of Socrates in Sichuan: Chinese Students Search for Truth, Justice and the (Chinese) Way. It is the intention of his blog to foster the sort of intercultural understanding necessary for long term relationships.
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Online Dating and Deception    

By Peter V
7957 Views | 26 Comments | 11/12/2013 5:01:21 PM

Some things are not forgiveable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgiveable. It is the most unforgiveable thing in my opinion, and the one thing in which I have never, ever been guilty.” (Tennessee Williams, "A Streetcar Named Desire").  Lately I've been thinking about deception and online dating. The two things seem to go together, like China's economic growth and horrendous air quality: generally positive phenomena with dark shadow sides.



I've been prompted to my reflections by a recent article in the New Yorker. In "Man and Superman," Malcolm Gladwell argues that there are some serious inconsistencies in professional sports' attitude towards things like steriod use and blood doping. Why, for example, does baseball allow its athletes to extend their career through replacement ligament surgery and not through the use of performance enhancing drugs? Why is the use of technology to improve on the natural condition of the body allowed in one instance but not in the other? What is the moral difference between orthopedics and endocrinology? 



If you read the essay, you will see that these are not easy questions to answer. But it is not the particulars of the essay that interest me here; rather, I am intrigued by the possibility that just like in sports the ethical categories in online dating may be more blurred than we imagine. Are there issues in international online dating that we find morally troubling but that are in fact essentially equivalent to practices we accept?



Take hair dyeing. Generally, we do not view altering one's hair color as a problematic or deceptive action. To draw upon the sports analogy, one might say that just like ligament replacement surgery in baseball is an acceptable way for an aging and injured pitcher to make himself attractive to a team and so legitimately extend his pitching career, so dying one's hair is  time honored method to make oneself more attractive to members of the opposite sex and so legitimately extend one's dating career. (Come to think of it, plastic surgery might be the analogy that is more applicable).             



But what about misstating one's age? It seems the sort of blood doping of the dating world, a serious transgression that can result in permanent disqualification. But why is misstating your age any different than misrepresenting your hair color or getting your skin stretched? Aren't they both efforts to misrepresent one's actual condition for the purposes of being attractive to a wider body of people? 



The fact that one is physical and one is not, that one involves saying something and one involves doing something, hardly seems morally relevant. Nor does the fact that one is an active deception (you have to state your age either in person or on a form) and one is a passive deception (you don't have to say anything about your hair color for people to know what it is). A doctor can kill a patient by giving them a lethal injection (active) or by failing to resucitate (passive)--and the person dies all the same; a lie in words or in deeds is still a lie.



This brings up comparisons between other types of deception. Most probably think that displaying images of other people in place of our own on a dating page is morally worse than placing old pictures of yourself. But if both actions equally mislead, what is the difference (morally, not legally; obviously there is a legal difference). And what about all the Chinese women who place glamour shots of themselves on the site?



Clearly it is wrong to assume as scammers do a false identity in order to extract money.  Indeed I think it is only here where we approach the one unforgivalble thing mentioned in the quote at the start: deliberate cruelty. It is not however the financial aspect of such deception I find most troubling.The person who attempts to extort money invariably does so by first establishing an emotional connection, one that creates the illusion of the possibility of a relationship. And to falsely create such an impression, to give false hope to the human heart: that is what I define as deliberate cruelty.We can recover from financial and physical damage with relative ease compared with what emotional damage does to us. One implication of this is that any behavior in which we deliberately mislead about our romantic intentions seems a form of cruelty, from foreign women who want to practice their English and so pretend to be available to the Western men who have no intention of moving overseas but declare that they might because of the  attention they receive online. 



I am not writing this to be clever; I truly do not know where to draw the line when it comes to deception. In theory I am for a policy of complete honesty. But in practice, that seems a bit Taliban-esque--and unrealistic. As Gregory House succinctly put it, "Everybody lies." But an "anything goes" policy is obviously unacceptable. So where to draw the line? What do you think?


Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2013-11-12 18:48:06 by panda2009 @panda2009

Peter,
You should give evidences to endorse your opinion that "Everybody lies."

One implication of this is that any behavior in which we deliberately mislead about our romantic intentions seems a form of cruelty, from foreign women who want to practice their English and so pretend to be available to the Western men who have no intention of moving overseas but declare that they might because of the attention they receive online.

I'm here to find a man. If I can't find that man, at lest I also practice my English. My picture on my profile was shot on my 38 & 39 years old. When I tried to change these pictures, I found I couldn't to attach new pictures after delete old pictures. So I always tell my real stories and use present pictures on my blogs. My hair is really quality, but need head massage to relaxe my stress. The massage girls always pull out my white hair and use herbs tea wash my hair that is more expensive than hair color, that made me healthy and comfortable. Do you like to try it?

After my son leave my home, I want to write something new.

#2013-11-12 18:49:26 by Barry1 @Barry1

Interesting thoughts, thanks Peter.

One thing I actively try to stamp out when talking online is when ladies say "I love you".

Whilst this is not active deception as the ladies are probably saying it with good intent, yet it's not quite true either. When this occurs, my response to this is always the same and goes something like this.

"Thank you for saying this, I really do appreciate it. But in all honesty, how can you know you really love me when we haven't met yet face to face? Maybe when this happens, your feelings will change a little, as we all know that seeing someone online is not the same as being together in person with them. Chatting over the internet is not reality, even using a webcam is not good enough.

"Maybe when we meet, you won't like me so much - or perhaps I won't like you quite so much. Neither of us will really know how we'll each feel until this happens.

"So until we finally can kiss each other or hold each other directly, if you don't mind, I'll take your expression of "I love you" as meaning "I like you a lot".

In all instances when I've explained this, the ladies have accepted my words in good grace. This is why I'll never say "I love you" over the internet and if ever someone says them to me, I take it with a grain of salt. I urge everyone here to do the same.

Chatting online with someone - even using a webcam - is simply insufficient to accurately gauge true feelings. People MUST meet face to face before any serious decisions can be made. This is why Westerners need to travel to China to meet their lady friends.

Notice I said "friends" here, not "friend". Because I recommend everyone meet more than one person. Going to such a great effort and expense - flying such a long way - is too risky to meet just one person, in my view at least. Much smarter to have say, three, four or even more friends lined up.

Though please stress to them all, no sex is to be involved - just meeting as good friends. It simply wouldn't be right to have sex with a lady, then leave her to meet another lady. Just not the right thing for a decent gentleman to do. Unless one suddenly finds the love of his life, so then a decision can be made to spend the rest of his time with her, abandoning everyone else, after politely informing them, of course.

#2013-11-13 06:53:49 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

Interesting article !
Firstly, I totally agree with you that the most important "taboo" is deliberate cruelty - but that is not really what your article is about
You are talking about "deception" in general and I have often made comments here about women placing glamour shots of themselves in their profile
This has been (and I am sure will continue to be),a somewhat delicate subject, but since you brought up the subject of "Deception" then I think it is a good opportunity to address this issue once again

When looking for a partner, of COURSE we want to make ourselves look as attractive as possible, but to quote a famous English entertainer - "If all brides are beautiful, where do ugly wives come from ?"

Take a look on the site and look at some of the profile photos of women in their late 40's for example. Why do they make themselves look 25 ?
Surely this is deception in its basic form ?
Write to them and ask them to send you a "daily-life" photo and it is highly likely that any initial attraction that you might have had has simply gone out of the window
Maybe this is a somewhat dangerous comment to make and I am sure that the "tar-and-feathers" brigade are getting their brushes ready
But it is a FACT
Yes, it is far more IMPORTANT who we are on the INSIDE - a sincere heart is more important than good looks (as I am sure all Chinese women will agree) - but there HAS to be some physical attraction as well
I for one could would never want to wake up each morning next to a woman that I did not find attractive - and I am sure this goes for most (if not all) men
I have experienced the above many many times. I write to someone and we chat on e-mail and then swap some daily-life photos
Suddenly, I simply do not "fancy" her anymore
Some may say it is a shame, but in a nutshell, if she had displayed her natural photos in the first place, I may not have written to her and we not have wasted our time
Recently I was scanning through my "outbox" here and was looking at women that I had sent messages and "kisses" to some 9 months ago
Many of these women have not been on-line since March, April, June
So I asked myself why and there are probably 2 reasons
1) Thay have found someone so no longer need to come here
2) They have become so disillusioned with the whole on-line dating process that they have simply given up

So let's take one of these "beautiful girls" as an example
She has beautiful studio photos (deceptive) on her profile
She has many many admirers and receives many letters
After she writes to these men and shows them the "real" her, then they lose interest

How does that make her feel ? Think about it........
Deflated ? Disillusioned? somewhat upset ? - a million and one emotions and it's easy to see why she has become totally disillusioned with the whole on-line dating scene

But she only has herself to blame. If she offers natural photos in the beginning then maybe she wont get so many admirers, but in my opinion she is more likely to find her "Mr Right" quicker and with a lot less hassle of writing to dozens of admirers who later become disillusioned themselves

But doesn't this also "work" for the men here ?

They must also become fed-up with writing to these beautiful women only to find out later that the women is not what they had hoped for

Maybe this is why many members of dating sites have been on the same site "looking" for 2 years or more ?

Pease dont get me wrong here - there is nothing wrong with a bit of make-up, girls - but this is a world apart from the professional studio photos that many portray
If I meet you in real life, you can put on some make-up and you will look just like you do in your picture
But if I meet you in real life, you cannot make yourself look like your studio photo - and this comes down to the "deception" that I believe Peter is talking about here

Guys, have a quick look at the Mens side of the site - see how many guys there are with "Studio Pics" - almost NONE !

Yet I would say 40%-50% of girls continue to portray what can only be described as FALSE photos of themselves

This can simply be described in one word - DECEPTION !

#2013-11-13 15:48:54 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@paulfox & @Peter

No offence intended at all, but here is my take on this stuff:

1. Glamour shots are the norm in China, not just for online dating but for wedding photos, and for all sorts of other occasions. Chinese women tend to think of them, in my opinion, as evidence of how good they can look at their absolute best, and for the most part do not intend that men will believe they look like that normally. Frankly, I think any males dumb enough to expect the women to look that good are deliberately deluding themselves. How else can you explain the men who spend thousands of dollars (sometimes mega-thousands) on sites like AsianBeauties and Chnlove, who post nothing but glamour pictures of Chinese women dressed up like cheap whores.

I suggest that this is not deception, unless you expect Chinese women to know and try to accommodate just how incredibly dumb we Western males can be.

2. Posting photos of yourself from when you were much younger is deceptive however, unless you also post photos showing yourself at your current age. And frankly I can tell you that the men are as guilty of posting photos of themselves from years gone by as the women are, and not posting up to date photos as well.

I think it is a huge mistake for the men to be constantly criticizing the women for "not being honest" when both genders are about equally guilty of this offence. it's online dating, it comes with the territory, use common sense and have a video chat as soon after meeting as possible and let's get over being offended by the fact that human beings of both genders are all essentially vain.

#2013-11-13 16:24:53 by Anonymouth @Anonymouth

I dont have a huge problem with two out of five pictures being studio shots. The other three must be normal photos taken by friends or "selfies" etc showing the woman as she will look when we go out to dinner or stay in and spend time together "for real" ie, what I'm really getting myself into if I begin a relationship with her... What she will look like on a day to day basis. I think the women will find we are actually less picky than they expect. We are less picky than the typical Chinese. But we are highly offended by the deception thing. I am a professional user of photoshop. I use it in my every day work and let me tell you there is some real, seriously bad photoshop work going on. Both with incerdible overuse of the healing brush and blur tools to smooth out and remove blemishes and liquify to enlarge eyes, increase the curviness by pushing in waists, adjusting busts/hips. I have even seen completely fake cleavage painted in. Its way beyond a bit of skin lightening and taking out a freckle here and there or adjusting the exposure to make a better photo. It is creatimg a woman who never existed in a completelt fake photo.

I have thought many times how fun it would be to create a browse category for most highly photoshopped women.

Much less funny to me are the ones that are done very well and hard to spot. Theymcould end up causing some poor guymto spend amton of money and use up all hismvacation for thenyearmto meet someone he will find himself unattracted to and feel lied to and betrayed. Mthenwomen think theynare increasing their chances but once thenruse is up, the guy will most likely be so upset by the deception that he will drop her even if he would have liked her had she just used her real pics in the first place.

Maybe there needs to be a couple of paragraphs in both English and Chinese discussing this and our feelingsnabout this that pop up as part of the picture uploading process or when people first make their profiles. Or perhaps, like the safety picture make them check a box saying whether a photo is unaltered and true. Then the true pictures have a different border color. Sort of pointing out the fakes for allmthe world t see and thereby "shaming" people nto using less of them or making it a less grey issue at least. You know if its full on plan tomdeceive then they will have to make themself into a real lier by clicking the wrong box and must have a thought tontheir action when they do it.

I no longer look at womens profiles to find a potential gf or spouse, but i told my fiancee who had all professional photos in her profile (she actually turned out to look very much like them, or in my mind a little better in real life and hers were only lighting and make up, no photoshop) that I completely didnt believe them and its one of the reasons I did not reply at first when she emailed me. Even when she did and we spoke only in chat, no video for a while, I did not know what she looked like because I just assumed the pics were going to be wildly inacurate. In my case I was so surprised to find her smiling back at me even prettier than she was in the pics. But that is not the norm.

Ladies, you should be policing yourselves on this too because the more of those fake pictures we see the less us men will believe ANYTHING you put online. Its bad for all of you to have so many women out there with fake pics because then we will be either given unreal expectations of how Chinese women should look, or we will begin to lose all ability to trust you, or both.

#2013-11-13 16:41:34 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@Anonymouth - I'm really sorry but what idiot would spend his vacation and a ton of money flying to China to meet someone who he had never seen anything to judge her by but a glamour shot. Surely not!

#2013-11-13 20:20:24 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

@johnabbot
No offence taken but I still maintain that this is an issue that needs addressing
As the owner of this site, you will get to see and check all profiles, both male and female. Guys like us are never likely to check out the men's section so if you are saying that many guys here are posting photos of themselves when they were much younger, then they are also deceptive (in my opinion)
You are correct in saying "what idiot would spend his vacation and a ton of money flying to China to meet someone who he had never seen anything to judge her by but a glamour shot"
Obviously only a fool!

But in the same vein, Anonymouth is correct when he says that a couple of glamour shots coupled with natural, daily life photos would probably solve this "issue" overnight
Yes, glamour shots are popular in China - and as you say, they are popular with brides on their wedding day - but they already HAVE their partner !

When a woman is using a glamour shot ONLY in order to ATTRACT a partner, then I feel that it is a little "deceptive"

As I said earlier, make-up is fine - because when we meet she can make herself look like the photo. How long would she be in the bathroom to make herself look like the glamour shot ?

My only "gripe" with this is the wasted time - simple !

A guy sees the glamour shots and contacts the girl - they go off and e-mail each other or video etc and then find they are not attracted to each other. (or he is not attracted to her) In some cases I think the girl may feel a little rejected or upset when the man has seen the real her and is no longer interested

Attraction is the FIRST thing we MUST have when beginning a new relationship

The girl may get her hopes up only to be let down badly when she reveals the "person behind the mask" and finds the guy is not interested any more

Of course, when a guy sees a 50 year old woman's glamour shots and she looks 25, he is not going to believe it so maybe he gives her a wide berth and does not contact her
If she had some daily-life pics there as well, then she may find a man who likes her for what she truly is

It's always going to be a contentious issue with good and bad on both sides

You mentioned Asian Beauties and ChnLove - well the reason that most (sensible) people give those 2 a wide berth is because just about ALL of the women there use glamour photos (especially AB)

One of the main reasons I joined CLM was because there are actually REAL women here with REAL photos and not agency people PRETENDING to be pretty girls and writing letters to you. Then you find that your "pretty girl" is out of town for the EXACT duration of your visit to China!

I must say that this has NEVER happened to me with any girl I have met on CLM

Any arrangements to meet have always been kept by both sides and no-one gets "false hopes" - so thanks for running an honest site here

But that does not detract from the issue of the glamour pics that are seen on CLM

Yes, every woman has the RIGHT to post them and I certainly have no issue with a woman wanting to look her best

But her best HAS to be believable if she is to be successful in finding a partner here

I find myself essentially agreeing with Anonymouth when he says

"Ladies, you should be policing yourselves on this too because the more of those fake pictures we see the less us men will believe ANYTHING you put online. Its bad for all of you to have so many women out there with fake pics because then we will be either given unreal expectations of how Chinese women should look, or we will begin to lose all ability to trust you, or both"

#2013-11-13 22:51:58 by Anonymouth @Anonymouth

@JohnAbbot i just recently heard a whole sad tale (not from CLM)
Of a guy who was duped by a woman in the USA who created a profile on a US based dating site for a woman in China, using pro shots, anx the US woman actually flirted and chatted with this guy, leading him to think she was the China woman who had no access to video.. until he went to China to see her.

He ended up going through the whole k1 process.. and now she has found herself in this dumpy little rural Cirado town of 900 people, 3 hours from the nearest Mexican restaurant.. he is not treating her well and doednt want to marry her.. so niether one was honest, I guess but I think people do end up going to China and finding things arent as they thought.

I wouldnt have traveled on glamour shots alone and sirt of used that as an exageration, but it hapoens. My main point is that not having equal or more "real" shots visiblle on a profile is not a goid practice. Western men ate less picky about looks than the Chinese and this only builds a man up for the inevitable let down. In otherwords it hurts her chsnces with him instead of helps them. Like showing up to a blind date with your hottest friend along to shaperone. Its a bad idea to leave your true self to be up for comparrison to the fabrication.

And like I said, thete is acceptable photo editing and ghen there is blatant and over the top photo manipulation like drawing in cleavage lines and complete reshaping of the profile. It goes way way to far on some of the pictures. I know, i can recognize this because as a product designer, and photographer I do this work and its very obvious to mre when I see poorly executed work.

#2013-11-13 22:57:41 by janethenderson @janethenderson

Thanks for reminding me of adding words like "the attached photos are taken in 2013" to my profile.

#2013-11-13 23:05:10 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

@panda2009: Thanks for the hair advice; do you happen to know a stylist in Chengdu. The phrase "Everyone Lies" is from the American television series, "House." This was the main character's mantra.
@Barry1: an interesting case, the "I love you." Camus said that we lie not only by saying other than what we mean but by saying more than what we mean. There might be something to this, although it may fall under the category of self-deception
@Paulfox1 & JohnAbbot: the glamour photo thing is an interesting phenomenon. I tried to make clear that I have no settled opinion on this issue but think you both make good points. Keep up the conversatin

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