Skip to main content

Home Culture Culture Scene

‘No feeling when it comes to our safety is invalid and in a moment of panic, I felt helpless’

Opinion: Author Daniel Harding wonders if people are taking the right precautions when it comes to dating.

By Daniel Harding

Daniel Harding, Author
Author Daniel Harding (Photo: Provided)

As a community, we’ve curated a unique way of dating. The rule book has well and truly gone out of the window, and we’re blazing a new path. However, how safe are the decisions we’re making? Are we straying from the yellow brick road?

My friends might say that I’m a prolific dater. I’d argue that I’m just on a quest for ‘Mr Right.’ I’ve been on blind dates, speed dates, group dates, and more recently, a gym class date. I’m dating outside my box, widening my experience in an attempt to find something that clicks. Amongst these future husband screenings, I’ve had some wild experiences. But a recent encounter left me shook.

Firstly, this was not a hook-up. They serve a purpose and (for the most part) come with no strings attached. But I’m hopeful for the right strings.

After meeting in a bar over a year ago we’d recently reconnected. He was nice. Charming. Sweet. I remembered he was tall and broad-shouldered, perhaps triple my size. He’d joked that he was the man, and I was the woman (red flag) but he then pulled it back in later messages and showed quite a caring, vulnerable side.

He suggested we meet at this cute outdoor summer bar near him. I shaved my 5 o’clock shadow and spritzed some aftershave. The good weather was a perfect refresh to the dreary London dating scene.

I arrived early outside his building. He messaged saying that he was getting ready and gave me his flat number to come up. I rode the lift four floors and shared my location with another friend in case of emergency. I always do this.

“Dating should be amazing, but put in steps to stay safe”

He welcomed me in with a warm grin, his smile as wide as his shoulders. He kissed me before I could barely say ‘hey’ forcefully placing a hand around my throat. An odd greeting. He gestured to come in as he went into another room. Something didn’t feel right.

I walked down the corridor and into the other room. He passionately kissed me again, silencing me as I tried to remind him of the drink. Then he backed me into a wall grabbing my neck tighter, his eyes changing as he squared up to me. He looked angry. Like he was about to punch me. He then leaned back and spat in my face, still holding me by the neck as he did.

I threw my arms up in a panic, told him to stop, and that my friend knew where I was. He grabbed me again, hatred filling his eyes like he was possessed, yanked on my shorts which ripped from behind and went straight to the floor. I recoiled in fear.

With his spit covering my face, I wondered if I’d make it to the front door in time, or, if he’d catch me and that would be it. I cursed my decision to come up to his flat. I wasn’t sure what would happen next.

Daniel Harding
Author Daniel Harding at the launch of Gay Man Talking: All the Conversations We Never Had (Photo: Provided)

Then, he stopped.

His expression relaxed and he apologised. He followed as I edged towards the door and kissed me again, more gently this time, my face looking towards the exit. He said that he had told me what he liked and that we couldn’t ‘kiss like that’ and not expect to be spat at in the face. I was stunned.

I told him I felt uncomfortable. He then grabbed some shorts for me to wear, before asking if he could keep my ripped pair. I said no.

Nothing more happened. We went to the pop-up; he ordered drinks and resumed the charming persona from his previous messages. I was in shock, so I welcomed anything to get me out of that situation and into a public setting. I stood across from him, wondering what had just happened, or what more could have transpired. We parted ways, him apologising once more as I got into an Uber finally relaxing.

“Be safe in the city, not sorry”

Many people will think this a mild encounter in the world of dating, that many have experienced worse. Others may be triggered, but no feeling when it comes to our safety is invalid and in a moment of panic, I felt helpless.

This could have been a miscommunication. Him thinking one thing and me another. The lines of consent were blurred. Thankfully, in this case, he realised he’d gone too far and apologised. I believe his intention wasn’t to harm me.

The experience sobered me into seeing another side of dating. We take so many risks when agreeing to meet people, not knowing who the other person really is and where the situation might lead. At what cost?

Dating should be amazing, but put in steps to stay safe, share locations, and feel at ease with what is happening in every scenario you enter, otherwise, what’s the point? And communicate, be sure everyone knows what’s happening and has consented.

Be safe in the city, not sorry.

Daniel Harding is the author of Gay Man Talking: All the Conversations We Never Had, which is available now.

Need support? Call Samaritans on 116 123 from within UK or Republic of Ireland or email