Cheating? iPhone Has an App for That

If you want to keep secrets from a relationship partner, you’re in luck: There’s a new iPhone and iPod Touch app for that. It’s called Tiger Text. The app automatically deletes sent and received text messages not only from phones but also from the server that typically stores messages. Its fortuitous name is purportedly not an ode to Tiger Woods, but an homage to the tiger, which is notoriously hard to track in the wild. I don’t know how monogamous tigers are, but I’m pretty sure Tiger Woods would have appreciated a program that helped him keep his secrets.

Pairing Tiger Text with the 2004 mobile-phone app Sound Cover would make covert activity even more possible. Sound Cover is a program that syncs with your phone to play a variety of desired background noises to mislead a caller. For example, when partner A calls and asks partner B about tardiness, partner B plays traffic background noises on command and apologizes for being late when partner B is really on a rendezvous.

So what do either of these apps have to do with sexism, gender and power? To be fair, they both could be used to plan surprise parties and romantic getaways for that special person. The apps aren’t inherently sexist. The link to sexism is that the apps assist in keeping secrets. Keeping secrets leads to lying, and lying is used as a form of power and control.

In All About Love bell hooks writes that “males learn to lie as a way of obtaining power, and females not only do the same but they also lie to pretend powerlessness.” hooks is describing a woman who lies about who she is or what she wants in order to get (and then keep) a man. These types of lies reflect the classic oppression of straight relationships in a sexist society. hooks is also describing hetero relationships where a man lies to a woman as a means of destabilizing and subordinating her.

This might not be popular, but I’m going to say it anyway: The privilege granted to men in our society gives them permission to maintain control by any means necessary. That now includes phone apps that help them lie.  hooks notes that men lie because they believe women are gullible and because they know they can get away with it. The pressure of being a “real man” in our society also encourages men to conceal their feelings. In other words, our culture supports it when men lie to women and when they lie to themselves. These new apps are part of that cultural practice that perpetuates this gendered power imbalance.

Technology can only be as liberating as the desires of those who use it. A lie here, a damned lie there, and voilà! For a small monthly fee, an iPhone application has helped destroy the trust in a relationship. Tiger Text and Sound Cover provide two more opportunities to deploy the power imbalance in gendered relationships. Technology layered on top of these preexisting conditions that support women and men lying to each other and to themselves is never politically innocent.

Comments

  1. Lauren T. says:

    As someone who has been the victim of her boyfriend being shady and lying behind her back, I am in utter disgust with this application. I have a word for all women: if your man feels the need to have this application, that is your sign to get out! NO woman deserves to feel like they have to question what their man is hiding. Hence: if the question ever crosses your mind that he’s lying or deceiving, chances are he IS. This application only leaves women wondering, feeling bad for themselves and questioning their certainty in the relationship. All signs of being subordinate and in an unhealthy relationship. Men already have enough damn power embedded in the institutions of our society, they most certainly shouldn’t have that power in their interpersonal relationships as well. This application should be forbidden.

  2. Devin O. says:

    I feel like it’s implied here that men are the only ones that would use this application, esp. for prurient purposes, and I find that disturbing and somewhat naive.

    My position is that ethics is located within the people, not the tools. In a day and age when texts are being pulled for use as incriminating evidence, in a day and age when personal branding and the shaping of an image for an employer are paramount, during a time when the lines are blurring between the legal and illegal use of certain drugs here in California, I feel like there are myriad uses for an app that deletes your text trail. A program geared towards privacy management isn’t inherently evil.

    I feel like the purpose of this article is to be alarmist and inflammatory when the message is a simple and basic one– be honest and considerate in your interpersonal relationships. If you can’t do that with this program, you sure as hell won’t be able to do it without.

  3. I agree with this author and find it scary and yet truthfully refreshing.
    THANK YOU…

  4. With all due respect, Devin O., it looks like you missed the point. Ebony Utley clearly states that lying is an issue of power and control. That’s not inherently a “guy thing” — anyone can do it. But when power trips happen on top of pre-existing disparities, then there’s an exponentially different kind of problem. You and the author agree that apps aren’t necessarily the problem — the problem is how they’re used and the culture in which they’re applied. Utley’s core message is about honesty. It’s a simple and basic one. Looks to me like you have lots in common with the author’s position.

  5. This article really impressed me. I think Ebony did a great job of analyzing our culture and how our technology reflects it. Of course a person of any gender might use this application; I can understand why a male’s initial reaction would be defensive, that’s usually the case when arguments like this one are made. However, beyond the purely emotionally-driven response there is a more thoughtful way to look at this. I think that anyone who wants to really be honest with themselves, regardless of their gender, would have to admit that (at least within the dominant western culture) there are social norms about lying that function to give men more power in their interpersonal relationships than women. Maybe it’s just a latent function but it still counts. Even if one thinks of themselves as honest, one person doesn’t make a culture, one person is not a society. To deny this because it might make us feel uncomfortable is dishonest. Thanks to Ebony for not ignoring the sometimes unpopular truth.

  6. The problem is not with the application itself, but more with Apple’s branding of it by naming it “Tiger Text.” I don’t for a minute believe that it has nothing to do with the Tiger Woods scandal. Thus, the company has played on both men and women’s fears (men’s fear that a “jumpoff” would share their sexy texts with the world and women’s fears that they will be the next Elin Woods) that were stirred up in the wake of the Tiger story. Branding the app in this way has shaped it as a product that has real implications for 21st century relationships (whether it actually does or not is questionable). Perhaps had this been the late 1990s, when Will Smith’s film Enemy of the State was a blockbuster hit, the app would’ve had a name dealing with wire taps or GPS tracking. My point is, I’m less interested in what the app says about what is (or is not) happening in male/female relationships, because men and women have always found ways to cheat and lie. Instead, I am more interested in how and why relationships continue to be an area that companies and marketing teams can target in order to induce and prey upon the consumer public’s fears. And do these marketing techniques, and the fear they spark, say something about our societal fears about monogamy and marriage?

  7. If it isn’t Tigertext it will only be something else. Cheaters will find a way to cheat whether they are male or female. I don’t necessarily blame Tigertext for helping cheaters get away with their deeds because I seriously doubt it was created for that purpose, although it can be used that way. I’m less interested in the app itself as opposed to what kinds of privileged conditions make it easy for men in particular to cheat. One reason men who cheat do it is because they feel entitled. Entitlement and privilege are two big reasons to watch out for men determined to have extramarital affairs.

  8. Let’s face it. People lie and people cheat. For me, the biggest problem with this app is that we’re seeing how media can make a profit off of personal misery. Given the Woods scandal I think the app is generally targeted at philandering men of any sexual orientation, but I can also see that it would be useful to cheating women too. The saddest part for me is what this app and its popularity are saying about human nature more generally…I shudder to think about what’s coming next.

  9. I generally agree with the ideas espoused in the article and the ways in which dishonesty in relationships displayed by both men and women can and do lead to mistrust. However, as a man I do feel a tad defensive not because I am a cheater but because of the way the app has been mistakenly described in press reports, leading to what I believe is a misunderstanding of how the app actually operates since both parties must have the app installed on their devices for it to work. While I would never excuse men like Tiger for their philandering ways, as a man I also know you only can get as far as the woman allows you to do so. And if I were a woman involved in a relationship and the man insisted I install this app, I would hope a serious red flag would be raised in my mind regarding why he would need so much “privacy.”

  10. A very intriquing and perceptive article. While I agree to some extent that this app maintains men’s control by any means necessary,” I must also state that there are other uses for this app as well. This can be useful for individuals who have addictions such as drugs and gambling. But back to cheating spouses… it’s interesting to think that right away, the advantage goes to the man. It is said that men are visual creatures…more so than women. I have to disagree. Women are very visual creatures. I feel they hide it better. I’ve been the fly on the wall when women have their conversations about men…any you think guys are bad. They don’t stop and gawk at a man when he passes, but I’ve seen women sneak a peak…just a little. Which is my point in around about way. Men are expected to be the pursuers. Women not so much. But they do pursue. Even in cheating, men are expected to do it…at some point. Woman not so much. But they do cheat. Now when she makes an excuse, this little new gadget will offer that certain unfaithful gal a greater advantage than she already has. Why I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that I wouldn’t be surprised if a woman came up with the idea…lol.

  11. hollytomlinson says:

    I think this article makes some excellent points and it is very important to think of how technology can be used to reinforce power relationships, however the arguments need to be expanded upon.

    Although Ebony’s comment about the different ways men and women lie and the argument that “The privilege granted to men in our society gives them permission to maintain control by any means necessary” may seem like common sense to many readers who are well versed in bell hooks and feminism in general, as many reasonable comments show, it is not common sense to everyone. If it were the privilege would be harder to maintain.

    Obviously, the space in this article didn’t allow for more stating the argument about men’s privilege with the assumption that readers already understood it. I think it would be good if Ebony wrote a follow up article, which expanded on and demonstrated this the for people who do not already understand/agree with it.

  12. Thanks for this article – it’s not everyday I see an article that combines such deep feminist theory with actual real-life subjects.

    That said, I think we would be missing the point if we didn’t talk about power within sexuality and whether relationships that are of an unfaithful nature are equal.

    Whether we believe romantic relationships and marriage to be socially constructed or not, the fact stands that, as feminists, cheating is ethically unacceptable because of the unequal playing field.

    As a man, I have little at stake in cheating, and even fewer things at stake if I decide to sleep with a married woman. This is because my maleness comes with privilege and power, and biologically, I have nothing at stake, either. Further, male privilege dictates that cheating is more accceptable for me than for women. Throw economic privilege into it and we see that, in cheating, women risk a lot more than do men, and it is all because of sexism.

    In cheating, women could stand to lose their economic autonomy because of a divorce, bodily autonomy because of a risk of pregnancy, and overall, their own identity because society never seems to put the scarlet letter on them for infidelity.

    So, in the end, at least for me, this is not as much about the application in itself, or even the lies it helps men and women tell, but rather, the act of inequality it promotes, that makes it a product that is inconsistent with feminism.

    Marc

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