I swiped left on Tinder so he found me on LinkedIn. Why can't some men take no for an answer?

Last week I got a message on LinkedIn from a man I’ve never met. This was weird enough to begin with – like most millennials, I go on LinkedIn approximately never – but he wasn’t reaching out with an exciting new job opportunity. Instead, he’d written to proposition me. This man had seen me on Tinder and, (correctly) suspecting we wouldn’t match, had found my last name, sought out my profile on a professional networking website and used it to try to pick me up.

I posted a screenshot of the message on Twitter and was met with an avalanche of sympathetic replies. Women around the world told me their horror stories, detailing the times men they’d already rejected on dating apps somehow found their Facebook or Instagram accounts and asked them out. One told me about a woman who’d received a phone call at her office from a hopeful suitor, who had apparently Googled her work contact number. Later that day a friend of mine was frightened and frustrated when she got home to find a stranger had printed a shirtless photo of himself and slid it under her front door, in some sort of profoundly misguided attempt at getting her attention.

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Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble are designed to facilitate matches between people with mutual interest. You can right-swipe as many men or women as you want but you’ll only be able to message the ones who right-swipe you back. The whole point of this set-up is to protect users from being barraged with messages from people they have no interest in dating.

That system is good in theory but, for as long as these apps have existed, users have been circumventing the processes by hunting down those who left-swipe them elsewhere on the internet. For some men, the knowledge that a woman is single is an invitation to do whatever it takes to get noticed – they treat dating like a job application, where going above and beyond to stand out is a good thing. It’s not, of course. (I can’t imagine the approach works very often, either – I usually hit delete on these messages without so much as a glance at the sender’s profile.)

Related: Creepy men slide into women's DMs all the time, but they can be shut down | Talia Jane

So why do it? Perhaps they’re misled by the fact that people legitimately do use social media for dating. Sliding into someone’s DMs, as the lingo goes, is so commonplace that Nicki Minaj devoted a song to it, while the trend of men ignoring the women they find attractive in real life then messaging them on Instagram later has become memeified. When done right, these social media connections can end happily –the actor Miranda Tapsell and the writer James Colley married after “meeting” on Twitter; I myself have dated a couple of guys I messaged on Instagram or Facebook. There are lot variables that go into which messages are fair play and which aren’t; the rules might be unwritten but they’re intuitive enough to anyone with a bit of social awareness.

But then I wonder if the men sending invasive messages actually expect a response, or just want to women to know that they’ve been seen, assessed and deemed suitable for sex. If this is a form of catcalling gone rogue – and I think it is – is it more about asserting masculinity and power than a genuine attempt at dating?

Being stalked on the internet by someone who has seen you on Tinder isn’t just unsettling evidence of their deep dive into your online presence but a signal that your lack of consent doesn’t matter to them. It’s a way to dominate spaces – like home and work – that should feel safe. Some might excuse these messages as bumbling attempts at courtship but I think they’re too deliberate for that.

My LinkedIn creep didn’t sign off his message by baring his soul with a heartfelt expression of undying love, or shyly asking me out for coffee. He ended it by talking about his dick and the things he would like to do with it.

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