Everyone knows that being single can be a minefield of disappointment and despair, and that is without being ghosted, zombied or having to face your grandma’s constant questions about the state of your love life.
But what happens when you become an unwilling participant in cruel dating behaviour that leaves you considering lifelong celibacy as a reasonable option?
This week, Sophie Stevenson from Stoke-On-Trent, claimed she was the subject of an elaborate ‘pigging’ prank that saw her travel to Holland to meet former holiday fling, Dutch student Jesse Mateman, but he failed to meet her.
Although Mateman denies the claims, Stevenson told ITV’s ‘This Morning’, that the only explanation she ever received for his behaviour was a text message that said: “You’ve been pigged”, with two pig emojis.
While this alleged behaviour may sound shocking (as it should), pigging is nothing new, and is certainly not a recent dating trend. It is a form of abusive behaviour that has always been entertained in the background of casual dating.
For the uninitiated, pigging refers to the hideous practice (instigated by young men) of asking women out as a joke or a prank. The term coming from the fact that the woman in question is deemed to be less unattractive and/or overweight (hence the hugely witty reference to farmyard animals).
But make no mistake, this isn’t something that is officially recognised - there are no official statistics on this sort of casual dating behaviour to refer to.
HuffPost also found a lack of people willing to come forward to officially discuss their experiences of pigging with us. But just because it isn’t being talked about on record, it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in the background - there are plenty of examples on social media and various forums.
Although it might sounds extreme, there is a wealth of evidence that suggests this is just the latest reincarnation of a dating practice that has long plagued women.
It has been defined on Urban Dictionary since at least 2004, lending weight to that evidence that this is no recent phenomenon.
Media reports of the so-called trend, also referred to as ‘fat girl rodeo’, seem to date back to 2013 but this has been around in popular culture for decades.
For any child of the nineties, you will be familiar with something very similar to pigging appearing in film plot line of ‘She’s All That’ (yes Freddie Prinze Junior we’re looking at you), which was released in 1999. Also released the same year, was ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ where Heath Ledger dates Julia Stiles because he is being paid by his friends.
Before last night I never even thought of myself as ugly. Now apparently I know what other people actually think about me..."
Reddit forums were sources of endless cases where people asked for help in dealing with this behaviour, although it is not explicitly referred to as pigging.
One example from 2015, sees a teen girl recall being asked to a high school dance by a boy from the basketball team, only to find out he was just taking part in a truth or dare game with his teammates.
“Before last night I never even thought of myself as ugly. I look in the mirror and see flaws but not some horribly ugly person who people would be embarrassed to take to a dance. Now apparently I know what other people actually think about me,” she said.
Writing in 2013, a woman said a man asked her out as an April Fool’s joke, even though he already had a girlfriend.
To which, another woman responded saying that she had been dating a man for six months, and considered him her ‘boyfriend’, before he broke up with her: “We went on lots of group dates where they could all make fun of me when I wasn’t paying attention. I wish I was making this up.”
There were over 200 comments on the post from 2013, with most agreeing they had similar experiences during their school years.
On Twitter people were also not shy about sharing their experiences of men they knew doing similar things.
There were even men themselves who were unashamed in admitted they had taken part in the game (although admittedly with some unintended consequences).
Even just the understanding of someone being in the same ‘league’ as their partner - a concept that all single people are cripplingly aware of - and use as a gauge for where to set their sights physically.
Even just a simple Google search brings up endless articles telling people how to date in their ‘own league’ and why they don’t have a hope in hell with people far more attractive than themselves.
In short, pigging is no current dating trend, it is something that has long bubbled away under the surface and will (likely) continue to do so.