It’s been a bad year for dating apps. In August, Vanity Fair writer and Bling Ring author Nancy Jo Sales wrote of the perils escort service Waterbury of Tinder in her think piece Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse”. She reported that heterosexual young people today – in particular, men in New York – were using dating apps solely for ‘wham bam thank you mam’ style soulless one night stands.
Dating apps when you’re gay are a whole other ball game, but when it comes to straight couples and how they interact, is she right?
The last five years have seen a dramatic change in the way we find people to have sex with, particularly since Tinder arrived in 2012. Cue moral panic: on-air news discussions and a zillion think pieces about how dating apps have ruined dating for everyone, brought out the absolute worst in humanity and caused the end of love and intimacy (which would be quite a feat if it were the case).
As Dr Bernie Hogan, researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, points out, ‘Obviously the moral panic around online dating is expected. It’s a new technology, a new way of arranging relationships and if you’re not participating in it it’s a new form of uncertainty.’
To put the panic in perspective, let’s remember that every generation reserves the right to say that ‘everything has gone to the dogs’ once they get a bit older and a new wave of hedonistic youths take over at the coal face of culture: drink, drugs, sex and rock n roll.
And, sex has been a favourite subject for moral panic since the dawn of time (the irony here being that it’s one of the few things that we all have in common). When all the men went off to war last century, panic. When the pill was invented, panic. When the sexual revolution happened, panic.
So, while there is certainly some truth in Sales’s report that dating apps do facilitate crappy and potentially hurtful one-night deceptions, as anyone who’s gone on a date with a serial swiper can attest to the bigger picture actually suggests something quite different.
The latest research suggests that young people today are actually having less sex than their parents’ generation – in fact, the frequency with which 16-44 year olds are getting it on has been steadily decreasing for the last two decades. And, according to the last poll by the British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal)62035-8.pdf%20) the number of times we’re having sex each month has dropped from five to three.
Millennials might lose their virginity earlier and have twice as many sexual partners before marriage than our parents but we’re actually having less sex. The most recent study shows that men and women on average have sex just less than five times a month – 4.9 for men and 4.8 for women. However, our parents were at it far more frequently – 6.2 times a month for men and 6.3 times for women.
So, while we might have more sexual partners, which potentially means more one night stands, it seems as though we are having sex less regularly and less sex on the whole than ever before.
Of course, this is likely to be because fewer of us in our 20s are married or in stable relationships than a generation ago. But, you’d think the flip side of that would be that we’d all be out there making the most of the opportunities offered to us by dating apps and the liberal attitudes towards casual sex which were hard-won in the ’60s and ’70s. We aren’t, so could there be more to it than that?