I don’t know if it is just me that gets this because I work in sexual health or whether it is because I am very open about my usage of dating/hookup apps, but I am getting sick of people (in particularly older generations) bagging out apps. “It encourages sexual promiscuity” ,“it is leading to an increase in STI’s” ,“it’s not safe meeting strangers”…blah blah blah. People seem to be using apps as a scapegoat for a lot of the issues around young people’s sexuality and very often the positives and the benefits of utilising these platforms is forgotten. I’m not going to say that apps are perfect and that there aren’t negative aspects, but what I am going to do is highlight some of the benefits there is to utilising these platforms over more “traditional” ways of forming relationships.
First and foremost, I think it important to note that one of the strengths of apps is that there is an app out there for every sexual orientation; whether you are straight and using Tindr, blendr or bumble or if you are gay or bi and wanting to use tindr or grindr or scruff or if you are lesbian and wanting to use her or tindr apps have been very responsive in ensuring that they don’t discriminate against people that are looking for the type of love or affection they are seeking.
This leads me to the second advantage of apps, which is that it gives you access to a large population of people that you could be potentially partnered with. This is particularly useful when you look at same sex attracted communities where it can be hard to decipher or realise whether the person in line in front of you at the shops is also same sex attracted or whether that person sitting next to you at uni is making eye contact by accident or because they are wanting something more. Like what LGBT safe spaces and venues are beneficial, apps give you an audience of people that at bare minimum are curious about the same sex. On a lesser degree, this is true for straight people, you are getting people who you assume are available, you get an audience of people that are looking for something rather than going to a club and then seeing someone across the room whom you don’t know might just be having a night out with friends or might be in a relationship already.
Apps, due to the conversation-first mentality to them, also are very beneficial in sexual negotiation. Being able to communicate with someone before being face to face with them voids any level of face to face pressure that can be applied. When we talk about negotiation this could be many forms of negotiation, it could be negotiation around safer sex equipment usage, giving a space where you can say “bring condoms with you” or a space where you can talk about when you were last tested rather than waiting to when you are face to face and already ‘in the heat’ of things. It also applies to pleasure-based negotiation such as being able to discuss what you like, “I like getting given head”, “I like being kissed on the back of my neck” ,“I like people going down on me before sex”, “I want to top or bottom” ,“I like being the more dominant and in control partner”, etc. I don’t know about everyone else, but I can’t remember the last date that I was on or the last time I was in a club with someone and before deciding if they should come home with me, being able to name the sexual behaviours that I enjoy and what makes me feel comfortable in sexual situations. After all, if you are looking sex why not have a conversation about what constitutes good sex for you?
Now despite there being some good things as I mentioned before, it isn’t ALL perfect so there are some hints people should utilise to ensure they stay safe when on using apps. I like to live my life by 4 steps when meeting people from online spaces, first and foremost is getting further information about people. Ask for their Snapchat or their Facebook or Instagram, it can be useful to whittle out a catfish by seeing if the person has any other socials (also has the advantage of letting you see what they look like more than just four photos). When meeting up it can also be a good idea to meet in a mutual space like a café where you can get a perception of what someone is like before being alone with them. Next hint is to let a close friend know where you are going and what time you think you’ll be back. I know this can be awkward sometimes, but let’s be honest, we all have that one friend who we are going to tell after an ‘intimate encounter’ so when using apps why not just let them know before and say where you are going? Lastly, and people often overlook this, TRUST YOUR GUT INSTINCT if someone is making you feel uncomfortable or if someone doesn’t feel right get out of there. Sex is supposed to be pleasurable, if it isn’t satisfying then don’t do it.
Now there is the risk that due to you putting yourself out there for so many people, that there is a very large likelihood you are opening yourself up for rejection. I’m not going to act like this doesn’t suck but unfortunately this is not just an issue occurring on apps, rejection can happen anywhere. What is a little more unique to apps is that yes, the rejection is based almost entirely on looks. This can be harmful to peoples mental health and self-confidence. My advice to decrease these feelings, and I am very aware that it is easier said than done, but remember beauty is SSSSSSOOOOO subjective. Some people like brunettes, some blondes; some people like tall people, others like short. No one can be everyone’s type and yes there may be some rejection but the beauty of apps is there are plenty of other people out there to swipe away at.
Apps are not going to be for everyone, but I think demonising them only exacerbates the risk that can be associated with using them. No matter what method you use to make connections with people, remember that relationships, whether they are one-night encounters or romantic encounters or friends with benefits situations, are supposed to be satisfying and pleasurable and if they aren’t then it may be worth evaluating the purpose of that relationship. Seek satisfaction and pleasure using whatever platform that makes you feel comfortable and validated.