Sex

Are Tinder Users More Sexually Liberated?

The need for sex on a daily basis is associated with greater Tinder use.

Posted Jul 27, 2021 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan

KEY POINTS

  • About 17 percent of study participants reported that they had casual sex as a result of hooking up from Tinder.
  • People with more conservative views on sex and sexual behaviour report being less enthusiastic in engaging in online sexual activity.
  • Tinder use is related to a higher need for sex but not a higher need for affiliation with a secure, loving partner.
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Woman walking out of bedroom
Source: Photographee/shutterstock

Tinder is an easy-to-use dating app, particularly favoured by younger adults.  Despite its increasing popularity, Tinder has also earned a reputation as a hook-up app and as such has become associated with more risky sexual behaviours. In one study, it was found that some 17 percent of participants reported that they had casual sex as a result of hooking up on Tinder (Ligtenberg, 2015). 

There are other possible consequences associated with hooking up online, for example a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, sexual regret, anxiety and depression. Furthermore, risky behaviour such as unprotected sex, increased number of sexual partners and greater alcohol use has also been associated with the inclination to seek sexual partners online. 

A study by researchers from McGill University sought to investigate the relationship between Tinder use and several associated sexual behaviours. More specifically, the study looked at what kinds of behaviours were related to using Tinder. The researchers also assessed the factors associated with three risky sexual behaviours, which were not using condoms, having multiple sexual partners, and having non-consensual sex.

They collected data from participants aged 18 to 26, using several measures.

  • The Sexual Compulsivity Scale: ‘‘my sexual thoughts and behaviors are causing problems in my life.’’
  • The Brief Sexual Attitudes Scale measuring:
    • Permissiveness (casual sex is acceptable)
    • Birth control (birth control is part of responsible sexuality)
    • Communion (sex is usually an intensive, almost overwhelming experience)
    • Instrumentality (sex is primarily a body function like eating) 
  • The Need for Sexual Intimacy Scale, measuring:
    • Need for Sex (I need sex every day)
    • Need for Affiliation (I need a partner who loves me)
  • Permissiveness (casual sex is acceptable)
  • Birth control (birth control is part of responsible sexuality)
  • Communion (sex is usually an intensive, almost overwhelming experience)
  • Instrumentality (sex is primarily a body function like eating) 
  • Need for Sex (I need sex every day)
  • Need for Affiliation (I need a partner who loves me)

They also measured demographic factors such as sexual orientation, educational level, and other related behaviours such as age at first sexual intercourse, history of STIs, Tinder use, condom use (the last time you had oral or genital intercourse did you or your partner use protection, previous number of sexual partners, and non-consensual sex (has someone you met tried to have oral or genital sex without your consent).

Overall, the researchers found that some 40 percent of respondents in their study reported using Tinder. Furthermore, despite some studies finding males to be more frequent users of the Tinder app compared to females, this study found no gender differences in Tinder use.

Participants who reported not approving of casual sex or sex with several partners were less likely to report using Tinder. This is consistent with previous research which has found that people with more conservative views on sex and sexual behaviour, having more religious attitudes, and being less open to new experiences report being less enthusiastic in engaging in online sexual activity.  Conversely, those who reported having a need for sex every day reported a higher likelihood of using Tinder. Although the researchers found that Tinder use was related to a higher need for sex, they found that it was not related to a higher need for a need for affiliation, that is having a more secure loving partner.

In addition, the researchers found that increased use of Tinder was associated with higher educational levels, whereas lower use of Tinder was associated with an increased likelihood of living with one’s parents or other relatives or being in a committed relationship.

In terms of risky sexual behaviours such as not using condoms, having multiple sexual partners, and having non-consensual sex, the researchers found that women reported higher condom use compared to men. Furthermore, being in a serious relationship and having a higher need for sex were related to reporting a lower use of condoms during last sexual intercourse. Having five or more sexual partners was associated with a history of STIs, casually dating, being a Tinder user or being older. Whereas being older at the age of first sexual intercourse, being lower in sexual permissiveness or living with one’s parents was associated with having fewer than five sexual partners.

A higher prevalence of non-consensual sex was associated with having a history of STIs, Tinder use, being female, and an increased level of sexual compulsiveness. A lower prevalence of non-consensual sex was associated with being older at the age of first sexual intercourse, living with one’s parents or attaching higher importance to religion.

Finally, in addition to the associations with other sexual behaviours, this study found Tinder users to be more likely to have experienced non-consensual sex and had several sexual partners. However, the study found no difference between Tinder users and non-Tinder users for reporting using condoms. Overall, it remains unclear as to whether Tinder users are more sexually liberated than non-users.

References

Ligtenberg L. (2015) Tinder, the App that is setting the dating scene on fire: a uses and gratifications perspective. Amsterdam, Netherlands: University of Amsterdam.

Shapiro, G, K., Tatar, O. Sutton, A., Fisher, W, Naz, A, Perez, S.& Rosberger, Z. (2017) ‘Correlates of Tinder Use and Risky Sexual Behaviors in Young Adults’ Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking, 20, (12). 1-8.