Sex Ed

STD Rates Are Rising, But It’s Not Because of Tinder and Grindr

November 13, 2017 by Justin Lehmiller

In the modern world, we have a tendency to blame almost all of our problems on technology–and this is especially true when it comes to sexual problems. For example, I’ve written a lot about how we like to blame everything on pornography, from sexual violence to risky sex to erectile dysfunction, among other things. In all of these cases, porn serves as a convenient target, but it’s not necessarily the right one.

Today, I want to focus on a different form of technology that’s been getting a lot of blame for sexual problems: online dating apps. They’ve been in the news a lot lately, with many pointing to them as the culprit for rising rates of STDs. Headlines like this make it clear what I mean: “Tinder and Grindr Dating Apps are Causing Cases of Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and HIV to soar.”

Just like the claims about porn, these claims about the dangers of online dating apps are misleading, and I explain why in my latest column over at TONIC.

As I discuss in this article, these apps may very well play a role when it comes to the spread of STDs, but if they do, it’s probably a very small one. There are several other factors that likely play much larger roles here. These include the fact that we’re screening for STDs more frequently today than we did in the past, our tools for detecting STDs have gotten much better in recent years, and attitudes toward STDs have changed quite a bit, especially now that HIV is no longer seen as a death sentence.

It’s also crucial to point out that research also finds there may be systematic differences between app users and non-users that can potentially explain why some studies have found a link between using dating apps and reporting higher rates of STDs. Check out the full article to learn more about this research.

One final note: let me be clear that none of this is to say that technology and the media are blameless. They may certainly be contributing in some way to the these problems. However, all of these problems are complex and multi-faceted, which means that looking only to the media is shortsighted and makes the task of identifying solutions all the more difficult.

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Image Source: 123RF/Денис Вдовиченко

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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