Thursday, December 4, 2014

Are Tinder Hookups Less Sexually Satisfying?

Once again, the media has resorted to blaming technology for human nature. This article on warns readers that hookups through apps such as Tinder are likely to be less sexually satisfying than sex with partners you meet in real life. This conclusion is based on the results of a new survey conducted by UK-based sex toy retailer Bondara, which found that respondents generally scored their digital hookups much lower in sexual satisfaction, duration, and comfort, as well as finding the encounters less exciting overall. I’m sure this interpretation has Tinder critics everywhere smugly exclaiming, “I told you so,” but I’d like a little more information before I can get on board with this observation.

The article states that the survey respondents were asked to “rate their app-facilitated sexual experiences, and compare them against jaunts with a frequent partner they hooked up with IRL.” Hold on, back up. Frequent partner? They asked participants to rate the sexual satisfaction of random online hookups against those of frequent partners they met offline? I was unable to find the text of the actual survey and results, so I’m not sure if this was poor wording on the part of the journalist, but do I even need to explain why this is an unfair comparison? Of course the sexual satisfaction of a frequent partner is (generally) going to be higher than that of a one night stand! Learning each other’s hot buttons and becoming more familiar and comfortable with each other is one of the benefits of having an ongoing sexual relationship, regardless of how it started.

But let’s say this was just a case of poor wording. Maybe, instead of frequent partners, what they meant was recent partners met in real life. This comparison is a little more fairly balanced, but there are still some wildcards that make a world of difference. Think about the last several people you hooked up with without the help of a dating site or app. I’d bet that very few of them - if any - were complete strangers when your flirtation began. In the real world, we tend to meet new potential partners through friends, work, clubs, classes, and other situations where we have some sort of familiarity with the person prior to the first date. Even a modest amount of familiarity with a new partner prior to getting naked can raise your comfort level considerably, and it doesn’t take a survey to conclude that being more comfortable with your partner will raise your level of satisfaction. In addition to helping ease first-time nerves, a higher comfort level will usually mean that you will be more likely to speak up about your likes and dislikes, resulting in a much more satisfying experience.

It’s my suspicion that what this survey really tells us is that one night stands with strangers are likely to be less satisfying than encounters with people you already know. Rather than blaming apps like Tinder for all the bad sex we’re having, the article could have focused more on how much better sex is when you’ve taken the time to get to know your partner a little better. Of course, we all know that a headline reading Becoming more comfortable with your partner results in better sex is less of a draw than New survey says [hot app of the moment] is bad for your sex life.

Personally, I’ve had a lot of great sex as a result of Tinder, but I don’t exactly use it as a hookup app. I tend to do a bit of chatting before that first date to get to know my potential match a little better, and might even postpone getting busy until at least date #2. But that’s just my experience, and your mileage may vary. I’d be interested to hear your observations of encounters with on and offline hookups - including how well you knew the person before jumping into bed - to make a more accurate comparison. I have a hunch that, all things being equal, we wouldn’t see much of a difference between the two except, perhaps, that us Tinder users are getting a lot more action.