Sex & Relationships

Sex Has Changed for Online Daters Over the Past Decade in Ways You Might Not Have Guessed

A recent survey finds people are becoming more conservative about casual sex—and more progressive about other kinds of sex.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Karen Roach

Online dating has come a long way. When Match.com launched in 1995, people joked that online dating was for the lonely and desperate. Today, “swipe right” is a part of the general lexicon. The rise of specialized dating sites means that whatever you’re into, you can find someone else to do that thing with you, if only for one night. You may be born alone and die alone, but if you get lonely in between, there’s an app for that!

OkCupid, which has been around since 2005, took a look at how the culture of sex and dating has changed over the last 10 years, and found a few surprises. For example, online daters are seemingly becoming more conservative (about casual sex), but also more progressive (about nearly every other kind of sex). Which can seem a little confusing, but people are nothing if not complex.

Here are some of the most interesting findings.

People say they are less likely to have casual sex.

That was true across the board for every group questioned, though straight women and gay men saw the biggest drops in casual sex interest, with relative declines of 23 and 26 percent.

The number of people who said they would date someone just for sex fell from 49 to 41 percent over the last decade. Answers in the affirmative fell for both men and women. 

People were less likely to believe in 2015 that a person could have too many sex partners than they did in 2005.

That change was true of all the groups questioned. 

People are more cool with women being open about how much sex they're having. 

Although, notably, the people who have the most problems with women talking about their sex lives are—ta-da!—women. Bisexual men and women were like, whatever. Have at it.

A lot of people said sex should happen somewhere between the third and the fifth dates. The wait-until-marriage cohort came in dead last.

In fact, the majority of people who said they needed to have sex with a partner before marriage only grew over the last decade.

Note that while straight women consistently had the most conservative responses to all these questions about sex, they actually were more likely to say, of any group questioned, that a lifetime commitment required the most sexual satisfaction they'd ever experienced.

See the entire survey.

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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