Despite the rise in dating apps being associated with one time sexual encounters or ‘hooking up’, recent research from the Kirby Institute at UNSW Australia has found that more gay and bisexual men are meeting their long term partners through online dating.
Researchers surveyed 4215 gay and bisexual men and found that almost 80 per cent of respondents had met their primary regular partner online. The results suggest that the use of online dating to meet sexual and romantic partners has largely displaced other methods of meeting partners.
“In the past, men who used the internet to meet partners might have been described as a particular type - and usually this was associated with 'risky' behaviour,” said Associate Professor Garrett Prestage, chief investigator on the study. “Nowadays they are really just any sexually active gay man, and hence, yes of course they are riskier than men who are not using the net -which includes men who are generally not sexually active. Use of the internet to meet partners is so ubiquitous among gay men that claims of it being superficial make little sense. These days most men meet their long term partners on the net; not just one-off sexual contacts.”
While online dating apps tend to be associated with younger people, results from this study suggest that older men were more likely to have met their primary regular partner online. The overwhelming majority of men surveyed, regardless of age, had met their current partner online, particularly in recent years.
The results of this study suggest that comparisons between men who use online dating methods to meet partners and those who do not are probably more correctly described nowadays as comparisons between men who are actively seeking sexual and romantic partners and those who are not. In fact the population of gay and bisexual men using the internet for this purpose is now broadly equivalent to all sexually active gay and bisexual men.
Men are more likely to meet via online methods these days than through other means, but risky behaviour occurs regardless of where men meet. Interventions and information intended to reduce risk need to treat online dating and hooking up online as the 'norm'.
The Kirby Institute, UNSW Australia
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