Online dating: are we letting our guard down when it comes to looking after our sexual health?

Online dating: are we letting our guard down when it comes to looking after our sexual health?

With more and more people hooking up online and taking the relationship from virtual to carnal (!) are online daters taking too much of a risk with their sexual health? So shall we get swiping…

A few weeks ago, I found myself reading the following headline and asking if firstly this was true and secondly was it actually news or not:

‘Three quarters of a million people on Tinder have pubic lice.’

This was breaking news after the University of Sydney discovered that 1-2% of the global population have public lice. The Daily Mail kindly worked out that 2% of the millions of people who use Tinder equates to 750,000.

And bob’s your uncle… there’s suddenly a 2% chance you’ll meet someone on Tinder and get crabs from them.

Sensationalism aside though – if the story is to be believed then there’s a 2% chance anyone you meet will have public lice - with more and more people using online dating sites, fingers are being pointed, with the suggestion that online dating is increasing the numbers of sexually transmitted infections in the UK.

People flirt online for a bit, meet up and the time taken to get from ‘what’s your name’ to ‘walk of shame’, is drastically plummeting.

When you fill in your info on online dating sites, it’s likely you’ll list hobbies, looks, even sexual preferences – but there won’t be a box to tick to announce to potential hook ups that you have an STI. And that of course is if you even know you have a sexually transmitted infection – according to Public Health England, for example, over 20% of people in the UK living with HIV don’t know they have it. 

It’s a statistical fact that the more people we sleep with, the more chance there is of us catching a sexually transmitted infection and online hooking up makes meeting more potential conquests much easier for some. While there is no hard evidence around dating sites and sexually transmitted infections for heterosexual people, a US survey found that gay men using apps to find partners were 23% more likely to have gonorrhoea, and 35% more likely to have chlamydia, than those who met online or in clubs.

Having casual sex is totally acceptable, and if it's what you want to do, go and do it. Having loads of partners is completely cool, if that’s what ‘floats your boat’. Meeting someone online after work and taking them home is absolutely your choice. But be confident about the way you approach it, make informed decisions and take ownership of your own sexual health.

Dating apps are a tool to make meeting easier, but by saying the apps are to blame, you completely remove responsibility from the individual.

Many of the women I speak to are really conscious and aware about the possibility of getting pregnant. They'll use oral contraception, have injections or get the coil, but too often that's it. Condoms need to become part of our normal conversation, and more people need to start carrying them – that’s men and women.

Look out for my next blog, when I’ll let you in on my top tips for safe – and still sexy – online dating.

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