From Academia: Casual Sex Motivates Tinder Users

Tinder is the leading online dating application, growing continuously with 100 million downloads and 10 million daily users since its launch in 2012.

However, Tinder has recently gained a reputation in the media as a ‘hook-up’ app, as more and more people use the app for casual sex.

A study has recently found that one of the primary motivations to use Tinder is hooking-up. To investigate the motivations for using the online dating app, Sumter, Vandenbosch and Ligtenberg (2017) developed a measure which specified six primary motivations: love, casual sex, self-worth validation, ease of communication, thrill of excitement and trendiness. Thrill and trendiness were excluded from the survey because of insufficient statistical reliability.

Overall, they found that both sexual disgust sensitivity and sociosexuality predicted motivation to use Tinder for casual sex. Disgust is an emotion that plays a role in promoting fitness and selection of a mate. Sexual disgust is an evolved response to prevent mating with biologically sub-optimal partners.

However, analysing the data for men and women separately, an interesting difference emerged: they found that for women only, sexual disgust sensitivity was directly insignificant; only sociosexuality directly predicted Tinder use for casual sex. Notably, for women, lower sexual disgust predicted higher sociosexuality, but only as a secondary effect – when they controlled for sociosexuality, difference in sexual disgust were not significant.

Participants with a higher sexual disgust sensitivity reported a lower motivation, while the participants with higher sociosexuality reported a higher motivation for casual sex in their Tinder usage.

Similar to this, data from another recent survey (Carpenter and McEwan, 2016) of college students shows that in this sample, the top three reasons for using dating apps were, in order: entertainment, dating and sex (a close third).

Women who use Tinder, however, may have lower sexual disgust sensitivity in the first place, leading to a biased sample.

The authors, Sumter, Vandenbosch and Ligtenberg (2017), wondered if women on Tinder are on average less disgusted by sex than women in general, suggesting that Tinder users may be a self-selected sample of women who are less disgusted by sex, and consequently more sex positive – and in turn are more likely to engage in casual sex. Another factor that could be taken into account, is how attractive one’s photos are –  men take more risks when shown more attractive photos, and online dating users are inclined to post their “best” and most attractive photos.

Men can come across differently on online dating apps, as postulated by the parental investment theory, because mating is a low-cost activity for males, they can afford to be non-discriminant in their mate selection (Geary, 1998; Le Boeuf, 1974). This may explain why men tend to be less selective on online dating platforms.

Thus, people with high scores on sociosexual orientation are considered to be more likely to engage in unrestricted relationships (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991) in which they are more likely to engage in sex without establishing closeness, commitment, or emotional bonding with a partner, compared to those with lower sociosexual scores.

People looking for an entrée to a long-term relationship may do better on less immediate, traditional online dating sites, though transitioning to a “real” relationship still may not be very easy or likely.

Read more about the studies here.