Researchers in Canada are flummoxed a puzzling set of statistics — despite the fact that most people had a safe sex message shouted at them from a young age, instances of certain sexually transmitted diseases have increased dramatically in the last decade or so. According to some experts the STDstravaganza can be blamed on online dating, and the false sense of intimacy and trust meeting people online can foster. Because nothing says "I don't have the clap" like a flirtatious email exchange.
America's friendly neighbor to the north has a small but growing syhpilis problem. According to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, new cases of syphilis have increased tenfold since 2000, and chlamydia cases have jumped 66%. Meanwhile, online dating in North America has grown to a multimillion dollar industry to a multibillion dollar industry within the decade, and now more than a quarter of Canadians say they've tried internet dating. While research examining the correlation between relationships started with the help of dating websites and propensity to believe that your pre-existing inside jokes will pretty much do the same job as a condom still needs to be conducted, it doesn't seem too far-fetched to blame increased infection rates on decreased use of barrier methods, and decreased condom use on an increase in artificial, ultimately misplaced trust. The sort of trust that can be found all over the internet.
But it's not just starry-eyed dater naiveté that's keeping dicks condomless and chlamydia tests positive; in many cases, daters don't use STD-stymying barrier methods because they think it's more hassle than its worth. Older widowed or divorced daters — many of them have never felt they had to worry about interunderpants infections during their long tenures with monogamy — often turn to the internet when they reenter the dating world and they skip condoms for some pretty dumb reasons. According to the National Post, older ladies may eschew condoms because they feel like it's an unnecessary precaution against impossible postmenopausal pregnancy. Older men deal with equipment problems with greater frequency than their younger counterparts and may be reluctant to wrap it up because of concerns that decreased sensitivity will impact their sexual performance (apparently, the encore to some Great Sexual Performances is giving your partner gonorrhea).
Stateside, the picture isn't as dramatic, but worrisome in its own way. In the last decade, new cases of syphilis have increased in some demographics, and chlamydia cases have skyrocketed. In response, there's been a smattering of new ads designed to convince people to stop fucking without condoms, like the unsettling ads that started appearing in Chicago public transportation ads a couple of years ago. They featured a shot of the weirdest text message conversation ever ("Did u hear? Syphilis is back!""R U Getting tested?") as a way to assure people on the bus that everyone else on the bus had syphilis, especially teenagers.
Let this be a warning to you online daters: cat ownership, sweater wearing, and a mutual Downton Abbey obsession doesn't mean that cute guy from OKCupid won't give you the clap.
Downside of online dating: More STD's, some experts say [National Post]
Image by Jim Cooke.