The purpose of the current study is to determine the sexual esteem of online dating users. A survey using both the Sexuality Scale and the Self-Stigma of Online Dating Scale (SSODS) will ask participants about their self-perceived sexual esteem and their online dating usage. This survey will establish whether perceived sexual esteem and online dating are correlated in any way.
Online Dating Websites
There are very few studies that examine online dating. Online dating websites have become one of the most popular ways to form relationships in today’s society. (Clemens, Atkin, & Krishman, 2015) Over the past decade, online dating websites have earned more than two billion dollars in revenue. (Clemens et al., 2015) Over 40% of American’s have reported using at least one online dating website in their life. (Menkin, Robles, Wiley, and Gonzaga, 2015) The vast majority of research regarding online dating discusses different personality traits, relationship goals of users, and the success of finding compatible partners. Different reasons an individual uses online dating websites were found to be to build an identity, find a companion or sexual partner, or engage in more social activities. (Clemens et al., 2015) Age is also believed to play a role in the reason for using online websites to make connections. Menkin et al. (2015) found that older users visited the sites more for social interaction and companionship. Younger users were more likely to join the website in search for a sexual relationship or romantic relationship. Understanding why users may decide to join a dating website connects to the present study because the research suggests that motivators behind joining the site may differ between different demographics for a variety of reasons.
In terms of sex and sexual orientation differences in users of online dating websites, there are a few key differences. Clemens et al. (2015) examined personality traits using the Five Factor Model and found that users report different gratifications experienced from online dating websites and that women were more agreeable and homosexuals were more open to experiences. Menkin, Robles, Wiley, and Gonzaga (2015) found that women place more of an emphasis on communication while men place more of an emphasis on sexual attraction. Men are also more likely to join a dating website than women. (Clemens et al. 2015) This research connects to the present study because the survey will ask participants what their sexual orientation is and what they identify as in terms of their sex. If the current research is correct, homosexuals should be more likely to report using internet dating websites due to their openness to experiences and more men should report using online dating websites than women.
Compatibility and the success of online dating websites have been studied over the past decade as the popularity of these sites have taken off. Finkel, Eastwick, Karney, Reis, & Sprecher (2012) hypothesized that people use online dating sites rather than face-to-face dating due to its easy access, communication style, and matching abilities. Online dating sites offer a much larger variety of people to engage in conversation with. (Clemens et al., 2015) The pure exposure to more people makes the odds of finding someone that is compatible to the user greater than if that individual were to seek compatibility face-to-face. (Clemens et al., 2015) Online communication is also much easier for a variety of users for reasons such as distance, social anxiety, and safety concerns. (Ménard, & Offman, 2009) On the other hand, lying on dating profiles is a major theme among users. Over half of people surveyed in Finkle et al. (2012) reported lying in their profile. This goes against the safety aspect of online dating that Clement et al. (2015) mentions and suggests that people may be more hesitant to seek out a relationship on these websites due to deceitfulness of users. (Finkle et al., 2012) The present study focuses more on the self-perceived ideas about using online dating sites, but understanding the success of these websites is vital in fully comprehending why some users may decide to dating online rather that face-to-face and vice versa.
Mobile Dating App
Mobile dating apps are another form of online dating that will be discussed in the present study. Mobile dating apps have become extremely popular in modern relationships and sexual activity. (Bryant & Sheldon, 2017). Dating apps differ from online dating websites in a variety of ways, but there is very little research on mobile app dating as a whole. The most popular dating apps include Tinder, OkCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, Grinder, and Hinge. (Gatter & Hodkinson, 2016). The majority of dating app users use the apps for fun and hookups. (Hobbs, Owen, & Gerber, 2017). This differs from online dating websites because the majority of those users reported joining those site for companionship and finding a romantic partner. (Menkin, Robles, Wiley, & Gonzaga, 2015) Dating app users also report being younger than most dating website users. (Timmermans, & De Caluwé, 2017) Within the last five years, the average age for dating app users has gone from 25 years old to an average age of 39 years old. (Menkin, Robles, Wiley, & Gonzaga, 2015) This means that the popularity of these apps have started to reach older generations. The use of online dating websites and apps have both tripled over the past five years. (Bryant & Sheldon, 2017) One study suggests that there are no differences in the motivations behind uses websites versus apps. (Timmermans, & De Caluwé, 2017) Other studies suggests that mobile dating apps are used for casual hookups and entertainment, while online dating websites are used more for finding a partner. This research points out the importance of studying both dating apps and dating websites because of the extreme popularity they have among many generations. If mobile dating apps are the future way to find potential partners or spouses, it is in society’s best interest to study the users of both of these internet dating avenues and understand their motivations for joining the internet dating world.
Other mobile dating app studies examine characteristics of users. Reported characteristics of users vary depending on the study. Bryant and Sheldon (2017) found that individuals with high self-esteem were less motivated to partake in dating apps. Men were more likely than women to use the app for casual sex. (Hobbs et al., 2017) Other studies found that app dating users were typically more rebellious than non-users and users reported s change in views of monogamy and different sexual practices. (Gatter & Hodkinson, 2016). Bryant and Sheldon (2017) found that one-third of their participants have never met a person from a dating app in person. The very little knowledge about characteristics of dating app users is a gap in research that the present study hopes to fill.
Sexual esteem studies are also difficult to find in current sexuality based literature. The few studies that discuss sexual esteem often look at its association to sexual satisfaction and romantic relationships. Higher sexual esteem is associated with greater satisfaction and assertiveness. (Ménard, & Offman, 2009) There is a strong correlation between being sexual assertive, having high sexual satisfaction, and having high sexual esteem for both men and women. (Ménard, & Offman, 2009) Women have reported lower sexual esteem than men in the majority of research. (Ménard, & Offman, 2009) (Maas & Lefkowitz, 2015) The present study will use the Sexuality Scale (Snell & Papini, 1989) to get a better idea of the sexual esteem of internet dating users in particular rather than the population as a whole.
Sexual esteem studies have also addressed predictors of levels of sexual esteem. Individuals in long term relationships and individuals who have oral sex more frequently are more likely to report higher levels of sexual esteem. (Maas & Lefkowitz, 2015) Another study found that individuals that use contraceptives have higher levels of sexual esteem than people who do not use any preventative measures. (Ménard, & Offman, 2009) The age at which an individual first engages in sex has little to no correlation with the reported levels of sexual esteem. (Maas & Lefkowitz, 2015) Understanding the possible predictors of low sexual esteem correlates with this study because the majority of internet dating users report being single or not in a committed relationship. (Ménard, & Offman, 2009) Based on previous research, this may indicate lower levels of sexual esteem.
Self-esteem and Online Dating
There are no studies in the current literature that discuss sexual esteem and internet dating, but there are a few articles that discuss self-esteem and its correlation with internet dating. One study found that people with people with self-reported low self-esteem were more likely to use internet dating websites for casual sex and people with self-reported high levels of self-esteem were more likely to use dating websites looking for long term relationships. (Cooper, 1998) Over two thirds of online dating users have reported feeling addicted to the internet or cellphone. (Kim, Kwon, & Lee, 2009) There is also a high percentage of online dating users that report having depression and anxiety. (Cooper, 1998) Kim et al. (2009) discussed a survey released by Match.com that analyzed the common obsession with finding a relationship or sexual partner among its users. The very little research on self-esteem and internet dating predicts that motivators for using a dating app rather than a dating website may differ. The present study will not only aim to fill in the gaps of self-esteem and internet dating, but will also be the first article to focus specifically on sexual esteem and how it correlates to the usage of online dating websites and apps.
Although different dating techniques and sexual esteem have all been studied separately, the present study aims to find the correlation between the two. Self-esteem and internet dating have been briefly touched on in literature, but the sexual esteem of users is a gap that still remains to be filled. With the growing connection between technology and mental health, research examining the two is crucial in understanding the populations most likely to be affected by internet usage to establish relationships. Based on the current research, it is hypothesized that individuals with lower sexual esteem are more likely to use online dating apps and dating websites more than individuals with high sexual esteem. It is also predicted that there will be a negative correlation between internet dating and sexual esteem as a whole for both men and women.