My first foray into the world of online dating was preceded by a fair amount of reticence. My marriage of 22 years had ended, and it was taking some time for me to gird my loins as it were. But after a family event when an older female relative said to me, “Oh, look at you, you’ve got your lights back on again dear”, my mind started to entertain the idea of male, um, companionship.
Given that I had never been very good at picking up men in bars, and my friends weren’t exactly clamouring to be wingwomen, I turned to Tinder for help.
Those first few encounters were incredibly nerve-wracking – the last time I’d been on a date it was literally the last century – but it’s safe to say I took to online dating like a duck to water, and over the past four years have had the full range of experiences.
At one end of the spectrum, I’ve often had to consider my exit strategy before I’ve even ordered a drink and I have a gallery of dick pics, but I’ve also had a lot of fun, met some wonderful people, and even (briefly) fell in love.
In many ways though, online dating is “a brave new world” and as a social researcher I’ve become fascinated with the question of how far and in what ways dating apps may be impacting social codes of behaviour when it comes to people meeting other people they may want to have sex with.
For instance, why is it seemingly okay to lie about your age, post photos of yourself from 1987, or ghost someone you’ve been on several dates with?
And of course, there are the other stories we’re hearing, that people are increasingly experiencing so-called “rough sex” with new partners, not all of which is consensual, and that drink-spiking is becoming a common hazard.
At [social change agency] Project Gender, we think it’s time to put some stats behind the stories and lift the lid on how New Zealanders are navigating the world of online dating. For the next week, we’re running the Aotearoa Online Dating & Sex Survey to find out what people are getting up to in the bedroom (or in the bushes!), whether they’re giving consent (and how), how safe people are feeling, but also how much fun people are having and whether the apps are delivering on their promise.
I’ve been designing online surveys for over 10 years now and this is certainly one of the more interesting ones we’ve built – there has been much shrieking in the office and scrubbing of our browser history!
We also enlisted the help of experts in sexual violence, and disabled and LGBTQI+ people to review our questions to make sure the survey is as safe, i.e. non-triggering, as possible and that the various pathways through the survey are inclusive of all New Zealanders.
So, if you’ve been on a dating app in the past 12 months, go ahead and tell us – how often do people look nothing like their profile photos, and have you ever sent anyone a dick pic? It’s completely anonymous, you can tell us everything...