CoupleDumb has discussed the issues of infidelity many times. Recently, studies have shown that the advent of social media has coincided with a spike in cheating. Adultery, emotional infidelity and using the internet to hook-up have created a new avenue of unfaithful behaviors heretofore unseen. This week we will explore this phenomenon as well as what is behind these behaviors.
Want to get laid? There’s an app for that! While the technology age has brought us an access to information that this world has never known, it also is bringing us closer to a Caligula-esque Rave party that will make the 70s look like the 50s. Smart phones are allowing people in relationships with a wandering eye to let their fingers do the walking. Cheating is as easy as paying .99 for an app that will land you in a threesome with some local couple or even find you an anonymous hookup within 5 miles from where you are standing. There is no need to take someone to dinner, chat them up or even compliment their looks. It is as easy as point and click; names are optional.
Does this ease of sex scare anyone else? We aren’t worried that there may be too much sex out there but the lack of intimacy is a concern. Anonymous sex has been found to also involve risky behaviors that may lead to sexually transmitted disease. Once the veil of propriety is broken, the need to employ socially acceptable norms, such as safe sex, flies out the window as well. It isn’t the sex that is scary; it is the fact that inhibitions are not always the enemy.
Inhibitions are considered a ‘bad’ thing in sex because they limit our repertoire. We inhibit behaviors that we deem dangerous to ourselves whether they cause physical or emotional harm. This type of anonymous sex allows us to step outside of our usual personas and be someone else which includes letting go of the ‘hang ups’ or better judgment that keep us safe. It isn’t enough to go out and have nameless hook-ups, they then go home and pass on whatever unwanted souvenirs they may have picked up to their significant other.
Seven factors were associated with greater vs lesser involvement in anonymous sex among those practicing the behavior: (1) being involved in a relationship with a long-term partner; (2) liking to have sex in public places; (3) using bareback-oriented websites to identify sex partners; (4) greater impulsivity; (5) low level of condom use self-efficacy; (6) greater knowledge about HIV/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; and either (7a) severe childhood maltreatment or (7b) Caucasian race.
The emotional toll of this behavior is extensive. People who have been sexually active for a while can attest to the fact that over the years some activities that were once taboo are less so. The more we try, the less we feel is ‘bad’ or ‘out of the question’. We call this sexual tolerance. When you engage in risky behavior, you become accustomed to that rush. Going back to ‘vanilla’ sex with the old ball and chain just doesn’t cut it anymore. We begin to trigger the addictive mechanism which feeds off that rush of feeling naughty. And, just like a drug, the first time high of getting off on an elicit act is never re-experienced, so you do more -try more.
Look, sex is great and we encourage everyone to be healthy and have a lot of sex all the time. Be open with your partner about how you feel. The ease with which we can access sex like this is tempting. Think about it before you act. In the words of Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect, “Well… sometimes I have the feeling I can do crystal meth, but then I think, mmm… better not.”