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With Technology, Sex Has Come a Long Way

With Technology, Sex Has Come a Long WayConsider how different dating, relationships, and sex have become with the influence of technology.

Back in the late 1970s, Rupert Holmes sang from the point of view of a man who was bored with his relationship. Looking through the personals section of his local newspaper, he spotted an intriguing ad from a woman who was seeking a more exciting partner to “escape” with.

And thus “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” continued: Holmes’s character “wrote to the paper” and arranged to meet his new partner at a bar. (Spoiler alert: His correspondent was actually his current partner, and the experience allowed them to learn more about each other and their relationship.)

The situation seems quaint now – after all, few people are writing letters to newspapers to find love or a hookup. Nowadays, Holmes’s character would likely pick up his smartphone, browse a dating site, and perhaps meet his new romantic interest the same night. They would already have information about each other – whether they were looking for a long-term relationship, for example, or a one-night stand. And they might have used apps to sext one another, track their sex lives, or learn more about sexual positions.

Last year, a survey by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and women’s health app Clue revealed some of the many ways that people around the world use technology to find partners, get sexual health information, and track their sex lives. You might be surprised by some of the results. Let’s take a look.


Over 140,000 people from 198 countries participated in the survey, which was translated into 15 languages. All respondents were required to be age 18 or older.

The vast majority of the respondents were women, with only 2,500 men and 2,100 genderqueer/nonbinary people participating. Still, the study authors called this distribution of participants “statistically legitimate.”


About 30% of the respondents used dating apps to find partners, but “friends with benefits” (sex without commitment) was the least desired relationship sought. Ten percent used apps to find partners for one-night stands.

People in Sweden were the most likely to find partners through technology, with 46% saying they’d used a dating app. Just over a third of Americans had used apps in this way.

Sex Education

How we learn about sex has changed, too. Apps, websites, and even video channels are used for sex education, from the basics to the finer points of solo and partnered sexual technique.

The survey found that 18% of the participants used apps to learn about sex, and that those with sexual experience were about as likely to do so as those who had no experience.

Nineteen percent of Americans had used apps for sex education. Almost a third of Chinese respondents had, and people form Singapore were the least likely (11%).

Men were more likely than women to seek information this way (27% and 18% respectively).


Sexting – using a device (such as a smartphone) to send a partner sexually explicit photos or messages – was common for the respondents. About two thirds of all respondents had sexted, with 40% saying they’d done so using SMS text messaging. In the United States, 65% sexted by SMS, and 38% said they used Snapchat. Overall, Snapchat seemed to be the preferred venue for younger people.

The practice was most common in South Africa and the U.S. and less common in Japan and South Korea.

Sexting is becoming more frequent, too. Kinsey Institute researcher Amanda Gesselman pointed out that in a 2012 survey, only 21% of the respondents had ever sexted. “This increase, and this large of a proportion of respondents, suggests that incorporating tech into our private lives is becoming normal—sexting may be becoming a new, but typical, step in a sexual or romantic relationship,” she commented.

Improving Relationships

Can tech be used to improve a sexual relationship? About 12% of respondents thought so, and they used apps accordingly. Men were more likely to do this. They were also more likely to use apps to learn about safe sex and their partner’s bodies than women were.

Less than 1% of the respondents felt that using an app to improve a relationship was “detrimental or useless.”

Tracking Sexual Activity

One in four respondents said they used an app to track their sexual activity. Over half of Filipinos did so, followed by 45% of Americans and 23% of those from the United Arab Emirates. Using apps to track sexual satisfaction and sexually-transmitted diseases was much less common (3% and 1% of respondents, respectively).


Apps were more frequently used by respondents who identified as a sexual or gender minority. Overall, 28% of heterosexual people used dating apps. But 44% of bi/pansexual, 49% of homosexual, and 55% of queer respondents did.

“This signals tech as a potentially more comfortable environment or a safer space than in-person or face-to-face encounters for those on the LGBTQ spectrum who are seeking romantic and sexual partners,” noted Amanda Gesselman.

What’s Next?

With technology constantly evolving and improving, it’s hard to know where we’ll be in another 40 years. Will we still use terms like swipe left and swipe right as a comment on attractiveness? Will we still be meeting people IRL (in real life), as the characters in the Piña Colada song did? Only time will tell.


Clue and the Kinsey Institute via

“Technology & Modern Sexuality: Results from Clue and Kinsey’s International Sex Survey”

(August 9, 2017)

Crist, Ry

“Sex and technology make a hot pair, Kinsey study suggests”

(August 11, 2017)

La, Lynn

“How does real sex look? These sites show the awkward truth”

(November 7, 2017)


Roman, Laura, Ashley Brown, and Alyssa Edes

“From 'Bae' To 'Submarining,' The Lingo Of Online Dating”

(January 7, 2018)