Indiana University Study Examines Women’s Worldwide Use of Dating Apps

The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and Clue, a Berlin-based female health company, have released the largest known survey of women’s behaviors on sexting and dating app use.

Researchers surveyed more than 130,000 women in 191 countries. They found that one fifth of all women used dating apps to find sexual partners. The practice was most common in Oceania and least common in Africa and Asia.

“While researchers have conducted a vast array of studies on sex, love, and technology, we’ve been really limited in what we know about these associations outside of North America or Western Europe,” said study lead author Amanda Gesselman, associate director for research at the Kinsey Institute. “This is the first study that’s been able to give us insight into the use of technology in the sexual lives of such a large number of women around the world.”

Over half of all women reported having received or sent sexting messages, and this was consistent across all geographic areas. Researchers were surprised to learn that women in countries with higher gender inequality reported being more than four times more likely to report sexting than women in more egalitarian regions. “This suggests that more conservative ideals regarding gender roles do not necessarily prevent women from engaging in taboo or forbidden behaviors,” said Virginia Vitzthum, professor of anthropology at Indiana University, Kinsey Institute senior scientist, senior research scientist at Clue, and a co-author of the study. “This insight opens up an entirely novel line of inquiry for understanding how women navigate social expectations to meet their own needs and desires.”

“There’s a near-universal desire to seek romantic and sexual connections,” Vitzthum added. “With rising access to smartphones, people around the world increasingly form these connections online. The Clue-Kinsey sex-tech survey used the same technology to reveal for the first time how women have adapted sex-tech to their lives, no matter where they live.”

The full study, “Mobile Sex-Tech Apps: How Use Differs Across Global Areas of High and Low Gender Equality,” was published on PLOS One. It may be accessed here.

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