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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Few researchers of Internet sexual exploration have systematically compared variance of use across sexual orientations, with even fewer surveying bisexual respondents.
In , 15, individuals responded to an online survey of their use of Internet personals and adult websites. Gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals GLBs were more likely than heterosexuals to have exchanged correspondence, met others offline, and had sex with someone they met through personal . Whereas gay men and lesbians of all ages were most likely to have established a long-term relationship as a result of personals, heterosexuals over age 40 were more likely to have established a long-term relationship than younger heterosexuals.
Further, compared to men, women were approximately two times as likely to have established a serious relationship as a result of personals. Qualitative findings suggest that the Internet functions not only as a means of screening for desired characteristics, but also as a shield against prejudice in real life encounters. GLBs and heterosexuals alike used online venues as a means of sexual identity development, sexual exploration, and community building.
In spite of these profound changes, the two primary principles of partner selection, propinquity and homogamy, remain intact Starbuck, Propinquity finding partners nearby—i. For example, users may choose to limit their dating search to people who live 5—25 miles away if they are in cities, or up to miles if they are in more rural areas. The Internet thereby allows users to electronically apply the principle of propinquity to filter the huge, nationwide pool of eligible partners.
Gay men, lesbians, and bisexual men and women can visit numerous personals sites like PlanetOut. Such sites may be particularly important to men who have sex with men and GLBs who live in sparsely populated regions. Older women constitute another social category that might particularly benefit from the new technology. Relative to men, older women e. Nevertheless, older women, who are overrepresented in online personals Jagger, , perhaps for lack of better alternatives, have embraced the Internet as a virtual place to meet dates and mates.
Finally, the anonymity of Internet meetings renders its sites ideal for individuals and groups whose sexual interests may require discretion or secrecy. People whose sexual tastes run counter to traditionalist norms may find that the Internet connects them with their preferred sexual communities while shielding them from social scrutiny in their professional and friendship networks. Using an exploratory and descriptive approach, this analysis will compare use patterns and indicators of success in sexual and romantic partnering between gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual visitors of personals sites.
Insofar as the anonymity of the Internet creates a more secure place to explore and disclose all types of sexual interests, we also explore the attraction of virtual courtship for those with non-traditional sexual interests. We draw on both quantitative and qualitative data for these analyses.
During a two-week period in mid-February , both elle. Visitors to each site were presented with a banner that took them to the survey. All participants were provided an opportunity to view the privacy agreement, and asked for their birth year; those under age 18 were dismissed as under-age to participate. About twice the of participants clicked the banner as chose to complete the actual item survey, which took between 10—15 minutes to complete, and for which participants were provided no incentive.
In total, 15, individuals completed the survey. To prevent individuals from responding to the survey multiple times, a computer program prevented multiple responses from any given computer. The nine items of the survey dealing with online personals took about five minutes to complete. Preliminary findings from the survey were reported in Elle magazine Elle, , and on elle. All findings reported in this analysis are based on secondary analysis of the anonymous data from this survey. Participants were asked if they had logged on to any personals i. Because many personals sites allow users to browse personals without creating a profile themselves, participants were asked whether they had posted a profile, and if so, what experiences has resulted from posting.
Data on demographic characteristics including age, sexual orientation, education high school or less, some college or associate degree, college graduate, graduate degree , and relationship status were also collected. Data on race and ethnicity were not collected. A total of 2, participants provided qualitative responses to an open-ended question inviting all respondents to elaborate on their answers by providing details about their positive and negative experiences with online personals and Internet sexuality.
Responses were first organized by the two primary independent variables, gender and sexual orientation, resulting in the formation of the following groups: heterosexual women, heterosexual men, lesbian women, gay men, bisexual women, and bisexual men.
Group themes were then compared across gender clusters for heterosexuals, and separately for lesbian, gay, and bisexual respondents, and then themes were examined for discrepancies and commonalities between heterosexuals and homosexuals. A third independent variable, age, was also considered. A majority of the 15, individuals who completed the survey Heterosexual men Notably, compared to heterosexual men and women, GLBs were overall more likely to have actually posted a profile see Table 1.
are provided in Table 2. Internet personals ificantly facilitated the establishment of serious relationships among heterosexual women over age 40 There was no relationship between age and having established a serious relationship as a result of Internet personals among GLBs percents by sexual orientation are reported in Table 3 ; data on age not shown. Finally, a two-step logistic regression was conducted to predict the likelihood of participants having established a serious relationship as a result of online personals.
In the first step, age, gender, sexual orientation, and education were entered into the model. Net the effects of other variables, bisexuals were statistically similar to heterosexuals in their likelihood of having established a serious relationship as a result of online personals. Compared to men, women were approximately two times as likely to have established a serious relationship Exp. Controlling for the effects of other variables, older individuals also had a greater likelihood of having established a serious relationship.
In total, 2, participants responded to the open-ended question at the end of the survey. Of these, participants said they had logged on to adult but not personals sites, so their narratives were eliminated, leaving 1, narratives from heterosexuals and narratives from gay, lesbian, or bisexual respondents for our analysis.
These remaining ones suggested that gay, lesbian, and bisexual participants did not use the Internet in ways that strongly diverged from heterosexual users. We found that the Internet not only provides users with a means of identifying available partners while shielding them from prejudices, but also provides a venue for virtual communities and sexual exploration. Using narratives from both homosexuals and heterosexuals for illustration, we briefly explore these three dominant themes. Because many respondents who used personals sites also visited chat rooms and were sometimes vague about where they met the partner they were describing, we draw on their virtual encounters more generally; we did not draw from the few narratives from respondents who clearly indicated they were referring only to persons met via adult sites..
For both heterosexuals and GLBs, the Internet provided a means of avoiding the pitfalls inherent in relying solely on local, real world venues to meet other people. A potential romantic partner who one meets in a public place may disclose his or her goals and preferences gradually over the course of multiple dates; users of online personals can avoid over-investing time and energy in pursuit of less-than-ideal matches.
Online dating saves a wasted date and is a great screening tool. Heterosexuals, especially residents of smaller towns and cities, voiced complaints about the lack of local eligible singles, and used online personals as a means of augmenting their meager dating pool. If you are serious about meeting people for dating and have issues with shyness, on-line dating is difficult to beat! Paradoxically, the social distance afforded by this electronic medium appears to both enhance and inhibit honest self-expression.
Given that the Internet provides users with the ability to re construct themselves virtually, its use may pose more of a challenge for those who prioritize physical attraction and therefore value truth in advertising.
And a few of the men I dated have evolved into friends. In addition to friendships, the Internet provides virtual community for people who might otherwise feel isolated due to their marginalized identities or niche sexual interests. We view web-sites together, chat online together, and play together at couples clubs. It has enhanced our relationship in many positive ways, not all of them sexual. It helped me realize that there are a lot of people in the same situation.
I am very honest about this when I meet women online or in person. I find BDSM websites useful for finding information and advice from others with similar interests. I told him things I was sure I would not share in real life. As it turned out, we both had much better ideas of how to please each other when we did get together.
As a result, it has drastically changed the culture of dating and interpersonal communication for many. This may especially be the case for those individuals who feel sexually-marginalized by mainstream society e. Although a wide variety of personals websites have been developed and are utilized every day by millions across the globe, there has been little empirical research evaluating gender and sexual orientation differences in--and outcomes from--Internet personals use. The quantitative data from this analysis have indicated several findings worth highlighting. First, more than half of the participants indicated having ly visited an online personals website with nearly three-quarters of these individuals having created a profile on one or more sites.
Furthermore, GLBs were more likely than heterosexuals to have created profiles. This finding mirrors those of researchers Harris Interactive, and further supports the observation that GLBs continue to utilize the Internet as a resource to meet like-minded individuals Chiasson et al. Second, these data indicate, among men, gays and bisexuals were more likely than heterosexuals to have created their online profiles in an effort to test sex appeal, to seek discreet affairs among bisexual men , and seek serious relationships among gay men.
Among women, bisexuals were most likely to endorse responses that clustered around exploring their sexuality e. The Internet has become an effective medium to circumvent sexual stigma and the hetero-normativity of most real-world venues, enabling users to encounter others with similar socio-sexual interests Chiasson et al. Further, these were net the effects of other important variables such as intent to establish a serious relationship.
On the other hand, age did not play a ificant role in establishing a long-term relationship among GLBs. This may be a result of so many GLBs of all ages using the Internet as means of finding partners in lieu of other venues. In essence, Internet personals are most attractive and most important to those who have fewer alternatives in the physical world for meeting potential dates and mates. Qualitative data were used to elaborate themes that could only be tapped with a few short quantitative items, and were especially useful in illustrating that Internet personals are not just used to locate short-term sex partners.
First, the Internet is particularly effective as a dating tool because it so easily matches partners on the basis of homogamous traits of interest. Third, because this electronic medium provides some social distance and anonymity, it provides users with an increased sense of privacy and security as they explore many facets of identity, form relationships, and explore sexual behavior both virtually and in real life. People use the Internet to expand their social networks of like-minded individuals based on a host of interests, and these data illustrate how similarities based on sexual orientation or sexual interests are no exception.
Limitations as well as strengths of the study should be mentioned. To increase participation rates, the mass media survey was necessarily short and relied on single-item measures of key variables. Because our project was based on secondary analysis of the resulting data set, several of the items had less than ideal wording.
This therefore limits the interpretations of the . For example, participants were presented with broad questions e. Although participants were given an opportunity to provide more information in a qualitative format at the end of the survey, as more than two-thousand participants did, this survey formatting has clearly censored a complete range of possible responses.
Further, because only a minority of participants volunteered to respond to the open-ended question at the end of the survey, their narratives may not be representative of the experiences of the larger sample. Although our sample was large, it was not nationally representative, and the survey did not gather information on ethnicity. Further, differences between the demographics of Internet users and non-users have been diminishing over time as Internet usage becomes more ubiquitous, and the percentage of women, ethnic minorities, and older individuals using the Internet has increased Pew Internet and American Life Project, Nonetheless, given that the population of interest consisted of users of Internet dating sites, concerns about demographic differences between Internet users and non-Internet users may be moot.
The broad-based appeal of the msnbc. An anonymous online sample may have attracted a wider range of closeted gay men and lesbian women compared to studies using face-to-face interviews or recruiting via publications, interest groups, or gay Internet sites serving GLBs. A ificant strength of this analysis was its ability to capture a diverse range of understudied GLBs, particularly bisexually-identified men and women. Finally, this analysis took a mixed method approach whereby quantitative findings were mirrored and supported with qualitative insight, and vice versa.
Such an approach provides an ideal opportunity for well-informed empirical analyses. Deficiencies in this study yield reminders for future researchers. This is a limitation that can be easily avoided with the addition of one simple question. Future research on adult users of Internet personals sites should be sure to investigate whether the social distance conferred by the Internet frees women to initiate contact with similar or greater frequency than men do.
Further, the Internet, where potential daters have an opportunity to express preferences or disqualify candidates with undesirable traits, provides a helpful tallying tool for researchers interested in studying which social characteristics remain important screeners for homogamy in contemporary courtship.
And while Internet dating sites filter prospective matches on the basis of proximity, it is also clear that the Internet is a means to overcome geographical barriers to dating. Future researchers who study Internet-initiated relationships can ask specifically about physical distance at the time of first contact, as well as other details that will allow us to better understand how cyberspace has, or has not, changed the dating game.
We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive critiques. Though gay marriage is still not legally recognized throughout much of the U. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Int J Sex Health. Author manuscript; available in PMC May Janet Lever , Ph. Author information Copyright and information Disclaimer. Address Correspondence to: Christian Grov Ph. New York, NY. Copyright notice. See other articles in PMC that cite the published article.
Abstract Few researchers of Internet sexual exploration have systematically compared variance of use across sexual orientations, with even fewer surveying bisexual respondents. Keywords: Internet, online dating, gender, personals, age, gay, lesbian, bisexual.Women seeking sex Bowen
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Searching for Love in all the “Write” Places: Exploring Internet Personals Use by Sexual Orientation, Gender, and Age