More and more of us are beginning to ditch the idea of the classic Netflix-and-chill hookups; And honestly, why not? Especially when you can download a dating app that promises no strings sex – Dating and hooking up is literally at your fingertips. But now, the serious bit. Meeting up with someone you’ve only seen on your phone screen and know nothing about is never a risk-free endeavor, even more so when the possibility of having no strings attached sex is in the offing. Even though these dating apps have allowed many individuals to connect with others, especially during the pandemic, some users have alerted about the ‘so-called cyber-dating environment’ that potentially puts their physical or emotional health at risk.

Primarily, numerous international and local studies, have reported a rapid spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as risky sexual behaviors, including condom-less sexual intercourse, drugs or alcohol use during sex and many more. According to a research conducted among university students in Hong Kong discovered that dating apps users were more likely than non-users to have multiple sexual partners and unprotected sex, or the inconsistent use of condoms with internal ejaculation, higher engagement in casual sex and sexual abuse. Half (50.8%) of straight people mentioned the topic of having safe sex with potential partners on dating apps were rarely or never discussed.  These factors have caused a significant increase of sexual assaults and violence related to dating apps, universally.

This is particularly true for women as well as people of different sexual orientations or gender identities, who face disproportionately high levels of sexist harassment and abuse on the platforms. Some daters shared that they were often asked for a sexual favor before being greeted or told their actual name, in which made them feel a certain degree of psychological stress – as if they were being dismissed and of lesser value.

Being aware of the risks of dating apps is one thing, you should equip yourself with a range of strategies to protect and manage your well-being, that includes negotiating consent and practicing safe sex; after all, it’s a total stranger.

Safe sex and Consent

Do not be afraid to assert your need for condom use, remember that all of us have a responsibility to be accountable for our own sexual health, not only men. Some dating apps allow users to share their sexual health status (HIV status, treatment regimes, ‘date last tested’) and preferred sexual practices within the profile. Always carry protection like a condom or a dental dam in case you ever need it. If you engage in regular sex, it is advised to get regular STI checks too. Better be safe than sorry.

Red flag alert!

We can define red flags or warning signs on dating platforms by the lack of information, unclear photos, and profile text that displayed sexism, racism and other negative attributes. Some red flags may appear when you start chatting, these include possessiveness, narcissism, pushiness or texts and pictures that you may find too sexual, too soon. These qualities are a straight up flashing signal that the person has no plans whatsoever in respecting you and your boundaries.

There’s no such thing as ‘extra’ when being safe

Going an extra mile to ensure your safety is always a wise choice! You can do so by sharing your location with your close friends or family members when going out on date with someone you met on the dating app. Besides that, it might be best to meet your date in a public setting because it’ll be safer if things were to go south. However, if you’re meeting for a hook-up, it might be a better option to meet at your place where you’ll feel more comfortable and safe. Also,  avoid consuming too much alcohol or taking drugs when meeting someone from dating apps. Keep your drink within your sights or reject when he or she offers to buy you drinks to avoid being drugged. You might lose your ability to make rational decisions when you’re intoxicated which puts you at a higher risk of doing something dangerous or being vulnerable.

If anything happens that makes you uncomfortable, or if you are in a situation where you feel the other person may potentially harm you, report it to the local authorities. Remember that it’s not your fault if you have been hurt by someone from a dating app. Do everything you can to protect yourself.