Obviously, the new dating apps did not invent promiscuity. In our time, widespread casual sex dates to the sexual revolution.
Yet, Tinder and Grindr are not really dating apps. They are hookup apps. They allow you to find a partner for sex… right here, right now. It’s a little like prostitution, but it’s free.
As it happens, gay men have, in the past, been noted for their willingness to engage in random, anonymous sex acts. With the hookup culture and the new hookup apps, the practice has spread to heterosexuals.
One should emphasize the originality of it all. In the past, some people chose to keep their sexual acts within the confines of marriage. Some others—both male and female-- chose to supplement their marital sex life with adulterous love affairs. Finally, some men preferred to purchase sexual favors on the open market through the various forms of prostitution.
Adultery—in the sense of having a mistress-- involves a relationship, so it does not count as a hookup. Prostitutes are being paid to provide a service. At times, the service is sexual; at times, it is not. And men have been known to develop relationships with high end prostitutes. At the least, the women who are involved in prostitution are not giving it away for free in the name of mental hygiene.
With hooking up, we have created a sexual custom that has a certain originality to it.
Some would say that we could do so because we have easy access to better birth control.
This suggests that men and women in the past reserved their sexual activities to relationships, presumably because they understood the pregnancy risk. Women, in particular, avoided promiscuous sex because they wanted to find men who could provide for their children.
But, traditional forms of sexual behavior were better designed to promote good sexual health.
Whether it’s prostitution or hookups, more sexual partners increases the risk of the transmission of infections. Men have always been more likely to avail themselves of sex workers, but they could easily have brought their infections home.
Thus, women have always looked down at sex workers and other loose women.
Advocates of free love act as though condoms will immunize people from the unwanted side-effects of promiscuity, but, truth be told, even when condoms work exactly as advertised, they are not foolproof.
It is sometimes reported in the press, but the sexual revolution has produced epidemic levels of sexually transmitted diseases. Strangely enough, people are so afraid of being seen as sexual Puritans that no one pays much attention.
There are roughly 50,000,000 million cases of herpes in America. One is seven American women will contract pelvic inflammatory disease.
As for the larger picture, CNS reports:
Approximately 110 million Americans – more than a third of the entire U.S. population - were infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) as of 2008, the latest date for which figures are available, the CDC spokeswoman confirmed. That includes more than a million Americans living with HIV.
CDC estimates that nearly 20 million new STD cases are contracted annually, including gonorrhea (334,826 new cases reported in 2012), HIV (47,500 new cases reported in 2010), and primary and secondary syphilis (15,667 new cases in 2012).
Recent studies suggest that the new hookup apps have contributed the trend. They have significantly increased the likelihood that young people will contract one of these illnesses.
The Daily Mail reports on the situation in Great Britain:
The increasing popularity of dating apps on mobile phones has fuelled a surge in cases of sexually transmitted diseases, say doctors.
Tinder and other match-making firms have proved explosively popular, especially among those in their 20s and 30s, providing users with lists of potential sexual partners nearby.
But sexual health experts say 'hook-up' apps are leading to rises in sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Gonorrhoea cases in England jumped 15 per cent between 2012 and 2013, according to official figures, from 25,577 to 29,291. Syphilis cases went up nine per cent, from 2,981 to 3,249.
Peter Greenhouse, of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said: 'You don't have to be a genius to work out that these sorts of apps make having casual sex a damn sight easier.
Of course, many, but not all of these infections are treatable. But, many of them put women at greater risk of infertility than they do men.
Thus, it makes sense that women, more than men, are disgusted by promiscuity. As a survival mechanism, it signals that women instinctive distance themselves from dangerous substances.
And yet, some serious thinkers insist that we should overcome our disgust at certain sexual practices. By their light of these thinkers, disgust produces an unwarranted prejudice against certain groups of people.
Dahlia Lithwick summarizes Martha Nussbaum’s argument against disgust:
The philosophical question for Nussbaum is whether disgust of this sort is a "reliable guide to lawmaking." She cites Leon Kass, head of the President's Council on Bioethics in the George W. Bush administration, who has argued that it is; that visceral public disgust contains a "wisdom" that lies beneath rational argument. Then she proceeds to annihilate that argument by offering example after example of discarded disgust-based policies, from India's denigration of its "untouchables" to the Nazi view of Jews, to a legally sanctioned regime of separate swimming pools and water fountains in the Jim Crow South. Time and again, Nussbaum argues, societies have been able to move beyond their own politics of disgust to what she calls "the politics of humanity," once they have finally managed to see others as fully human, with human aspirations and desires.
I note Lithwick’s, and Nussbaum’s rhetorical sleight-of-hand. Nussbaum does not annihilate anything with the argument thus stated. She shows that disgust may be misused by certain politicians or cultures.
The notion that we should see other people as “fully human” sounds good on paper. The only problem is that people belong to social groups, to communities and to nations. There is no such thing as a human being that does not belong to a group and does identify as a member of that group.
It happens that all human groups identify non-members or outsiders as foes.
At times, they take it too far, exaggerating the difference in order to assert a false sense of group coherence, one that is not based on custom, ritual and ceremony … but that is based on blood.
Compare this to the psychopathology of phobia. Aaron Beck pointed out that most of the things that people are characteristically phobic about—snakes, spiders, heights, crowds, germs, blood—are effectively dangerous. When an individual suffers from a phobia he has an excessive and exaggerated fear of an object that should provoke some fear and due caution.
This does not mean that we should completely overcome our fear of those objects. One might exaggerate the risk posed by germs or by dead bodies or by feces but it is a bad idea to persuade people to repress their sense of disgust altogether. It is also wildly unrealistic.
We no longer practice the forms of xenophobia that Nussbaum identifies, but that does not mean that human beings should not have a survival mechanism in their DNA that draws them to those who are like them and that tells them to keep their distance from those who are not. Even if we do not like the survival mechanism, we cannot just wish it away.
If we wish to overcome the excess called xenophobia we should not, as Nussbaum says, fly off into the gauzy abstraction of everyone’s fully human humanity. If we want to overcome it, we should do business with other people, build relationships with them.
All of this to pose a question.
If women are naturally disgusted by promiscuous sexual behavior—for good reason, it seems—how did it happen that in the latter part of the twentieth and early twenty-first century so many women threw caution to the winds and performed actions that they were emotionally and genetically disinclined to do.
Clearly, these women overcame their sense of disgust and overruled the instincts that told them not to do what they were doing. Did they believe that their revulsion at certain sexual acts or certain kinds of sexual relationships was a neurotic vestige of a more Puritanical time?
Or, did they do what they did in order to ensure that no one would ever think that they were prudes?