The internet has changed how we spend down time in so many ways, including checking out potential partners.
Social behaviour researchers are saying that the infidelity gap is closing as more women stray from monogamous relationships in similar numbers to men.
There is no doubt that the internet’s power to connect people with old flames or new liaisons through dating sites and platforms such as Facebook has opened up new horizons for all genders.
Relationships Australia has studied the phenomenon and reports that:
- Tinder claims 15 per cent of Australia’s population (almost 3.5 million people) use their app
- matchmaking website RSVP boasts that 1200 new singles join the site every day, while eHarmony claims it is responsible for 11,000 Australian marriages since 2007
- 75 per cent of millennials (18 to 33-year-olds) using online dating are looking for a serious relationship
- 18 per cent of Australians have paid for dating services – equivalent to $80.7 million each year.
The Relationships Australia survey of more than 700 respondents revealed that more women than men had used dating sites.
Of the women seeking liaisons, 62 per cent had gone online and 57 per cent of men reported they had also searched sites looking for love.
“The types of relationships sought through online dating were not significantly different for men and women,” Relationships Australia said.
“More than one-quarter of survey respondents used online dating to find long-term relationships, followed by relationships for fun.”
Of the men who responded, 10 per cent admitted they used dating sites for a quick affair and seven per cent of women claimed to search out a bit of fun online.
“Reduced stigma has promoted increases in online dating at all ages,” the association said.
“Commentators claim the advantages of internet dating include: convenience and ease of access to a large number of potential partners, particularly for individuals interested in partners of a specific orientation, lifestyle or if they live in an isolated area; the opportunity for determining common interests and chatting before actually meeting face-to-face; the chance to control the seriousness and speed of relationships being sought; and access to the compatibility ‘matching’ profiles of many sites.”
Women’s changing attitudes towards their place within a relationship, as much as in society generally, is also seeing more of them becoming promiscuous, some researchers claim.
This has fascinated scientists no end with behavioural studies faculties all over the world trying to understand if there is a biological rather than a sociological reason behind the trend.
University of Queensland researchers led by psychology professor Brendan Zietsch studied more than 7000 Finnish identical and non-identical twins to ascertain if genetic factors contributed to unfaithfulness.
They discovered that 9.8 per cent of the men and 6.4 per cent of women had had two or more sexual partners in the previous year.
The results showed that 63 per cent of unfaithful behaviour in men was due to inherited genes, and 40 per cent in women – rates which surprised the scientists, who then looked for the genes responsible, a report in The Telegraph said.
“They found women with certain variations in a gene called AVPRIA were more likely to be unfaithful.
“The gene is involved in production of the hormone arginine vasopressin, which is known to be involved in the regulation of social behaviour and has been linked to differences in philandering behaviour in voles.”
In a paper published in Evolution and Human Behaviour, the researchers said: “Based on previous animal and human findings, we tested for association of the arginine vasopressin receptor 1A gene (AVPR1A) … with extra-pair mating. We found gene-based association for AVPR1A in women but not in men. Overall, these findings confirm genetic underpinnings of extra-pair mating in humans at play.”
Are women’s genes evolving in line with their changing role in society? Could this be behind their greater inclination to seek out new couplings? No doubt, the scientists are busily trying to come up with answers.
It has been well established that in “most socially monogamous species, both male and female members of a pair consciously seek copulations with other individuals”, Prof. Zietsch’s team wrote.
It is surmised that in the animal kingdom, males mate outside their main breeding relationship in order to produce more offspring. The same cannot be said of the females, as they are restricted by their gestational cycles.
“As such, it is not clear why females in socially monogamous species have evolved such that they mate outside the pair,” the scientists said.
“The dominant explanation of female extra-pair mating has been that it can be adaptive if females are able to obtain extra-pair mates of higher genetic quality than their social mates, thereby increasing the genetic quality of their offspring and increasing their number of grandoffspring.
“However, several more recent studies directly testing for such indirect benefits in birds suggest that offspring of extra-pair matings actually have lower lifetime fitness.”
Given that some women, especially older women, are not looking to procreate when they seek out alternative partners, the trend is likely to keep behavioural researchers scratching their heads for a while.
Have you ever gone on an online dating site? How was your experience? Do you believe that more women are becoming inclined to seek out sex partners?