Thursday, April 09, 2009

Digital dating!

One Click Stands
The latest batch of dating sites make no promises of happily ever after. Users visit them for one thing and one thing only: digital booty calls. Zosia Bielski reports
Globe and Mail
April 9, 2009
'Thou shalt get out before the sun rises." "Thou shalt not request advanced plans." "[There] shalt be no cuddling, ever."
These are the "booty commandments" handed down by Moses Brown, the 34-year-old software engineer turned founder of, a website for commitment phobes that promises to "take the complexity out of dating."
The site, which saw a 38 per cent increase in members in February and now counts more than 70,000 Canadians among its three million users, is one of a growing number of "no strings attached" dating portals.
Unlike other sites that segregate fling seekers from those out for marriage on their pages, these are all about fast hookups. The granddaddy of them all is, which claims 32 million members (1.5 million of them Canadian) and is owned by Penthouse. More explicit is, which reportedly has 800,000 members and greets visitors with grainy, self-captured shots of scantily clad members.
This graphic shows where various relationship websites fall in terms of commitment expectations and lewdness.
Experts say the sites' success speaks to a growing embrace - by both men and women - of non-committal sex.
Having grown up with birth control and their parents' (or their own) failed marriages, members in the casual community extol "hassle free hookups" easily facilitated online.
"Sites like ours are for people who are either fed up with relationships, or just trying to sow their royal oats before they get married," said Ruben Kane, the "happily single" chief executive of, arguably the most explicit of the lot.
Launched in 2005 and currently enjoying a 30 per cent increase in users since last year, the site counts nearly two million members. "Meet a girl. E-mail her. F..k her tonight!" reads the tagline above endless offerings of amateur webcam porn.
"It's for people who can't express themselves on MySpace or the other social networks, but want to," Mr. Kane said.
Critics say the sites are damaging family values, killing intimacy and turning sexuality into a grocery market experience.
"They destroy relationships, marriages and create commitment issues. Never before has it been so easy to cheat," said Joe Tracy, publisher of Oregon-based website Online Dating Magazine.
He likened the sites to a "new era of prostitution."
Dave Quist, executive director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, said the casual sites are causing "the erosion of the family unit." He argued that they also end up hurting women, citing well-documented studies on the hormone oxytocin, which is released during orgasm and makes women more prone to attach to their lovers.
Miscommunication is rife between the sexes during casual encounters, says Robin Milhausen, an associate professor of human sexuality at the University of Guelph who recently conducted focus groups on the topic.
"Although the women wanted to be modern, and many of them said 'women want sex just the same way men do,' the women were also inclined to say if they were going to have a casual encounter, in the back of their mind, they would likely be hoping it would turn into something more," she said.
But sites such as OnlineBootyCall could help avert emotional damage, Professor Milhausen said, because they are a place of "refreshing honesty." "For a woman to sign on, she knows exactly what she's going to be signing up for ... At least the ground rules are up front and explicit."
Honesty aside, the sites struggle with a dearth of women: AdultSpace's male to female ratio is 5:1, and offers a $10,000 reward for those who recruit the most female members.
Still, claims 75 million "booty call connections," or 40,000 daily. Mr. Brown said that success has to do with lowered, if not disintegrated, expectations. On the main page, a lacklustre tagline reads: "Let's face it, chances are you will never find your soul mate online."
"We model a real-life, realistic approach to dating," Mr. Brown said. "When you walk down the street and you bump into some guy you might find some interesting, I don't think you [assume] right away that this could turn into a relationship."
Adam Isaiah Green, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, says many factors have combined to forge this culture of non-commitment, including the waning influence of family, religion and gender roles, as well as the birth-control pill, which separated sexuality from reproduction.
"In a way, what heterosexuals are getting involved in right now, homosexuals have been involved with for a long time," Professor Green said.
"You can finally just have sex and [not have it] layered with moral baggage or fear of reproduction. It can just be about exploring one's body and enjoying the sexuality that one has.
That can be very positive."
But, he allows that "it can create a problem around having intimate relations. It can resocialize people into thinking about sex detached from intimacy."
Critics such as Mr. Tracy say that since hook-up sites promote risk-taking behaviour, they should do more to raise awareness about safe sex. Mr. Brown says his company is responsible, recalling a Spring Break promotion at Arizona's Lake Havasu, where the crew filled a boat with condoms and chucked them at revellers.
Mr. Kane is more cavalier. "People are going to do what they want to do," he says. "I'm sure that the people who land on AdultSpace have been around the block on the Internet more than once. They know what they're getting into."

ONE NIGHT STAND - 32 million users - 2 million - 2 million
Online - 3 million - 800,000
RAUNCHY - 1.6 million - 650,000
WHOLESOME - 15 million users - 10 million - 500,000
MARRIAGE - 20 million users - 5 million


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