Figures have shown that generations which grew up in ‘the age of the internet’ have staggeringly higher rates of STIs and STDs than older generations: between 2013 and 2017, there were 209,808 diagnoses among 15-24 year-olds, whilst there were 133,357 among 25-34 year-olds. With the birth of the Worldwide Web in 1991, it is clear that those who experienced the full impact of its creation on their childhoods and/or adolescence fall into the latter bracket where STI and STD rates are significantly higher.
It’s easy to assume that the rise of the internet – and with it, the rise of dating apps and porn sites – is directly proportional to the rise in STIs and STDs in a generation that is simply too promiscuous, too complacent, too sexualised, too ready to bed strangers no matter what their sexual history may be. But the reality is far more complex. To assume our generation, above all others, is now suddenly obsessed with sex to an unprecedented degree, would be wrong.
Undoubtedly, the internet has changed and shaped the way we go about dating and sex. It’s a lot easier now if you fancy a hook-up to head to Tinder and find a compatible match within minutes. But just because it’s easier now, doesn’t mean the sentiment hasn’t always been there. People have wanted to have sex all the time for, well, all of time. It’s quite literally instinctive.
Every generation likes to think that they’re the most sexually liberated, but the truth is, it’s anachronistic to assume every generation before us was closeted and repressed. A better way of viewing the internet is to say that it has facilitated our promiscuity, not caused it. If he could have, Charles Dickens would have watched porn too.
“People have wanted to have sex all the time for, well, all of time. It’s quite literally instinctive”
As far as sexual liberation is concerned, the advent of the internet isn’t even the most ground-breaking moment. If we want to pin down the most seminal moment in sexual progression in recent times, it’s got to be the advent of the pill. Symbolically, the pill represented an open admission that sex can be purely for pleasure and not just for procreation, and that it could be enjoyed and controlled by women too.
Of course – though the internet hasn’t directly caused an increased promiscuity, it has granted us the option to find sexual partners with relative ease. That much is indisputable. But whilst we may be taking advantage of the 21st century ability to booty call whoever we want, we’re also taking the necessary steps to take responsibility for the consequences of being promiscuous. This means we’re no longer afraid to get STI or STD checks.
With the internet, you can look up symptoms of gonorrhoea; order a chlamydia test kit online for free; check if the discharge you’re experiencing is normal. You can check if HPV is contagious and read a Wikipedia page all about it instantly. You can search ‘sexual health clinics near me’ and a list of every clinic within 30 miles with details on how to get there will appear.
In 2017, men and women under 29 visited sexual health clinics more often than those above 29. Is it not possible that our generation are more willing to get checked out, and that those shocking diagnosis figures reflect that? Is it the case that the advent of the internet has meant we are more aware of STIs and STDs? Are figures for 25-34 year-olds lower because they don’t get checked?
As a generation, we hold our hands up. Maybe we are promiscuous. But we’re also the most responsible when it comes to dealing with the potential consequences of our choices. So long as we’re getting regular checks and using protection when possible, who’s to say we shouldn’t enjoy the occasional hook-up?
(Image Credited to Christophe Simon/Agence France-Presse, Getty Images)