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STD Dating Sites: Helpful or Harmful?



std_MLMatch.com, one of the world’s largest online dating websites, launched on April 21, 1995. At the time, only 14 percent of U.S. adults used the internet. Dating someone you met online was far from common.

Fast forward twenty years later and the world has certainly changed, the dating scene included. About 60 percent of people think that online dating is a good way to meet people. One-in-five adults ages 25-34 have used online dating, though it’s gained popularity among older singles as well.

Chances are you’ve heard of the largest dating sites. Sites like Match.com, eHarmony, Zoosk, and okcupid all advertise on daytime and evening television. But the internet has opened up a world where people with all kinds of preferences can find love and companionship online. ChristianMingle provides a platform for Christians. Jewish? Check out JDate. For those with a penchant for pot, 420Singles could help you find the Cheech to your Chong. Look like you should be ringing bells in Notre Dame? Ugly Schmucks might just be for you! Want a partner who loves horses as much as you do? Saddle up and head over to Equestrian Singles. Gluten free? Yes, there is actually a dating site for that. Gluten Free Singles may help you find the man or woman of your dreams.

While you may find some of those sites odd, you probably think they’re pretty innocuous. After all, what would you get from a bad “gluten-free date” other than digestive discomfort? But some sites give people pause. Some have called for other dating sites to be banned. Sites like AshleyMadison.com, for example, solely exist to help married people have affairs. There is yet another crop of sites that have brought up questions about online dating—websites for people with sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. Positive Singles, Herpes People Meet, H-Date, and Herpes Passions, among a variety of others, offer a platform for people with STDs to meet others.

Understandably, these sites have caused concern. After all, wouldn’t a dating site for people with STDs just offer people the incentive to engage in risky sexual behavior?

Perhaps, but we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn such sites. In fact, economic reasoning may point us to the exact opposite conclusion. Instead of more disease, such sites may actually decrease disease transmission. Obviously, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to gather data on disease transmission and these websites, but we can reasonably discuss the issue nonetheless.

Consider the fact that, on a website for individuals with STDs, there is no mystery—everyone has an STD. In fact, part of the platform of these websites is that people put this information in their profile. Though this may encourage risky sexual activity (we can imagine the thinking, “If we both have X, what’s the point of using protection?”), it may also encourage safer sex. Knowing that their partner has a disease, individuals on such sites know up front that they should protect themselves, whether their partner has a similar condition or a different one.

There are additional benefits to such sites. In discussing dating with STDs with USA Today, clinical psychologist Carl Hindy stated that,

A lot of my clients are looking for relationships and they are on dating websites like eHarmony and Match, but then the question is, ‘When do I tell him or her that I have herpes? If I tell them right away, that person is going to go away. But if I let the relationship develop and wait to tell the person, is that betrayal?'” It makes dating really hard.

STD dating sites help to mitigate this problem. By having sites where everyone has some sort of medical condition, there are no awkward conversations, no “betrayal.” Such platforms eliminate what could be a very uncomfortable point in a budding relationship.

Moreover, we can think of these sites as “efficiency-boosting.” If the goal of a relationship is to figure out compatibility and find companionship, STD dating sites can save people a lot of time. With more information up front, people don’t have to get into relationships only to later reveal their STD status and discover such a condition is a “deal-breaker” for their partner.

So next time you see a dating site that causes you to raise an eyebrow, just remember that the existence of such sites shows markets at work. Just as markets coordinate buyers and sellers for cars and trombones, so too do markets provide opportunities for all kinds of people to come together!

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