Why Do So Many Conservative Men Wind Up In Sex Scandals With Other Men?

Why Do So Many Conservative Men Wind Up In Sex Scandals With Other Men?

If you follow the news closely, you've probably noticed that, month after month, reports emerge about politically or religiously conservative men who find themselves embroiled in scandals in which they were caught having sex with other men. These events routinely make the news because the men involved tend to be outspoken opponents of LGBT+ rights who are caught engaging in hypocrisy.

So why does this keep happening? Why do so many conservative leaders wind up in these situations? Social psychological research offers a few potential explanations. 

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STD Rates Are Rising, But It’s Not Because of Tinder and Grindr

STD Rates Are Rising, But It’s Not Because of Tinder and Grindr

In the modern world, we have a tendency to blame almost all of our problems on technology--and this is especially true when it comes to sexual problems. For example, I’ve written a lot about how we like to blame everything on pornography, from sexual violence to risky sex to erectile dysfunction, among other things. In all of these cases, porn serves as a convenient target, but it's not necessarily the right one.

Today, I want to focus on a different form of technology that's been getting a lot of blame for sexual problems: online dating apps. They’ve been in the news a lot lately, with many pointing to them as the culprit for rising rates of STDs. Headlines like this make it clear what I mean: “Tinder and Grindr Dating Apps are Causing Cases of Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and HIV to soar.”

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Why Was There So Much Gay Sex At The RNC? A Social Psychologist Explains

Why Was There So Much Gay Sex At The RNC? A Social Psychologist Explains

At last week’s Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, reports are that a lot of sex was going on behind the scenes—a lot of gay sex to be precise. For example, during the convention, usage of the all-male hookup app Grindr was more than twice as high as usual in the Cleveland area. But it wasn’t just that—male escorts in the Cleveland area also reported booming business for the week.

Media outlets were quick to point out the irony, considering that this year’s Republican party platform is unabashedly anti-gay, with the Log Cabin Republicans (the gay branch of the party) going as far as to call it the “most anti-LGBT…in the Party’s 162-year history.”

While all of this is certainly interesting, what I found to be missing in all the media reports coming out was a look at why—why would so many gay and bisexual people attend a political convention for a party that formally opposes so many LGBT causes?

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Does Grindr Really “Lead To Gonorrhea?”

Does Grindr Really “Lead To Gonorrhea?”

So far this year, two studies have been released reporting that use of Grindr and other smartphone hook-up apps is linked to a higher prevalence of sexually transmitted infections among men who have sex with men (MSM). One of these studies was published in January in PLoS ONE (co-authored by yours truly), while the other was published just this month in Sexually Transmitted Infections. The latter study made quite a media splash this past week, generating headlines such as this gem from The Daily Beast: “Grindr-ing Leads to Gonorrhea.” The subtitle for this headline pretty much sums up the current media narrative: “Log on, hook-up, get STD.” So there you have it—smartphone hookup apps cause STDs, right? It sounds like an intuitive conclusion, given the ease with which these apps allow one to locate sexual partners. But is the story really that simple? A closer look at the data suggests that we might want to rethink the notion that these apps cause risky sexual behavior. 

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Do Grindr And Other Smartphone Hookup Apps Promote Risky Sexual Behavior?

Do Grindr And Other Smartphone Hookup Apps Promote Risky Sexual Behavior?

In the last few years, several smartphone apps that help men who have sex with men (MSM) find casual sex partners have entered the market. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Grindr, which claims more than four million users. This app shows thumbnail photos of local guys who are arranged in order of how close they are to you. Users can chat, exchange pictures, and even send their exact GPS coordinates, if desired. The app can also be enabled to send instant notification of messages so that users can be immediately informed when someone is interested in them. Given that people today pretty much have their phones on them at all times and the ease with which these apps can locate available partners, some sexual health experts have begun to question whether usage of these apps might promote riskier sexual behavior. I sought to test this idea in a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE.

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