Since the dawn of the electronic age, online dating was regarded, fairly or not, as being unsexy, unsafe and for the socially awkward. But as more aspects of our everyday life migrate to the online world, the stigma has faded. As e-mail, texting, Twitter and Facebook have become nouns and verbs in our daily dictionaries, online dating has become tremendously prevalent and popular.
Online dating is practical for urban professionals looking to economize their time, valuable for those bored with the bar scene and trendy for people looking for more casual commitments. However, executing online dating in both a safe and sexy manner is a skilled art.
It can be daunting to wade through pages of pictures, and even more difficult to develop a smart, stylish profile. Then comes the internal conversation where you hyper-analyze what you want to say in that first e-mail. How can I be interesting and individualistic without being desperate or grammatically incorrect?
Sixty years ago, this question would never have existed. Dating was for marriage, and marriage was for forever. But intimacy involved in dating and courtship has evolved exponentially. We now live in an era of staunchly independent, instantly gratified commitment-phobes. We’ve all window-shopped for love at least once, whether e-dating or in bars. And in America, where capitalism prevails, intimacy has become a liquid and loose commodity, and dating is a game rife with rules that are constantly changing. How many e-mails before you call? How many calls before you get together? Once you set the first date, how many days before you dial digits again? How many hours before you text? (The answer is zero; never text before making that call. I don’t care how old you are!) The answers are so subjective we could write a book on all the possible scenarios. However, the real question is whether e-dating is even safe and sexy enough to employ advantageously.
The anonymity of online dating has pros and perils. The barrier of the screen allows a person to play with different aspects of their identity. Without the anxiety of face-to-face rejection, some people toy with being extra coy and saucy or lay on a thick layer of wit. Pushing boundaries you might safeguard in person can help take you out of your shell and into a sexier and stronger skinsuit. No matter gender or age, confidence is the sexiest characteristic a person can possess, and e-dating can be a terrific training ground to develop a deeper level of confidence.
Numerically, e-dating has an inflated level of judgment and rejection, but it feels far less harsh in comparison to the rebuff felt from that one person in the bar. Online environments can tempt individuals to expose too much too soon. You may regret telling the stranger on the other side of the screen all about your awkward adolescence or how all your partners in your 20s broke your heart because they couldn’t commit. Coffee the next day with this person may feel uncomfortable.
To establish a safer and sexier experience dating online, think of a buzz-cut — keep it clean, keep it short. Less is more when creating mystery in courtship. The less you know, the more you crave to see more of — and learn more about — the other person.
Part two is the transition from screen to seen. To preserve your time and protect your bodily integrity, meet for short coffee or happy-hour dates in public spaces. And remember to pre-pack your condoms and lube, just in case the connection is infectiously electric.
Jenni Skyler, PhD, is a sex therapist and board-certified sexologist. She runs The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, www.theintimacyinstitute.org.