September 16, 2020 - Podcast

Episode 33—Women's sex-tech engagement and COVID-19 executive orders

Technology is everywhere we look -- in our homes, our transportation, our classrooms, and our relationships. A new study by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and Clue, a Berlin-based female health company, offers an unprecedented look at women’s sex-tech engagement, looking at how women from around the world interact with dating and sex-related mobile apps to answer questions, seek information and improve their sexual lives. The researchers found that over half of the 130,000 women surveyed reported having received or sent sexting messages. The researchers were surprised to learn that women in countries with higher gender inequality reported being more than four times more likely to sext than women in more egalitarian regions. Virginia Vitzthum, a senior scientist at the Kinsey Institute and co-author of the study, says these findings suggest that more conservative ideals regarding gender roles do not necessarily prevent women from engaging in taboo or forbidden behaviors. The study also found that women in places with greater gender inequality were twice as likely to report that they've used apps to improve their sexual relationships, whereas women from places with lower inequality were more likely to report that they've used apps to learn about sexual relationships. One of the most exciting findings for the researchers was that despite global differences in how women reported using mobile apps for dating or sex-related purposes, the act of seeking out information through internet-connected mobile phones was a positive experience for the vast majority of women in the study. Vitzthum says there's a near-universal desire to seek romantic and sexual connections, and with rising access to smartphones, people around the world increasingly form these connections online.

In other news, it’s been more than six months since states first began quarantines due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, research from the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI is shedding new light on the thousands of executive orders enacted to mitigate the spread of the virus. Researcher Peter Federman says there’s a lot of speculation from all corners about what certain orders mean and how long they’ll last. It’s worthwhile, he says, to demonstrate through data what’s happening and to have a record of what states did, how they did it, what impact it had, and what happens next. In October, Federman and his colleague Cali Curley at the University of Miami will launch their first public dashboard tracking executive orders, from the time when states first started closures until they began to reopen. The dashboard organizes and categorizes each state’s executive orders, ranks states by stringency of the order, and allows users to see how the information correlates with other things, like social distancing and the number of COVID-19 cases. It also lets users filter information by various factors—including age, income, and even the political affiliation of governors. For policymakers, the dashboard provides one spot where leaders can see how their state’s response compares to others—and to see critical differences that exist even in seemingly similar situations. Federman says the idea is to have all the information in one easily accessible place that serves as both a resource on state actions and a record of how state laws are changing because of COVD-19. While there doesn’t seem to be a quick return to normal on the horizon, it’s important to see how our next normal compares with the one we left behind, he says. The dashboard provides a window into how governors handled the pandemic, whether they’ve issued orders or delegated that job to others in their administration, and where they’ve stood on key issues. Federman says he is confident the dashboard is the most robust and extensive collection of coded and analyzed state level executive orders on COVID-19 available, especially in the United States.