Tuesday, August 14, 2018

32 years!

Science confirms what are supposed to be just "stereotypes" with staggering regularity. Elizabeth Bruch, a professor of sociology at the University of Michigan has done a massive study of online dating behaviour and The Atlantic has an article about it.
She’s spent the past few years studying how people make decisions and pursue partners on online-dating sites, using exclusive data from the dating sites themselves. “There’s so much folk wisdom about dating and courtship, and very little scientific evidence,” she told me recently. “My research comes out of realizing that with these large-scale data sets, we can shed light on a lot of these old dating aphorisms.”
There is, as we've come to expect from modern journalism, a lot of CYA political correctness at the top of the article. The writer, a youngish guy named Robinson Meyer, uses what may be a particularly clever ploy in this regard. He starts off by telling us that the study confirms that there are dating leagues and some people are out of your league. He describes this as depressing. In other news, other people are richer than you. But, hey, maybe he really was disappointed to learn this plainly obvious fact.

Other not-terribly-surprising findings:

  1. “A defining feature of heterosexual online dating is that, in the vast majority of cases, it is men who establish the first contact—more than 80 percent of first messages are from men in our data set,”
  2. “women reply very selectively to the messages they receive from men—their average reply rate is less than 20 percent ..."
  3.  The key, Bruch said, is that “persistence pays off.” ... “Reply rates [to the average message] are between zero percent and 10 percent,” she told me. Her advice: People should note those extremely low reply rates and send out more greetings.
  4. Across the four cities and the thousands of users, consistent patterns around age, race, and education level emerge. White men and Asian women are consistently more desired than other users, while black women rank anomalously lower.
  5. In the study, men’s desirability peaks at age 50. But women’s desirability starts high at age 18 and falls throughout their lifespan. 
  6. Women’s prospects dim not only as they age, but as they achieve the highest level of education.
  7. Across all four cities, men tended to use less positive language when messaging more desirable women. They may have stumbled upon this strategy through trial and error because “in all four cities, men experience slightly lower reply rates when they write more positively worded messages.”
 A few comments.

I'll begin with  #5. Women's desirability peaks at age 18 while men's steadily rises until age 50. You have to read more than half way through the article to learn this. That's burying the lead grand style.

I can confirm that on the male side. I reached peak attractiveness in my forties. I was already married at the time and unwilling to take advantage of it but at no other time in my life were women so interested.

The flip side? Personally, I find most 18 year olds a little foolish but if desirability were the only thing that mattered, I'd go young, although not quite that young. I'm attracted to sexy women and I'm not going to apologize for that. I understand that many people will find this depressing. A lot of things about life are depressing. But I'll tell you about something even more depressing: the lives of women who decided this was just a stupid and sexist social convention that was going to go away until they got to be older and decided they wanted a long-term partner they could settle down with. Politically incorrect truth: If a woman wants a happy marriage, she should get busy looking for someone while she is still in her early-to-mid twenties.

As long as I'm being politically incorrect, if, as I say, the the choice of younger women reflects men selecting for sexual attractiveness, I'd bet good money that the choice of older men reflects women selecting for socioeconomic status.

Well, yeah! Men take the initiative. And the converse is true as well: women want men to take the initiative.

Women are selective. A woman is far more likely to reject a man than vice versa and a woman in a relationship is far more likely to leave. The corollary to the politically incorrect advice I gave regarding #5 above is, if you are a happily married man and you hope to remain that way, you;d damn well better keep earning it every year of your life.

That persistence pays off is probably surprising no one but there is a corollary which might not be so obvious: the key to happiness in this life is having a high tolerance for rejection. Get yourself a copy of Martin Seligman's Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life and get reading.

Not surprisingly, the article tries to explain this one away.
But “what we are seeing is overwhelmingly the effect of white preferences,” she cautioned. “This site is predominantly white, 70 percent white. If this was a site that was 20 percent white, we may see a totally different desirability hierarchy.”
Maybe. But I would bet not. Why? Because I suspect this has nothing to do with race. The popularity of white men is just another instance of women selecting for socioeconomic status. The popularity of Asian women is, and I know this will hurt some people's feelings, a reflection of the greater emphasis a significant number of Asian women put on femininity.

I was across the river in Gatineau yesterday and  was struck, as I often am when back in Quebec, at how much more effort women there put into being womanly. Book a flight from Ottawa or Toronto to Paris and you'll notice the same phenomenon. A flight to Madrid, same thing. Likewise Rome, Rio or Berlin. If you bring a culture that plays a high value on femininity into contact with our English-speaking, white culture in North America, which does not, and the women are going to pop out at you like Smarties in a bowl of oatmeal. You can get angry about that all you want, it won't change anything.

I don't think it's the education per se that is the problem but a number of other things education is a marker for. See the preceding paragraph for more.

(When I was in graduate school back in the 1980s, there was one woman who bucked the trend and dressed and behaved in a pointedly feminine way. Her female peers in the department did everything they could to tear her down. The viciousness of their attacks was scary to see.)

I know, I know, this sounds a lot like what the PUAs call "dissing". Worse, this study says it works!

There are very few more reliable ways to reassure a woman in her belief that she is out of your league than to gush over her. You don't have to diss her. But make her earn your attention. If she isn't willing to earn it, move on. See notes #2 and #3 above.


  1. Bruch said that race and gender stereotypes often get mixed up, with a race acquiring gendered connotations. “Asian is coded as female, so that’s why Asian women get so much market power and Asian men get so little,” she told me. “For black men and women, it’s the opposite.”

    I think this interpretation is more correct. Black men are likely right below white and Asian men at the bottom of the results. Asian men have a pretty good economic status statistically. It is undoubtedly more to do with race then you are letting up, but also what is perceived as masculine.

    1. Why is Asian coded as "female"? Conversely, why would black be coded as "male"?