dating

Suzy S. sent in an illuminating confession from PostSecret in which a woman confesses to being girly, but feels like she has to look more masculine because she’s a lesbian.  It reads: “Because I’m a LESBIAN I feel obligated to cut my hair short and wear men’s clothing… I’m actually really girly”:

This woman says she feel “obligated” to tone down her girliness.  In fact, adopting a masculinized appearance is one way that women signal to other people that they are gay, something they need to do because heterosexuality is normative and, therefore, generally assumed of everyone in the absence of signs otherwise.  There are lots of reasons why lesbians may want to be visible.

They may want to be a symbol of the very existence of gay people and thereby fight the assumption that everyone is straight.  They may want to find other gay women with which to build community or to find a girlfriend.  Or they may simply want to ward off the unwanted attention of men.  The style choices made by lesbians, then, aren’t simply about fashion or some internal inclination towards the masculine, as our confessor neatly illustrates. In some cases, at least a little bit, they’re strategic communication.

Related, see our fun post titled Revisioning Aspirational Hair.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

In a fantastic example of the way being single is stigmatized, Rachel K. took a photo of this ad she saw at a bus stop in Toronto:

I’m afraid this is the last post you will get from me. You see, I’m single, and it’s just occurred to me how very much my life sucks, with no one to give me sparkly things. I am going to drop everything and dedicate myself full-time to finding a mate.

I mean, really. It’s an interesting assumption that being unmarried (I presume that’s an engagement ring) means you are “alone.” And I’d say that what sucks isn’t being “alone,” it’s being told constantly that you must be sad and miserable since you aren’t coupled up.

Doris G. sent in this commercial for Jack & Jones jeans, in which a man laments the way that women just want to use him for sex:

The website indicates that if you go to a store and buy a jacket, you can get a pair of headphones that come in packages that show different versions of Girl Toys. Here’s the “bad boy rebel wearing a bomber jacket”:

You can also choose from the “outdoor living macho dude wearing a wool coat,” “casual cool big-city guy wearing a peacoat,” and “urban sports hunk wearing a soft-shell jacket.”

Of course, the reason this works — the reason it’s supposed to be funny instead of disturbing — is because of gendered ideas about sex (masculine) and romance (feminine). Men are generally assumed to want sex any time they can get it, and to be able to completely separate it from emotions and love and such. Truly masculine sex is no-strings-attached sex for physical pleasure. The idea that a guy would be disturbed because hordes of conventionally attractive women want to have wild sex with him but require no greater commitment, is laughable if you accept an ideology in which that’s how girls act.

This ideology obscures the reality that men do want to make emotional connections with their partners. Michael Kimmel summarizes the research on gender and relationships in his textbook, The Gendered Society (2nd edition, 2004):

Men, it seems, are more likely to believe myths about love at first sight, tend to fall in love more quickly than women, are more likely to enter relationships out of a desire to fall in love, and yet also tend to fall out of love more quickly. Romantic love, to men, is irrational, spontaneous, and compelling emotion that demands action… (p. 227)

But the masculinization of sex discourages men from thinking about sex in terms of emotional (as opposed to primarily physical) satisfaction and prevents us from acknowledging that boys and men can, in fact, be uncomfortable with women’s advances, or even be sexually victimized by women (see our posts here and here).


My friend Matt M. let me know about this video from The Second City Network that nicely sums up some of the disturbing messages about love, dating, and gender in animated movies such as Beauty and the Beast. Enjoy!

Also watch an earlier on on The Little Mermaid.

Always entertaining, Jamie Keiles, of  the Seventeen Magazine Project and Teenagerie, offered the age distribution of the “hot guys” profiled in the June issue of Seventeen magazine.  This issue, after all, was the “Hot Guys of Summer” issue.  Fun!

Keiles writes that:

…only two of the guys, Justin Bieber and Nick Jonas, were even in the age range for reading the magazine, ages 12 to 19. What I found weirder, though, is that the largest groups of males featured in the article fell into the two oldest age ranges. This means its possible that the oldest male hottie, Charlie Bewley, could have fathered the youngest targeted Seventeen reader, age 12, when he was 17 years old.

Here’s the data based on an N of 13:

Men and women do marry asymmetrically, with women, on average, marrying men who are taller, more educated, who make a bit more money, have a bit more status, and are a bit older.  The average age of marriage for women is 25 and the average age for men is 27.  So this is some evidence of early socialization to this idea.

But there’s more…

Not to be underestimated, Keiles asked the question that is on all of our minds: What percentage of hot guys are vampires or vampire-adjacent?

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Following up on our most recent re-cap of data analysis from OkCupid, sent in by Sara P. and an Anonymous Reader, in this post I summarize their findings on reported sexual orientation and recorded messaging.

It turns out that a whopping 80% of all users who identify as bisexual message men or women, but not both.

The reasons for this are likely complex, diverse, and not immediately obvious.

Blogger Christian Rudder’s hypothesis:

This suggests that bisexuality is often either a hedge for gay people or a label adopted by straights to appear more sexually adventurous to their (straight) matches. You can actually see these trends in action…

The figure below plots age against the percent of self-identified bisexual men who message both men and women, only women, or only men.  The percent that are bi in practice as well as theory message both men and women drops by about half between the ages of 18 and 54 (from about 20% to about 10%), but men in their 30s and early 40s are much more likely to message only women.  Ticking biological clocks and hopes for a wife and kids perhaps?

The narrowing blue swatch may reflect the possibility that men who once identified as bisexual have come to terms with being plain ol’ gay (but the data isn’t longitudinal, so it may be a cohort thing instead of a life stage thing).

Or perhaps the distribution is the result of an interaction between age and who it’s easy to meet.  Maybe young bisexual guys have an easy time meeting women and turn to the internet to meet men; whereas men in their 30s and beyond find it easy to meet men and so turn to the internet to meet women?

Other ideas?

For women who identify as bisexual, the percentages messaging both men and women, just women, and just men show less of a trend across age.

Overall, however, 75% of women who identify as bisexual are not messaging both men and women.  Rudder suggests that there may be a social desirability factor here; that is, that straight women know that men are into bisexual chicks and, so, they claim to be bi in order to appeal to the dudes.

UPDATE: I recommend reading the comments thread for a great discussion of sexual fluidity, the meaningulness of labels like “bisexuality,” and lots more good ideas for why this data looks like it does.

Also from OK Cupid: the racial politics of dating, what women want, how attractiveness matters, age, gender, and the shape of the dating pool, older women want more sex, and the lies love-seekers tell.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

I may not have found the love of my life on OkCupid, but I did fall in love… with their data analysis!

Their latest super-fun post by Christan Rudder, sent along by Rob Walker, Sara P. and an Anonymous Reader, looks at the lies people tell in their profiles.  They do this not by catching any given individual in a lie, but by comparing data on their users to data on the general U.S. population.  (It’s unclear what percentage of OkCupid users are American and they don’t specify if they are only looking at U.S. users, so I can’t verify that this is a fair comparison but… if they do restrict the analysis to Americans then…)  Since they have 1.51 million active users, we should expect that any distributions should more or less overlap.

But they don’t…

1.  Men lie about their height, reporting, on average, that they are about two inches taller than they are.  In the figure below, the solid purple line represents the U.S. population, the dashed line represents the reported height of OkCupid users:

2. Women lie about their height too.  Here’s the same figure for women (but with a dark purple implied best fit line; you can just ignore it):

3. People exaggerate their income, on average inflating it by about 20 percent (for this data, they controlled for regional differences in income).  The figure below, however, shows that the amount of exaggeration is related to age.  Both men (blue) and women (red) increasingly inflate their income up until around age 40.  After that, they just keep inflating it at about the same rate.

Rudder quips:

A woman may earn 76 cents on the dollar for the same work as a man, but she can fabricate, like, 85 cents no problem.

Oh and, yeah, there’s a reason why the men are lying (no word from Rudder on the women). Income is highly correlated with how many messages a man gets (red = fewer messages; green = more):

4. It also turns out that not all of the “recent pics” are actually recent. This is especially true for pictures rated “hot.” Rudder says that “hot” photos are more than twice as likely as “average” photos to be over three years old (12% and 5% respectively).

And the older a person is, the more likely they are to upload an older photo:

Fun!

Also from OkCupid: the racial politics of dating, what women want, how attractiveness matters, age, gender, and the shape of the dating pool, and older women want more sex.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

OKCupid, an online matchmaking site, offers data on gender and perceived attractiveness that I might use in my spring deviance course (via boing). The figures might help me make a Durkheimian society of (hot) saints point about the relative nature of beauty and a Goffman point on stigma affecting social interaction, while providing another illustration of the taken-for-grantedness of heteronormativity.

In any case, the first figure shows that male OKCupid ratings of female OKCupid users follows something like a normal distribution, with mean=2.5 on a 0-to-5 scale from “least attractive” to “most attractive.” Also, women rated as more attractive tend to get more messages. At first, I thought I saw evidence of positive deviance here, since women rated as most attractive get fewer messages than those rated somewhat below them — the 4.5s garner more attention than the 5.0s. But, as I’ll show below with the next chart, that would probably be an incorrect interpretation — confounding the “persons” in the dashed lines with the “messages” in the solid lines.

The next figure shows that female OKCupid users tend to rate most male OKCupid users as well below “medium” in attractiveness. According to OKCupid, “women rate an incredible 80% of guys as worse-looking than medium. Very harsh. On the other hand, when it comes to actual messaging, women shift their expectations only just slightly ahead of the curve, which is a healthier pattern than guys’ pursuing the all-but-unattainable.”

Hmm. The latter point isn’t wrong, I guess, but it shouldn’t obscure the bigger point that more attractive men still get more messages than less attractive men. Again, note that persons (OKCupid members) are the units of analysis for the dashed lines and messages (messages sent by OKCupid members) are the units for the solid lines. On first scan, I read the graph as suggesting that the top “attractiveness quintile” was getting fewer messages than the bottom attractiveness quintile — that uglier men were actually doing better than more attractive men — but that’s not the case at all. Instead, it just means that in the land of the hideous, the somewhat-less-than-loathsome man is king.

If almost everybody is rated as unattractive, most of the messages will go to those rated as unattractive. Nevertheless, the rate of messages-per-person still rises monotonically with attractiveness. As the “message multiplier” chart below shows, the most attractive men get about 11 times the messages of the least attractive men — and the most attractive women get about 25 times the messages of the least attractive women.

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Chris Uggen is Distinguished McKnight Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Minnesota.  His writing appears in American Sociological Review, American Journal of SociologyCriminology, and Law & Society Review and in media such as the New York Times, The Economist, and NPR.  With Jeff Manza, he wrote Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy.

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