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Why Women Should Make The First Move Online

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If you believe Beyonce, girls run the world. But if you’ve spent any time using an online dating service, you may have noticed a different story.

Despite the continuously decreasing stigma around online dating and the increasingly loud conversation about feminism, women on OkCupid remain surprisingly traditional in one key way. Data published recently by the site found that its female users, regardless of sexual orientation, do not initiate contact. Straight women are 3.5x less likely to send the first message than straight men.

Naturally, being the inquisitive types, the folks over at OkCupid had a question: why are ladies — in particular, straight women — less likely to spark a conversation?

According to a post on The Deep End, the successor to the OkTrends blog, the initial hypothesis was that women are more passive because they can afford to be. Their inboxes are already flooded with messages, so why bother initiating conversations with anyone else?

The team compared messages sent vs. messages received for straight male users and straight female users and found that, contrary to their hypothesis, the number of messages received does not affect how many messages they send. Even if a woman receives no messages, she’s not likely to send any of her own. Men, on the other hand, initiate no matter what and do increase the messages they send when they receive more.

The next step was to test by age. Perhaps older woman act more assertively because they’re more confident and more particular about what they want. Again, the hypothesis proved incorrect. Regardless of age, the outboxes of female users remain empty.

So OkCupid turned to the next logical factor: attractiveness. Women with a higher attractiveness rank on the site may feel like they don’t need to reach out first because they’re used to getting attention. Yet again, the team was stumped. The most attractive men send the most messages, but the same pattern does not appear amongst female users.

What OkCupid did finally find was one striking habit: online daters tend to reach out to people who are more attractive than they are. More specifically, men reach out to women 17 percentile points more attractive, and women contact men who are 10 percentile points more attractive. That means that if women do nothing, they’ll be inundated with offers from less attractive men.

A small adjustment has a dramatic effect. If a woman sends the first message, everything changes in her favor. Men tend to respond frequently. Women on OkCupid are 2.5x more likely to receive a response if they initiate. “If you’re a woman who sends the first message,” concludes the report, “not only are you more likely to get more responses in general, but you’ll be having conversations with more attractive guys.”

The message is loud and clear, ladies: stop waiting to be approached. Read our review of OkCupid for more information on this dating site and app.