Online Dating Advice: Same-Sex Messaging

September 10th, 2009 by Christian Rudder

We had many requests for the same-sex equivalents of last post’s charts, and we’d like to take a moment to discuss those. We didn’t include them in the original because they would’ve doubled the data we presented, which in our opinion would’ve made for an overwhelming number of charts and figures.

In any event, here they are in detail:

And here they are side-by-side with the straight charts from the first post:

Remarkably, the women-contacting-women curve in the upper left is close in shape to the men-contacting-women one in the upper right. And the two charts in the lower row, showing men-to-men and women-to-men, respectively, also share a similar curve. It seems that women, both gay and straight, respond better as messages get longer, while men, regardless of orientation, get turned-off as messages drone on. Apparently, reading style transcends sexuality. I’d be interested to hear your theories on why this is so.

The overall response rates are much better for same-sex messages (41% vs. 32% for straight messages). I ran these new numbers through last week’s message-efficiency calculations, and as it turns out, because of the low slope (flatness) of the first half of both graphs, the most efficient conversation starters for both kinds of same-sex contact is only 50 characters.

OkCupid Rules
. . .
. . .

19 Responses to “Online Dating Advice: Same-Sex Messaging”

  1. Dragatus says:

    “I’d be interested to hear your theories on why this is so.”

    Because a homosexual man is still a man rather than a woman and a homosexual woman is still a woman rather than a man?

  2. Doc says:

    And what, Dragatus, is the difference between a man and a woman in terms reading styles and preferences?

    The question is why does it not matter the sender, but the recipient…

  3. gnat says:

    I’m curious whether bisexuals were counted in this study, and if so, which category/s they were put in. Personally, as a bi girl, I prefer messages at around 150-300 words or so. Maybe I’m just strange.

  4. writeguysf says:

    Dudes are dudes and women are women, duh. :)
    Women care about potential partners’ having given it their best effort. Men are afraid of too strong an attraction from a suitor, figuring the really hot ones won’t be bothered to write too much.

  5. morganari says:

    Hmm… it’s hard to make any really concrete theories with only such raw numerical data to go by (as opposed to responses from actual users as to what inspires them to respond to messages.) Also, I’m not a sociologist (I just play one on tv.)

    So, some initial thoughts:

    Rather than simplifying the difference to pure gender differences, which really doesn’t not explain anything and only further perpetuates the standard gender stereotypes, I would propose the following follow-up questions:

    - To what level might the extremely short, otherwise known as spamtastic-internet-cat-call messages such as “ur hot” and “i have an inch for u”, be skewing the numbers (in either direction)?

    Stastically, or so the theory goes, if you send out ENOUGH of those stupid sorts of emails, EVENTUALLY, you are BOUND to get a response. But if the research conducted was only looking for messages that provoked responses, with the ideal being that those got responses BACK, those could have just as easily been “u want 2 chat?” followed by “fuck off” followed by “o cum on baby, give a guy a chance?” which is unlikely to actually result in a fruitful conversation. So, if the original analysis didn’t already, it would probably be helpful to remove those super-short messages from the data pool.

    - In a similar vein, we have the wordy but unimaginative “form letter” message, which could also be effecting the results. If you could remove the form letter messages (and I suppose you could determine this by searching for messages that share all the same phrasing, syntax, and content), would the graphs be any different?

    - After that, I would be interested to know if there are other social demographics influencing the ‘apparent’ gender divide represented by the two studies. If possible, I would like to see the results further separated by things like regional location, age, race, or “looking for” stats. (For example, do people that include “casual encounters” in their “looking for” section respond more often to shorter messages?)

    I suspect that further analysis on things like social/economic status, education, political leanings, aggressive vs. subordinate tendencies, and other match statistics might be very interesting, but I don’t know that most users necessarily include that data on their profiles to begin with, so the survey pool may be sufficiently smaller (and thus have it’s own influence on skewing the numbers in a certain direction.)

    As well, it becomes even more interesting (and complex) to compare users that message users from OTHER social groups, such as gay men messaging straight men, or poor men messaging affluent women, or black women messaging white women, etc., or just in general users messaging people with extremely low match or friend ratings, and users that send messages beyond a 150 mi. radius, both of which seem to imply a lower than average chance of response.

    Finally, my own theory, or question, would be to suggest that the difference, rather than being based in differences in gender, is more related to the pure over-saturation of the “HNG” syndrome on the internet. It’s pretty well established that the visibility of the “Horny Net Guy” is much more prominent on the internet than it is in the general population, due to the anonymity effect of the internet itself. It could be that removing users that have little to no information on their profiles and few to no questions answered from the data pool, might also change the results.

    It is also possible that there is a higher than average representation of Americans on OkCupid, and that -American- gender norms represent an explanation for the first-message-response trends between the four graphs, that isn’t necessarily mimiced by or reflective of users from other countries.

    That’s my two cents.

  6. Cedar says:

    Thanks for the update!

    As for the m4w/w4w comparison, I think you improperly elide the difference at <1500 characters, where the m4w response rate has been climbing but the w4w has not… A range where I'm likely to suspect spamming if it's coming from a man…but I've never been spammed or sexually harassed by women on your site. Which, come to think of it, might also be part of the higher response rate.

  7. Elyscape says:

    “Because a homosexual man is still a man rather than a woman and a homosexual woman is still a woman rather than a man?”
    Yes, but why is reading style seemingly linked to gender?

  8. Killersmarts1 says:

    @ gnat: These statistics aren’t about sexuality, they’re about one-on-one encounters. As a bisexual woman, I should write longer messages for women and shorter messages for men. Of course, there really should be a ‘trans’ option for gender on OKC, but that’s another issue.

  9. jasia says:

    Most of the people on OKC are straight (right?), so maybe it’s just easier to respond to a same-sex message because it’s more likely to be based on friendship-seeking or interest-sharing and has less tension surrounding it altogether? And (I speak for myself, but probably this is generalizable) it’s less likely to be one of those inane “ur hot” or form-letter messages.

  10. Crittergrl says:

    It does make sense that same sex messages are more likely to be based on friendship, and thus more likely to be responded to easily.

  11. morgainari says:

    jasia says:
    September 15, 2009 at 10:35 am
    “Most of the people on OKC are straight”

    I don’t know why you would assume that?

    To all of the comments about “girls are girls and boys are boys”: linking a person’s biologically (or otherwise) determined sex organs with their gender identity, and then imposing a set rule/assumption as to how it determines their thought processes and what sorts of things are important to them, is at the very least short-sighted.
    Gender and human behavior is not that simple. Hell, determining SEX is not that simple, if you are aware of the multitude of variations that nature produces.

    The comment about same-sex messges likely to be based on friendship is an interesting one, although I don’t necessarily agree with it. I do think I should add “messages sent to mis-matched orientation users” to one of the filters that should have been added to the survey, if it wasn’t. It’s not really helpful to label the article as “Dating Advice”, if it includes positive results for messages sent to the ‘wrong’ gender due to either party’s sexual orientation.

  12. hn says:

    Yes, that’s kinda missing in the article: are these numbers for *all* users, i.e. including straight people messaging same-sex, or are these just messages sent by “the gays”? (Also, it would be interesting to analyze just the cross-over: what do straight people talk about among themselves? And how great is the lesbian-straight girl hookup success rate?)

  13. [...] include Online Dating Advice: Same-Sex Messaging (what words do and don’t work in messages to women and men), Online Dating Advice Part 1 (very [...]

  14. PoorYorick4u says:

    Fascinating blog entry. Thanks for posting this, OkC. I loves me some stats!

  15. E says:

    You guys are cool and so are all that use gnuplot ;-)

  16. SFGirl says:

    Thank you for your words, morganari. Very well put!! You are a sociologist aren’t you? If not tecnically, you can go ahead and call yourself one. I majored in sociology, and find all of this amazingly fascinating.

  17. this gay guy says:

    Men and women are wired differently. We just are. Not dramatically differently, mind you, but there are distinct differences, particularly when it comes to sex and courting. To be general, women like to talk with more content than men. Male communication tends to have fewer words and to be more direct. Both styles of communication have their advantages.

    Of course women are more likely to respond to a message that contains more words, within reason. And I think it’s accurate to say that men get put off by someone showing too much interest, as in the case of very long contact emails. I certainly do.

  18. Just saying says:

    I won’t quote studies because I don’t have them at my finger tips. However, women in our society are rewarded and encouraged to be communicators from a very early age. Men are encouraged to be doers and hands-on.

    Likewise, since adults support these behaviors in children (on the same lines as pink and blue), the converse is also true.

    I’m not saying there is any physiological basis for this (I’m not saying there’s not either), what I’m saying is that socialization plays a large role in this whole process.

  19. Nick says:

    This is nice and all, however, I’m sending long ass messages as a guy, and receiving short little nothings from girls. Frustrating. God!