Women of late have been “leaning in,” graduating college at higher rates than men and simply “running the world” (if Beyonce is any measure), but there’s at least one forum in which they’re not taking charge: online dating.
A recent OkCupid study found men are more likely to send the first message on the dating website than women. This trend was shared among women of all ages, who have sent a median of three to four first messages. Men, on the other hand, send a median of nine to 15 first messages, depending on their age.
OkCupid Chief Product Officer Jimena Almendares said the company was surprised by the research project’s results.
“There was clearly a unique opportunity specifically for women on OkCupid when it came to messaging first,” she said.
Stacy Kaiser, “Live Happy” editor-at-large and licensed psychotherapist, said many women still hold onto old-fashioned dating traditions like relying on men to make the first move.
“Fear and rejection are feelings that go along with that,” Kaiser said.
These findings contrast with the idea that young women are part of a hookup culture that has reached its apex with the advent of dating apps like Tinder. Granted, swiping right as a sign of approval to (hopefully) get a match doesn’t take much heavy lifting. Sending the first message, on the other hand, seems to be perceived as men’s work.
A quick perusal of Twitter shows that while some women advocate for making the first move, others shy away from it.
“Why do women have to make the first move? To a certain extent that’s not the woman’s job — in terms of chivalry (which this generation lacks)” wrote one woman.
“Ladies if you want a certain man go get them… Who cares if women aren’t suppose to make the first move, go get what you want,” another countered.
When online dating, a woman can increase her chance of going on a date with a man who is attractive to her by sending the first message, according to the dating site’s findings.
Almendares said OkCupid analyzed the attractiveness of all the men who women had a conversation with after they sent the first message, and the median attractiveness of those men was 6.6 percentile points above the attractiveness of the women sending the message. The site measured attractiveness as having nice looks, engaging photos and an intriguing profile.
“So even if women select the best from their inbox, it’s likely they are settling and going on a date [with] someone less attractive,” Almendares said. “More importantly, because very few women message first, those that do stand out.”
The study found that the odds would be in favor of the brave woman who messages a guy first, because 30% of those messages turn into a conversation. Women are 2.5 times more likely to get a response than men if they initiate contact.
Back to Twitter, where some guys complain about how much they wish women would take charge and make the first move.
“Sometimes women should make the first move. It adds a little excitement,” wrote one user.
“Live Happy’s” Kaiser advises women to be casual when initiating a relationship and to not make “a big buildup in your head or real life.”
“For example, you don’t need to call it ‘a date’ if he just wants to hang out or grab something quick. Also, it is always good to rope in a friend to help, or getting a group of people to go out, and then you can make sure you sit next to him, find time to flirt, et cetera,” Kaiser says.
Almendares said social norms are changing and women would gain more by seizing the moment.
“Ten years ago, online dating wasn’t the norm, but today, it’s the new normal. However, the one norm that has yet to change is who makes the first move. This is why women who shift this dynamic have such a big advantage.”