In recent years, online dating sites like OKCupid have provided a deluge of data about people’s preferences when it comes to finding a partner. It’s now possible to track the proportion of individuals searching for a kindred cat person, the number of omnivores who are open to dating a vegetarian, and the prevalence of racial biases, among other leanings.
A recent study takes a look at the boatloads of information on OKCupid from the opposing perspective—examining not what men and women are looking for, but how they describe themselves in their profiles. Darin Hawley, the founder of hugequiz.com, parsed through 97,000 profiles of straight men and women from the 100 most populous cities in the United States and identified the most common descriptors.
His findings, which he shared with Quartz, offer an interesting look at what each gender, respectively, views as their most marketable traits on the platform. When Hawley analyzed the words appearing more on male profiles than female ones, he discovered an overwhelming use of terms describing professional occupations, including “engineer,” “software,” “musician,” and “construction.” (“Ladies” does, however, take the top spot.)
Conversely, the words that appeared more on female profiles than male ones emphasized appearance and personality traits, with far fewer professional terms cracking the list. Instead, words like “girly,” “sassy,” and “curves,” dominated. “Nurse” was the sole exception.
Words Appearing More on Male Profiles Than Female Profiles
Words Appearing More on Female Profiles Than Male Profiles
Men, by placing a profession at the forefront of their appeals, are seemingly responding to the expectation that they can contribute financially to a relationship, while women elect to highlight their looks and femininity. The pattern in this data suggests that people, at a macro level, advertise themselves in a way that still plays into long-held societal norms—that women look for rich men with stable jobs and men for beautiful women. (Another potential explanation is that there are fewer industries, like nursing, in which women outnumber men to a significant degree, and as a result the ratio of words mentioned regarding professions, on female profiles, is not quite as skewed. This interpretation speaks to the existing gender gaps in certain fields.)
The data also hints at the endurance of another norm—the belief that men’s work is integral to their identities and women’s work is more of an ancillary characteristic.