Is Online Dating Different for Men and Women?

Is Online Dating Different for Men and Women?

Do women have it a lot easier than men, and do hot people in general have it the easiest? I know what you might be thinking: yes and yes. It’s hardly the unsolved question of the century.

However, it’s always good to back up hypotheses with facts, and that’s what Jon Millward did with this experiment, posted on his eponymous blog. Millward created 10 fake OKCupid profiles with similar sounding usernames, with the same written profile, personal stats, level of education, etc. The only difference? Each account had a different photo of a man or woman of varying attractiveness.

In online dating, we have the “perception of choice”, but not actual choice itself.

What he discovered isn’t particularly revelatory, but it does echo something I’ve said here repeatedly about online dating – we have the “perception of choice”, but not actual choice itself.

“The expanded horizons offered by online dating don’t equal unrestricted access to a ready and waiting list of beautiful people. Every man and woman online still has criteria that must be met by people who want to date him or her, and every guy and girl is still in direct competition with every other person of their gender… Whereas before a man just needed to be the best looking guy at work to get a date with a colleague, now he needed to be in the top 10% of all men to get a date with one of the women in his city.”

This is the double-edged sword of online dating. You have far more access to singles than ever before. But so does everyone else. Which means that there’s also far more COMPETITION.

Especially when it comes to men trying to write to women. For all the talk about “The End of Men” and how gender roles have been obliterated and women can write to men first, blahblahblah, here’s what ACTUALLY happened after four months:

• The women as a group received over 20 times more messages than the men.

• The two most attractive women received 83% of all messages.

• The two most attractive women probably would have received several thousand more if their inboxes hadn’t have reached maximum capacity.

• It took 2 months, 13 days for the most popular woman’s inbox to fill up. At the current rate it would take the most popular man 2.3 years to fill up his.

And what do men write? Well, you’ve seen this a few times before:

“Most men compliment the attractive women a lot, they make reference to something in the woman’s profile (you would not believe how many times men mentioned the party tricks and ‘Arrow’ the cheetah from the generic profile I wrote), or they ask a general question about travel or something equally boring.”

What SHOULD he write instead? In case it’s not obvious: Demonstrate creativity, intelligence and a great sense of humour

• Be totally different to anything she may have received before
• Be obviously unique and not a cut-and-paste job
• Show that I’ve read her profile and absorbed facts about her
• Not be needy!

I have dedicated an entire volume of my bestselling audio series, Finding the One Online to how to write emails just like this.

Online dating may be a jungle, but it’s a jungle with a LOT of single people, so it’s best to learn how to master the process.

As a woman, your takeaway is that while you may get frustrated at the lack of quality responses, put yourself in a man’s shoes. He has no idea what to write in his first email to you, and he’s competing with hundreds of men for your attention. Be patient, write a better profile, and learn not to get so frustrated with men, and you can enjoy online dating a lot more.

As a man, your takeaway is that the competition is fierce, and thus far, you have not been up to it. Stop blaming Match or women or your city for your failures and learn to market yourself more effectively.

If you’ve been frustrated with your online dating experience, click here and I’ll help you change your tune.

The full study can be seen here.

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  1. 91

    @ Karmic Equation # 64
    “I think ATTRACTIVE women have more dating options than attractive men. I think average women don’t have the options you’re talking about.”
    AVERAGE LOOKING women have way more dating options than  AVERAGE LOOKING men. Just do a an experiment yourself. Put up 2 profiles on a dating site of an average looking guy and an average looking woman. See who gets more offers. Alternatively message 100 people of opp sex from each profile and see who gets more responses..who has a higher success rate. 
    Men are a lot more forgiving and have very reasonable standards  in online dating. It is a myth that only hot women get attention and offers on dating sites. It is only women’s prerogative to notice, show interest and initiate messaging with men who stand out in terms of looks and other aspects.  The results of the Jon Millward experiment also shows that the least attractive rated woman got more messages than average looking men. Why the heck dont you consider that?
    Average looking women only compare themeslevs with the attention and mesages that hot women are getting. They dont compare themselves with the ordeal of the average looking men (their equals) who are almost completely invisible in online dating.

  2. 92
    Karmic Equation

    I may be wrong as I don’t do online dating, because I’m not photogenic :) but attractive IRL.
    It could be YOUR idea of average is MOST men’s idea of hot. So while YOU may think you’re initiating with average women, other men are inundating their inboxes because THEY consider her hot. Just a possibility.
    I believe that women still expect men to initiate in online dating as they do IRL. So, that could be a reason why men in general don’t get emails from interested women.
    Now, if your complaint is that WHEN you do initiate, you don’t get responses, well maybe you need to experiment and initiate with less-than-average-looking women and see how fast you get responses. Bet you you’ll get more responses than you thought.
    And if I understood women’s replies here, as well as Evan’s advice, it’s possible that YOUR initial contact doesn’t stand out amongst the others these women are receiving and therefore, if women consider you an average guy with an average online-approach, they may overlook your emails. But if you’re an average guy with an above-average online approach, then you might have better luck.
    In the end, I’m sorry you seem disgruntled. In the same way that I will avoid online dating because of lack of photogenics, perhaps you need to avoid online dating if you’re not getting the results you seek. Venting may make you feel better, but nothing will change for you until you do something different.

  3. 93

    I agree with Karmics points to Tim 94
    If Tim did an experiment where he ranked women’s attractiveness to him and wrote to those ranked “2-6  out of 10” I bet he would see an inversely proportioned corresponding response rate   Maybe the point of ranking where they drop off responding is the level he might want to try focusing on more.
    I will always appreciate a well crafted message even if its from an average guy  One of the best ones I got was 2 words but it was clever 

  4. 94

    Personally, I think online dating is the only way to go.  It not only affords you with the most choices in a solitary location, but it allows you to weed out those that you would never date it if you had met them in the real world much more efficiently. 
    I’m in sales, and think everything in life is a numbers game.  Even if I went out every night, it would be highly unlikely that I would meet one man each night that caught my interest and reciprocated that interest.  Online, I had an endless supply of possible men to contact on and was receiving about 5 to 10 emails per day from men reaching out to me.  While I’m attractive and don’t look close to 50, as I actually am, I’m not a 20 something swimsuit model.  I’m about 20 lbs heavier than the tables tell me I should be at my height.  So, think slightly above average, with a great sense of humor and a career that brings 100k a year.  A decent catch for the men I was looking to connect with (47 to 57, highly intelligent, active, attractive, financially responsible and a great sense of humor themselves). 
    What I found was that men were not great at writing profiles, so very little could be discerned without them contacting them or me contacting them.  On the flip side, when I looked at some of the competition out there, most women were complaining about game players or listing all the things they didn’t want.  I read so many negative female profiles, I actually felt sorry for the men that they might eventually end up with. 
    As I mentioned, I was looking for a man with a sense of humor and there were very few profiles out there that even hinted at humor.  So to make sure that every man that contacted me could at least perceive humor, I had a profile that screamed this girl is funny.  My profile was a take off of a ShamWow commercial called GirlfriendWow.  I also had about 12 pictures of myself (not professionally taken) showing headshots, pics with friends, pics alone, a pic with my dog, and full length pictures.  That way, when someone met me they didn’t say…hmmm…no wonder you didn’t show those thunder thighs : )  But it was easy to weed out form letter emails and those that just looked at my pictures because they mentioned things like my profile showed I had integrity or that they could tell I put a lot of thought into my profile and that we had a lot in common.  Unless they were a fan of the Shamwow commercial, what could we possibly have in common from a quick glance at my profile? 
    But what to do about sending out emails to men when their profiles afforded me little to no insight as to who they really were or whether or not they had that illusive sense of humor I was looking for?  It was a crap shoot.  So I had to come up with  criteria.  What turned me off, was a good place to start.  Men leading with their money turned me off.  So if someone had a bunch of pictures standing next to their toys (Beemers, Sports Cars, Jetskis, Boats, Motorcycles), they were a pass.  Also, a man who put his income of 150K plus in his profile was a turn off too.  Someone who posted a picture with his shirt off showing his muscular body…..denied.  Or that random high school picture in the midst of “current” pics that looked like a police artist’s set of age progression pics……who is this guy anyway and why do none of his pictures look anything alike?  So, I had my list of “don’t contacts”. 
    I reached out to very few men.  It’s easy as a woman because our inbox does get A LOT more attention than our male counterparts (sorry guys, it’s just the way it is).  However, I can tell you that I would have missed out on an awesome guy if I had just sat back and waited for him to come to me. 
    He lives a 50 minute drive from me.  He has an awesome sense of humor but his profile read like a cereal box, although not as exciting.  He is very intelligent and has a great career, drives a BMW, has a beautiful immaculate home, and has his act together.  He had not indicated on his profile that he was well off, he had not indicated on his profile that he had a sense of humor, he had not indicated on his profile any of the qualities that I was looking for.  He had written a profile without spelling errors (hints towards intelligence), he had written a profile that was more than just a few sentences, although dry (hints that he is taking this online dating thing serious), he had pictures of himself smiling….head shot, and full body, in a clean surrounding (hints that he isn’t full of himself and isn’t a candidate for the show Hoarders).  And when I got that first email back from him, he by the grace of God, had an awesome sense of humor. 
    Because “he” didn’t have anything setting him apart from the pack, he was not getting any contact from Match women and no response from the emails he was sending out.  Awesome for me because I had this gem all to myself in cyber dating world, but kind of sad for him.  Just goes to show you the disparity between the sexes in the online dating world. 
    So guys, you are always going to get less responses and initial contacts, so I would be a huge advocate for using EMK’s profile writing service.  It’s bound to help increase your response greatly and might even get you contacted first by some lovely lady.  And ladies, don’t be afraid to contact a man you are interested in, instead of just relying on what’s coming to you in your inbox.  When you take the first step, you are choosing someone YOU would like to get to know.  You might wait forevever for him to come across your profile and contact you. 
    And I was one of the lucky ones….I found my boyfriend in just two short months online.  From what I understand, that doesn’t often happen.  So hang in there, don’t get discouraged and keep trying.  It’s still the biggest solitary location to find your Mr. Right or Miss Right. 
    Oh, and I also bought EMK’s Finding The One Online.  I’d recommend that product to everyone who is considering online dating.  Lots of awesome advice ; )

  5. 95

    Karmic Equation & Kathleen
    Its funny that you’ve conviniently overlooked every point in my posts and made it about how presumably I am not having success in online dating.
    This article is asking whether women have it easier in online dating than men. I say absolutely yes. And I have presented evidence and arguments in multiple posts now. Why are you giving me advice how to do better instead of refuting that claim (you seem to have a problem with) ?
    You know I am willing to go with YOUR defintion of whats AVERAGE LOOKING. go ahead do an  experiment. I am willing to bet that an average looking woman will 1. get more messages AND 2. a higher response rate than an average looking guy. 
    In addition, women who have really mediocre poorly written profiles ALSO get a lot of messages. Its just men who have to write interesting well articlutated profiles just to get noticed and get a response. Go ahead and do this experiment as well. Make a dummy regular woman’s profile. You dont need to write anything more than the fact that she eats, sleeps, poops. She’ll still get more offers than most men with well written profiles.
    So as you’ must’ve noticed by now I am not disgruntled about my own failure, I am only interested in making a goddamn comparison here…a comparison between men and women.

  6. 96
    Karmic Equation

    Sorry. If that was your point, I did miss it. I agree that women have it easier in online dating, particularly if you look at NUMBER OF MESSAGES. IRL, women get more approaches than men, because it’s the TYPICAL male-female dynamic–man approaches, woman receives. My point is that dynamic DOESN’T change because the dating is now online instead of IRL. If you had different expectations, then you had wrong expectations of what online dating would do for you.
    So if your ONLY point is that women have it easier with being contacted, then yes, but it’s not a phenomenon of online dating. It’s just part of dating, whether IRL or online.

  7. 97

    i wish i had more luck than the average guy. I’m an average slim petite woman with a friendly profile and i get contacted maybe once a week. If i contact men they don’t get back to me. I have had a lot of chatting get to the stage where they ask me out for a drink or coffee, and as soon as i say yes I never hear from them again. This has happened countless times. 
    So where are you getting your statistics from?
    also perhaps women don’t contact men because like me they never get a response? 
    And can anyone explain what to say when asked out for a drink because obviously ‘yes’ isn’t the correct response. one guy, when i gave him my number, told me i was desperate. Okay.
    so Tim, be honest here, when women who are of average attractiveness contact you and show interest, do you reciprocate? Cause I’m getting the message that men WANT to be the ‘hunter’ and playing hard to get is the way to attract men.

  8. 98

    The men blaming is, once again, on the rise!
    There’s nothing more misleading than saying both genders have it equally difficult. But its simply not true.  Women have way more options than men, and yes, even ugly women do.
    There are many sites that give women special features that arent available for men. For example, POF gives women the button that easily sends a ” Hi, Im interested ” email.
    The online dating will be a easier if women put equal effort into finding their mates. most of them arent even cilivized enough to send ” thanks, no thanks” email.

    1. 98.1

      I agree. It is sad fact of life that many dating sites are heavily biased against men in favour of women. I came across many sites whose services are free to women but men had to pay hefty subscription charges.

    2. 98.2
      Karmic Equation

      When I was online dating, I sent nice 3 sentence “thanks, but no thanks” to men to whom I wasn’t attracted who took the time to write more than one sentence. Simple “Hi’s” from unattractive me were deleted without a reply.
      I believe in another thread, a few of the women said they did the same thing. And one woman, Henriette, even went so far as to say an unattractive man’s opening email was so good, she gave him a chance, fell in love with him, but alas the relationship didn’t last because he had to move out of state.
      There’s a fine line between writing too little and writing too much. You have to find where that line is.
      Women are as visual as men, so your online pictures have to look good to get a woman’s attention. Wear a suit instead of baseball cap and jeans.
      Also, most men who rate themselves as “average” are on the ugly side. I had a friend describe himself as an “average looking” guy, and I didn’t tell him I thought he was below average. But he’s tall, and he’s a doctor, and has an over abundance of confidence :) So he didn’t lack for dates when he was online dating.
      Truth of the matter is, if you’re not a good looking man, then you do need to make good money. Because money IS the equalizer for men-without-looks. So men DO have it easier, because if a woman DOESN’T have the looks to attract a man, she doesn’t have ANY equalizers to get her foot in the door.
      It’s sad, but I’ve seen pix of overweight women pretty much marketing themselves for sex in online dating. They want to get dates so bad, they cheapen themselves. And I’m sure the men asking for dates are only going for the easy scores. But the women don’t realize that’s what’s going on, they think, “Ooohh, he thinks I’m attractive” and that she has a chance at a relationship with that good looking guy she has a date with. So she has sex with him on a first date. He might go back for seconds or thirds. But once she says “relationship” he’s gone.
      I know a guy friend who does this. To his due, he does find overweight women attractive. But he’s not interested in relationships with anyone at the moment. He’s not forthcoming about that, though. I don’t agree with his approach. However, if a woman is old enough to date, then she should be smart enough to only put out for the right reasons. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a woman acting on her attraction on a first date. But I think she’s nuts to think a relationship will result because of that. Unfortunately, for women who don’t have options, that’s what they do to themselves. It’s sad.

  9. 99

    I agree women have it easier online.

    I had left my profile up for months, -without- any photos; I was contacted by some guys occasionally but not a ton. I didn’t mind as I only had time to date 1 guy anyway, who I’m still seeing.

    Well yesterday I decided to temporarily upload 3 photos to the website because a guy who’d emailed me requested I send pics to his handphone but I didn’t know how.

    Lol within like a minute responses started coming in, and within a day I’d probably received more messages than I had in the preceding months. And I’m not super-pretty. Now I’m trying to decide if I should leave the photos up. Feel a little shy about this.

    Thanks for the suggestion on getting pro photos in natural locations–I’m thinking of getting nice photos taken but only sending them to guys I’m already interested in. Plus it’s nice to have some specially-taken photos of yourself for future memories.

    I guess it’s true that guys are visual and lazy about reading profiles. I had written on my profile that I was considered pretty and pls email if u want photos, but the response was nowhere close to when I actually uploaded photos. o_O


  10. 100

    By the way, I wish people would STOP putting up fake profiles, I’ve read here of quite a few people doing this! Whether to run little experiments, or check if the men/women they’re dating are still looking around. I think it’s a rather silly unfair thing to do. Sheesh.

  11. 101

    In the real world I meet many women.  Those relationships turn into sex quickly and there is hardly any connection.   I turned to online dating to try and get to know someone first and I am doing horrible at even getting conversations.

    1. 101.1

      Wolf – If you meet many women in the real world, then stick to the real world.  “Relationships” don’t turn into sex, PEOPLE choose to rush into sex or they choose to slow down and get to know the other person INSIDE the body, not just the body itself.
      Believe me, many women would be THRILLED to meet a man who didn’t hold them to the 3 day rule.

  12. 102

    I think dating is only a problem in U.S. I’ve never hear any of my friends when I was back home in Europe complaining about not being able to find a girl to date and vice verse.
    It has a lot to do with the American way of life,mentality and the wave of feminists who did more harm the good to society. I know that might offend some and is not politically correct in this country but it’s reality.

  13. 103

    It’s always interesting how hard people are trying to make the difference between real life and online communication. My MA thesis was devoted to the topic of building democracy using social networking, such as Facebook, Twitter and so on… But what I found out was really interesting: in the web people construct there prototypes without any defects in profiles. Those people on the avatars of course look much better than that one in the cafe. And there are millions of them… and everyone needs to be heard and seen… I even registered myself on one of these sites for singles (not, but to investigate the others. There were a lot of handsome men and pretty women… but all single… and it’s all about their skills of interacting… online dating makes it easier to find the contact. I think, that the way to heart starts from the conversation… because words are our only weapon in the online fight for social success….

  14. 104

    Men are wasting their time with online dating. It does not work, let’s admit it. Women control the whole process of communication & only contact the top 5% of men.

    1. 104.1

      @disgusted: If it doesn’t work for men, then why do so many of us posting here know friends, family & co-workers who are in (heterosexual, therefore woman AND MAN) relationships that started online… ?   It’s true that not everyone online finds love online.  I’d guess that not even most, do.  However, does that mean “it doesn’t work” or does it mean that finding a healthy, lasting romance is tough for everyone?

    2. 104.2

      Well the 71 year old who just contacted me but who is looking for a 45 year old probably believes that too …. I think it depends on who you are targeting and how you present yourself. Evan gives great advice for guys but its rare to see a well presented  profile or a witty message .


  15. 105

    I have to say as a guy… it is much more daunting than asking a girl out in real life. I would like to see a study of messages sent versus messages received. Because as a guy it is hard to be creative over and over again based off of, relatively similar profiles. And even when you find a profile that inspires some creativity, and you spend a good deal of time trying to be respectful and charming funny relevant to her profile and your only feedback is that sh actually read the email…. you have to have thick skin.

  16. 106

    I have recently registered on a pay site and a free site.  The free site has topical life questions, some relevant some ridiculous, but if answered honestly it certainly helps you figure out about you and the prospect.  I have not posted any pics yet and I have received a few responses but very few.  My profile is short and slightly sarcastic which I will change after having read this blog.  I was married for 20 years and in my mid fifties and my age parameters are 40-50 range.  I was advised to do this because the vast majority of women lie about their age.  As well before agreeing to meet someone for a date have them take selfie and text it to you immediately to keep everyone honest.  Physically wI have kept in shape but I have been destroyed financially by the divorce and have been letting that stall me as far getting out and meeting someone. I work for myself and have always made a good living but am rebuilding and am conscious of every dime I spend as I have two daughters in college and one in high school. I am realistic and I treating this like a game so I can enjoy myself and hopefully meet someone who is  like minded.   Overall I think most of these posts are a good guideline on what to do better.   There are a few whiners that need to move on.  Quite honestly I’m flattered that a woman would reach out to me after seeing my picture. Awesome!  That gets me in the mood to finish the chase and that is what makes this world go round.   One last comment, I feel online dating is the most efficient way to meet people close to you.  Furthermore,  If someone thinks I’m too poor because I can’t do a Europen vacation with them ……Oh well.  Next?  Life is good.


  17. 107

    I’ve put in a real honest effort in online dating (even paid for it with eHarmony) and thus far I’ve only been on one single date, and she was so busy with her phone throughout that I was instantly turned off.

    It is difficult to reinvent the English language in every single email/message to any prospective date. After a while you end up repeating yourself, then it comes down to some key points that you make, then you devise a script and just copy and paste it in the hopes that the sheer number of messages you have floating around out there might warrant a response.

    My head has given up on the whole thing but my heart wont shut up about it. I end up going through small bursts of being really dedicated to the search for a few months only to fall into a lull and sometimes depression for some more months. Then the cycle repeats itself.

    It feels like such a meat market anymore, a real ‘beautiful peoples’ type pastime that would provide momentary amusement. I wasn’t born with great outward beauty and exercise is not a hobby of mine so I can’t do it to the degree that it takes to keep a Magic Mike worthy physique. So I have just about resigned myself to the concept that I will die alone, except for those small bursts of hope that get me back into it.



    1. 107.1

      Sean I am sorry you are going through this. I think average looking guys have a really hard time with online dating.     There are many guys that if I met that at work or school etc I would totally be into going on a date with them.  But online, when I am getting so many emails I am just looking at pictures and attractive women have so many choices they may overlook really good guys.

  18. 108

    I have a few tips of my own.   I get a lot of emails too, one of those people whose inbox was full and it was indeed overwhelming.  I hope this helps.  First, for the most part it does not matter what you write when writing to a woman who gets this many emails.  We look at your pictures first, and if we do not find you attractive we move on. So take good pictures. I am sorry but when you get that many emails you have too many choices, and the women receiving this many emails can be picky.   Second, if you are attractive and write something really stupid in the email you are also going to be ignored.  Let’s start with comments about my body, or questions like why are you on this site, you are too pretty?   I would rather you just say hi because again back to my first point if you are good looking  and say something half decent you will get  reply. Third, please do read my profile. I find that most men do not and then get angry when I don’t respond. I don’t want people ten years older or ten years young, those that smoke, those that live three states away, etc. My profile says these are things that I am not looking for specifically and in this sense I don’t care how you look I am not going to answer you.   Fourth, please don’t send me angry follow up emails if I don’t respond, that will only result in getting you blocked. Not just angry but I have gotten emails that say do you think I am ugly, etc?  Come on now!   Fifth please be honest.  Separated is not the same as divorced and many women won’t date men that are separated including me.   5’6 is also not the same as 5’9 and I am going to figure out when I see you so please don’t waste our time.  Before you start, my pictures are all within the last two months and I look like them. Please post pictures within the last two months as well, not from years ago.    If you are bald please don’t wear a hat in every picture. Lastly if you don’t have a picture you are not getting a response and if you don’t have your profile filled in you won’t either. Please don’t put “I will tell you later” for things.    I think that’s it and I hope this helps. The last thing to add is what this article says if you are emailing a very attractive girl know so is everyone else, and don’t be upset when you don’t get a response.

    1. 108.1

      Blondie … I agree with every point you made .

      Sean, a guy doesnt have to look like a movie star but if you have really good quality flattering natural photos taken by a professional photographer you will significantly improve responses. By natural I mean outside in evening light, not one of those cheesy with a fake background . A guy with good self esteem will present himself well. Most guys post horrendous pics so this will automatically give you an advantage.

      I will say that for me getting emails that tell me what I look like or comment on my appearance are incredibly boring. Id rather a guy comments on my wit or something unique to me that Ive included in my profile.


  19. 109

    Once again the pressure is on the men to come up with a witty or creative first impression. Women act the same way online as they do in person. They let the man do everything. Why? Its easier. It must be nice to just post your pic and say hi and then just sit there self righteously and judge men’s introductions. Where the hell is feminism now? I was just on a site that allows men to brows women but if you want to email them, you have to pay. Hmm now let me see…how often do you think women initiate conversations? How about 0?  So I guess it’s the men who pay to talk. Women get it free. Then the date is free probably a large percentage of the time. This is a great way for women to punish men. I almost wish I had thought of it.

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