Is Online Dating Different for Men and Women?

a man and a woman showing different reactions to online dating

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.

Join our conversation (297 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 21

    I guess to answer the question “Is Online Dating Different Men And Women?”
    The answer after 17 yrs of online dating both as a woman and a man is.
    I still have fun doing it, there’s really no other choice at 50 yrs old. 95% of all my dates in the last 5 yrs have come from meeting women online. I love what Jenna said anytime I get annoyed at someone ignoring me, disappearing, rejecting me, or standing me up. “I just laugh it off as part of the game”, and keep playing….lol
    One thing I’ve always noticed after reading probably over a billion women’s AND men’s profiles is women (for the most part not all) put a lot more effort in their profiles than men do. They always on average put many more photo’s in. I’ve often wondered do you really need 21 pics of yourself in a profile ladies? I know most men don’t come close to this number. I think  THEY think the MORE pics  they put in the more likely the most attractive successful man on here will email them. Can you say “trying to hard”… after 4 or 5  pics as long as they’re congruent, we get it….you’re gorgeous, active and look like 5 different women! 🙂

  2. 22

    @ JB: the problem is that half of those 21 pictures are of places she’s traveled to, or her pet, or her artwork, or show her from far away so you can’t see what she looks like or (as you’ve already noted) even whether it’s her.

  3. 23

    Joe   22  
    You are correct   Im a very visual woman and not being able to see the guy when he has pics of his car, toys, pet, sunsets makes me move to next profile   One guy who had a hobby of photography had a great clear awesome quality image of some brussel sprouts!!!!   But do you think I could see him….noooooooo…. LOL  
    I actually really like the matching algorithm on OK Cupid and being able to see how guys answer questions

  4. 24

    I followed Evan’s instructions to a T with my photos, and added an extra feature of my own. Next to each photo, I’d write 2-3 lines about where, how, etc it was taken. Something that would entertain a reader. Was a big success on OKC. Only advice of Evan’s that didn’t work for me was to take a professional portrait photo. This must be an LA thing. Guys didn’t know what to make of my portrait photo and someone called it “your yearbook picture”. The one photo that I’ve had the most luck with, was of me and my dog sitting on a couch. I’m sitting on my couch in my 15-year old sweater and a pair of sweatpants, and my sheltie lovingly stares me in the eyes. You would not believe how many comments I received on that picture. The weirdest of them came from a guy who called himself a deeply religious person, and went something like this: “I wish I were your dog in this picture, so I could lick your face”. Guys, seriously, whether you’re devout or not, you’ve got to pause and re-read what you just typed before you hit that Send button. That was very very awkward for all involved.
    As for guy pictures. An obviously photoshopped picture as your main profile photo is a no-no (yet I still went out with that guy several times). Shirtless cell-phone photo in a bathroom, I don’t know what possesses people to post those, huge turn-off. The weirdest in my experience was a picture of a guy hugging his 80-year-old mother. He probably meant to make a good impression with that photo, but all it did for me is remind me of “Throw Your Momma Off The Train”… weird, weird, weird.
    I like to see several pictures of a guy doing various things he likes or in various places that he’s visited. That tells me there are other things going on in his life besides online dating. I had several photos of myself at different places/activities for the same reason. If any guy ever thought I had too many photos, I never heard from him. I did get a decent number of emails, so I figure the quantity and quality of my photos were generally okay.

    1. 24.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Goldie – Pro photos DO work. Just not cheesy studio shots, which is what I’m guessing you purchased. Try using a pro and going to a park.

      1. 24.1.1

        I’d be interested in hearing other mens perspectives on professional photos.    The reason I say that is many of my guy friends prefer candids because professional photos can really make a woman look totally different than she does in “real life,” and this is a huge fear for guys online because it happens so much.    I don’t do the sites anymore but when I did or even on tinder men instantly want or wanted a selfie to prove how you really look.   I know a lot of my male friends that do online dating will look right past professional photos whether they are cheesy glamour shots or not because they are presumed to be doctored.   I think men want a realistic photo and these just are not or even or they are they are presumed not to be.   I don’t use them.    But several friends do and they get less interest overall.    And as far as men using them, it’s hard for a man to use smoke and mirrors, but I think a guy that gets professional photos is a little cheesy.    Sorry 🙁

      2. 24.1.2

        Bull crap. I have sifted through many profiles of women and when I see a profile that has 25 pictures and all of them look like they belong in a catalogue, I pretty much know it is one of several things:

        -that person isn’t real

        -They are incredibly vane or shallow

        -they are trying way too hard

        – they are presenting an unrealistic representation of how they really look normally

        Having one or two photos is fine. But put double that amount in non-pro format also.

  5. 25

    What you put in is what you get out.   I agree with the men that quality women who want to meet  honorable  men online will  need to start by writing  a fabulous  profile about themselves.   Give them a peek.    Open the door and  let them see how different you are from the others.  

  6. 26

    Evan – I used a guy that my coworker wanted to hire for his wedding because he really liked the guy’s portfolio, but ended up hiring someone else, because the guy was too expensive. (I had a groupon.) Didn’t go to the park though, as it was winter and pretty cold outside. Maybe if I saw a good example that worked for someone else, I’d be convinced, but I haven’t happened across one. I’ll ask my guy friends if they’ve ever seen a pro photo they liked. I still think it’s a location thing.

      1. 26.1.1

        @Evan everyone of those pics are awesome and their stories are inspiring too. 🙂

  7. 27

    A great photo captures real emotion of the moment.

  8. 28

    @Goldie #24 ” like to see several pictures of a guy doing various things he likes or in various places that he’s visited. That tells me there are other things going on in his life besides online dating”
    That made me laugh because the pics in my profile show that I do absolutely nothing in my life besides online dating (despite how active my profile says I am…lol) I have one pic of me in front of my computer scouring Match profiles pointing at the screen laughing, another on my iPhone using the Plenty Of Fish app in disgust, and yet another of me reading the last book I read “Love In The Time Of Algorithms”(A great book by the way!). No wonder I never meet  anyone!! 🙂 I’m kidding of course but seriously I have no action action shots in my profile of which you speak. They’re just me, they’re clear and good. If a woman doesn’t like em too bad her loss. I believe if a woman likes my pics/profile she’ll email me back and plenty do. I actually tried last summer of taking a pic by my bike and it looked horrible… believe me it would only lower my value. I don’t think many women think like you. Women are way too superficial for that as I’ve proved with many fake profiles like the guy who did the experiment.

  9. 29
    Sparkling Emerald

    JB 30
    “Women are way too superficial for that as I’ve proved with many fake profiles like the guy who did the experiment.”
    Is this fake profiling trying to prove a point about the opposite sex a real common thing ?  
    I read about someone putting up fake profiles of beautiful women, but then made their profiles show them to be really awful people.  
    If I am recalling correctly OK Cupid specifically asks to only use the service if you sincerely are looking to date, and not to use it for research.
    I don’t think your fake profile proves much, accept to confirm your bias that women are “superficial”   You think that men are so deep in who they decide to contact ?   The Plain Jane who just got back from Peace Corp and is currently training seeing eye dogs, or the Hot Blonde with big boobs and a skimpy tell nothing profile ?   Which one gets more views ? Which one gets more e-mails ?

  10. 30

    Those photos in the link are really cute. They don’t look like they were churned out by a studio.

  11. 31

    If action isn’t you why take an action shot? It needs to be authentic of something you love or like doing who you really are in real life. Not contrived, that just comes of as either fake or desperate. Not really realtionship material if you are not comfortable showing the real you.
    If someone has loads of action shots though, will they have time for you and a realtionship? Or will they be too busy with all their activities?

  12. 32

    @ Evan — yes, these photos are very natural-looking. I think my photog ruined it with a studio background. He also might’ve gone overboard with retouching. Looking at your link, I can definitely see the difference. If I ever do this again, I’m having them take me outside for sure!
    @ JB, as a woman who has still retained some of her decent looks (heh heh), I chose my photos based on my target audience. I had a pic of me rappelling (with a caption saying that I only did that once, because my son flipped upside down on a cliff, didn’t like it, and so we never went back), canoeing, couple photos of me taken in places I’ve visited recently (one was from DC… nothing fancy, I can only afford very low-budget travel), portrait picture, dog picture, that’s about it. I could’ve posted something sexy in skimpy clothes, but then I’d have gotten emails from men that I have nothing in common with. Then again, I only dated online for several months in 2010 and another several months in 2011, nothing close to your 17 years. So my experience is limited. (I had an amazing time though, and met some great people that I’m still in touch with, so it’d have to count for something.) And, I agree that it’s pretty difficult to take a good picture of anyone in their biking clothes. My bf, and quite a few of my friends, are cyclists, but I don’t think any of them ever tried that kind of picture, because it’s impossible to get a good one (mmmm biking shorts! haha)
    I had one picture of myself sitting in an outdoor coffee shop in an artsy district in our area. I added a caption to it, saying that I was out having coffee with a friend, when a little old lady, who turned out to be a friend of my friend’s, walked up to us with her camera and took that picture. The old lady then emailed the picture, telling me to make sure I put it into my profile, because it’d get me a boyfriend. (This really happened.) Now for some kind of guys, this photo and this story would be a turn-off, but I was going for the geeky type. I knew they’d love it, and they did. Everyone I met would comment on how much they liked that picture and the backstory. (Also, the picture worked, it did get me a boyfriend. lol)
    @ Rose
    “If someone has loads of action shots though, will they have time for you and a realtionship? Or will they be too busy with all their activities?”
    My take on it is, you look for someone who does the same thing you do, or the things you want to try, so the two of you can do them together. This BTW really helps extend your date beyond the usual “dinner and a walk back to your car”. I’ve gone on a few hiking dates and they were fun (cheaper than a dinner, too). Doesn’t have to be “loads”, though, IMO half a dozen is fine. But I agree with you that the photos would have to reflect who you are. If you’re in front of your TV all the time, be upfront about it. Embrace yourself.
    I agree with you that, if I see pictures of a guy mountain-climbing, paragliding or doing other things I wouldn’t do, I’d probably assume I wouldn’t fit into their lifestyle. But the thing is, my assumption would be correct. I really wouldn’t fit into it. And I highly doubt that a man who goes mountain-climbing every chance he gets, would give that up just to date me. Even I am not that awesome 🙂

  13. 33

    @ Sparkling Emerald #31 I was pointing that more towards Goldie ie proving that when I put up a couple “doing nothing” shots of an attractive successful man. He got tons of responses meaning that you don’t HAVE to have “action pics” in a profile because most women are as superficial as men if not more and could care less. They just want to see what a guy looks like and preferably see that he has some “style”. Which my own profile shows. I know we men aren’t “deep” when we contact. We contact everyone we vaguely find attractive  just to see what “sticks” and then we play those hands. I myself would be more likely to email the “plain Jane” who trains seeing eye dogs than the blond with big boobs BUT…. I’d probably contact both of them if I thought they were both attractive to see which one of THEM finds me attractive if either?
    @Rose #33 & Goldie…..I’m very active, I bike, rollerblade, play tennis and go out dancing 2 nights a week. The pics I would take of me doing those 3 things don’t look attractive. Do you really need to see a pic of me in baseball hat & sun glasses biking, blading, or playing tennis sweating  just so that you can see I really AM active? Or one of me dancing at a bar which would only lower my value in most women’s eyes….why? Because I’m dancing in a bar having fun….lol So I  get pigeon holed as “bar guy”. So I just leave those pics out. The number one rule in my mind of putting up photo’s in a profile is only put up a photo that YOU believe increases your value in the opposite sexes mind not lower it and most pics do one or the other. I can’t tell you how many women shoot themselves in the foot by putting too many pics some of which are very good…..then you see the 4 bad ones and we go……….I dunno……maybe not and don’t email them. Sometimes less is more. Present the best  YOU got. Not the best, the mediocre, and the horrible. And for godsakes ladies stop putting up pics of “average” you and your 2 hot girlfriends!!!….LOL It doesn’t make us want YOU. It makes us look at THEM!

  14. 34
    Sparkling Emerald

    Rose – 33
    “If action isn’t you why take an action shot?”
    Action doesn’t have to be a sport, it could petting a dog, playing piano, etc.   I don’t expect to see action shots, although a few are nice, as long as there are pics that give a clear shot of the face. (Pet Peeve, profiles with ONLY action shots, such as rappelling, where you can’t even see the person’s face)
    “If someone has loads of action shots though, will they have time for you and a realtionship? Or will they be too busy with all their activities?
    Hopefully, once in a relationship, there will be some common interests and these activities will now be done together.   Also, depending on the activity, could be a basis for a future date.   I actually prefer hiking, biking or going on an art walk for early dates.   Save the 5 star dining after we’ve established a romantic connection.   Having a picture of someone riding their bike, on top of a mountain or in front of the art museum, gives the other a clue as to what kind of activity to plan for those first few dates.

  15. 35

    Personally I prefer photos of  men who are decently dressed, not showing too many details from their private lives, such as close friends hugging them or showing off about a huge fish they ´ve just caught  and similar things. The reason is if I met them on the street or in a theatre, I wouldn ´t immediatley know all these things about him, so for me it ´s more natural when I just see a neutral picture. I like it when a man is alone as if he was waiting to meet a woman like me! (-:

  16. 36

    I agree   that action could be all of those things. Either an action shot or a sitting a being shot, either is good as long as not contrived. So I get what Evan is saying re professional pics, they are ok so long as they are taking a professional pic of you just doing or being what you do.
    Lol me and my girlfriends are all hot just in different ways. After about the first 30 second of hearing what a man has to say his visual hotness means nothing to me. Doesn’t matter how hot you look if you are not able to engage me and a deeper level than looks. Or how hot you think I look looks have nothing to do with who we are and   if someone is able to be in and do a real realtionship and attraction on a deep level.   I feel disinterested and turned off being treated like a trophy, object and accessory to show to anyone’s   mates.
    Depends what the individual wants, surface sociability based on shallow meaningless stuff based on how someone looks and appears on the surface. do we like the same food music etc.
    Or deep meaningful,   take of that mask,raw, real, authentic, inner core matches that compliment each other hotter than hot omg yes give me more than of that. 🙂
    The latter feels better to me.

  17. 37
    Sparkling Emerald

    Rose 38
    “Or deep meaningful,   take of that mask,raw, real, authentic, inner core matches that compliment each other hotter than hot omg yes give me more than of that.”
    It takes a while to discover if you are compatible below the surface, weather you met in person, online, through a friend, or school.   Weather the person posted nothing but “neutral pics” or a “shallow” pic of them working in their prize winning garden.  
    Just because someone wants a few common interests in a partner, doesn’t mean they want a “shallow” relationship. Just because someone doesn’t drop their mask, and reveal their deepest inner core on a first date doesn’t make them shallow.   And just because someone likes your looks, or you like their looks, doesn’t mean you can’t relate beyond that.   It just means if you do discover that the person you are physically attracted to also over time reveals an inner core that meshes with your inner core, you know you are already attracted to them, and you don’t have to try and “learn to love them” and then write a painful letter to EMK about how you are in a relationship or even married to someone with whom you feel no chemistry.
    I have, in the past, tried to “learn to love” the “nice guy” that I wasn’t initially attracted to, because I thought he was someone who I SHOULD be attracted to.   I had hopes that they would grow on me in time, because we had similar values, and they were so nice and devoted, etc.   Didn’t work.   I don’t consider myself shallow for not being able to love every good and decent guy I meet who is interested in me.
    Sometimes (ok many times) I have found myself attracted to someone who was a bad match for me.   I have learned from painful experience to walk away.   Of course, sometimes if the guy is a REAL jerk (narcissist, player, etc.) that eventually my attraction wanes, and then walking away is easy.

  18. 38

    @ elli #37 “I like it when a man is alone as if he was waiting to meet a woman like me!”   Exactly what I’m trying to convey in my pics. 🙂 My pics show exactly who’ll show up when I go on a meet & greet along with the style. I’ve already heard “you look better than your pics” a few times this year. The facts in my profile may be “enhanced” and or “stretched” a bit….. but what you see IS what you’ll get and that’s still 99% of  a possible successful meet & greet. It puts women at ease right away.

  19. 39
    Sparkling Emerald

    Just out of curiosity, how do you feel (you meaning anyone who has weighed in on the pictures thing) about pictures with the kids or grand kids ?
    I don’t mind them (I get pic of guys with the grand kids), as long it is a clear, recent picture of the face.
    I think the guy is just trying to convey that he’s a family man, or perhaps, that really is the best pic he has.
    Another pet peeve, pictures of vehicles.   Just makes me think WTF ? I want to date a man, not his truck or motorcycle !

    1. 39.1

      I don’t think pictures with children are appropriate or if you have them blur their faces. Just a pet peeve of mine.    Or make sure you have the co parents permission or both parents permission of not your child.   By the way I’m not a parent but I am a lawyer.   So I’m coming from that perspective.   You can convey that message without the pics, but you can get yourself into a pickle with them.

  20. 40

    JB @ 35
    We contact everyone we vaguely find attractive  just to see what “sticks” and then we play those hands. I myself would be more likely to email the “plain Jane” who trains seeing eye dogs than the blond with big boobs BUT…. I’d probably contact both of them if I thought they were both attractive to see which one of THEM finds me attractive if either?
    This is exactly my style also. Just curious if you go through phases where too many women reply or sometimes none at all.   It seems like I can go along my week with no dates planned because nothing stuck and then all of a sudden I am talking with and making plans with 3 different women in a matter of 1 day. Such a rollercoaster and no rhyme or reason why it goes this way.

    1. 40.1

      I get your method and I think most guys use it but it’s also the reason a lot of other guys get so frustrated with online dating and many women like me just stop.    I rarely emailed guys because I got so many emails I could not keep up with them but if I did I made sure I matched what they were looking for.    The problem was that a very large number of the men that emailed me just looked at my pics and never read my profile and we were incompatible on very basic levels.   But because I had to spend so much time weeding through those emails I never got to the emails from the guys that I was genuinely compatible with.    I’d rather have 10 emails a day from genuinely compatible people than 50 from people I would never consider dating which is perfectly clear from my profile.   So next time another guy complains about no one emailing him back talk to yiur fellow men!

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