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. 41
    Sparkling Emerald

    John 42
    “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.”
    That happens to me too.   I end up hiding and unhiding my profiles because I can only handle e-mailing, phone talking, and arranging dates with so many guys at once.   It gets tricky trying to remember what I’ve already said to whom.   I probably need to start printing out our e-mail exchanges, & keeping a log of our phone conversation.

  2. 42

    I am willing to concede I could be wrong, but my sense is, when a guy chats you up once and then says “drop me a line sometime”, he is not that interested and I just move on.   I had one do that recently, then had another one get mad because I didn’t pursue after one conversation.   All we discussed in the initial chat was what turns him on.   Didn’t really indicate much interest in me as a person.   But then getting upset with me because I didn’t chase after?   Oy vey.   He said in his e-mail he was “better off alone”. I believe him.

  3. 43

    @John #42 “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”
    Yeah it happens to me too but I think it happens to a lot of people but probably way more to women. When it happens to me it’ll sort itself out naturally.  Women just get overwhelmed…LOL I liken it to…….the imaginary scenario of a beautiful woman walks into a bar and 100 men all approach her at once. What would she do? Of course we know when a beautiful woman walks into a bar everyone stares but very few if any approach.
    @Sparkling Emerald # 41. As far as pics of kids?? Even women don’t agree on this one. Some think it’s an absolute no no and some splatter 10 pics of 7 and 10 yr. olds. I saw one yesterday of her probably 10 yr old in a 2 piece bathing suit! I don’t mind 1 or 2 but not 15 of them and 2 of you. I’d rather women put the AGES of their kids in a profile rather than the pics. I’m sure Evan doesn’t coach his clients to put kids pics in profiles.

  4. 44
    B Ross

    I’m not at all surprised with the stats given in the article.   I’ve seen lots of poor quality mug shots, terrible grammar, old and worn out one liners and would you believe overt profanity from people who I’ve only just met online.
    I can understand why some people get jack of the whole thing and just live their lives hoping for some half decent individual to cross their paths in the flesh and not in cyber space.

  5. 45

    It would have been nice if he used at least one picture of a very pretty black woman. Although it wouldn’t have been news to me if she got the exact opposite number of messages as the pretty white woman, it would have at least showed some consideration of the online dating experience of attractive, quality black women who can’t beat the realities of what race means to dating.

  6. 46

    @ Sparkling Emerald #41
    I wouldn’t know what to think of it. Would definitely not post my kids’ photos on my dating profile myself. But that’s to protect my children’s privacy. My sons would blow a fuse if they saw their own photos on my dating profile, and they would be 100% right! I guess a picture of a guy holding a baby grandkid is okay. The baby looks like a million other babies, the guy shows his softer side, and the end result is cute, like a picture of the same guy with a dog would be. Anything else, like a photo of a man with his preteen children, I’d say he’s treading on thin ice and I’d rather not post those pics, just to be on the safe side.

  7. 47

    I’m not interested in dating your kids or your pets (or your nieces and nephews.) That you have either or both should be indicated in the profile. I like to see a photo of your face and a photo of your head to toe (at least below hips) shape — i.e. what you look like. Without a photo of your shape I’m forced by experience to assume the worst or that you’re terribly uncomfortable with the way you’re shaped. (see number 4 here:  

    1. 47.1

      So I’m not the only one who gets annoyec of seeing pics of men with their kids.   I get it that people have kids but seeing pics of a guy with kids is just a turn-off, especially when these men also put in their profiles that their kids come first.   I actually saw an ad by a man that said something like “My daughter is my world and she comes first.   If you can’t accept that, don’t bother replying!”

      Yeah, like childless women will be chomping at the bit after seeing such an ad; and these same men aren’t pursuing women with children.


  8. 48

    Frommel   49
    Yes I also just want to see at least a clear face and a body shot of a guy . What could be more simple!  
    There are so many guys that post pictures with other women which to me makes them look like they don’t really have room for a new woman in their lives.  
      One guy has a picture with his daughter with huge breast implants who is standing , in a bikini, with him   ( She was the spitting image of him so I do think she was his daughter )…… I can’t fathom their judgment …;-)

  9. 49

    Lots of thoughts:
    I also don’t post picture of my kids to protect their privacy and also, because you are not dating my kids
    Two of the women had a lot of responses; the other three were comparable to the mens.   So of the ten total – only TWO got a lot of emails.   Yes they were both women.    
    I agree about not posting pictures of kids, pets, extended family.   In the same way, I am also not dating your last hunting trophy, your motorcycle, or your vehicle.  
    Speaking of profiles: I’m so excited because I am going to take the plunge and have e-cyrano write my profile for me!   With Evans post about pictures; i’ll have to consider that as well.

  10. 50

    @ Frimmel, yes that’s pretty common knowledge in my experience that guys have to see a woman’s full body shot, not just the portrait (totally understandable). I don’t know about pets though. Personally, I was much more likely to reply to a guy who had a cute dog in one of his pictures — one, that meant we could walk our dogs together, and two, CUTE! Maybe I’m weird and no other woman is like that. Don’t know. FTR, my bf did not have any photos with pets in his profile, probably because he didn’t have any pets. I didn’t rule him out because of that 🙂

  11. 51

    I think this discussion of what photos are of value is interesting.       Certainly including more than just the standard head shot and full body image could impact the number of responses and the quality of responses.  Personally I prefer to have a couple additional photos that reflect what’s important in their life (aside from children).   It can give me a glimpse into  where they like to spend their time and what kind of lifestyle they prefer.  
    For instance, if a man has a picture showing him enjoying a sunset on a beach, boating on a lake, or traveling domestically or internationally, my interest level goes up a notch and  I’ll take a second look at his profile even if he’s not the most attractive man in the bunch.   These are the things I love to do in my free time.   If he shows pictures  riding his favorite horse, I’ll be less interested because I know  that the lifestyle is generally not one I’d be interested in.    Having a dog in the picture doesn’t have a great impact on me.   I love dogs, but don’t see this as a lifestyle issue.  
    Ful disclosure: I’ve been in a relationship for 2+ years so no need to online date, but I still find Evan’s column fascinating and the comment section entertaining!

  12. 52

    I don’t mind if they show pictures doing things I don’t normally do   because I love to try new things.
    I don’t really care for the bare chested bathroom mirror shot.   What are they thinking?

  13. 53
    Sparkling Emerald

    Just Me – 54
         LOL to the bare chested bathroom mirror shot !
         One person I am currently in phone communication with did post a pic of him with his infant granchild, but I could clearly see his (the guy, not the baby) smiling face.   In our phone conversations it came out that this infant is now 4 years old, and he quickly (maybe a bit too quickly) added that he still looks like that, and he only posted it, because it is the best pic he had.   I have seen other profiles with pic of their grown children. And some of all ages in between.  
       My profile consists of   some good, clear, close up, smiling, snap shots, a few of me in costume for community theater (which is mentioned in my profile, so no one wonders WTF is with tiara ??????? ) 2 full lengths, and one of me on my bike at a charity bike ride.   A friend of mine took it, and I was surprised that it came out nicely.   It was a candid, but I had a nice smile on my face.
       The interesting thing is, everyone will have a different opinion on this.   Some will say the community theater shots or the bike shot is a turn off for some reason, others will think it is cool, because the person gets a better idea of what I look like and will SEE what I like, and not just read it on my profile.   I find that interesting.   I’ve been on other online dating forums, and there is no consensus on this, and other online dating issues.   In a case like this, I’ll do what I want to do, because I can’t please everyone anyway.   But the pics that get the most “likes” are my close up portraits.  
       Thanks everyone for you opinion on the kids issue.

  14. 54

    I post the body shot because I am far far far from the desirable type of figure so I know it will weed pretty much everybody out from the get go.   If anyone decent still contacts me at that point, then maybe it’s worth pursuing.

  15. 55

    @ Goldie #52:
    I think the issue is with people who include pictures of only their pets.   It’s different if the pic shows you interacting with your pet.   Same with cars, or artwork, or the pic you took of the Eiffel Tower.

  16. 56

    I love pics of women with their pooch! 🙂 Just makes me smile. No problem with pet pics…lol

  17. 57

    Oh and by the way…………Is it wrong to return a wink from a woman with …”you look like my brother” even if THEY DO?
    I’m sorry but as a woman if you choose to have short “dykey spikey” hair and look masculine you can’t expect most heterosexual men to be attracted to you or email you back…..just sayin…
    The difference between men and women as they get older? As some women age they look masculine, but NO men that I’ve ever come across look more feminine as they get older…. oh well……. They may be more docile as the testosterone decreases but not fem.

  18. 58

    Despite the results, you can sense the authors and commenters’ discomfort and their extreme reluctance to acknowledge the unmistakable advantages women have in the realm of dating, attraction, courtship and sex.
    Since the terms ‘women’ and ‘privilege’ in the same sentence amount to blasphemy. T
    he topic is very thorny and surrounded by a lot of political correctness. After all there should be focus on how to make the genders be perceived “having it equal” even at the expense of logic and evidence.

    Women’s ordeal to sift through 100’s of messages is seen as a ‘problem’ of equal magnitude as men not getting ANY message at all after months. We are even meant to sympathize with the woman who gets 100’s of messages because she faces a clerical problem. It speaks volumes of how privileged and entitled women are in the realm of (online) dating.
    While a man has to stand out in terms of looks, physique, career, lifestyle, confidence, personality, outgoing nature etc; write a well articulated profile; and come up with a perfect witty message just to get noticed and have a handful of women respond to him; a woman can be mediocre in every aspect, have her life in the toilet and still have dozens of men interested in and message her.
    Yes it is a privilege. It’s a privilege to have the option to sift through a 100 offers, shortlist a handful of the best looking, most interesting, most attractive men to interact with and finally choose 2 or 3 for dating; when you want, where you want, how you want. All the while she just sits there and has nothing to prove to those men, because they already find her acceptable / attractive (hence they initiate contact)   All the while the onus being on the men to prove themselves they’re good enough for her.
    Instead of recognizing women’s privilege; their favorable / bargaining / advantageous position in online dating; instead of telling women that they don’t have a shortage of men and dating options; MEN are being told that the problem lies with them. We are being purposely blinded by the women’s perspective no matter how unreasonable it is.
    Men are told how most of the messages sent by them failed to ignite a spark in the women recipients, how the majority of profiles are not well written, were too similar, repetitive and thus bore women. I can only imagine the horrors and the agony. (Nevermind women who can’t be arsed about grammatical mistakes still get dozens of offers)

    Evan, please don’t feed their sense of entitlement and their spoilt nature. Please tell them that there is no shortage of men and if they don’t want to date them, THAT’s OK. But its their own self-imposed limitation.

  19. 59

    Tim   # 60  
    You sound like a very bitter guy.
    It actually IS a major clerical problem and I have no sense of entitlement. I put up an array of great pictures and composed a profile and username based on what Evan recommended which took much thought and creativity and humor. There are plenty of unique references in my profile that could be an anchor for a funny one liner.   I have a full time   job though, so sifting through most of the garbage is time consuming.  
    Most messages I get say ” yum”   “You’re hot ” ” hi ” “how are you”   Then I get messages from guys who I can’t see the photos of clearly who try to negotiate why they don’t want to be judged on how they look but are contacting me based on my appearance. Then there are the guys with no photos claiming to be James Bond or some other VIP. Then there are the hoards of cut and paste messages. Then I get messages from the guy who said ‘Yum” who is pissed off I didn’t respond to that profound message.   Then there a the overwhelming amount of winks and likes that take no effort and are impersonal.
    Perhaps if you put up a fake profile of an attractive woman you will see what it is.
    Its not easy for either sex. Women though are judged predominantly on their appearance God help a woman who is not attractive, because she is ignored, as the article implies .   

    1. 59.1

      What do you think men go through to send you a message? They have to sift through profiles before even sending the message… except for the ones who use automated software to spam these sites because they have better things to do than spend all day looking for good profiles, perfecting their own, crafting the perfect first message, then repeating that a hundred times… yea, God help a woman who is not attractive, she might end up having to face the horror of being treated like an attractive man.

  20. 60

    “The fact that the first stage of online dating is so heavily stacked in women’s  favor  doesn’t  necessarily mean that it’s any easier for them, compared to men, to reach the end goal of pure love or perfect sex “
    Yesh, the end goal of pure love (I’m glad you didn’t say the end goal of a happily married ever after)
    Why is there a fixation on the end goal, I wonder?
    Is it because by  focusing  on the ‘end goal’ or ‘destination’ and disregarding the ‘journey’; it becomes easier to downplay the advantages women have in the realm of dating, courtship and sex?   Does it make it easier to portray that men and women have it equal?
    Because most men and women, do end up in LTR’s and marriage, and thus some may argue they all have it equal.  
    You might as well argue that since all humans die in the end, we all have it equal.  But life is a journey rather than a destination.
    Why are we supposed to pretend that the aim of all dating and sex is to find a lifelong, committed relationship and anything else is failure and meaningless?
    Why are we supposed to conveniently disregard that what us humans fundamentally want/need is sex, physical intimacy, companionship and validation and it is a lot easier for women to obtain these things than it is for men?   We’d be kidding ourselves if we believe that in this day and age a big relationship or marriage is necessary to obtain these things. People are already doing it.
    There is a bustling casual dating, sex, flings, FwB, hooking up scene out there. Relationships are becoming more fluid. There are plenty of women who are not interested in settling down (yet) and just want sex, companionship and fun. Is it not an advantage to these women that the initial stages of dating are are heavily stacked in their favor?

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