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. 61

    When you say that initial stages of dating are easier for women, it also means women generally have way more dating options than men. It would only take some common sense to realize how its an advantage to anyone interested in relationships.
    By dating more people you get yourself in a better position to narrow down your preferences regarding the type of partner you want. You can better able to determine what sort of a person would be most compatible with you… sexually, emotionally and in other aspects. Its like test driving several cars before buying one, as opposed to buying the first one that’s offered.
    Having a lot of convenient dating options also means you can start dating and begin new relationships very soon after breaking up. You won’t have to wait for years before another opportunity comes up. You won’t have to worry about long periods loneliness and sexual frustration. A person with very few options would be more reluctant to end a relationship they’re not satisfied with.

  2. 62
    Karmic Equation


    I think ATTRACTIVE women have more dating options than attractive men. I think average women don’t have the options you’re talking about.

    So, if you’re not getting the responses you like are you sure that you’re playing in your league with the women you want to date?

    I mean if 1000 men are contacting the same “10” women (all 50, let’s say) unless YOU are in the top 50 amongst those 1000 men in status (women value status more than looks, but being good looking to boot won’t hurt ya) — Maybe you need to play in your league more. Like be open to at least dating your age (if not a few years above it) and not cap it at 5 years younger than yourself.

    I don’t date online, but reading from women who do, it seems an extraordinary number of men won’t even date women THEIR OWN AGE never mind above their ages. If you’re really looking for relationships and not “just sex” then broadening YOUR dating pool by accepting “average” women whom you’re attacted to within a reasonable age to your own would probably double your options.

    That said, you do sound embittered. Just as men can usually figure out a woman “with baggage” women can sense embitterment in men. If you carry around this sense of injustice it’s bound to come across when you least want it to.

    Anyway, if online dating ISN’T going well, maybe you should try IRL dating. Take up a hobby that you are TRULY interested in that has a side benefit of having a lot of women, maybe cooking? Horseback riding? Dancing? If you don’t meet datable women there, you might be able to make good friends with women who are willing to introduce you to THEIR single friends. And if that doesn’t work, if you’re enjoying the hobby, you’ll have a new skill to be proud of.

    1. 62.1

      …and that’s why @Evan suggests professional pics…by the way, the ones from that kinky on his site are awesome, look natural and well done. Not cheesy.

    2. 62.2

      What age are we talking about here? Because in my agerange (young women between 20 and 30) rather date a mand that is 40 years old or older because they deem guys their age as mentally not ripe enough therefor beeing the same agument as you presented for men not wanting to date in their agerange. obviously men that can get a much younger and healthier looking opposite tend to chose that before looking for people of the same age. this is because of our nature. on the biological side of thinking you can explain that with men prefering partners with a higher chance of healthy offspring while women seek for the perfect environment to raise their offspring. men that are older and already having a stand in live tend to provide them with a better situation and are more experienced than “boys” in their age. therefor it doesnt surprise me but beeing the same problem as you discribe with older women. at some place the tables just turn and those that decided to not beeing ready yet for a lasting relationship (believe it or not there are more than enough that doesnt want that in my age) suddendly are uninteresting for the male population, because they have access to a better option making women of higher age  having a setback. ive read dozens of comments here that discuss about women that need to weed out the trash in their inbox. For young women older males are the chosen ones while for guys its the other way around. It is a problem that swings both sides and is not simply stated as a problem for women.

      1. 62.2.1
        Emily, the original


        For young women older males are the chosen ones while for guys its the other way around.

        Only if she has failed to meet men her own age who want a relationships with her

        1. Z

          if thats the case then there seem to be a lot that fail to meet men duing the time they are between 20 and 30. it is not rare that i meet women that prefer much older man than their own age due they beeing ways more mature. I too encounter a lot of women that do not want to be bound to a relationship at that time of their life because they rather focus on either their career or school with that age. they say “I do not have the time for a relationship because i have too much too do” or stuff related that a relationship at that time would be a bother due they learn the entire day or weeks and even barely have time for their friends. Again it boils down to their own choise where they set set prioritys at the given time. Once they are done with studying school or whatever they are already in the later target area for most men. therefor i doubt it has to do that women doesnt find good men i rather claim it has to do with personal choise and convenience…. they expect to always get what they want at a given time and expect men to respect what they want without needing to care for what the men actually want. Now dont get me wrong Im not saying ALL are like that, but I claim that it is certainly not a rare problem and one possibility what leads to them having it harder to find a good man later on. because the man with proportional age have a higher market value for the younger generation which is also preferable for the man since he seeks the best possible outcome just like a woman does for herself

        2. Emily, the original


          it is not rare that i meet women that prefer much older man than their own age due they beeing ways more mature.

          I think there are an awful lot of women in their early to mid 20s who would love to have a boyfriend. Often, the guys their age aren’t mentally/emotionally ready.

          But at 24 I had no interest in a guy who was 32. I remember being asked out by one. I was still hitting the clubs; he lead the conversation with a description of the house he owned, which I could not relate to and did not want to at that time in my life.

          Most marriages, even second marriages, are between people who are within a few years of each other.

  3. 63

    @Tim…in regards to what I posted previously at #47,there ARE attractive women who get NO attention online. Women who are sophisticated, in shape, intelligent, kind. Please incorporate their experiences into your perception of how supposedly easy ALL women have it online.  It might mitigate a bit of your frustration. ALL  women don’t have it easy, maybe just the ones you exclusively pursue. Some have it just as hard as any given guy, even if they are attractive.   

    1. 63.1

      Thank you!   Finally, someone understands.   I am attractive, not skinny nor slim.   Curvy and average.   I’m independent and own my condo and car.   But yet, I feel because I’m not a size 2 or 6, I get looked over by many attractive men.   It seems the only men who are attracted to me are old-ER, absolutely not attractive to me, very short or down right weird.   I am a good woman, with good qualities and it’s hard as hell dating online.   So much competition.   Plus, I’m not one of those to “give it up” on that first meeting.   Every guy I’ve been on a date with (3 in 1 month), told me that most women on that dating site (Match) are looking for hook ups rather than honest relationships.   Guys will seldom turn down a hook up invite.   I still have faith that there are some guys (with whom I’m attracted to and vice versa) are there looking for something real and not fake or temporary.

  4. 64

    @Stepha if there are attractive women online getting no attention then they are obviously not selling themselves very well. Might I suggest to anyone who is attractive and struggling to look into Evan’s advice and possibly purchase Finding the One Online or becoming a FOCUS or Inner Circle client.

  5. 65

    Julia, the only way I could sell myself better online is if I changed my race to white. Which I could do on my profile so I would come up in most men’s searches, but I have a feeling something would give me away like, the fact that I’m not really white.

  6. 66

    by the way, I used a service that professionally writes profiles, and have a good variety of attractive pictures.

  7. 67
    Sparkling Emerald

    I re-wrote my profile per EMK’s   advice (Why he Disappeared & Finding the One Online) and I must say it has made a HUGE difference.   Not necessarily in the # of responses, but in the quality of responses.
    My profile wall of men who   “connected” with me (ie: winked, e-mailed, viewed my profile or liked a pic) used to look like the wall of a post office.   Now HIGHER QUALITY men are contacting me, thanks to my profile make over.   I am not a super model, “hot” or a “10”   by any means (more cute in a girl next door way), I am over 50 and separated, not divorced.   Initially, I was surprised that ANYONE would contact me, but with the right marketing, it is starting to happen, and I am hopeful that I can that eventually the right man will what he is looking for and it will be ME !

  8. 68
    Sparkling Emerald

    Last sentence should read:   “I am hopeful that eventually the right man will find what he is looking for and it will be ME ! ”

  9. 69

    @Stepha, you aren’t kidding there…being attractive means nothing if you are the “wrong” color.

  10. 70

    Stepha 67  
    I don’t know what its like for a woman of color in the online world The most attractive black women I know date outside their race so Im not sure if thats your choice or not. I wonder if it would be better to date on a race specific site ?
    I read that women wearing the color red are rated more attractive by men I also read that men prefer a smiling headshot with face and eyes directed right into camera. I would think a woman of color with a fantastic headshot and body shot by a good photographer with good lighting would set you apart as unique and gorgeous amongst a sea of people who look alike and average.   Is that not so???  
    Im from CA so understand it may be different in other states

  11. 71

    I’m not white. The only time I felt it counted against me was when I tried speed dating.   I mindlessly ticked the “any race” box.   But after the event, when I checked the profiles of the men, I saw that a few had ticked “white” only.   It’s stark when you see it like that, but there are people everywhere who do have preferences re race. It’s just that online you can see it. In the street, or at a party, no one would be proclaiming “whites only”. They just wouldn’t approach you, some other guys would be talking to you, you wouldn’t even know you’d been “rejected”, though it’s hardly rejection when you don’t know him from Adam.
    Don’t be discouraged and do make the most of your presentation online. Unless you’re 28 yr old, slim

  12. 72

    73 ctd, sorry, technical hitch..
    white, with long hair, pretty, not divorced, with no kids, and a nice job, there are men who will pass you over for someone younger, slimmer etc. and even if you are that girl, there are men who go for blondes, brunettes, boobs, whatever, that you don’t have.
    I guess someone who looks like Alek Wek for example isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Too dark, too tall, too skinny. But she is beautiful and I’ve no doubt she would find someone.   She might not got a gazillion winks and it might take a little longer but it would happen.
    It may still be worth an overhaul of your profile, photos and online tactics. It’s down to marketing yourself, and I’m sure there are ways to do that which the ordinary person would not be aware of.

  13. 73

    @Kathleen, you can’t know anything about a life that you do not live.
    Stepha doesn’t need you toe “explain” anything to her.   And actually women of all levels of attractive date outside the race.   It’s not as if you need to be Naomi Campbell to get a white man, since most white men aren’t gorgeous in the same way that most people in general are not gorgeous.
    What Stepha is referring to is the fact that men will exclude her from search no matter how good her profile and pictures are. She might as well be 60 or something else that people exclude for being less than ideal.   
    They won’t see her lovely face or pictures, and many men exclude “black” when listing racial preferences, and as someone who has been messaged by people like that, I ignore them.   It signifies a lot of problematic ideas that they have about black women and I certainly do not care if they think I’m some rare black unicorn who is worthy of their attention.   That’s gross and untrue.   
    I have no idea what her preferences are, but the playing field is not the same at all, and she has controlled what she can and as she mentioned, she cannot change herself to white.   
    I’m not even going to bother getting into what happens on “black only” sites or sites where the men are looking for interracial matches…
    Back to the original point, online dating is different for men and women, and it is also very different for minority women and it is also different for minority women of different races, so the experience an Asian woman has is nothing like what a Black woman has, and so on.   And it’s not as simple as black and white in terms of who you should approach and where you can find him.

  14. 74

    @Nicole. Your obliviousness shocks me. Look up the OK Cupid info graphics on race.   They’ve been more brave than any other dating site in honestly addressing disparities in dating success between the races.   Black women are the LEAST sought after online, and the LEAST responded to when we write messages. We are the only race of women that can cruise profiles on Match and routinely see men check off every racial box except black on their racial interest list. I don’t begrudge anyone their racial preferences, I’m not mad that most white men are not interested in a black woman, I just wish people would be more honest about the harsh online dating reality out there for men and women who are not considered ideal in this society because of their race.
    @Kathleen. I do date outside of my race. I’m in my late 20’s and I used to model. My profile is professionally written, I have a range of attractive pictures, some professional, some candid. If I’m lucky, I get 1-2 messages on OKc every 2-3 MONTHS.

  15. 75

    @Nicole. I apologize for misreading your response. I thought it said something along the lines of race means nothing to your attractiveness.

  16. 76

    @Stepha, I am a black woman too.
    And I know what you experience, and all of that.   So yeah, I get it, and people assume we are the ones being closed minded but people will just put it out there online (but it won’t stop them from contacting you-and I don’t mean that in a good way.   It just shocks me when some man who puts White only or everything but Black still has the nerve to send a message).   
    1990’s Nia Long wouldn’t get a lot of emails on OK Cupid…

  17. 77

    And I don’t even know what to say regarding the comment that “all of the attractive black women date white men” as if it’s something black women aspire to…as if a white man picking you means you are the best of the best.

  18. 78

    Nicole 79
    my intent wasn’t to offend you My intent was to encourage so Im sorry that you are offended   I was asking for clarification since I understood there was some frustration about not getting any attention   
       I didnt grow up in America. Your assumption that I think white men are something to aspire to is incorrect. I was thinking in terms of expanding choices
    my comment said    ”     The most attractive black women I know date outside their race so Im not sure if thats your choice or not.”    This was based on friends I know who wanted to expand their options.    You changed my statement.  

  19. 79

    Sorry, but your comment that the most attractive black women you know date outside their race is still in offensive territory. Because it implies that unattractive black women can only date inside their race, as though that’s a bad thing. And by whom’s standard of beauty are you judging attractiveness? The Eurocentric standard? For what’s its worth what many black men find attractive almost flies in the face of society’s standards. That’s not to say that some aren’t still colorstruck though.

    For the record, I have dated outside of my race (black), but my preference is to date black men.

    i used to live in CA and let me tell you it was like the ninth circle of HELL dating-wise. I cannot tell you how many black men would just come right out and admit that they didn’t date black women. I’d travel home to the East Coast and get hit on all the time. It was so frustrating.

    When I lost my job and had to move back East due to my new offers it was the BEST thing that ever happened to me. Moving to the DC area opened up so many possibilities. I used Evan’s e-cyrano service and the pics service and had dates set up the first week I ended up on match. I even posted the pics on FB and had a guy friend trying to get at me from those. My best friend’s husband showed my pics to a work colleague and we’ve been talking/dating since January.

    For all the sistas out there, please try Evan’s services, both the pics one and the profile writing one. They work. And if you live in a place hostile to black women socially (like the West coast), please consider moving to the East Coast and most especially the DMV area. It has the highest concentration of professional and educated black people in the country. And there are people of other races here too who seem open to dating black women.
    The dating world can be really tough for women of color. It just means we have to take Evan’s advice even more seriously to maximize our results. Whereas other women might just be able to change up some pics or adjust their profile, some of us may have to consider moving to up our date ability quotient.

    Also, when I took my pics, I had them done outside. The photographer didn’t touch them up at look actual. Natural lighting and a good photographer a a great combo.

  20. 80

    Again my intent wasn’t to imply anything other than options to expand choices. Stepha had used the word attractiveness and that is what I referenced   Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I consider some of the black women friends I have to be some of the most stunning women around .   They told me that they dated outside their race because they had more options. One got married to a white guy One had a long term Italian boyfriend .    Sorry I offended you  

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