In a recent interview with Sophia Amoruso on the #Girlboss Radio podcast, Whitney Wolfe discussed the experiences that motivated her to found Bumble, a dating app on which women can ask out men — but not the other way around.
Wolfe told Amoruso why the app “really turns the rules on society’s head”:
“I can’t tell you how many times in college I had a crush on a guy, or I thought a guy was cute, and I would text him, and my friends would be like, ‘You just committed the ultimate sin.’ Like, ‘What have you done? You texted him first?’
“Like, no thank you. … It’s so outdated, and it’s so needed for something to come in and say, like, ‘enough.'”
Wolfe’s experience is hardly unusual. The dating website Match.com told Business Insider that straight women initiate only about 18% of emails between straight women and straight men on Match.
So what happens when women do break with tradition and make the first move?
According to the most recent “Singles in America” survey, for which Match.com questioned more than 5,000 singles (not just Match users), a whopping 90% of men say they’re comfortable with a woman asking them out.
Of course, the men in the survey were answering hypothetically, and it’s possible they were simply responding in a way that would make them sound enlightened.
But if you assume that most of these men were telling the truth, then there’s a huge gap between the number of women who initiate dates and the number of men who would be totally open to it.
That’s because women generally message men who are five points more attractive (as rated by OKCupid users) than they are, while they typically receive messages from men who are seven points less attractive than they are.
There’s no clear psychological reason why women don’t initiate relationships with men more often. One potential explanation is evolutionary.
In a 2011 Psychology Today column, Michael Mills, a professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University, proposed that when a woman asks out a man, it suggests that she’ll do so again, with other men. That might make the man less inclined to believe she’d be a faithful partner — and research has found that men desire sexual fidelity in women.
But given the fact that 90% of men say they’re comfortable being asked out by a woman, it may be more that women think men will see them negatively if they initiate a date … which means everyone might be better off when a woman sends that text.
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