Chivalry isn’t dead, but it’s on life support and I’ve just completed an experiment that doesn’t bode well for its future.
I spent a week on OKCupid under a female identity to see what it’s like to be a woman looking for love online. It was frustrating and tiring, far more trouble than I could imagine it being worth for a woman legitimately invested in it.
Ladies: I’m not going to claim some comprehensive understanding of the social plights of the modern woman, but OKCupid gave me a tiny peek into your part of the online dating world, and it’s exhausting.
I learned that women looking for men on OKCupid do not have to try very hard at all. The numbers are so overwhelmingly in their favour that I could kick back and watch my inbox fill with messages, no effort required after setting up the profile.
I felt like the belle of the ball. And then I read the messages.
Initially, I was engaging with people, replying to their messages and asking questions. But halfway through day two, I was having to comb through an inbox bursting with weirdness, deviance, and even cultural and racial insensitivity.
I was so disillusioned with all the garbage messages I received that I actively disliked browsing the site.
By no means was every interaction unpleasant. It’s simply that the signal-to-noise ratio of it all dominated the tone of my experience. My messages were so undesirable that by the second or third day of scopin’ dudes and alternately receiving offers for casual sex and gushy fanmail based on nothing at all, I was over it.
Let’s meet our straw woman
You can’t just conjure a woman out of thin air. Only pictures and personality will to lend some verity to a profile, so a college friend gave me permission to use her pictures and make her face the star of this story. She’s operating under the handle “FourStrongWindz” because she likes Neil Young.
As for the body of the profile (which you can read in its entirety by clicking on it above), I filled it out with feminine guidance from my fellow Business Insider colleague Caroline Moss.
Within minutes I started getting messages.
Take this guy, who seemed like a real sweetheart. He was, unfortunately, an exception to the rule.
A nutty number of guys sent me one-word messages. Consider this one, a mere three letters long.
Fully expecting this to be a one-off incident of laziness, my potential suitors repeatedly shot themselves in the foot by offering nothing more than a greeting.
Some use canned lines over and over, and it’s unfortunately obvious when that happens. Like these two, arriving 30 minutes apart from each other.
And some get straight to the point, asking for a phone number right away:
One immediately made the grand leap to an offer of casual sex:
Keep in mind that this is my first interaction with these guys. This is what they’re opening with.
I didn’t really know what to do with this guy. He came on strong and wouldn’t buzz off and then told me I seemed Jewish.
So what does this all mean?
I talked to Marni Kinrys, a dating and relationships expert who helps men overcome difficulties with women (she bills herself as “the ultimate wing girl,” though she recently started offering advice to help women with men.) She recommends that her clients try this very exercise — impersonating a woman online — for the sake of experiencing what it’s like to be on the receiving end of so many romantic, sexual, weird advances firsthand.
“Many men seem to pounce on women online just as they would in real life,” she said. “There’s no emotional explanation for it other than they want spice and curiosity. At some point it probably turns into a numbers game for them. If you send the same generic message to 10 girls and get one response, it’s easy to count that a success. So why not do it over and over?”
It becomes romantic carpet bombing.
And then there are the “scripts” she told me about: “Some men really blow it by using scripts or templates. The woman ends up interacting with a dynamic man over the Internet who can’t make eye contact in person.”
Marni’s advice for those having a go at online dating seems to boil down to simply knowing what you want in advance. Casual sex? A long-term relationship? By identifying this first, you can help narrow the pool of people online would would actually be receptive to meeting you.
What I took away from all this
Win, lose, or draw, a girl on OKCupid will receive messages from men.
Part of me was disappointed in the lack of effort and sincerity that so many of my fellow men exercised in communicating with me, a supposed female Brooklynite who’s single and looking. How do you wade through all the verbal vomit that comes at you through your inbox?
But another part of me found this really hope-inspiring. There are enough men on the site that you’re bound to find someone who’s into you, self-perceived flaws and all.