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February 23, 2010

The shallow end of the dating pool?

Filed under: Psychology — posted by Breakup Girl @ 6:33 am

From the Charlotte Observer: “A forthcoming study by a Duke University researcher and several colleagues confirms what not-so-thin women and short, broke men have long suspected: They don’t get nearly as much romantic attention as skinny women and tall, financially secure guys.” You need a study for that? Here, I got a study. It’s called pay my rent, food, and Netflix. Fund that, science people.

The study, out of the University of Chicago, is still under peer review before publication. But here’s what we know: analyzing 22,000 online daters, researchers found that “women put a premium on income and height when deciding which men to contact.” They did the math: the study showed that a 5-foot-9-inch man needs to make $30,000 more than a 5-foot-10-inch one to be as successful in the dating pool.

Men in the study demonstrated a strong, and depressing, preference for women with a BMI of 18 or 19, which basically means if you’re 5′ 6″ you’ve gotta weigh 115. So okay, women want men who can afford to take them to dinner, but the men don’t want us to eat. This should work just fine.

Sarcasm aside, I’m still annoyed with this study — or at least, to some degree, this article about it — and the way it only, and unnecessarily, perhaps even misleadingly, perpetuates and underscores that same-old same-old depressing, needlessly divisive message: “The only thing men and women have in common is that they’re shallow.” ‘Cause here’s the thing: the article and the researchers talk about what a fertile field for study these online sites are, because there are just so many people on them. Right: there are just so many people on them. That’s why people go in — or at least online — with those faux-“high” standards. Because they can. There are so many eligible singles there, at least in urban and urbanish areas, that you can afford to impose a minimum height or maximum BMI standard. You know? Then later, at a party, you happen across someone who — for whatever ineffable reason — makes your heart go pitter-pat, maybe someone whose attributes you wouldn’t have click-clicked and checklisted, and boom, you give them a chance. I’m not saying some people aren’t shallow, but still.

As the article, to be fair, does state: “Since the study focuses on first impressions and initial contacts rather than marriage, it doesn’t rule out the chance of true love winning despite appearance or income. ‘If you had to sit down and write what you wanted in your dream guy, most girls would write ‘tall, hot and well-off,'” said Kari Castle, a 27-year-old online dater in Charlotte. ‘But in reality, is that the only thing they’d settle for? Probably not.'” Right.

So, I guess, since the study doesn’t really tell us much, the reporter is forced to fill in with dumb cranky unhelpful — and dare I say self-fulfilling — quotes like, “It’s got nothing to do with anything but green,” [said one bachelor]. “If you’ve got enough money, you’ll have women swarming all over you.” Attitude, people! Actually, it might be a guy in the comments who said it best: “If you think women will only like you if you have a sizable bank account, you are the one who makes that happen.”


  1. […] This post originally appeared at BreakupGirl.net. […]

    Pingback by The shallow end of the dating pool? « SpeakEasy — February 23, 2010 @ 10:37 am

  2. Hey BreakupGirl. I’ve never seen your writing before and just wanted to say, nice article! I also had some comments. You asked, “You need a study for that?” Yeah, apparently they need a study for EVERYTHING. I’ve seen more than one article released in the news about diff. scientific studies that were done to arrive at answers to questions that a child could have answered correctly. And they’re spending MONEY on this. No wonder people are starving to death in the world. There was actually one that said something akin to, “Women are frightened of childbirth”. I kid you not. This was news.

    As for BMI, the usual way of calculating BMI doesn’t take into account muscle mass or bone structure (size, hip spacing, etc.), so I think it’s a bit too generalized, but I did mine and so did my very slender cousin. I can’t recall hers, but the 18 sounded similar or close to hers. I just looked it up and one site said anything beneath 18.5 is underweight (gernally speaking). I say generally speaking because my cousin is considered underweight by her BMI, but she really isn’t sickly, she just has tiny bird bones, so it works on her, whereas it wouldn’t on almost anyone else, but she’s as skinny as she could get and be healthy. She might be 17 instead of 18, but she has smaller bones than most people, so asking for an 18….wow. I wonder if these men really have any idea what that looks like in reality? Most men I’ve known go for slightly fleshier women.

    Lol at this- “So okay, women want men who can afford to take them to dinner, but the men don’t want us to eat. This should work just fine.”

    Good point about the “faux-‘high'” standards and how a person who doesn’t fit this perfect idea you have is sometimes the very one that, when you meet them in the real world, really gets your heart going. I think another thing is, some people might be on these sites BECAUSE they’re picky. I do know some VERY picky people. They’ll go for YEARS unable to accept anyone locally because they don’t fit their specific molds, so perhaps, some of those people end up seeking outside of their area on those sites?

    Comment by Komodo Queen — February 24, 2010 @ 8:58 am

  3. Hi, Komodo Queen! Thanks for visiting and commenting, and not just because you said nice things. Please come back, browse around, stay awhile!

    Comment by BG — February 24, 2010 @ 11:08 am

  4. Except … it does matter. A lot. If you’re using online dating, for example, unless women agree to go on a first date with a 5’6″ guy he wont have a chance to show off his sparking personality. When women ask “How tall is he?” when you want to set them up with somebody, and they wont meet the high school teacher who is 5’8″, they wont have a chance to see how confident and self assured he is. Speed dating also (yes, according to studies) makes people shallower: they say they want a broad range of characteristics, but even after 7 minutes of talking to somebody, decisions about whether to contact somebody are reductionist and easily predictable.

    And yes, guys are shallow too, but that’s the story which gets told more often — rom coms get made about the sexy zaftig girl who gets overlooked, but none get made about the short guy who is a real catch, there are plus size models but no short guy models.

    This isn’t personal for me – I’m 6’3″ so I could earn a high school teacher’s salary and still (according to the study) compete with a 5’6″ guy who earned $180,000 more / year than I do. But I do think the studies … matter.

    Comment by Ennis — February 24, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

  5. Ennis! Always a pleasure. I think those are all good points, especially, right, no short guy models! (Though short/”ugly”/etc. guys totally get a pass in terms of becoming, like, newscasters and movie stars, far more often than their female counterparts.) I’m not saying people aren’t dumbly picky in many cases or that that’s not a problem in practice. I’m just saying that just because they are online doesn’t necessarily mean they always are in real life.

    Comment by Breakup Girl — February 24, 2010 @ 9:02 pm

  6. BG: Right, it’s clearly not all or nothing, otherwise nobody in the “less desirable” categories would date or get married, and we know they do. Also, if height was the only thing that mattered, I wouldn’t be single. Heck, I’ve been told I’m too tall.

    But consider for example Laurie Gottleib’s original artciel which was all about how she was willing to stay single rather than “settle for” guys who were short / bald / etc. until after she had a kid and turned 40, at which point she started to preach the virtues of “settling” in part because she said there was no romance after kids anyway.

    Of course she exagerated for comic effect, but when the woman arguing for the virtues of shorter balder men does so not by saying “They’re sexy if you give them a chance” but that “look romance is over, so it doesn’t matter if they’re sexy, you’ll want boring” then she’s really confirming the study in her own way.

    Comment by Ennis — February 24, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

  7. (Also, part of my annoyance was with the partly silly slash unhelpful article. Not Lori’s, the original one. Though speaking of Lori, she’s definitely not pro-boring. Au contraire; her thing is — while yes, you’ll need someone “sturdy” and “reliable” to get you through all the challenges of life [with kids] — to give the short/bald/etc guy a chance not because boring is good but because you might wind up finding him interesting. )

    Comment by BG — February 25, 2010 @ 1:01 am

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