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Pain As Active Ingredient In Dating

Reciprocity is a simple dating site, created by some friends of mine. You sign up and see a list of all your Facebook friends who also signed up. You can put a checkmark next to their name to indicate you want to date them (they can’t see this). If you both checkmark each other, then the site reveals you’ve matched.

This seemed like an obvious great idea. But I started to hear a lot of stories like the following: “I checkmarked Alice’s name on Reciprocity, and the system didn’t notify me that there was a match, so I assumed Alice didn’t like me. Later I asked her out in person, and she said yes and we had a great time.”

I always figured Alice was just a jerk who was ruining the system for everyone else. After all, the whole premise was to incentivize honesty. Checkmark the names of people you honestly want to date. If they don’t want to date you, they never hear about it, and you would be no worse off. If they do want to date you, the system will let you know, and you can arrange a date. If your pattern of checkmarks doesn’t really match who you want to date, you’re just screwing yourself and everyone else over for no reason.

A few months ago, someone asked me out on a date and I said yes. And I realized I hadn’t checkmarked them on Reciprocity. This caused a crisis of self-loathing. What’s wrong with me? Why would I go against my own incentives and ruin things for everyone else?

I asked a friend, who admitted she had done the same thing. Her theory was that asking someone on a date (with all of its accompanying awkwardness and difficulty) was a stronger signal of interest than ticking a checkbox. And potentially there’s a grey zone of people who you would only date if you thought they liked you more than a certain amount. And asking them in person is hard enough to be a costly signal that you like them at least that amount, but ticking a checkbox isn’t.

This argument rings true to me. And it’s the only explanation I’ve got for why people would act in this self-defeating way.

I wrote before about systems where bureaucracy is the active ingredient, ie the very annoyingness of what you’re doing helps send the signal that makes the system work. The dating situation seems similar. Pain is the active ingredient. You can create clever dating sites that remove the pain. Sometimes it will work: lots of people have gotten great dates on Reciprocity. But other times people just won’t ask each other out.

Probably this story has the same takeaway as Seeing Like A State – you don’t fully understand social systems, so be careful if you think you can improve on them.

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290 Responses to Pain As Active Ingredient In Dating

  1. onyomi says:

    I never tried this sort of thing but always assumed the failure mode to be feared was not so much people who would be interested in you failing to check a box but people who are more interested in knowing who’s interested in them than they are in finding a date per se just checking all the boxes

    • Scott Alexander says:

      As far as I know, this has never happened on Reciprocity, with several hundred users.

      Aside from ethics, the main preventative factor is that everyone who was interested in you will get “You and Onyomi have agreed to go on a date!” messages, and you’ll have an awkward time telling them you didn’t mean it, and probably make a lot of enemies.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Aside from ethics, the main preventative factor is that everyone who was interested in you will get “You and Onyomi have agreed to go on a date!” messages, and you’ll have an awkward time telling them you didn’t mean it, and probably make a lot of enemies.

        Why is the system telling third parties when two people match? This looks like an obvious anti-feature.

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          The system doesn’t normally tell everyone. It only tells everyone in this hypothetical because the user checked the box of every user, thereby giving the system permission to tell everyone (separately).

          • Aapje says:

            So the “I want to date this person” checkbox is also a “notify this person if I date someone” checkbox?

            I agree with vV_Vv that this is an anti-feature for many and/or it means that you are incentivized to not check the box of people whom you would be interested in, but who are generally considered low status. After all, it then basically broadcasts that you have low standards and thus are yourself of low quality.

          • epicedium says:

            Aapje, I think you are misinterpreting.

            I interpret Scott’s answer to mean;

            – “User” checkboxes everyone

            – The subset of everyone who has checked User each get messages to say “you have matched User and agreed to go on a date!”

            – User has to explain to them all that they weren’t really serious.

          • Aapje says:

            That makes sense. I got confused.

      • onyomi says:

        I recall now what gave me this impression: besides the whole “swipe right, swipe left” thing mentioned below, which I haven’t tried, I do recall years ago attending a “speed dating” event where you’d talk to a bunch of people for 5 minutes and then secretly mark down whether you’d be interested in a date with him or her. If both parties indicated interest the organizers sent you an e-mail with contact info suggesting you arrange a real date.

        My experience was that, of the women I expressed interest in (don’t recall what percentage that was, but definitely didn’t claim to be interested in anyone I wasn’t or vice-versa, though might have erred on the side of “yes” rather than “no”) something like three of them ended up expressing interest in me, according to e-mails I received later from the organizers. I recall then e-mailing each of them to try to set up an additional meeting and I believe none responded.

        My interpretation of the situation was that some of the women were, if not literally checking “yes” for every single person then at least being quite liberal, probably more liberal than I was being, with their yes answers on the theory that would put them in the position of knowing everyone who was interested in them and then picking their favorite, if any, among them to pursue.

        A big difference here was that I did not know any of these people before the event and had no reason to expect to see them again outside the case of successfully organizing a second meeting. Thus just ignoring a request for a date even after having supposedly indicated interest in one probably carried less perceived social cost/awkwardness.

        I also recall at this same event being approached by a woman who I was never paired with but who was obviously interested in me based on my appraisal of e.g. body language. At the time I acted standoffish with her and did not attempt to e.g. get her contact info because I think I was focused on pursuing dates with the women there I considered more attractive.

        I didn’t realize it at the time but my behavior toward this woman (which I somewhat regret in hindsight) might be reflective of the phenomenon that resulted in me getting no dates after that activity: namely, having been thrown into a kind of “romance buffet” situation I was given the momentary and erroneous illusion that options were plentiful and I could afford to be picky so therefore shouldn’t get anyone’s hopes up when probably people I’m more interested in are available. Whereas, had I met this same woman at a non-speed dating event I might at least have been interested in getting to know her better, if maybe only platonically, and then who knows where that might have led?

        Similarly, these women I ticked “yes” for I assume probably received a lot of emails after the event about men who were interested in them. Thus these same women, who might possibly have said yes had I just asked them out in person at some non “romance buffet” event might have felt about me as I felt about the woman who approached me.

        Though, like I say, the fact of knowing the people in question probably makes people more careful about whom they check in the first place, this kind of “buffet” dynamic might also be at play. Also, my guess would be that, of those installing the app, a significant percentage only use it in a very casual, half-assed sort of way where they signed up but didn’t actually comb through their friends list carefully thinking about it.

        • Aapje says:

          @onyomi

          The greater value that men tend to place on casual sex than on (providing) relationships, while the opposite tends to be true for women, may be a major factor here.

          Women typically seem to have it far easier to find a partner for casual sex, or a date, but great difficulty in finding a partner who offers an acceptable long term relationship (in terms of what they offer and demand). If women pick the men from a host of options who seem most attractive, this group is going to be heavily dominated by men who seem more attractive than they are on further inspection. After all, these men have it so easy with dating that they can either afford to only date for sex or otherwise play the field or they leave fairly quickly after finding a good partner. If most women adopt a strategy of going after the men who seem top tier and if they have more similar standards than men, it’s like re-sieving the same sand in search for gold. Even if that area is richer in gold than other areas, if many people keep re-sieving the same sand, the success rate is going to be very low.

          The feedback for men is much harsher when their demands exceed their value, so they are probably much more prone than women to lower their standards, but this then doesn’t work until women also lower their standards, which they tend to do at a later age or not at all.

        • Aftagley says:

          From peronsal experience in events like this, dating apps, and flirting in bars I’ve found that the threshold of getting someone to agree to further romantic interaction at a later date (IE, swiping right, expressing intrest on a speed dating sheet, giving you a number in a bar) tends to be lower than the threshold actually following through on the interest.

          You have to be memorable enough for them to remember you the next day, after the alcohol/social environment geared towards establishing dating has faded away. This tends to be why most PUA advice (disclaimer: not a PUA) is focused on achieving immidiate results, because interest fades incredibly quickly.

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            IME this isn’t limited to romantic interaction. When I was recruiting for a student club at university, the number of people who not only put their email addresses down for more information but sounded genuinely interested was vastly, vastly larger than the number who turned up to meetings/activities- and the number of clubs I myself was actually interested in joining was much larger than the number I joined. I don’t know if there’s a name for the bias, but many people (me included) tend to feel much more favorably about an activity when asked on the spot (IME largely due to discounting costs, but I don’t know if that’s the rule for everyone) than they do later when deciding whether to go along with the previous decision (at which point the activity is more actively competing with other things they could do).

          • Walter says:

            This isn’t just a thing for dating. We’ve run a Go club for years and years, and about once a month someone will stop by the table for 5-10 minutes, and swear up and down that they are going to start coming and learning this game.

            The # of people who showed up even one time after that (that is, after making unsolicited offers to show up, to complete strangers, at their own instigation), has got to be under 1%. I am having trouble thinking of more than 3.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        There was a service like this about 20 years ago, and I personally had a girl tell me “yeah, I got a message that a boy was interested in me, so I put in the email address of every boy I know to see who it was.”

        (I didn’t know her that well to have made the cut.)

        When I suggested this might cruel to people who got her message that she was interested, she just repeated “I wanted to know who it was.”

        • Mark Atwood says:

          And *that*, ladies and gents, is why PUA theorists call it “female solipsism”, e.g. anyone else’s feelings are not a thing.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            I notice a lot of discussion in this thread about men swiping right on every woman on Tinder, etc. Is that “male solipsism”? If not, what is the difference? If so, why are we bringing gender into this observably nongendered behavior?

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            I think those men actually are interested in every woman on Tinder, on some level.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think those men actually are interested in every woman on Tinder, on some level.

            Which may still perilously close to solipsism, seeing women only as sexual playthings on the basis of having a pretty face and a hot body. At best, that would just be a somewhat more honest sort of solipsism.

            But it is a different kind of solipsism than Scizorhands’ example. So to the extent that these behaviors are accurate stereotypes, we are still dealing with observably gendered behavior.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ozy Frantz

            That’s debatable, giving dating dynamics. On Tinder, men who carefully read the profiles for women and only swipe right on those whom they are willing to date, have to do more effort (in time and emotion*) per match than women with the same strategy, because men swipe right on way more women. So women get matches per right swipe much more often than men.

            A male strategy of right-swiping sight unseen, and only reading the profile after the match, presumably brings the costs in time and emotional investment closer together. So one can call this fair (or not).

            The strategy doesn’t purely impose a cost on women. The men still evaluate the women whom they match with and will go out on a date if they like the profile.

            The girl that Scizorhands was referring to, had no such excuse and would be increasing an existing imbalance. Her answer also suggests that she might not be open to a date with the friend, which would make it different as well, as he has no benefit at all.

            * My experience is that I get a level of excitement of “hey, I would like to date that person” and then negative emotion when the right swipe is not reciprocated, while merely dismissing a poor profile doesn’t give these emotions. Women, with their greater choosiness, then don’t have this ’emotional labor’ if they actually judge profiles before matching as much as men who use that same strategy.

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            John Schilling says:

            Which may still perilously close to solipsism, seeing women only as sexual playthings on the basis of having a pretty face and a hot body

            Wow, that’s a really negative interpretation! Doesn’t really fit the facts: Someone like that would only swipe right on the pretty faces.

            My base interpretation is that these are often desperately lonely men who are open to dating any woman.

            That might in turn be overly charitable.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            If so, why are we bringing gender into this observably nongendered behavior?

            Yeah, I agree with Ozy on this. “Female solipsism” is right up there with “toxic masculinity” in terms of concepts that quickly reduce a discussion to mudslinging.

            There might be averages and trends in terms of how and how often certain genders express negative traits, but I tend to think that explicitly labeling a negative behavior as gendered in this way is unnecessarily reductive.

        • When I suggested this might cruel to people who got her message that she was interested, she just repeated “I wanted to know who it was.”

          She might not have realized real people would have been messaged, especially 20 years ago before online dating was a thing. I worked at an ecommerce site for years, and inexperienced people make all sorts of wrong assumptions about how a web site works. They think that they are prompting a dumb computer for info, not realizing real people are in the workflow. She might have been too embarrassed to explain that she never realized folks would be messaged. Some might even think its rude to not “like” someone, not reading the fine print on what it means.

  2. shakeddown says:

    I wonder if it’s a failure mode that this screws up the system for people who have lower tolerance for rejection-pain, or if that’s a feature (filters out people who take things more seriously/are more vulnerable, which may be unattractive traits).

    • Eponymous says:

      Or, to put it bluntly, the set of people who will check a box saying they’re interested in someone, but who won’t have the guts to ask them out in person, will likely disproportionately consist of nerds who fear human interaction, people with low self-esteem, people lacking in social skills, people suffering from high levels of anxiety, etc. That is, people likely to be unsuccessful in life and bad partners.

      I mean, someone who can’t summon the courage to ask someone out on a date will also have trouble asking for a job, asking for a raise, asking for help, finding mentors, networking, etc.

      Not that this description applies to anyone here (*looks around nervously*).

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Are nerds who fear human interaction bad partners? Many certainly seem to be successful in life.

        • rlms says:

          Maybe more accurately, likely to be bad partners for people who aren’t also interaction-averse nerds.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t think interaction-averse nerds are necessarily the best partners for interaction-averse nerds (though in some cases they might be), nor outgoing socialites necessarily the best partners for outgoing socialites.

            I wouldn’t call myself “interaction-averse,” but I am definitely more of a homebody and less outgoing than my wife. This seems to work out pretty well because she more often coordinates social activities, sends Christmas cards, etc. while I let her know it’s okay sometimes to just stay home and/or not get involved in the drama du jour.

            I have previously dated an interaction-averse nerd and it resulted in us being isolated to a degree I didn’t like. And for my wife’s part I think she would frequently over-extend herself if she were with someone as outgoing as herself.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Many certainly seem to be successful in life.

          You only notice the successful ones, and they are usually not as successful as they could be given their intelligence.

        • wiserd says:

          Different people have different criteria. It’s been hypothesized that some people select for musical ability. And that this criteria, if common, would lead to mate selection based on musical criteria generally correlating with musical ability over time. The result would be a subpopulation of people who would prefer to date within their musically talented, musically interested group. And I think we see that.

          Confidence is also something that many women tend to look for. This doesn’t mean that confident mates always make the best partners. I have one friend who really wants to date a dominant alpha-esque guy but is frustrated with how many opportunities such guys have. So she’s considering curbing her instincts. But I do think that ‘looking for confident males’ is part of many women’s instinctive dating strategies. And I’ve heard women claim that waiting for the guy to express interest in a persuasive way was a good strategy for them, when they’d tried others. So apparently it’s more than just instinct.

      • Cliff says:

        You might be surprised

      • Watchman says:

        Interaction-averse nerd is not a personality type but a shorthand for a whole range of choices, conditions and experiences. It’s a range from my colleague whose ideal time off is sitting with his cats on the game-de-jour, but whose partner ensures they also get out to enjoy their open relationship, through to a functional autistic who can act out interactions. I don’t think you’ll get an easy assessment of this range of people as partners…

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          This is true, but is it significantly more true than for any other descriptor people use? “Red” is not a single hue, but a shorthand for a whole range of hues, including for instance the color of blood, raspberries, and certain sorts of clay. “Mathematician” is not a single profession, but a shorthand fr a whole range of choices, professions, and expertise, including both academic and non-academic settings, and distinct disciplines like numerical analysis and algebraic topology. “Justice” is not a single concept, but a shorthand for a whole range of ideas. It’s a range from equality to honesty to punitive actions.

          In short, words are not infinitely precise. But it is at least a credible claim that being willing and able to “summon the courage to ask someone out on a date will also have trouble asking for a job, asking for a raise, asking for help, finding mentors, networking, etc.” might be inversely correlated with the identity cluster which we call “shy nerds”.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Those examples seems really bad. Mathematics is not near as varied a subject looking from the outside as the people poster above listed, and if you think justice is only a shorthand for a range of seperate ideas, then you simply don’t believe in (and/or understand) the concept of justice.

            Similarly with the post 1 up and the concept of “nerds” though;

            it’s originally a term for people so focused on intellectual pursuits they miss social or physical skills, its sense is a clearly perjorative “fools who are too absorbed in [school, books, whatever] to embrace life”, like “squares” except more contemptuous and with more connotations of physical weakness.

            -i.e. it refers exactly to “functioning autistics”, and lets please leave people’s weird sex lives out of it, but if they have to be bought in then “adventurousness” in that realm is certainly not matching the prototypical image of a “nerd”, and still less a “shy” one.

      • carvenvisage says:

        When I look at miserable couples who’ve ended up hating each other with no idea how it happened; people in a walking-talking hell who’s ongoing suffering should surely guide our sense of the topic in some way, what I see is people who are either too driven, uncompromising, self-absorbed, etc, to sit back and reflect for half a damn second, or simply too insensitive to make room in a small space with them for another human being, while “too reticent” describes almost none.

        I mean, someone who can’t summon the courage to ask someone out on a date will also have trouble asking for a job, asking for a raise, asking for help, finding mentors, networking, etc.

        Insofar as it’s a system that exists in the present day, then like with any system success within it is sign of strength and health, but in the abstract it’s not a very clever system, because I would much rather have someone who

        (1) overvalues ephemeral soft things: a category which includes not just hoped-for perfection of fateful meetings at the misfiring end, but also love, devotion, loyalty, reciprocity, and basically all of the things which directly and mechanically make a relationship work

        (2) is too tentative or unentitled in the emotional realm, because growing closer to and happier with someone 1 on 1 forever favours tender tentativeness and presuming one has much room to improve in the exact same way that the unnatural systems you mentioned favour coarseness, entitlement, a preoccupation with what is superficial, etc.

        ..than someone who has the “guts” to stuff whatever finer feelings are proving an obstacle in a box and thereby (and thereby alone) git ‘er done.

        Ideally of course you’d want someone who has a counterbalancing zealousness or might, or pure good humour or something that lets them shrug their shoulders and do one better than atlas, not bowing beneath the weight of a great task..

        But in this day and age it’s not trivial to snag even 1 of these (-challenge-matching devotion or strength), let alone both, and while the latter trait (strength) might be more fundamental in some ways- you can’t have a very good relationship if crop failure leads to starvation or wolves are allowed to carry off the children, in the modern day, in the cultures and places that form a backdrop for this discussion, the requisite level of strength to survive and thrive is infinitely lower, while the required devotion/responsiveness is as high as ever or higher.

        _

        So again, insofar as successfully navigating the world you’re presented with is a sign of strength, then yes by definition you want your daughter marrying someone who can navigate whatever world they’re presented with, so it’s certainly not a mark of sure success if someone can’t or won’t do it.

        And between the two, the latter, -strength, is in some ways more fundamental; you can’t be in a very good relationship if you’re dead.

        But this is the same way that someone should be able to kill animals or fill out forms or whatever “wtf, God?” bullshit is neccessarry in their era. -Because it is necessary.

        _

        Except is it?

        This is from a more mundane rather than idealistic perspective, but has the ability to engage in socially commended forms of interaction ever mattered for a second next to the underlying cluster of confidence, health, enthusiasm, good humour, etc?

        It seems like if we are going to be non-idealistic about it, then holding up gumption as the sine qua-non-of social/romantic success seems to be stopping a level short of the reality.

        That would be health and humour, wouldn’t it? -Would Leonardo DiCaprio have a hard time getting a girlfriend if he was shy?

        If you want to point to someone as your social superiors appointed for eternity by the old gods (I’m assuming that you’re speaking for yourself and not just casting aspersions) then surely it’s people blessed with vitality and good humour, (indolent surfers for an emblematic example), rather than people who have the will or especially the guts to force themselves to do things.

        I’d say lawyering up hitting the gym and learning to laugh at life is more liable to lead to someone ascending levels (not to presume that everyone can) in one’s fortune in this area than strengthening one’s stomach or will.

  3. There are a couple of things this pops up:

    – Dating has to involve some kind of filter, otherwise you are overwhelmed with options. Have too strict of a filter, and you’ll miss your soulmate in the elevator. Have too low of a filter, and you’ll wind up mating with the first person to give you eyes. Mating with mediocrity is not how the human race got to where it is today. Operating as if this premise doesn’t exist seems like a recipe for failure, which means that getting over people’s filters, i.e. being noticed or being signal, is core to “succeeding” at dating. I would say less that “Pain is an active ingredient” and more that aiming high or striving is a useful catalyst for the kind of romantic chain reaction that we idealize in America.

    – I read some studies, and this checks out both from a mechanistic explanation and from anecdotal, that the number one most attractive thing in a person is how attracted they are to you. What we love in others is their love for us. And the same is true for everybody else. It’s conveniently recursive. And so, my sort of high-level qualm with dating apps or systems, is that it feels like “lazy meets lazy.” That is just not a very romantic way to get things going. The structure of that phrase matches the “meet cute” trope from rom-coms, where it’s two cute people bumping into each other in the elevator. “meet cute” seems a lot better than “meet lazy”, although, “meet determined” is even better. I recall many origin stories of long-term relationships that go, “Well I wasn’t really looking for anyone, but they prevailed on me and ‘won’ me over.”

    • Creutzer says:

      the number one most attractive thing in a person is how attracted they are to you

      This sounds like it could be true from a male perspective, but sounds utterly implausible, both a priori and given anecdotal data, for the female perspective. Because when you’re female, to a first approximation, everyone is attracted to you.

      • jadagul says:

        “Attracted” might be a misleading word here. “Seriously interested” is maybe closer. Straight women are more into a g man who is seriously into them and really quite attracted to them than to a man who’s just kinda there for whatever. They might have a higher baseline expectation for people being “basically attracted to them, sure”; but that’s specifically what we’re trying to filter out with this filter.

        • albertborrow says:

          I don’t think “seriously” or “interested” are particularly good words either. It seems to me the actual word is something conventional and also completely unsurprising, like the combination of empathy, sensitivity, and emotional investment.

          • vV_Vv says:

            like the combination of empathy, sensitivity, and emotional investment.

            You mean dominance, agency and risk taking.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            I think there are several different overlapping sets of {feelings that you are attracted to when you see them directed towards you in others}, and some of the sets don’t overlap with some of the others.

            Some women are really, really looking for empathy, sensitivity, and emotional investment. Others are really, really looking for dominance, agency, and risk taking. And, hell, the same can be said of men.

            There are men who would never date a woman they considered ‘cold,’ no matter how beautiful she was or whatever other nominally desirable traits she had.

            There are men who, well, “Short Skirt, Long Jacket.”

          • vV_Vv says:

            Some women are really, really looking for empathy, sensitivity, and emotional investment. Others are really, really looking for dominance, agency, and risk taking.

            I mean, as they say, “Alpha Fucks/Beta Bucks”.

            Still, even when shopping for a Beta provider, I assume that most women want at least a minimum amount of masculine traits, which is why men who wouldn’t even take the risk of asking them out without having received a preemptive checkbox aren’t probably going to be seen as potential mates.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @vV_Vv

            I think you have a broken model of the relationship between attractiveness and attraction. People’s (specifically women’s) individual preferences are not independently distributed around N poles of attractiveness. Women with uncommon standards of attractiveness (in kind rather than degree) are not that rare.

            men who wouldn’t even take the risk of asking them out without having received a preemptive checkbox aren’t probably going to be seen as potential mates

            This is sort of true if you’re talking about the perception of the “average” woman. This does not imply that any particular woman will probably reject you of you don’t ask her out. Therefore, men who go the checkbox route probably will “be seen” as as a potential mate by some women.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            #NotAllWomen

            Sorry for the snark, but I find this kind of arguments a red herring: yes, among 3.5 billion women in the world there will be some with any set of sexual preferences that you can imagine and many that you can’t. Still, it’s a numbers game: the smaller the pool of women you are attractive to, the worse your dating prospects are, especially when there are many more men like you that compete for the same pool than women in that pool.

            If you are a wimp and you’re lucky enough to find the odd woman who is attracted to wimps, then chances are that you’ll have to compromise on things like looks, personality, monogamous commitment, and so on, because you won’t have any other option, while she can dump you at the drop of a hat for the next wimp in line. Your relationship, assuming that you get one, will have an extremely lopsided balance of bargaining power.

            Better to be conventionally attractive, as much as you can be.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @vV_Vv

            “Go for the largest market” isn’t automatically the best strategy. In fact, depending on what you want out of a relationship, it may not be a great strategy at all.

            chances are that you’ll have to compromise on things like looks, personality, monogamous commitment…

            Looks I can accept here. Kind of. Depends on what looks you’re looking for, but sure, Instagram models are probably not well-represented. Personality and monogamous commitment… not so much. I’m willing to bet that the correlation between “doesn’t appreciate a dominant personality” and “is really into being emotionally available and supportive” and “reciprocates demonstrated commitment” is pretty high, for example. But maybe the personality traits you value are highly correlated with attraction to “attractiveness,” in which case… sorry, friend. FWIW, I’m allergic to the sort of women who tend to have “masculine alpha” romantic fantasies; maybe that smells like “no u” wishful thinking to you, but whatever boats your float. It’s worked for me.

            Anyway, the point isn’t to be an unremarkable schlub with low expectations; it’s to excel at unconventional things. This is probably a higher-variance strategy, but you’re going to have to construct a better argument to convince me that either the women attracted to those things are “worse” than women who aren’t, or that the supply of men who excel at those things dramatically outstrips demand. My experience with both has been the opposite.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            @vV_Vv

            I mean, as they say, “Alpha Fucks/Beta Bucks”.

            Well yes, but the “they” that says that is usually coming from a self-selected community that is not only highly likely to be biased in its evaluations of female sexuality, but which actively promotes biases as they arise and charges them up with a big slug of groupthink.

            Human beings don’t divide neatly into “alphas” and “betas,” or even into a spectrum from “alphaness” to “betaness.” Hell, neither do wolves under natural conditions. Masculinity is not a one-dimensional variable, and what constitutes “masculine attractiveness” isn’t either.

            Furthermore, the supposed ‘optimal reproductive strategy’ implied by the saying you quote has a lot of holes in it, making it vanishingly unlikely that it really represents the mating preferences of the typical central example of a human female, as opposed to representing the mating preferences of the typical imaginary woman who won’t go out with me because she’s dating Buzz, whom we are through with.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Well yes, but the “they” that says that is usually coming from a self-selected community that is not only highly likely to be biased in its evaluations of female sexuality, but which actively promotes biases as they arise and charges them up with a big slug of groupthink.

            Say what you want about that community, but that particular claim has quite a lot of evidence towards it. For instance:

            Women more attracted to masculine mates during ovulation

            Male power fantasies“.

            You can also google the “blackpill” experiments of the incels where they create fake profiles on dating apps with photos of male models and get flooded by explicit propositions from women.

            And so on. I don’t want this thread to become too much CWy, so I’ll drop it here.

          • whereamigoing says:

            @vV_Vv

            Sounds like some men are unlucky enough to like conventionally attractive women while not being conventionally attractive themselves, but if your own preference is different enough from the average, not being conventionally attractive isn’t so bad.

          • acymetric says:

            People also overlook the fact that chemistry/connection can change how attracted you are to someone. The least conventionally attractive girl I’ve ever dated was easily the one I was most invested in, and you couldn’t have done a thing to convince me that she wasn’t the most beautiful girl in the world at the time. It would be much easier to convince me of that now, of course 😉

            This is something that applies to both genders.

          • carvenvisage says:

            I mean, as they say, “Alpha Fucks/Beta Bucks”.

            Still, even when shopping for a Beta provider

            If 99% of women match the TRP profile then 99% of women are shitty dating partners who you would be better off without. I don’t think it’s 99%, but granting that it hypothetically could be, all 99% would still be irrelevant to a discusion of long term dating strategy except in terms of how to recognise and avoid them, or as a recommendation not to look for anything long term, but not as a way to sweep away the exceptions who one should be looking for if pursuing a long-term relationship strategy against advice.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Sounds like some men are unlucky enough to like conventionally attractive women while not being conventionally attractive themselves, but if your own preference is different enough from the average, not being conventionally attractive isn’t so bad.

            I’m hearing a lot about this unconventional attraction stuff, but I have no idea what you people talking about. I just went through my entire FB friends list, and of the people that are coupled, they are almost all coupled to their attractive equals.
            There are a few exceptions:
            1. 2 homosexual couples with a young, attractive man, and a much older, worldly man. I fully admit that I do not understand the dynamics of gay men.
            2. 1 relatively decent Asian guy who somehow got WAY out of his league. Genuinely a super nice guy, one of the nicest I know.
            3. 1 Polish Guy who got a girl WAY out of his league. But he was born with a horseshoe up his ass. He bought a house right as the market hit bottom, made all the right career moves, won the lottery…I am perfectly willing to accept that he is the benefit of supernatural intervention.
            4. 1 entirely obvious rebound relationship that is obviously going to end, so obvious to everyone except the couple that is oblivious.
            5. 1 handsome Pakistani man married to an obese Pakistan woman that was an arranged marriage.
            6. 1 former sorority girl married to a checkbook that happens to have a Y chromosome attached to it.

            Even the legitimate eccentrics that got tattoos instead of wedding bands and flogged themselves at the wedding ceremony because I have no idea are still marrying girls that would be considered their physical equals if you peeled away all the jewelry.

            Ugly people do eventually settle for other ugly people and can honestly feel love and attraction, but this isn’t uncommon at all and doesn’t require explanation. It’s how humans work. Your alternative strategies, based on my limited experience, are arranged marriage or just being part of a closed ethnic group, or being lucky enough that winning the lottery is just another Tuesday for you.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            I mean, I don’t even see this as culture wars-ey.

            @vV_Vv

            Say what you want about that community, but that particular claim has quite a lot of evidence towards it. For instance:

            https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/272697.php

            Okay, what this article purports to prove is that ovulation causes women to be prefer the scent of the T-shirts of men with symmetrical bodies.

            ONE explanation of this is “women were designed by evolution to all have impulsive flings with the hunkiest men in the village while ovulating, then disperse into the care of their beta males.” … Well, aside from the obvious point that if a large fraction of all women were doing this, the consequences from inbreeding would be pretty fucking dire since half the village would share the same two or three fathers. Just because Chad the Caveman’s got a symmetrical jawline doesn’t mean he isn’t carrying recessive genetic disorders or that his great-grandkids won’t suffer from only having five or six great-grandparents instead of eight.

            Anyway, other possible explanations:

            TWO: Very few women actually fit this pattern in any one generation. Say, 10%. The biological impulse is there, but not strong enough to override things like pair bonding, in normal women. We already know some percentage of women (and men) are unfaithful to their partners, so this isn’t exactly a giant surprise.

            This is particularly relevant in light of the obvious point that if males want to pass on their genes, they have an obvious interest in creating cultural norms that enforce female fidelity. Having impulsive flings with the hunkiest man in the village sounds like a great strategy for one woman in isolation. But if a very large fraction of women are actually doing this, then in the conditions of a Stone Age village with a small population, the less-hunky men will swiftly catch on. They will then predictably dispose of the Paleolithic Don Juan in question, and possibly deprive the unfaithful women in question of the benefits of their support. In other words, exactly the same thing that tends to happen when a Don Juan tries to seduce his way around a small town in real life. It may work for a while but it’s not a stable outcome in the long run. A few women may be seeking this, but the majority aren’t.

            THREE: Another alternate hypothesis, by way of explanation. See, think about male nipples.

            Men don't have nipples because of an elaborate just-so story that explains why under special conditions, male lactation is critical to ensuring the survival of that male's children. Men have nipples because they're an accidental byproduct of the same ontogenic process that gives women nipples, and there’s no significant evolutionary downside to men having nipples, so evolution doesn’t optimize for “smaller male nipples.”

            This observed biological quirk of female attraction isn’t evolved to cause women to be unfaithful with hunky men while ovulating at all. It is, much like male nipples, a side effect of something else going on in the biological system. Say, an elevated tendency towards sexual behavior in general during the days when a woman is ovulating. It may or may not have a significant effect on the incident rate of female infidelity.

            https://i.imgur.com/8Nb3t3m.jpg

            The first thing is, those romance novel covers are only made to be glanced at. Women aren’t normally expected to sit around staring at the covers.

            The second thing is, it’s noticeable that whoever did that juxtaposition didn’t pick a whole lot of different things marketed to women; he picked 15 different romance novel covers to ‘prove’ that all women crave big muscular torsos. Except the romance novel cover artists are all marketing to the same subset of women- the one who buy the majority of the romance novels. Some women buy dozens; some women buy none. So at most, you’ve got a demonstration that “some specific group of women” crave muscular torsos.

            This is on par with using Sir Mix-a-Lot to prove that “men value big butts above all else, and insofar as they form partnerships with small-butted women, it’s only so they can have the emotional stability and domestic housekeeping they desire until they go slip out and cheat with big-butted women later.”

            There is a third argument for why hunky male torsos on romance novels can be a male power fantasy and still appear on a product marketed to women, but it involves using a lot of words, including words invented by feminists. This post is already more than long enough, but if anyone who doesn’t think words invented by feminists have cooties is interested, I’ll share it.

            You can also google the “blackpill” experiments of the incels where they create fake profiles on dating apps with photos of male models and get flooded by explicit propositions from women.

            See above.

            FIRSTLY, the incels in question aren’t attempting to control for whether all those propositions come from the same 10% or so of women. Women who aren’t on dating sites, or who aren’t preferentially selecting underwear models, simply aren’t represented in the survey.

            If 10,000 women use a dating site, and 500 of them really like sleeping with underwear models as their main recreational activity, then you may be assured that every underwear model on the site is getting propositioned by groupies on a regular basis. Observing the behavior of the groupies is, however, NOT a good way to learn general facts about female behavior.

            SECONDLY, we already know full well that if you create a fake female profile on a website, using pictures of a bikini babe, that female profile will start getting solicited for sex. A lot. This doesn’t mean literally all men have a reproductive strategy whereby they get their emotional support and domestic help from a non-pretty woman while constantly and avidly soliciting pretty women for sex. YES, some men do in fact behave like this, but it’s not a universal male “reproductive strategy.”

            All in all, I don’t think this is science, I think this is what you get when people construct a hypothesis and then draw a bullseye around it. The hypothesis is “women be cheating bitches and hos who all want to bang hunky men while forcing other poor schlubs to pay for the child support,” and the evo-psych just-so stories are being preferentially crafted to support this hypothesis.

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          I think they meant “attracted to you specifically”. If someone is attracted to several people, the signal is weaker, therefore women will look for a higher attraction level in their partner than a man would.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            And the converse is also true- any woman who exhibits a level of romantic interest significantly higher than the ‘background radiation’ will immediately start looking more attractive to the man of her desire.

      • phoniel says:

        I think that if we started parsing apart the definition of “attracted to you,” we’d find that there was more than one definition, and girls tended to find some of those types to be enticing, and others not to be. To me, “attraction” implies a positive force driving you towards some object, which is very different from this is the stereotypically male attitude which says “I would have sex with you if doing so required no effort on my part.” This latter is not really an “attraction” so much as it is a “conditional non-repulsion.”

        In my experience, women find the “attraction” to be flattering and enticing, and “conditional non-repulsion” to be somewhere on the scale from boring to hateful.

        A lot of romance is just demonstrating that you are truly attracted to someone by paying close attention to them. When I tease a girl, I think of it as flattering her with my attention, while playfully rejecting her with my words. The attention is the sweet, the rejection is the sour, and the tension between the two is a lot of what I think of as “flirting.”

        A very silly PUA type sees the above and thinks that “flirting” is primarily about “being a dick.” But they’re misunderstanding the behavior, which is about communicating your attraction via your focused attention, and then making it enjoyable to interact with you.

        In summary, girls like you when you pay attention to them and are enjoyable to be around.

      • SkyBlu says:

        Because when you’re female, to a first approximation, everyone is attracted to you.

        AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
        Sorry, had to scream a bit. This is a reasonable assumption, but bothers me a lot.

        • Cliff says:

          It’s not remotely true

        • Simon_Jester says:

          It is surely not the subjective experience of every woman. But it seems to be the subjective experience of a lot of women that “every” straight male is attracted to them, in the same colloquial sense that we say “every time I forget to pack my umbrella on a vacation, it rains.”

          Namely, by “every” we mean “nowhere near every, but frequent enough that the cases where the event occurs are way more conspicuous than the cases where it doesn’t.”

        • Creutzer says:

          Well, it wasn’t so much meant to be a “reasonable assumption” as a slightly exaggerated and facetious (“to a first approximation”) statement based on the reported experience of my female friends.

      • wiserd says:

        “Because when you’re female, to a first approximation, everyone is attracted to you.”

        Agreed, but that’s physical attraction. A common screening strategy against this kind of thing women seem to use is that a potential mate needs to be able to identify non-obvious commonalities and interests. Which requires more effort than clicking a checkbox.

  4. brmic says:

    Simpler explanations:
    1 People don’t update their checkboxes
    2 Checkboxes are binary, for what is frequently a continuum.
    3 Related to 2, people use the checkboxes differently: Someone might only check people whom they’re working up the nerve to ask out anyway, someone else might check anyone they’re remotely interested in.
    4 Someone being into you is one hell of a drug on occasion.
    5 People update based on new information, like being asked out. This is a bit like the rational version of 4. E.g. you don’t check someone because you think you’d be incompatible despite some interest. When they ask you out, you learn that they don’t see an insurmountable obstacle, so you say ‘Yes’ to a date to check out whether you were wrong in your initial assessment. With a different prior, more data gathering suddenly makes sense.

    • MilfordTrunion says:

      Even simpler: Despite everyone’s extremely strong wishes, online is not yet the same thing as IRL.

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      you don’t check someone because you think you’d be incompatible despite some interest.

      This seems silly to me; you’d only ever hear about a match if they check your box, so you are only committing to dating them conditional on learning that they feel the same way about you.

      • Kindly says:

        I don’t think “incompatible” here refers to a lack of mutual interest.

        There are people I have romantic feelings for, that I am pretty sure have romantic feelings about me, that I would not want to date because we’d make each other miserable.

      • brmic says:

        To clarify what I had in mind:
        – You are allergic to cats, she has three.
        – She spends all her free time doing X and has since forever, while you think X is the most boring thing in the world. You have a great time whenever you are together doing non-X.
        – You want five kids, she’s infertile.
        – She smokes and you don’t kiss smokers.

        Obviously less extreme examples eventual run into cases where one could legitimately argue you are just making up problems in your head, and even in the cases above, there may be solutions available. But because of priorities and ressource allocation you might rationally decide not to ask for a date in those cases. Also, because ignoring the obvious problem makes you look like a moron. Then you learn ‘she’ thinks there might not be a problem or a solvable problem (like e.g. living separately, a relationship with lots of individual me-time, adoption, her hidden willingness to quit) and decide to explore that possibility.
        What kindly said about ‘making each other miserable’ also applies, it’s probably even the bigger part. But I have a harder time coming up with clear examples on the fly.

  5. Sniffnoy says:

    I think the biggest mistake in your model is assuming that interest is always pre-existing. Knowing someone else is interested can create interest, so there can easily be cases where one person is just going to have to go first. Moreover, the things I’m saying are in no way specific to dating; this applies to gathering people for anything, really.

    I’ve talked about this a bunch over on Ozy’s blog and somewhat on LW, but in brief: Unlike abstract agents, actual people cannot consider every possibility at once. Thus, people often just don’t really have preferences about something until someone suggests it. And moreover, the more likely something is to actually happen, the more interested people get. Also, such preferences about what-the-group-does are influenced by the rest of the group in a way that can’t really be ignored. That someone’s friends want to do something does in fact influence their own desire to do that thing with them.

    While I think it would be incorrect to say that’s the only bunch of factors at play here, it’s a big one. And, like, the statement in the first paragraph is kind of like a special case of the last statement in the second paragraph; well, OK, it doesn’t really feel like the same underlying phenomenon, but it still doesn’t work too dissimilarly. Other people’s interest creates interest is basically the common generalization here.

  6. fossilizedtreeresin says:

    Not trying to be mean, but I wouldn’t want to date someone who didn’t like me enough/was adult enough to ask me out directly. Maybe some people kind of feel like me about that, so they only mark people they really like?

    • C_B says:

      Why would such people use Reciprocity at all?

      • fossilizedtreeresin says:

        Because it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing: maybe Handsome Mclawyer who volunteers in an animal shelter on the weekend gets a pass because she already likes him so much and she wants to know asap if he likes her/is available, but average Joe, who she would go on a date with if he asked her out in a way she approves of, won’t get checked.

    • Reasoner says:

      I’m generally pretty comfortable approaching women in bars and asking them out. But I can see why one would want an unambiguous signal of interest before engaging romantically with Berkeley women who might be tumblrista types. IMO, it’s not a matter of cowardice. Just pragmatic risk mitigation–like wearing a seatbelt.

      You always want a solid margin of error between what you’re doing and the thing might get you accused of harassment, to account for the inherently improvisational and generally miscommunication-heavy domain of flirting. And the criteria for harassment seems to be expanding rapidly nowadays to include many guys who mean no harm. Plus the expanded standard for harassment gets applied retroactively, meaning something that’s regarded as OK today may not be regarded as OK in the future.

      I’m neurotypical, but this way of thinking probably makes even more sense for someone on the spectrum.

      • fossilizedtreeresin says:

        I’m not an American, but I am a college student in a very leftist field in Israel, and I consider myself a feminist (even went to a protest once!), with a tumblr.
        And I don’t know one person that will consider telling a peer “I really like hanging out with you, do you want to go on a date with me sometime?” as harassment.
        So either there is a HUGE difference between Israeli and American social costumes, or that there is something else going on.
        Even if a man is using this website only as a mean of protecting himself from being wrongly accused of harassment, how do you think it’s going to look to an emotionally intelligent woman that learns that?
        How would you react to a women that while trying to date wouldn’t be alone with a man until she knows him really well, wouldn’t eat or drink anything in his presence unless from a close container, and have a friend call her after an hour with an instruction to call the police unless she picked up? Would you want to date a woman like that, especially if she act like that even though you are already acquaintances?
        Men get falsely accused and women get attacked, but a person that did every single thing to prevent that makes dating kind of hard, and probably send the signal that the other person isn’t trusted.

        • The Sex Recession

          This shift seems to be accelerating amid the national reckoning with sexual assault and harassment, and a concomitant shifting of boundaries. According to a November 2017 Economist/YouGov poll, 17 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 now believe that a man inviting a woman out for a drink “always” or “usually” constitutes sexual harassment. (Among older groups, much smaller percentages believe this.)

          Although going out for a drink isn’t exactly the same as a date, this fear doesn’t appear to be unreasonable.

        • Reasoner says:

          See Brendan’s comment about how 17% of Americans in my age cohort consider asking a woman out for a drink to be sexual harassment. I have no mental model of why this would be considered sexual harassment. Frankly it seems absurd to me. Personally, I don’t want to interact romantically in any capacity with a person who has this view, because I have no good way to predict what else they consider sexual harassment, and I don’t want to accidentally trip one of their “you’re an evil person” triggers.

          How would you react to a women that while trying to date wouldn’t be alone with a man until she knows him really well, wouldn’t eat or drink anything in his presence unless from a close container, and have a friend call her after an hour with an instruction to call the police unless she picked up? Would you want to date a woman like that, especially if she act like that even though you are already acquaintances?

          I see my own strategy as analogous to a woman who avoids dating ex-convicts. By not dating ex-convicts, she mitigates her risk up front. Then she doesn’t need to take the precautions you describe. In the same way, I figure there are some social clusters which have a much higher density of women who make what I regard as spurious harassment accusations, and I avoid making advances on women in those clusters unless I see copious green flags.

          I’ve never been to Israel, but from what I’ve read of Israeli culture, it seems dissimilar to the Bay Area.

          • fossilizedtreeresin says:

            Wait, are we talking about the same thing? I was compering my example to using reciprocity as a primary mean of avoiding harassing women, not to using common sense and not asking out women who view sexual harassment in a really different way then you.

            As for the gov poll, I agree that it’s really baffling that so many people think that just asking a woman out for a drink can be sexual harassment. I actually went and checked the poll myself, and found something curious – it’s seem that people of color are much more likely to view asking a woman out as always or usually sexual harassment.
            With white at 2 and 3 percent, black at 7 and 10, Hispanic at 3 and 8 and other at 10 and 12 (!).

            I do wonder what is going on here, and wish we had a bit more data.
            I think there is a certain prevailing narrative here, which is “mostly white, educated middle class young man is surrounded by hardcore feminist massages and therefor is overly cautious when interacting with women”. I don’t think this narrative is wrong, but that are a lot of other narratives going on in the same time that you aren’t aware of. My one experience with an “overcautious” dude ended up with him, at least in how I saw it, using that over cautiousness as merely a fig leaf.

            As for the difference between Israeli and Bay Area culture – I will admit that I don’t know that much about the Bay Area, but I did get to interact with Americans in a similar group to mine (educated leftist artist) and there don’t seem to be a lot of difference, but I will admit that there can be a lot that I missed, and that in Israel Americans do have a reputation for being a bit much and not straight forward.

          • Reasoner says:

            With white at 2 and 3 percent, black at 7 and 10, Hispanic at 3 and 8 and other at 10 and 12 (!).

            Maybe there’s a population of older, more Republican white people who are less concerned with sexual harassment.

            My one experience with an “overcautious” dude ended up with him, at least in how I saw it, using that over cautiousness as merely a fig leaf.

            Fig leaf for what?

    • carvenvisage says:

      Maybe some people kind of feel like me about that, so they only mark people they really like?

      Well, it’s not compulsory, so yes they could do that… or anything they like.

      Including, not to be mean, but not using a service that obviates the need to be asked out if they they consider it a vital signal of maturity and interest.

      • fossilizedtreeresin says:

        I do think people like that shouldn’t use the website, but do you really think it’s impossible that some people use a product in a way that isn’t intended?

        Scott had a question, and was able to find a reasonable answer, but I don’t think that it’s the only answer. Remembering that people have different assumptions and might not use the site in a similar way to him can help make sense of the situation.

    • Worley says:

      I don’t want to sound mean, but your stance sounds a lot more sensible if you’re the one filtering on the other person asking you out vs. if you’re the one who has to do the asking. Asking someone out is not psychically inexpensive (though I don’t understand the details why). As someone said, “It’s not so bad, after a couple of days it stops hurting.”

      Though I think there is a complication that is not well-known: What evidence I’ve seen says that women are a lot more sensitive to the nuances of communication and generally women know when a man is interested in her without any words being spoken. But for most men, it’s the opposite, the only way to find out whether a woman is interested or not is to ask her to produce an unambiguous answer. And if she isn’t interested, it is at the minimum disappointing and embarrassing, and at the maximum gets you accused of harassment.

      • And if she isn’t interested, it is at the minimum disappointing and embarrassing, and at the maximum gets you accused of harassment.

        Contrary to scary internet dating advice, it is a huge pain for a woman to cry “harassment”. Plus harassment accusations are for work, not dating. If it is a social circle, she’ll check with her friends first, and if he’s an honest awkward/spectrum, then he won’t be mistaken for one of the bad actors who deliberately violate boundaries because they can, yet pretend to be merely awkward because it is an effective smoke screen. Men are hurt by these lies too.

        • Reasoner says:

          First, there is no such thing as a romantically or sexually successful person who has never ever creeped anyone out. Give yourself permission to be creepy… miscommunications, awkwardness, and misunderstandings happen. Sometimes people make mistakes.

          – Ozy’s review of the book Models

          Q4: Is my issue too minor to report?

          A: Anything that caused you harm, including fairly minor harm, is okay to report. It’s really useful to hear about interactions that made people unhappy or uncomfortable, even if they don’t clearly break rules or require action, because sometimes a pattern emerges when lots of people bring up things like that.

          Berkeley REACH

          So on the one hand, if you’re going to be romantically or sexually successful, you’re going to repeatedly creep people out unintentionally.

          On the other hand, if REACH learns you’re doing that, they might ban you.

          Something like this happened to a well-meaning (neurotypical) person I know, romantically successful outside Berkeley, who wasn’t familiar with Berkeley’s very feminist dating culture. Women in Berkeley have strong negative reactions to things that women outside Berkeley think are fine.

          I think if you’re a straight guy, it’s best to specialize in dating either feminist women or non-feminist women, because the best practices differ. Personally I choose to specialize in non-feminist women.

      • fossilizedtreeresin says:

        I’m a bi woman, I was both on the receiving end and the asking end. Asking someone out is really awkward and hard! I did a few really awkward things myself! I truly have sympathy for men in that regard, and I think everyone would be better off if women did more of the asking themselves. I still think that being able to ask someone out with your words is an important skill, and a good filter for emotional maturity. And even if my stance is near sighted and only works if you are on the filtering side, most women are on the filtering side. If a lot of women have an irrational belief, you should at the very least be aware of that.

        I also think you are over estimating the abilities of most women. Sure, maybe women are better than men on average with reading social ques. But how much better? Is it enough that the majority of women can effortlessly read a man’s interest? And distinguish between a man that truly likes her and want to date her, and a man that just want to have sex? And not over estimate his interest and either get hurt or be perceived as presumptuous? And account for the natural difference in body language between people? And not spend an enormous amount of time analyzing all the information she gets from men? And even if they are that good at reading people, not let insecurities/wishful thinking get in the way?

        I don’t think the majority of women are that good at reading people. I know I’m not, and was surprised by guys that hit on me quite a few times.

        Everyone is free to do as they like, of course, and I don’t think I represent all womanhood. But I have been a reader of SSC for years, and I go to meetings and enjoy them. I am more into the rational community then most women, and I still hold the views I’m holding about dating/asking out. You don’t have to accept my analysis, but I think taking into account that at least some women, who might otherwise share a lot of interests with you (general SSC-reader-you, not you specifically) feel as I do, will help you connect with women.

  7. dg says:

    In case you just remembered that you are on that service and want to disable reciprocity you may do so by visiting facebook app settings and clicking remove. That is according to one of the devs.

  8. Hackworth says:

    The system sounds a lot like the Tinder swipe left/right, except it’s a checkbox. The critical difference is that in reciprocity.io, you can see all potential matches at once, and you can trivially, and indefinitely, postpone deciding for any of your friends. The system has to interpret indecision as rejection, even though in reality it would have to be described as “it’s complicated”. Tinder, however, forces you to decide on each potential match, a clear yes or no, the altenative being you don’t get to see the following.

    So maybe the signaling aspect is true, but only a consequence of the underlying reason – people are lazy and get active only if they really care about the issue; in this case, whether or not a FB friend is the object of one’s dating desire.

    Maybe the fact that reciprocity.io also shows FB friends instead of strangers selected by certain dating-relevant preferences as potential matches (as Tinder does) also increases the reluctance to decide. Disclaimer: I have never used FB. Maybe the concept of having hundreds of friends that you have talked to once, if at all, is FB reality and seems incomprehensibly alien only to me. But I can totally see “FB friends” living in a different headspace than “dating targets”, and moving a person from the first group to the second might require conscious effort that reciprocity.io does not encourage in their users.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Maybe the fact that reciprocity.io also shows FB friends instead of strangers selected by certain dating-relevant preferences as potential matches (as Tinder does) also increases the reluctance to decide. Disclaimer: I have never used FB. Maybe the concept of having hundreds of friends that you have talked to once, if at all, is FB reality and seems incomprehensibly alien only to me. But I can totally see “FB friends” living in a different headspace than “dating targets”, and moving a person from the first group to the second might require conscious effort that reciprocity.io does not encourage in their users.

      If I understand correctly, Tinder is also connected to your Facebook account but contrary to Reciprocity, it specifically removes your Facebook friends from your pool of possible dates.

  9. eucalculia says:

    Others have basically already said this, but I can’t resist the opportunity to quote William Blake. Knowing someone is interested in you makes them more interesting.

    What is it men in women do require?
    The lineaments of Gratified Desire.
    What is it women do in men require?
    The lineaments of Gratified Desire.

  10. flightandsundry says:

    A related problem to this is that Tinder (which works on a similar problem) lead men to match with almost every woman and thus leaves women with the problem of screening the men and, effectively, iniating real contact and interest. This tends to make the whole thing rather dysfunctional because it leaves women as sorters which they tend not want.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Yeah, this is exactly the comment that I was going to make.

      In a swipe or like system, the dominant strategy for men is to swipe or like everyone and only bother filtering within the subset of women who swipe or like you back. At that point you have more information about your own attractiveness and what your options are.

      If you’re a single heterosexual guy it makes sense to check every single remotely acceptable woman in your friend group just in case they reciprocate, and then make decisions about who to contact based on the feedback you get.

      • deciusbrutus says:

        Why is that strategy not also usable by people who aren’t single heterosexual guys?

        • Simon_Jester says:

          Because single heterosexual females usually aren’t trying to optimize for maximum frequency of relationships with vaguely compatible individuals.

          Among other things, because when it comes to relationships, P(it all goes horribly horribly wrong) is higher for heterosexual females than for males, or seems to be as far as a lot of women are concerned. So strategies that involve winnowing through a large group to find the five most interested/interesting men out of 50 are high-cost for women.

          Homosexuals’ incentive structure, I cannot predict with confidence. Suffice to say that the strategy optimized for “find hookups” is not the strategy optimized for “find soulmates,” and that it requires a complex leveled deception system to exploit other people’s search strategy towards your own ends.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Is that a complex way of saying that you think single heterosexual guys have a different distribution of social goals than other people?

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Sort of, but I wanted to break things down by category.

            Heterosexual guys who aren’t single, IF they are shopping for other mates, have different incentive structures than singles.

            Heterosexual single women have different incentives than the corresponding men, and face different risk/reward calculations because of both biology and society.

            And homosexual guys, uh, gonna be honest I do NOT have a good sense of what their social dynamics would look like in a society with no closets.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Are the incentive structures different for people in different demographics who have the same goals, or are the incentive structures different for people in the same demographic who have different goals?

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Probably both.

            People with different goals obviously have different incentive structures; what constitutes an incentive depends on your goals.

            But people from different demographics may have comparable goals and still not pursue the same strategies. For instance, a 66-year-old man and a 22-year-old man who are both lonely and desire female companionship probably won’t go to the same places to seek out women. The older man has incentives like “don’t make a fool of yourself by chasing after women a third your age.” Conversely, the younger man has incentives like “find a woman who doesn’t think of me as a wet-behind-the-ears idiot.”

            When we compare heterosexual single males and females in the dating pool, both the demographics AND the goals are different. In some ways the demographics cause the different goals, even! Our culture places different assumptions and expectations on male and female sexuality, and differences in male and female biology further complicate the picture.

            So all in all, we should only expect female and male dating strategies to parallel each other when there is a specific reason to do so.

            For instance, if we find an isolated subset of men and women where everyone in both groups uses contraception very reliably, and where for whatever reason no one in either group is afraid of being abused, we might expect to see more symmetrical dating strategies. In the general population, where contraception is used less reliably and where avoiding abusers is an important thing on the minds of many many women but only some men, asymmetry would be expected.

      • baconbits9 says:

        If you’re a single heterosexual guy it makes sense to check every single remotely acceptable woman in your friend group just in case they reciprocate, and then make decisions about who to contact based on the feedback you get.

        This works on Tinder but not in person because your network will have lots of overlapping nodes. You probably won’t decrease your odds of a reciprical response on tinder by swiping for everyone but asking every single girl you know out will likely lead to worse results. Stacy might have given you a chance but if she finds out that you asked 4 people before her yesterday then that can easily be turned into a no, and there are good reasons for this.

        This is why Tinder is a hookup site, it is implicit that everyone is looking for the best they can get right now with an easy shot at moving on to a better choice if they come along.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          This would apply if I was saying that the dominant strategy was to PM ever single woman on your friends list and ask her out. The women who rejected you would see your interest and be able to quickly infer through gossip that you were casting a wide net. But because reciprocity.io and Tinder only show you people who both swiped or checked one another, the only women who will be aware of your interest are the ones who were already at least somewhat interested in you.

          If you are attractive enough that multiple women in the same friend group all checked you, they could share information and figure out your strategy. But frankly if that’s the case it doesn’t matter what they say to one another because you’re clearly in the top 10-20% of attractiveness of men within that friend group. You could be a convicted child molester and still hook up with a few of them.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I agree with your point about tinder etc as I said, but I think you misunderstand the issues with the local network.

            In short casting a wide and obvious net is almost never the dominant strategy.

            Case 1: You are in the top 10% and get multiple positive replies. In this case there is little difference between simply asking the girls out in your preferred order and casting the broad net.

            Case 2: You are in the bottom 10% and almost every strategy has a 0% success rate outside of doing things that lift you out of the bottom 10%.

            Case 3: The other 80% where any negative action is probably going to reduce your number of hits. If you are on the low end and would be lucky to find 1 yes then asking every girl and turning that one yes into a no is a disaster. Not only have you lost 100% of your potential mates you have probably lowered yourself across the board making improvement more difficult. At the higher end the initial problem isn’t as large of an issue, though it can still cost you a potential mate and that mate is likely on the higher, not lower, end, but you also have the same problem where if you end up dropping in the future you will drop further for your previous mediocre behavior.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @baconbits9,

            Literally the only people who know that you “asked” are the ones who “said yes.” In this system it is not possible to see how many women the guy checked off but who didn’t check him off.

            As I said above, I would agree with you if this was about sending private messages or speaking face-to-face but that doesn’t apply to this kind of software.

          • Reasoner says:

            If you are attractive enough that multiple women in the same friend group all checked you, they could share information and figure out your strategy. But frankly if that’s the case it doesn’t matter what they say to one another because you’re clearly in the top 10-20% of attractiveness of men within that friend group. You could be a convicted child molester and still hook up with a few of them.

            I’m pretty sure I’ve been a “top 10-20% attractiveness man” (have been catcalled by women while walking on the street, and a double-digit number of people have told me I’m good looking). It isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

            One time two women I was pursuing ran into each other at a party with me right there. They realized what was happening, then silently turned and walked away from me in opposite directions.

            I’ve gone to female-dominated events specifically to meet women, but when they see that I’m making conversation with ALL the women there, interest dries up. (Maybe if I told them it’s because I’m lonely and I have low standards that would help.) In the absence of alcohol or hookup apps, I do think making one woman feel special is a better strategy, even if (perhaps especially if) you’re a handsome guy.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I’ve gone to female-dominated events specifically to meet women, but when they see that I’m making conversation with ALL the women there, interest dries up.

            Bring a female wingman with you next time.

            It’s like magic. (Yes, personal experience.)

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’ve gone to female-dominated events specifically to meet women, but when they see that I’m making conversation with ALL the women there, interest dries up. (Maybe if I told them it’s because I’m lonely and I have low standards that would help.)

            Honestly not sure if this is sarcasm, but if it isn’t, uhhh, you could look like a model and have more money than Warren Buffet and still have trouble attracting the women you want with this mindset.

            Being in the top 10-20% is what it is cracked up to be, because you go from being absolutely invisible to being an immediately viable option and having the opposite sex treat you as such. You automatically have your foot in the door, AND possible dating prospects will telegraph their interest in you. This gives you a lot of breathing room and a lot of options.

            Like, maybe you don’t go right to being the New England Patriots, but at least people say you might make the Super Bowl most years.

          • Reasoner says:

            A Definite Beta Guy, can you explain how I’m supposed to shift my mindset to see more success? The advantages you’re describing seem like they should apply regardless of my mindset. I certainly take advantage of them (starting conversations with women who I notice checking me out). But I don’t think they are as great as you think.

            In particular, I feel that being handsome does the opposite of give me “breathing room”. Just like a regular guy, if I move too quickly, women will get creeped out. But if they telegraph interest to me, and I don’t move quickly enough, that creates a new problem: they’ll think “Reasoner doesn’t like me”, feel insecure, and clam up. There ends up being a pretty narrow window of opportunity. I’m constantly either moving too fast or moving too slow, and rarely hitting the sweet spot.

          • Garrett says:

            @Reasoner:
            I’ve encountered the same, except I’m nowhere near the top 20% of attractiveness. The few social groups I’ve belonged to with a roughly mixed gender ratio have gone quite toxic once more than one woman has learned that I’ve expressed interest in others. It’s effectively made those social groups useless to me as the women all treat me as someone who should be at-best tolerated and “creepy” or “desperate”.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I don’t know what your specific issue is or is not. All I can say is that if you think telling women that you talk to all women because you have low standards=winning move, you probably have a lot of heuristics about women that are dating handicaps.

            The average guy is more or less invisible and has to climb mountains to be noticed, or pick a winning lottery ticket. Not moving fast enough to a girl after she has telegraphed interest is like Warren Buffet complaining about how hard it is to find good help for his mansion. Being in the top 20% isn’t an instant-win card, you can still screw it up. For instance, by actively trying to seduce two girls who then run into each other and compare notes and feel dehumanized/disgusted, and have other options.

            But you have rapport with 2 girls at the same time. And apparently this is a frequent problem for you. To most guys, you have rolled 2 Nat 20s, and you seem to do this on a semi-regular basis.

          • Reasoner says:

            All I can say is that if you think telling women that you talk to all women because you have low standards=winning move, you probably have a lot of heuristics about women that are dating handicaps.

            That was a bit of a joke. However, I do think radical honesty works more often than guys realize.

            https://markmanson.net/vulnerability

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            There might be a correlation between referencing Mark Manson and having some difficulties with women, even despite being attractive. MM’s article there is repackaged Just Be Yourself advice, with some early 2010s buzzwords like “vulnerability” and “authenticity” and “genuine.”

            Personally, I wouldn’t really concerned, you’re rolling what other guys would consider nat 20s, so you’re either in a fine situation, or will be in a fine situation as long as you don’t have other critical handicaps. I’m not ambitious, so my goal was always to be able to attract a 5-6 who could tolerate my geeky interests and wasn’t mean. That’s not really a Herculean effort.

    • Nav says:

      Tinder disincentives “swipe right on everybody tactics” by reducing your Elo score if you swipe right too often, aka by making you artificially less desirable. The app uses several such mechanisms (punishments) to guide users toward desired patterns of behavior.

      An Elo hit isn’t a major disincentive if you’re in a small pool, or if you’re already unattractive, but those aren’t Tinder’s target audience. It’s important to recall that competitive dating as a paradigm is most enjoyed by those at the top, regardless of sex (I wrote a thread about this topic, pulling from a fascinating 1930s sociology paper). “The fire of competitive dating burns hot at the top, smoulders at the bottom.”

  11. nameless1 says:

    I have a different explanation. Someone asking you on a date is flattering. It would feel good even if you would reject it (well, I say that as a straight man, I can easily imagine women’s opinion may differ). Beyond that there is something sexy about someone showing sexual interest in you. Desire is kind of contagious. Not always of course, there must be a real match and all. But still. Why do people give oral sex to each other? Not just as a gift. But more like people get turned on by their partner being turned on.

    So I think that site simply needs to ask the right question. Not whether you want to date X. But whether if X invited to a date, you would accept or reject it. That puts people into a different mindset.

    But perhaps that would overdo it. I can easily imagine a somewhat thirsty straight man checkmarking like 80% of his female Facebook friends. Suppose gets a few matches. Now what. Just because you said you would accept it if X would ask you out, does not mean you are going to ask X out. That is, X alone does not turn you on, but rather X showing clear interest in you would turn you on. So there could be that weird deadlock.

    • deciusbrutus says:

      That deadlock, if it is mutual, should not be broken.

      Faced with common knowledge that they would not be rejected, neither person chose to make an advance.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Beyond that there is something sexy about someone showing sexual interest in you.

      This is fairly easy to explain. If you have otherwise identical twins, one of whom you find out is interested in you and the other one not then you should clearly have stronger feelings towards the one who does, and that includes negative feelings.

    • Majuscule says:

      I second that being asked out is flattering and hugely important to one’s ego and identity for women as well. I turned down some decent guys who I just didn’t feel attracted to, which never felt good in itself. But in a larger sense it was an amazing boost for my self-esteem, both because a cis-gendered hetero woman kind of needs to field *something* in terms of attraction from men at some point (though none of us seem to agree on exactly what, or how much, or when), and also because following my gut and saying no to dates I didn’t really want enhanced my self-respect. So there’s that: even if you don’t end up dating the person, you might be contributing to someone’s wellbeing long term in ways that increase the general pool of solid partners. Maybe Reciprocity is serving this purpose by discreetly informing people that they are in fact attractive to people they find attractive, and then leaving the ball in their court for what they want to do about that.

      Reciprocity also reminds me a bit of an annual event at my college called “Screw Your Roommate”. You or your friends submitted names of people they thought you should date. Of course many people dropped hints for weeks beforehand. Some people used the system to prank their friends with bad matches, but most of the time people acted in earnest. If two names came up matched on enough tickets, you got an invite to a dance. At the door you received a carnation with your match’s name. You could choose to find them, or fail to show up. I suppose back then this was the clearest way to find out if someone in your social circle was interested in you without asking directly or asking friends (which somehow seemed more juvenile.) There was clearly some sort of halo effect from the combination of excitement at getting an invite with the semi-anonymous selection method, because an outsized number of fairly serious relationships seemed to start at that event.

  12. Loweren says:

    At first I couldn’t really relate to this post, but then I started to think about my experience with hookups on Tinder. Usually I don’t mention sex at all to a new match; instead, we meet for a beer in a bar or for a walk near the beach, and then go to my place.

    The morning after, one of the girls was talking about a guy she matched with recently: “He was cute, but then he suggested to hookup, and I completely lost my interest”.

    I was surprised: “But you’re clearly not against casual sex”

    She thought a little bit about that: “I’m not, but it’s so rude when they just say that right away… I feel better when it’s, like, unexpected”

    At the moment I was a bit confused. You meet a cute guy on tinder and you are comfortable with casual sex, how can it be unexpected? But now, maybe this little bit of friction is somehow important. I still feel like a given explanation is ad-hoc-y, though.

    • j1000000 says:

      It seems that there may be some signaling at play here

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Plausible deniability is very important to a lot of women when it comes to sex.

      If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “I don’t usually do this…” I wouldn’t be rich but I could buy a nice mixed drink even at Manhattan prices. If you don’t leave them that out, the ability to say that sex “just happened” and they weren’t planning on it, then you’re going to be taking a lot of cold showers.

    • raj says:

      This is painfully obvious for any man who is experienced. But for whatever reason talking about it explicitly verges on taboo, which basically makes it harder for low-status/loser men to have a chance.

      • Worley says:

        Though of course, casual sex is where women want to filter most intensively against low-status men.

        As some sociological study worked out: Men will have sex with women they won’t date, and they will date women they won’t marry. Women will marry men they won’t date, and they will date men they won’t have sex with.

        • Aapje says:

          A further complication is that men and women consciously or unconsciously fake behavior in response to this.

          For example, women who want a relationship offer sex and more exciting sex (oral) to make the man think that she is attracted to him as a lover, rather than a provider.

          Men who want sex pretend to be aiming for a long term relationship, even when they merely want sex. This neatly plays into the previously mentioned strategy for women.

          Under traditionalism, society linked sex to marriage so men couldn’t exploit women for sex, while not providing in return; and put pressure on wives to have sex when the husband desired it, to prevent the wife from taking advantage of the provider, without holding up her end.

          In modern society, it seems that the threat of separation is used to put pressure on the partner, through easy divorce or not getting married in the first place. This results in a lot of single women with children & such, though.

    • deciusbrutus says:

      They want to be treated as a person, not as a booty call.

      Men who enter an interaction with the expectation of perception that they are owed sex are really, really bad dates.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        I think that’s it. “I don’t usually do this…” is what she says to reduce the risk that the man will take “I’m doing this tonight” as a promise that she can reasonably be expected to do it again and again on his whim, whenever he wants, regardless of her feelings in the matter.

      • baconbits9 says:

        The issue I think has more to do with the type of male who would have sex based on the tiniest amount of information without regard for any other characteristics are bad dates.

    • She thought a little bit about that: “I’m not, but it’s so rude when they just say that right away… I feel better when it’s, like, unexpected”

      At the moment I was a bit confused. You meet a cute guy on tinder and you are comfortable with casual sex, how can it be unexpected?

      Let me translate that, she is dodging a bullet by avoiding men who think sex means they shouldn’t have to bother with manners or social skills. As @deciusbrutus says, she is looking for someone who won’t forget to treat her as a person. By all reports, these men are an abysmal sexual experience, worse than a third rate vibrator. They have no interest in making sex experience enjoyable for her. If she asks for something, he’ll insult her or tell her she wants too much, which is rich considering how demanding these men are.
      I guess your Tinder date could have said it clearer, but some men take great offense when a woman “puts down” other me. I’m surprised how many women take the risk. Ah well.

  13. kaminiwa says:

    Deviating slightly from “being asked out increases interest”: Even matching on Reciprocity puts pressure on you to actually follow through by suggesting a date. If you’re only mildly interested or don’t know someone well, you might not want to take the responsibility for that. But if someone else asks you out, it’s on them to plan a decent first date. (Similar to wanting to draw but being uninterested in studying: You’d enjoy the experience of dating them, but you don’t want to take the risk and effort that goes in to the initial flirtation.)

    (Also to some degree, if users are insufficiently selective, you’ll have a flood of mild/tepid first dates with people on the edge of interesting, which dilutes the value of the service compared to people being more selective and getting more “oh wow we both secretly had a huge crush on each other? that’s awesome!” results)

  14. James Miller says:

    What if women value courage in men and believe that a man asking them out when they didn’t match is a positive signal concerning his courage? Consequently, if a woman would like to date a man but she worries that he lacks courage her strategy should be to not check him but accept a date request from him. This theory has a practical implication for men. If you want to go on a date with a woman who didn’t check you, ask her out in front of lots of other people so an ordinary person in your situation would feel humiliated if she rejects you.

    • Garrett says:

      This strikes me as true, and something that I’ve sadly learned too late in my life to be useful.

    • EMP says:

      That seems to me counterproductive as well as predatory. If your only hope of snagging that date is to use manipulation tactics like these, consider how long any relationship established would last. After all, this person never liked you enough in the first place to accept your offer on neutral grounds, how much do they really like you? I’m not convinced that going on the date is going to shift their opinion of you around, particularly if you knew the person well enough before hand to even engage them in a social situation where potential embarrassment is a factor. Better to focus on people that actually truly like you.

      • baconbits9 says:

        These aren’t manipulation tactics, its demonstrating a good quality tactic.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          It is entirely possible to be manipulative with the goal of differentiating between people who react to your manipulation, and those who don’t.

          • baconbits9 says:

            This isn’t that though. This is demonstrating quality X that person Y already wants.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Hm, going back over the original subject being discussed, the manipulative act being discussed is the act of a man asking a woman out under circumstances where if she refuses, she would expect him to feel humiliated.

            I would argue that this is *not* demonstration of a good quality, inasmuch as it’s implied that the person who’s doing it won’t actually feel humiliated, they’re just trying to exploit the expectation that they will.

          • carvenvisage says:

            OP’s idea didn’t say the idea is to put her on the spot so she avoids rejecting you to avoid potential humiliation (out of empathy, as a grandstanding tactic), but to ask in a way others would not have the courage to so as to show her that positive quality.

            The zoomed-out scenario looks similar in both cases but OP did not announce the former intention.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            I mean, if everyone is super-cold and super-logical about it I guess that works?

            In practice, most individual humans give enough of a shit that women are at least aware that if they reject a man in front of fifty friends and acquaintances, he will be humiliated. And they do in fact tend to feel pressured, and this is a not uncommon thing for women to complain about.

            “Oh my god, he proposed to me in a crowded restaurant after getting everyone’s attention, how the HELL was I supposed to tell him I needed time to think about it after that!? So yeah I said yes because I didn’t want to humiliate him in public, but I’m really not sure he’s the one for me…”

            Because while women sometimes test a man’s courage, that’s not the only thing they do, and they’re usually trying to select for MORE than just courage in a mate. They’re selecting for a very large basket of traits, whose relative importance is a function of a complicated N-dimensional weighting vector that’s more or less unique to each woman.

      • losethedebate says:

        The parent of your comment seems rather easy to misinterpret, and I can’t tell if you are in fact misinterpreting it, but it seems like you might be. In particular, I think you might be reading it as though it’s saying that you should ask her out in front of lots of people so that *she will feel pressure to accept, because she would be humiliated if she turned you down.* That’s not what the comment is saying. Rather, it’s saying that you should ask her out in a situation where, if she turned you down, *you* would be humiliated, because doing so demonstrates your courage and willingness to stick your neck out. And because courage and willingness to stick neck out might be something she values in a potential partner, (honestly) demonstrating those things might make you more attractive to her. That is, you’re *giving her information she didn’t already have*, which might change her opinion of you.

        Now, it may also be the case that this strategy puts her under pressure to accept, because she would feel bad humiliating you in front of so many people, and is manipulative in that way, so maybe that’s what you’re objecting to. But the suggestion was *not* to manipulate her by forcing her to accept on pain of humiliating herself by turning you down.

        • EMP says:

          Yep, I misread that. The framing makes all the difference. I misread it as: “if you want to go on a date with a woman who didn’t check you, ask her out in front of lots of other people so an ordinary person in her situation would feel humiliated if she rejects you.”

        • deciusbrutus says:

          I, too, misinterpreted it that way at first. Thank you.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          I do get that, but this is a situation where the attempt to signal courage by doing something dangerous is inseparable from the fact that you’ve just done something dangerous. And done it in a way that a non-ruthless woman will feel at least some obligation not to abandon you to the danger.

          I mean, telling a woman that if she doesn’t go out on a date with you, you’ll blow your brains out in front of her eyes would probably be a pretty effective way to get women to agree to go on dates, at least in that moment before they slip away and call the police or something. But while it may be effective at securing promises, it is not a healthy dating strategy, because it is super coercive.

          Setting a woman up so that her choices are “agree to go out with Bob” or “crush Bob under fifty tons of humiliation” isn’t as coercive as if Bob had threatened to commit suicide, but there’s an analogy there.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            If the “threat” of committing suicide were true, what would be wrong with it?

            “No, I don’t date people who hold themselves hostage; here’s a tarp, lay it down on the street before you go.”

            It’s not that we have a problem with people who are seriously hurt by the fact that they can’t find somebody to have sex with them; we’re just bothered when they make a mess in front of us. (Individuals vary, but I see ‘incel’ used as a slur unchallenged, or with the challenger challenged, enough to know that roughly nobody would actually cry about anything but the mess.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            If the “threat” of committing suicide were true, what would be wrong with it?

            “No, I don’t date people who hold themselves hostage; here’s a tarp, lay it down on the street before you go.”

            If you can muster the sociopathic disregard required to win a game of chicken with someone who jumps in front of the wheels of your car by deliberately not slamming on the breaks, sure…

            Again, a majority of humans cannot do this. And it would be actively undesirable if our society as a whole became so un-empathic that it wasn’t shocking to hear people openly say “here’s a tarp, try not to make a mess when you kill yourself.”

            The problem with people adopting strategies of “I’m deliberately putting myself in a position where if you don’t give me something, I’ll get hurt” is that they spoil empathy for the rest of us. Holding yourself hostage in exchange for concessions gives other people an incentive to ignore your suffering, and disproportionately imposes burdens on the most empathic people who are least able to ignore your suffering.

            Deliberately gaming the system in a way that may benefit you, but that diminishes social trust or disincentivizes society as a whole from having empathy and acting to relieve others’ suffering, is wrong.

            It’s the same order of unethical behavior as, say, panhandling for money you don’t need, with a fake sob story on a sign. Or defrauding a welfare service. People’s willingness to be charitable is not unlimited, and the more reasons they’re given for regretting their decisions to be charitable, the less charitable they will be towards people who really DO need the money.

            It’s not that we have a problem with people who are seriously hurt by the fact that they can’t find somebody to have sex with them; we’re just bothered when they make a mess in front of us. (Individuals vary, but I see ‘incel’ used as a slur unchallenged, or with the challenger challenged, enough to know that roughly nobody would actually cry about anything but the mess.

            That’s because in practice “incel” is not a generally accepted word for “man who can’t find a girlfriend.” The incels themselves may be using the word that way, but that’s not what it means in practice.

            The problem is, you see, that the self-identified “incel community” isn’t purely a group of “involuntarily celibate men.” It’s a group of involuntarily celibate men who spend their time, ah… having discourse, shall we say. Discourse such that people who read the discourse without self-identifying as incels will rapidly and for very understandable reasons lose all sympathy for the participants.

            By doing this, the people who call themselves incels make utter asses of themselves. Very conspicuously. This means that no, you don’t get sympathy by saying “I’m an incel,” because you’re proclaiming group identification with a group that has gone far out of its way to say and do things that would cause them to be loathed. It’s like identifying yourself as a Mafioso, then wondering why people don’t trust you and wondering if they’re prejudiced against Italian-Americans.

            Moreover, by publicizing this image of the dangerously, violently bitter, highly resentful, intensely woman-hating incel, the incel community has made it even harder to publicly admit that one is a lonely man tired of being lonely, even for the lonely men who don’t secretly despise women. Because this, too, is a tactic that spoils the commons for those of us who most desperately need and for lack of a better term ‘qualify for’ assistance.

            There are people who would be missed if they blew their brains out over their inability to find a stable sexual relationship. It’s just that anyone who considers Eliot Rodger a national hero probably isn’t on that list.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            If causing a death is considered a failure of empathy, why is causing greater harm than death not a failure of empathy?

            The problems you identity all arise because it’s not easy to make credible threats (decision theory sense) of suicide; it’s pretty easy to make a threat at least 1% as great as a credible threat of suicide with approximately 0% of the cost of making a credible one.

            I say, let’s make it easy to make a credible threat- then an even smaller portion of people making a weaker threat will follow through; after all, they could easily have made a much more believable threat, if they really were trying to blackmail someone.

            “Incel” didn’t start as a bunch of people who were misogynistic and therefore couldn’t get laid. Incels started as a bunch of people who couldn’t get laid who became radicalized misogynists. The offensive thing about them isn’t that they’re raging radical misogynists (a thing they have in common with a very large number of high-status people), but the fact that they can’t get laid (a thing they have in common with very few high-status people).

          • Aapje says:

            @Simon_Jester

            There are also very radicalized socialists, anti-tax people, animal rights activists, feminists, etc…yet the media doesn’t tar all the more moderate people with those beliefs with the worst of them (and sometimes even gives the radicals a platform).

            Yet some other groups get the ‘character assassination’ treatment by the popular media. Somehow this especially happens those who argue for a better life for men, from another than the feminist perspective/dogma.

            Probably 90% of the stories that are ostensibly about MRAs, actually are about PUA and are falsely attributed to MRAs. I’ve seen how the media lied about what Damore said. I’ve seen the response to the movie where MRAs actually got to make their arguments.

            You blame the incel community for “publicizing this image of the dangerously, violently bitter, highly resentful, intensely woman-hating incel,” but in today’s society, no sympathetic image would ever be shown by the media. They could form an organization with 100,000 supporters and a decent spokesperson who argued for decent things & the media would ignore him in favor of the most bitter, angry person they can find.

            PS. Perhaps the incel community would be nicer if they got real sympathy and empathy. A feminist can say misandrist things about men in general society and not be shunned for it, leading extremists to be less isolated in little enclaves, but to be more ‘diluted’ in feminist spaces where there are a lot more moderate people.

    • raj says:

      Yes, courage is a good strategy for men.

      But that woman has to deal with the reality of a diminished pool of suitors, because she has a higher cost of courtship. Depending on her status, she might well price herself out of the market.

      Very high status women don’t use dating apps earnestly as much, because they don’t need to, and are playing a different sort of game (high status men use it differently, too). Most of us mortals have to contend with the reality of finite time and opportunities, and reducing transaction cost via apps may well be worthwhile on balance (despite downsides, like the diminished narrative and aesthetic quality of “we met on tinder”)

      • baconbits9 says:

        But that woman has to deal with the reality of a diminished pool of suitors, because she has a higher cost of courtship. Depending on her status, she might well price herself out of the market.

        This is true of all standards though.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      “sorry folks, nobody gets out till the little lady says yes” — source source

    • NoRandomWalk says:

      I would counsel against this.
      One time in high school a low(ish) status boy interrupted our english class with a banner and a couple of friends to make a grand gesture invitation to a medium-status girl to go to the dance with him.
      There was an awkward minute of silence during which the teacher didn’t know what to do, and then the girl grabbed him and walked outside, where I assume she turned him down.

      You stand to lose status if the girl says ‘no,’ but the girl also just feels super awkward.

      It’s generally a better strategy for all involved for you to develop the social skills to notice when a girl signals interest privately, than to publicly signal to her you’re willing to be publicly rejected by her

  15. MilfordTrunion says:

    I get the idea that Scott assumes a match on Reciprocity should be seen as a request for a date, not just “yeah I guess I’d date you, if you asked me”. And, similarly, a no-check on that service is equivalent to “you asked me for a date and I said no”.

    Like, Reciprocity is intended to be experienced as “everyone on this site is asking you for a date, all at once, which ones do you say yes to”, as opposed to Tinder, which is hotornot.com presented as an app with user-submitted content.

    • Eponymous says:

      Yeah, I figure it’s more like “an expression of mutual interest”, just as subtle social and body language cues (meeting their eyes, tilting the head, timbre of the laugh, smile) are in traditional in-person social interaction.

  16. Slice says:

    You think there’s no downside to checking a bunch of boxes and finding out none of those people are interested in you? Did I miss something obvious ?

  17. Eponymous says:

    I wonder how this interacts with the social norm that men ask women out, rather than the reverse. Reciprocity would seem to go against that norm by making the process entirely symmetric. Moreover, it would seem to lower the costs for men more than it lowers them for women (there’s some higher cost in having to say no to someone in person rather than failing to check a box, but it’s not as steep as being rejected). Thus this might shift the sex-equilibrium in dating in some way.

    I don’t really know what to conclude from this, or what to predict; just pointing it out.

    (Incidentally, I *think* I would have predicted Reciprocity to have this failure mode ex ante, but since I didn’t get the chance to formulate the prediction I’m not sure if this belief is hindsight bias. While it might seem silly, it might be interesting to occasionally write posts of this sort with the description of the situation in advance, followed by a reminder to predict the consequences, before the consequences are described.)

  18. sclmlw says:

    I think the difference here is that Reciprocity and other dating sites assume dating is about identifying a good match. The purpose of a date is to identify whether you are compatible with someone and once that information is revealed you’ve done the hard part.

    I think that’s only part of the problem. And it imagines a static system. What Scott experienced is a dynamic experience, where preferences change based on situations, and the process of meeting, asking out, flirting, and dating changes preferences in ways that cannot be predicted in advance by either party. Not because you didn’t know about them. Because the information hadn’t been created yet.

  19. vV_Vv says:

    I asked a friend, who admitted she had done the same thing. Her theory was that asking someone on a date (with all of its accompanying awkwardness and difficulty) was a stronger signal of interest than ticking a checkbox. And potentially there’s a grey zone of people who you would only date if you thought they liked you more than a certain amount. And asking them in person is hard enough to be a costly signal that you like them at least that amount, but ticking a checkbox isn’t.

    Also, if you are a man, being dominant and able to take risks is a central component of your attractiveness. The whole premise of that site, that it reduces the risk of rejection, selects for unattractive men.

    Probably this story has the same takeaway as Seeing Like A State – you don’t fully understand social systems, so be careful if you think you can improve on them.

    Obligatory XKCD reference.

  20. DragonMilk says:

    So I hear the secret ingredient of Coffee Meets bagel is picking friends of mutual friends via facebook. This is just getting rid of the extra degree and requires sign-up on the actual website?

    Seems to severely narrow the scope of possible matches – has anyone actually found long term success (or is the website too new) through this approach?

  21. Erusian says:

    I think there are two factors at play here:
    Firstly, a large part of the dating dynamic is that the more attractive of the pair (usually women among young people, but not always) seeks to get the other person to make signs of commitment. These must be costly signals because that indicates investment and that the person isn’t simply seeking to benefit from their attractiveness without any reciprocity. The less investment there is in doing something, the less it will bring in the attractive crowd. Unless, of course, it’s a Tinder scenario where the goal is not a relationship but something low-investment like hooking up. (Though even then, we see that women are less likely to show up such that competitors sometimes bank solely on being more woman-friendly.)

    The truth is that there aren’t significant costs to dating that aren’t imposed by the participants themselves. How much time does it take to really get to know someone? Enough to go steady? There’s a folk rule about not sleeping with them before three dates. Let’s double that and say by date six you should pretty much know each other. So twelve hours. At the average hourly wage, that’s a cost of $325 (generously). Everything else, from the restaurants to the flowers, is just people making signs of mutual investment. Paying for dates, gifts, etc. If it’s $100 per date, that raises the cost to $925. Meaning pure time investment is only about a third of the costs.

    Why do these expensive preconditions exist? Because it shows commitment and investment. Which is fine. It’s a good strategy to demand honest signals of interest. But any attempt to reduce that is going to be resisted. It’s telling most of these sites really try to reduce search costs. But there’s only so much you can do when that’s a limited portion of the total cost.

    Secondly, despite what some more radical feminists and the redpill crowd says, attraction is not static or predetermined. Let’s imagine two people, Alice and Bob. Alice knows Bob. She finds him mildly unattractive (maybe he’s a bit chubby) but doesn’t hate him or really have strong feelings about him. Bob asks Alice out and Alice decides why not. She knows Bob well enough she feels safe and she’s been meaning to try new things after her last relationship went south. So she goes out on a relationship and it turns out Bob is really funny and tells interesting stories. There’s a nonzero, significantly nonzero, chance that Alice would be interested in date #2 and maybe a relationship.

    That’s a factor missing from most such efforts. The recognition that people are not static bundles that will rationally seek each other out. People are bad at determining how they’d feel in a relationship until they get into one, for a variety of factors.

    • Randy M says:

      This is a good comment, and I’m using my allotment of content-free comments to say so.

    • whereamigoing says:

      “People are bad at determining how they’d feel in a relationship until they get into one, for a variety of factors.”

      Yep. Dating sites are fairly bad at matching people on average:
      Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      How much time does it take to really get to know someone? Enough to go steady? There’s a folk rule about not sleeping with them before three dates. Let’s double that and say by date six you should pretty much know each other. So twelve hours.

      This strikes me as dramatically – alarmingly – low. I know I am fairly high-commitment/traditional even for a woman, so take this with the requisite grain of salt, but I don’t think I would seriously consider getting into an exclusive relationship with someone unless I’d known him for, at a minimum, months – I have less of a sense for “concentrated hours of interaction” but it would definitely be considerably more than twelve. Agreeing to go on a date is a lower bar, certainly, and I agree with your second point, but I think you may be overstating the first – at least for any women who are more cautious/less part of the casual sex scene.

      • Erusian says:

        Even if you expand the number of dates, so long as the time/cost ratio per date stays the same my point still stands. If it’s a hundred two hour dates that cost $100, then most of the cost is still imposed by the more attractive pair. However, there are much greater opportunity costs and more to be gained by reducing search.

        But more to the point, I’ve dated very traditional, high commitment women and my experience is they move faster, not slower. They evaluate you based on whether you hold those same traditional values and, if you do, they’re much more likely to want a long term relationship because a lot of things are predetermined. For example, they don’t have to negotiate around no sex before marriage if you both believe it.

        Perhaps my experience is unusual. But I’m curious how you date men for months before thinking of entering a relationship. Is that how it works? My experience is most men will give up after a certain number of dates. Or do you only get into relationships with men you already know? (As a note, getting into relationships with people you don’t know isn’t all that strongly correlated to hookup culture.)

        • carvenvisage says:

          But I’m curious how you date men for months before thinking of entering a relationship.

          Simple explanation in line with your second question: they didn’t say “dating” but “known”.

        • Rebecca Friedman says:

          Carvenvisage is correct – as is your last guess. I only get into relationships with men I know. But even beyond that, if I’m interested in a guy, I try very hard to engage in a significant amount of non-date activity with him – shared activities with other friends, or if we don’t share friends I can invite him to mixed-group activities in my social circle and accept that kind of invitation from him if he offers it. I will start doing this well before I will be interested in formal dating, and I note other people doing this as a weak signal that they may be interested in dating me. Note that cost for these activities is usually completely or almost completely time (gas money to get there and back, I guess?), but I value them quite highly. Dating a guy I’ve only interacted with on dates feels both odd and vaguely unsafe to me. It’s way easier to be conned that way.

          (FWIW I have run into guys lying about holding traditional values, so I may be more cautious than average on this. But a guy sounding, specifically from self-description, too much like “what women want” is a red flag, or at least a yellow one.)

          (As a note, getting into relationships with people you don’t know isn’t all that strongly correlated to hookup culture.)

          This seems to run counter to my experience, could you expand on it?

          • wobbler says:

            But a guy sounding too much like “what women want” is a red flag, or at least a yellow one.)

            I have had this (not from self-description, mind you). Several of my partners have said something like “there must be something wrong with you” or “you must be hiding a dark secret” a few dates in (and to be clear, this isn’t a precursor to the relationship ending, either, so it’s not any kind of excuse, as far as I can tell?)

            I’ve put it down to a sad state that many women ‘my age’ (40s) have only really known bad relationships or bad actors, so they immediately get suspicious now. Which is a sad state of affairs for everyone, I think.

          • Erusian says:

            Carvenvisage is correct – as is your last guess. I only get into relationships with men I know. But even beyond that, if I’m interested in a guy, I try very hard to engage in a significant amount of non-date activity with him – shared activities with other friends, or if we don’t share friends I can invite him to mixed-group activities in my social circle and accept that kind of invitation from him if he offers it. I will start doing this well before I will be interested in formal dating, and I note other people doing this as a weak signal that they may be interested in dating me. Note that cost for these activities is usually completely or almost completely time (gas money to get there and back, I guess?), but I value them quite highly. Dating a guy I’ve only interacted with on dates feels both odd and vaguely unsafe to me. It’s way easier to be conned that way.

            And how does this transition to dating? I’d say most people primarily date people that are in their social orbit. Random hookups with complete strangers are, ime, rarer than a group of people who sort of know each other and have a lot of casual sex.

            (FWIW I have run into guys lying about holding traditional values, so I may be more cautious than average on this. But a guy sounding, specifically from self-description, too much like “what women want” is a red flag, or at least a yellow one.)

            Sure, people fake things like that. I know a lot of men who’ve had similar experiences: girl says she’s religious, wants to settle down, loves cooking… and is lying. The term tradthot is used to insult any mildly attractive conservative woman these days but this is what the term originally meant.

            The stereotypical advice the men get is to look for people making hard to fake signs. If everyone at her church knows her and has known her since she was ten then it’s unlikely that was a dating strategy.

            This seems to run counter to my experience, could you expand on it?

            Sure. My experience is that strongly held common values tend to act as a form of prequalification. If people have already made a commitment to similar values then there’s a lot of big, important questions the couple already agrees on. And there’s often relatively conspicuous signs that aren’t done for the potential date’s benefit. It’s pretty easy to tell if someone is Evangelical Christian or Bektashi or whatever.

            Further, highly traditional people still end up in situations where they meet a lot of new people. They often meet their spouse that way and the relationship tends to proceed relatively quickly due to that prequalification.

            What I can say is that highly traditional people tend to take pride in the belief they take it slow. And in some sense, they absolutely do: no sex before marriage definitely gets to sex more slowly thank hookup culture. But in terms of relationships? There’s a reason religious colleges have significantly higher marriage rates than secular ones. (Brigham Young is famous for freshmen getting married, for example.)

  22. jumpinjacksplash says:

    This could have more to do with the ticking system* in Reciprocity than anything more profound: if you’re going through your whole Facebook ticking the people you’d date, I suspect most people would only select a narrower set of people than those they would, if given a binary choice, actually date. If you had to go through everyone individually and say “yes” or “no”, you’d probably tick more friends. My mental set of “people I’d date” is almost certainly narrower than people I would, in practice, date. There’s also a practical difference between “yes or no” and “yes or [blank],” even if it’s explicit and obvious that “[blank]” means “no.”

    *I’ve never used Reciprocity, but am assuming it lists all your Facebook friends on one screen and you scroll through and tick the ones you’d date.

  23. Erl137 says:

    You end by saying

    Probably this story has the same takeaway as Seeing Like A State – you don’t fully understand social systems, so be careful if you think you can improve on them.

    But I think this is too pessimistic! Reciprocity can and has improved on the social system that lacked Reciprocity. Some population of people have “gotten great dates.” The lesson here is you can’t (always) replace social systems with something more orderly, rational, and regular, eliminating their problems and reaping wild efficiency gains. You can construct additional and more powerful tools to allow people to get their needs met.

    Something something metaphor for all interventions.

  24. Squirrel of Doom says:

    Here is the crazy thing:

    Women generally, on average etc, value courage, and boldness in a man. Asking someone out who has shown no sign of liking you is a brave act. Which means that the act of asking a woman out, can be what turns her from uninterested to interested!!

    It’s some kind of Schrödinger attraction effect!

    • Jaskologist says:

      Right. Courage is the active ingredient, not pain.

      • woah77 says:

        If courage alone was the active ingredient, then cat calling would be an effective strategy.

          • Aapje says:

            Catcalling seems to be way more popular among the lower class, suggesting that it works there, but that the middle/upper class expects more sophistication.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Catcalling seems to be way more popular among the lower class, suggesting that it works there, but that the middle/upper class expects more sophistication.

            The stereotypical instance of catcalling with a construction worker whistling at a well-dressed higher status young lady probably doesn’t work because of the status difference, but the same lady might react positively to a well-dressed man of equal or higher status than her starting a random conversation in a public establishment.

            The language would be different than a typical catcall since language is a strong status signal, but in terms of courage signaling I would say they are equivalent.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I actually do wonder if catcalling is effective or not. I agree that it’s probably not effective among the upper classes, but does it work on women who are from the same cultures that catcallers typically are?

          • acymetric says:

            @Jaskologist

            I think people have different models of what catcalling entails.

            I can fairly easily imagine places where an isolated catcall can set the stage for future successful interaction.

          • raj says:

            I always had the impression that cat-calling was a male group ritual rather than an actual attempt at courtship. It might reinforce attitudes and beliefs that lead to sexual assertiveness in other settings, though.

          • Telminha says:

            If you want the perspective of a woman from a low social class, who lived in a poor area where catcalling was very common — My general impression is that most poor women don’t like being catcalled, even if a man looks high status. I have never met personally any woman who liked being catcalled; not my sister, cousins, or friends. I don’t know of any relationship that’s started with a catcall, but I can’t speak for every poor woman.

            I think if there is any real intention of finding a girlfriend/boyfriend behind catcalling random people in the streets, this act, which is low-investment, could be comparable to the prince of Nigeria scam:

            ”It’s hard to imagine today that anyone who gets an email from a person claiming to be a wealthy Nigerian prince wouldn’t immediately know it was scam. Yet this technique is still being used by hundreds of fraudsters.
            Why? It’s actually a brilliant strategy designed to save time and maximize profit by immediately identifying only the most gullible marks, according to an analysis by Cormac Herley of Microsoft Research.”

          • vV_Vv says:

            I think if there is any real intention of finding a girlfriend/boyfriend behind catcalling random people in the streets, this act, which is low-investment, could be comparable to the prince of Nigeria scam:

            I’d compare it with sweeping everybody right on a dating app, it just takes slightly more effort.

        • baconbits9 says:

          It could be a necessary but insufficient ingredient.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I didn’t say “alone.”

        • Majuscule says:

          I’d say catcalling is actually quite cowardly and signals anger and sadness more than sexual interest. It is the crie de coeur of a lonely man with little to offer. In other times and cultures it meant different things, but these days I think it’s more like howling at the moon.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            You would say that, because you have to attack catcalling at every opportunity.

            Because otherwise you will be accused of being On Their Side, just like I am about to be accused of.

          • Nietzsche says:

            I’m a man. I’ve been catcalled by women. Still going to apply your analysis? They were lonely, sad, angry women? They didn’t seem to be.

          • toastengineer says:

            From reading about how such behavior worked historically, I’m pretty sure it really is as simple as the man thinking, “holy crap, a pretty lady! Notice me, pretty lady! Woo, she noticed me! I feel validated and worthwhile now that a high status woman has paid attention to me!”

            If you see it as some kind of weird “put a woman in a suboordinate position” domination exercise, I think you’ve either spent too much time thinking about sociology designed to investigate that sort of power dynamic and have forgotten that that isn’t how the majority of social interactions between regular people in the first world actually work, or have just been reading too much weird porn.

            I suppose we could also be using the same name for two significantly different behaviors that only look the same from a distance.

          • Aapje says:

            Small children also sometimes adopt a strategy of bullying to get attention.

            I’ve also read multiple piece on solitary confinement for the mentally ill where it is argued that giving attention at the right time will very often prevent ‘acting out’ by patients and thereby obviate the need for solitary confinement.

            This suggests that people may prefer negative attention over no attention.

            And a fairly common complaint by men is a lack of attention by women…

          • carvenvisage says:

            Just registering my objection to this comment on the alternate basis that you don’t have to be lonely to catcall, and in fact the ideas seem almost flatly contradictory. Anger, sure. Sadness, not really. But loneliness? Pining up at the moon is not the same as howling at it. You might as well say catcallers suffer from agoraphobia, it’s just a ridiculous reach that serves only to throw the patently inapplicable group in question under the bus (as a implicitly worse enough to make the comparison invidious to catcallers).

            That said, catcalling is retarded and defending it is even more retarded. (because at least if you’re dumb enough to catcall you might actually be retarded.)

          • Majuscule says:

            I guess I could expand my comment to include “bored”, as catcalling might also be a form of entertainment. That would make sense, since it usually seems to come from people with downtime on street corners. If a woman catcalled you, I’d guess she thought she was being funny. I would guess plenty of men think it’s funny, too. There’s probably a group dynamic as well, making it more about amusing your friends with your outrageousness than the target at all.

            The actual meaning (and relative badness) seems to vary widely by culture. I have heard from women from some countries finding the relative rarity of catcalling in American cities disconcerting; my friend’s newly-immigrated relatives wondered if American men found them ugly. But so far as I know it’s generally not a strategy likely to lead to reciprocal attention anywhere. Except maybe from a particular subset of sex worker…

            And you’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the backlash against it for at least the past decade. I think it’s reasonable to assume it would seriously damage your attractiveness to be a known catcaller. It was a low status activity to begin with, at least in the US, and the pool of people still doing it must be steadily concentrating downward. I’d defend my original statement that these probably aren’t the happiest, most well-balanced individuals, but anyhow my point was that catcalling isn’t a good example of courage in bucking social norms.

        • Courage? I interpret catcalling as being on the same spectrum as wife-beating; i.e., a method for a man to assert arbitrary dominance over a woman in a subordinate position. I would call this many things, but “courageous” is not among them.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Surely courage consists of being willing to risk pain.

    • EMP says:

      I would think that something like this happens incredibly rarely. While you are right that courage is a valued trait, a single act of courage doesn’t make you characteristically courageous any more than getting into a single heated argument makes you characteristically angry. It would seem that in order for this to tip the scales you would already have to be leaning towards being perceived as courageous in the first place, which seems to me to be a hard place to get to. Courageous acts are usually grand in nature, it’s difficult for me to come up with many micro acts of courageousness that would sum up to a “leaning courageous” verdict. In addition, asking someone out isn’t necessarily going to be interpreted as an act of courage. In the worst case it could be interpreted as an act of autistic ignorance. “Don’t you know that I’m not attracted to you? How daft are you?”

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        In the military, medals for bravery are handed out for single acts!

        If a man asks out a woman, she now (normally) sees him as “someone who is comfortable asking out women”. Not “I only have a sample of N=1, I need to wait for statistical significance before I get excited”. Though there might be some rationalist exceptions 🙂

      • baconbits9 says:

        Imagine its a simple RPG, the girl you are approaching has a threshold of 200 character points before she will date you. Currently you have zero courage points with her out of a max 50, and asking her out nets you 10 courage points. Asking her out wont shift you from ‘never, ever in a million years’ to ‘yes’ but it might shift you from ‘probably not’ to ‘why not’.

    • Simon_Jester says:

      @Jaskologist

      Courage is the desired quality; courage is demonstrated by creating obstacles and seeing who’s motivated enough to charge through them. The reason motivation is required is because obstacles cause pain.

      @woah77

      This then explains why cat-calling is not an effective strategy: it is not a male displaying his ability and will to overcome obstacles.

      It is, rather, a display of his indifference to the woman’s internal state, personality, and other characteristics.

      Thus, it does not display courage (since it takes no courage to shout random words that will have no consequences), and displays the actively undesirable trait of anti-empathy.

      • Randy M says:

        Thus, it does not display courage

        But the more pushback against it, the more it will! Potentially making it a valid strategy.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          See the other comments.

          Insofar as women are attracted to courage, they are not generally going to be attracted to recklessness. Courage is a moderately positive trait in a mate; recklessness is a very large negative- a coward is almost certain to be a better partner than a reckless person.

          Catcalling signals indifference to circumstances, to consequences, and to pretty much everything other than “I have an easily triggered boner.” As such, it will never become a strategy for successfully signalling courage and consistently attracting women.

          Though there may be a few women whose courage-attraction is miscalibrated enough to turn into recklessness-attraction- but then, you can attract them in a lot of other ways by demonstrating other forms of recklessness. Forms that [i]don’t[/i] involve actively demonstrating indifference to their feelings.

          • Randy M says:

            Insofar as women are attracted to courage, they are not generally going to be attracted to recklessness.

            Women are not all perfectly optimized. Some subset of women will be overly attracted to courage or underly repulsed by recklessness. Otherwise prisoners, daredevils, etc. wouldn’t get fan mail, and teenage boys wouldn’t be predisposed to constantly do stupid stunts.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Courage is a moderately positive trait in a mate; recklessness is a very large negative- a coward is almost certain to be a better partner than a reckless person.

            I think recklessness is by far the coolest trait a person can have. Bad taste and imposing it on others not so much, but if we had a society of reckless people we would have almost zero catcallers because catcalling would be dangerous. (at which point it would become massively more respectable).

            Catcalling a lone woman isn’t reckless. Only if she is with her unstable ex-special-forces boyfriend does (can) it become reckless. The expression isn’t “poking a flamingo”.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            @Randy M

            Women are not all perfectly optimized. Some subset of women will be overly attracted to courage or underly repulsed by recklessness. Otherwise prisoners, daredevils, etc. wouldn’t get fan mail, and teenage boys wouldn’t be predisposed to constantly do stupid stunts.

            I mean, yes. I said “not generally attracted to recklessness,” as in “it is not the general case that women as a demographic are all attracted to recklessness.” Very young women who don’t understand the consequences of a reckless male’s actions may be overly impressed by the courage involved, and some women of any age may be overly impressed, to be sure.

            On the other hand, it must be pointed out that prisoners and daredevils aren’t necessarily getting fan mail from a significant chunk of the female populace- it may be the same half million women out of 160 million who write every such fan letter in America.

            And it must be pointed out that teenage boys may have reasons for doing stupid stunts that don’t have to do with “teenage girls are objectively impressed by them.” For example, teenage boys may themselves be pursuing suboptimal courtship strategies due to being, well, teenage boys. Males aren’t perfectly optimized either, after all.

            Or teenage boys may to some extent be jockeying for status among themselves and “competing for mates” only indirectly. When bull moose lock horns in the spring in competition for mates, it’s not necessarily that female mooses are specifically attracted to “wins fights,” or even that the females are watching. It’s that the moose who loses the fight tends not to challenge the winner’s access to mates.

            @carvenvisage

            I think recklessness is by far the coolest trait a person can have. Bad taste and imposing it on others not so much, but if we had a society of reckless people we would have almost zero catcallers because catcalling would be dangerous. (at which point it would become massively more respectable).

            Catcalling a lone woman isn’t reckless. Only if she is with her unstable ex-special-forces boyfriend does (can) it become reckless. The expression isn’t “poking a flamingo”.

            Nothing you said is wrong as such. Well, except that I may disagree with your definitions of ‘respect’ and ‘coolness,’ while still knowing what you mean and understanding your core thesis.

            But you missed something I was trying to get at.

            The core trait of recklessness is not “being super brave.” It’s “being blind to consequences.” Being too clueless, stupid, ignorant, or short-sighted to understand the consequences of your actions is not the same as being aware of the consequences and doing it anyway.

            Almost no one cat-calls a woman while their heavyweight boxer boyfriend is standing right there. And if they do, it’s not because they’re a Medal of Honor recipient with courage you could bend steel bars into pretzels around. It’s because they’re a dumbass who isn’t smart enough to make the connection between “I catcall woman” and “her boyfriend gets mad” and “that specific boyfriend right there could beat me to a pulp with one hand tied behind his back.”

            The thing is, “the girl’s heavyweight boxer boyfriend is standing right there” is like the tutorial easy mode for “comprehend the consequences of your actions.”

            When women try to anti-select for recklessness in a prospective mate, they’re doing it because reckless people fail a lot. They fuck up, they commit crimes, they get fired for doing a bad job at work, and so on. To be mated to a reckless man is to be at chronic risk of being harmed by his fuckups, or having to support him after he is harmed by his fuckups. Moreover, his fuckups will predictably affect his parenting, and your future children. And he may even be reckless because of low intelligence, which he’ll pass on to your children if you have any with him.

            So women VERY much have incentives to test their prospective mates for a lack of recklessness. And since the core feature of recklessess is “indifference or blindness to consequences…”

            Well, any man who’s blind enough to consequences to not realize that he’s pissing you off by catcalling you, will probably also be blind to other consequences that piss you off later. Like blowing his paycheck on rounds of expensive drinks for all his friends, or impulsively sleeping with your sister at a party, or forgetting to pick up the kids from their after-school activity like he promised while you’re at your doctor’s appointment. Or crippling himself and making himself unable to work by dropping a heavy tool on his foot.

            For most women, that isn’t sexy.

          • Randy M says:

            I mean, yes. I said “not generally attracted to recklessness,” as in “it is not the general case that women as a demographic are all attracted to recklessness.”

            Overlooked that word, I guess. Apologies, then.

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        Thus, it does not display courage

        Then why would I never dare do it?

        • Majuscule says:

          Because courage is risk taking in reasonable hope of a reward. Catcalling is as unlikely to be successful in attracting a woman as standing on the corner in your boxers with a grapefruit on your head. Doing something pointless that will at best annoy people isn’t bravery, not to mention the damage it does to your overall status.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Doing something pointless that damages your overall status and annoys someone is signalling.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Well yes, but what are you signalling?

            Again, catcalling actively signals to a woman “I don’t give a shit what you think and derive pleasure from annoying you.” The only women who are going to be attracted to this are psychologically damaged abuse victims who’ve been mistreated until Stockholm syndrome sets in and they start to think it’s sexy when people hate them and make them miserable.

            A man who really wants to attract women like that, using that strategy, well, they may be pursuing a rational strategy. But if there’s a Hell, I hope they end up in it.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            That is rather persuasive that the signalling is not intended to impress the target of the catcalling. Clearly the catcalling must be signalling to people whom exist in the social circle of the catcaller.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            A very good point. Notably, catcalling often (not always) comes from men who are standing in groups. It may be optimally adapted as a way for men to signal their daring to other men (see my above comment about moose fights). Or a way for men to bond by doing something that violates broader social mores, thus signaling that you value your immediate in-group enough to violate social mores to impress them.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            I’ll admit that I had assumed that all of the catcalling I’ve seen has been done by men in groups, but I’ve only be called once, and I’ve been a passively complicit member of a group more than once.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Well, not all catcalling men are pursuing an optimal strategy.

            Some men may pick up the habit of catcalling by emulating male comrades in groups, and not fully understand why they’re doing it.

            Others may listen to justifications from other catcalling men (“all women secretly like it”) and believe those justifications.

            Other men may react to the increased solidarity and back-slapping of the catcalling group by associating catcalling directly with feeling better, as a Pavlovian response. And so they start catcalling even where no man from their peer group can see.

            Other men may be drunk, or on drugs, or mentally ill, in ways that disrupts their ability to understand that what they’re doing cannot have its nominal desired effect under present circumstances.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          Do you really want to?

          What purpose would it serve?

    • Jaskologist says:

      I would like to retract my claim that “courage” is the active ingredient here. I was over thinking it. The relevant trait is much simpler: ability to ask girls out.

      Working out the relationship between that trait and reproductive success is left as an exercise to the reader.

  25. googolplexbyte says:

    So the solution her is to replace the checkbox with a % prediction that you’d date each person, like a Metaculus for dating.

    People would be actually honest because they want to get good at predicting who they’d date.

  26. blacktrance says:

    If you check the box, you probably already have a salient interest in the other person – you already know you want to date them. But you may be willing to date someone you hadn’t considered, or at least try one date to see how it goes.

  27. Etoile says:

    Another, less sinister contributing factor:
    Alice never really thought of Bob in “that way” until he asked her out, at which point she reflected on it and took the chance.

  28. Joe says:

    Half the fun of dating is getting shot down. If you try and fail you at least have the satisfaction of having made an attempt. Also you learn that rejection isn’t really that big of a deal. Also you might make more friends.

    • SkyBlu says:

      AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

      Okay I’m doing a lot of screaming on this thread.
      This may just be that your experiences and weights are different from other people, but for a lot of people, and especially nerdy, rationalist-adjacent people, rejection feels really really bad.

      • Joe says:

        It shouldn’t. I think it feels really bad because you’re taking your self too seriously. The feeling that approaching a woman is “high stakes” is an illusion. Have fun put your self out there..
        https://youtu.be/ncLZD4KFUD4

        • sty_silver says:

          I think telling someone that they shouldn’t feel a certain way is very rude and almost always unproductive. I really think you shouldn’t say it even if it enters your head.

          • Majuscule says:

            I wouldn’t tell anyone how to feel (not like that even works) but it would seem there’s some room here to acknowledge that if you’re feeling so bad about rejection, or possible rejection, that it throttles your love life completely then that’s a problem in search of a solution. I hear from a fair number of guys that their fear goes beyond rejection to worries that the person they were interested in will also decide they’re some kind of creep and/or a once-valued friendship will be irreparably damaged. So I’d like to make the point that, yes, this is possible. But remember that women (especially the kinds of nerdy women most of us here hang out with) might be just as as awkward and bent out of shape as you are. So if you get shot down and feel really, really bad, remember that rejecting someone isn’t necessarily easy for the other person, either. Probably the optimal situation is one where both of you can file away the incident and get back to some sort of equilibrium of minimal weirdness around one another. And if that turns out to be impossible, maybe your crush has their own issues of feeling life-disrupting levels of bad about rejecting you. In which case you now have several reasons to believe it never would have worked out anyhow. This probably won’t fix your feelings on rejection, but might temper them next time.

          • Aapje says:

            @Majuscule

            I am not a sadist, so the suffering of others doesn’t make me feel better.

            In fact, the fear inflicting pain on others can be a reason not to approach people. People with low esteem often feel like their existence and/or actions are hurting people.

            In dating especially, this is not a mere delusion. An offer to date is an implied claim that your qualities are similar to the person you ask out, but if the other person sees themselves as higher quality than you, this is effectively an insult: ‘your worth as a dating partner much lower than you think.’

            As for being considered creepy, an issue is that most women expect men to have decent social skills, by recognizing their subtly communicated needs and then doing what they want. It’s considered creepy to misinterpret these signals and be more sexually aggressive than desired, but women tend to lose interest if a men is less sexually aggressive than desired.

            Many men (who) lack the social skills to interpret these signals instead adopt a brute force approach: they pick a level of sexual aggression and try it on many women, where it is going to be the right amount for some off them. Of course, this then results in some women feeling creeped on, when the level of aggression is more than they desire.

            It seems to me that the feminist claim of ‘rape culture’ is for a substantial part a complaint about this, although with zero understanding of the actual cause and how women’s behavior that exceeds many if not most men’s abilities, leaves this as the only reasonably effective strategy for many men.

            Men who lack social skills and who are not willing to make many women feel creeped on, end up with a low chance of a relationship. Note that society is constantly telling men to not err on the side of too much sexual aggression, which makes a lot of men err constantly on the side of too little sexually aggression for most women.

            Women with low social skills have it much easier, because there is a surplus of men who are fine with bluntness or with low sexual aggressiveness on the part of the woman. Furthermore, women don’t get told off for being sexual aggressive, to the point where they seem to often be able to rape someone with no social sanction and (almost) no chance of persecution. So women have a much larger range of behaviors, although ironically women are typically more anxious than men (the effect of testosterone?). So men’s higher risk-taking is necessary for them to have success, as the current arrangement only makes them successful if they take much greater risks than women are typically willing to accept.

            Yet this of course doesn’t work for men who aren’t naturally high in risk-taking and/or who can’t push themselves to adopt a sufficiently high amount of risk-taking.

            PS. Interestingly, a greater burden on men to interpret women’s needs and offer them what they want seems to exist for intercourse: “More specifically, during heterosexual intercourse, men, as compared with women, reported being more centered upon their partner’s needs, thoughts, and reactions as well as being more preoccupied with pleasing their partner and being less able to give up control.”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If someone wants to be a mountain climber but is afraid of heights, something needs to change, and “stop feeling afraid of heights” is a reasonable part.

          • whereamigoing says:

            @Aapje

            they pick a level of sexual aggression and try it on many women, where it is going to be the right amount for some off them

            My impression is that everyone does this to some extent, and historically it more or less worked until feminism came along.

          • Aapje says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            The mountain is not the goal, it is getting to the sage who lives on top of the mountain.

            Then if the person (like many others) has a leg injury, one can wonder why the sage can’t just come down the mountain now and then to visit the people with leg injuries.

          • toastengineer says:

            hear from a fair number of guys that their fear goes beyond rejection to worries that the person they were interested in will also decide they’re some kind of creep and/or a once-valued friendship will be irreparably damaged. So I’d like to make the point that, yes, this is possible.

            I think you’re dismissing this phenomenon a little too fast – this isn’t some irrational worry borne of stomach-butterflies, the people who are telling you this are telling you this because it has happened to them several times and is the actual reason they behave like they do.

          • Worley says:

            More to the point, telling someone that they “shouln’t” feel a certain way has absolutely zero effect. Now there are some situations where one can modify one’s emotional reactions through “reframing”, where experience A causes you to believe B which causes emotion C. If belief B is actually incorrect, CBT can let you escape emotion C.

            But pain upon rejection is not one of those things.

            About the only therapy for that is progressive desensitization.

            The problem with that, though, is that rejection actually does lower your status in the larger social group, and so fearing it is rational.

        • deciusbrutus says:

          Telling someone that their internal lived experiences are wrong is a bad thing to do. Please stop doing so.

          • Nietzsche says:

            Why? People’s feelings are often partly a judgment about facts in the world, and they could be mistaken about those facts. If I am angry because I heard that a friend insulted me, I am wrong to be angry if the insult never happened. If I am more worried about a low probability risk than I am about a high probability risk with the same downside, then I am wrong to worry in that way. And so on.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Which is different from asserting that you anger and worry are illusory.

            “Your anger is based on a misperception that can be dispelled” is different from “your lack of concern about something that is certain is wrong”.

        • Aapje says:

          @Joe

          It shouldn’t. I think it feels really bad because you’re taking your self too seriously.

          Everyone takes themselves seriously. Many people just have built up so much self-esteem, for example by having been accepted at lot, that a single rejection is not a confirmation of one’s undesirability, but rather, can merely be seen as a misjudgment, as too high standards on the part of the other person and/or as a learning opportunity.

          Also, the deceptions and games that are typically necessary to make dating work are unpleasant and/or stressful for many people, especially those to whom such things don’t come naturally.

        • NoRandomWalk says:

          I’d like to stand up for Joe on this one.
          For some people it’s hard to change reality. It can be really good to nudge them towards being more competent.
          For some people it’s really hard to change their attitude towards reality. It can be really good to nudge them towards being more emotionally resilient.

          I’ve benefited from self-nudging in both directions greatly.

        • Squirrel of Doom says:

          Here’s a more spelled out version of what I think/hope Joe is trying to say:

          Make a habit of asking women out! Do it the moment you realize you’re interested, not after a year when you’ve developed a deadly serious crush and planned out the wedding and kid names.

          When you do this on a weekly basis, each attempt will not be a high stakes one. You’ll also learn two important truths, that apply to all men: A: Not all women will say yes. B: Not all women will say no.

          The A vs B percentages vary, but this is true for everyone, from the most to least attractive. Being turned down doesn’t mean you’re a hopeless unlovable loser. It just means this particular woman isn’t for you. Likewise, someone saying yes doesn’t mean you’re an irresistible charmer. Again, both things happen to everyone. It’s just life. Learn to live it.

          When B happens it’s obviously good. But the most important part to realize is that when A happens it’s also good news!!

          Because now you know you can stop dreaming about this woman. You are not compatible, and nothing will happen. Move on, keep on living.

          Hope that helped!

          • carvenvisage says:

            Joe is modeling their perspective for others’ interest and everyone is wrong to treat those statements as commands.

          • sty_silver says:

            I think this goes pretty far beyond Steelmanning, but fwiw I think this it’s now really good advice.

        • Bamboozle says:

          I think what Joe is saying is that the facts of the game are known. If you are a guy you’re going to be much more successful if you get over the pain of rejection and throw yourself in the shark tank 100 times and just eat the pain without becoming resentful. It’s unfair but that’s the truth and it beats waiting for some kind of equality in this space as you’ll be waiting forever.

          Once you realise that women aren’t these mystical beings that can deduct your worth within 5 minutes or 5 hours of knowing you, rejection starts to lose it’s sting. Asking people out becomes more like a game. A lot of guys reject this as it seems dangerously close to PUA territory, but having seen some average looking friends ask 20 people out in one night and come away with 2 or so dates I imagined if they’d spread those requests out over years with that success rate and how painful that would have been instead… it’s just the unfortunate reality as a young guy.

          But it makes sense. If you’re a 21 year old male, your dating pool is likely 17 – 21. If you’re a 21 year old female, your dating pool could be 17 – 50 or higher…Economically speaking one-side can afford to be pickier. It’s not fair but that’s life right?

  29. fnord says:

    I mean, my first guess would be that Alice signed up for Reciprocity but then forgot about it and hasn’t checked anybody in months.

  30. dank says:

    This seems like a good thread to mention that reciprocity.io seems not to be working and hasn’t for at least a few months now.

  31. spork says:

    This is not a comment about the model, which seems sound, but about my displeasure at smart, innovative people chasing users toward Facebook. I understand why Facebook is a convenient basis for this app, but ew, it’s Facebook.

  32. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Any thoughts about whether Reciprocity is better than not having Reciprocity even if the site doesn’t work as well as hoped for?

  33. Elephant says:

    Why not have the app also predict how pleasant the date will be, write a summary, and send it to you — then both people can avoid human interaction entirely!
    But seriously: The comments above on why this won’t work are very good. Also: I learned late, but thankfully not too late, to just dive in and talk to people without overthinking what would work or not, or overthinking how I would feel. This Facebook based scheme to me not only seems creepy and sad, but to really foster overthinking. (What does it mean if I check a box and he/she doesn’t?)

    • Randy M says:

      Why not have the app also predict how pleasant the date will be, write a summary, and send it to you — then both people can avoid human interaction entirely!

      This was an episode of Black Mirror–told from the simulations point of view.

    • Garrett says:

      > to just dive in and talk to people

      Where do you find people? I’m in the tech sector, so between the general advice against dating at work, there are approximately 0 available single straight/cis/attractive women. The hobbies I take up such as volunteering in EMS or the animal shelter seem to fall in the same category. Same with taking night classes at the local community college.

      • acymetric says:

        Yes, I don’t expect EMS is a good place to work on your romantic life (although it certainly a great thing for you to be doing with your time).

        Animal shelter and night classes: Are you sure? Maybe neither is overflowing with single women but it would surprise me if there were literally none in either place.

        Do you like to run (or are you willing to start)? Run clubs can be a good one.

        Consider also that it isn’t just about finding single people in the places you are at. Maybe you meet “Dave” at night school, and he’s a cool guy, and he invites you to a cookout he’s having next weekend. Maybe some of the people who will be there are single women.

        • Consider also that it isn’t just about finding single people in the places you are at. Maybe you meet “Dave” at night school, and he’s a cool guy, and he invites you to a cookout he’s having next weekend. Maybe some of the people who will be there are single women.

          A good general point. Expanding your social net via people who are not potential mates increases the odds of encountering a friend of a friend who is.

          I met my current wife as a result of the wife of a colleague/friend telling me that there were nice girls at folk dancing at the university I was teaching at. Not quite the same pattern, but close.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          I don’t expect EMS is a good place to work on your romantic life

          I have a friend who specifically became an EMS in part so she could have have better access to the dating pool of EMS techs and firefighters.

          (If you’ve never seen a firefighter fundraising calendar, you really should…)

          It worked out pretty well for her.

          • psmith says:

            It worked out pretty well for her.

            Gender ratio introduces a certain asymmetry into dating prospects.

            (Also, at least in the professional world, divorce rates are sky high and there are a lot of Dunkin Donuts physiques–though maybe less than in the general population. Not to discourage OP, I’m just sayin’.).

          • Gender ratio introduces a certain asymmetry into dating prospects.

            That raises an interesting puzzle–why isn’t the result to stabilize gender ratios at about even?

            To expand on that …

            Mate search is a major human activity. Some professions (EMT, according to the thread), hobbies (dancing?), movements (libertarianism) have heavily skewed gender ratios. That ought to make them particularly attractive to the gender that is in the minority in such a setting—it’s a target rich environment. That should tend to push them back towards roughly equal ratios.

            But it doesn’t seem to happen. A few years ago, when I was on a speaking tour in Europe accompanied by my wife, she made a practice of counting the audience for gender. The m/f ratio was about ten to one.

            A couple of libertarian organizations I have interacted with have it down to about two to one. Both of them are for people of roughly college age (SFL and YAL), an age at which mate search is particularly important, so perhaps the mechanism is working to some degree.

            I can see two possible explanations for why you don’t get a less unbalanced pattern. One is that an environment where your gender is very much in the minority feels uncomfortable even if target rich–perhaps there is a male style of social interaction and women don’t enjoy an environment dominated by it, and similarly, mutatis mutandis, for a female stye. The other, and perhaps more obvious, is that there is a reason why being an EMT appeals much more to males than females, dancing more to females than males—enough of a reason to outweigh the mate search incentive.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            The first and second possibilities can blur together.

            Women stereotypically aren’t very interested in taking welding classes in American culture. Under the status quo, the classes are likely to be mostly male. But therefore, when a woman does join a welding class, she is disproportionately likely to be made uncomfortable by one or more of the men present, simply because you’ll usually be exposed to more obnoxious men when joining a group of 19 men and 1 woman than when you join a group of 10 and 10.

            Stereotyping, innate aversion, and a discomfort at intruding onto the other gender’s “manly/womanly” activities all reinforce each other.

            Also, a third possibility: Suppose many people’s mate-search strategies are built around satisficing. If they can find mates, they will decline to significantly alter their lives in hopes of finding more desirable ones. Starting a new hobby is a significant life change and cuts into scarce free time, so not many people do it purely as a dating service.

            And a fourth possibility: Even if people are entering these professions in hopes of using them as a dating service, they’ll be predisposed to leave as soon as they find an acceptable mate. A man who joins a dance class to meet women may well leave the dance class after finding one, restoring the sex ratio of the dance class to what it was before he showed up.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Do you commute by car or public transit?

        I’ve had a lot of success hitting on women in buses, trains, domestic flights, and even just striking up a conversation while standing in line. It sounds like it should end in disaster but it’s actually very doable. The important thing is to be casual and friendly so that you don’t come off as a thirsty pervert.

        It’s certainly a lot easier and more rewarding than meeting women in clubs and bars.

        • Garrett says:

          By car. And having spent a few minutes digging into it, there isn’t a way to commute via public transport even if I was to do so for this purpose.

          > so that you don’t come off as a thirsty pervert

          I wish I had a clue how to achieve that.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Ah yeah. The car is a double-edged sword: enormous freedom but also isolating.

            You might have to start actively heading to cafes and such in your off time.

            I wish I had a clue how to achieve that.

            Look into “day game.”

            My personal recommendation is somewhat out of date, since I’ve spent the last few years in a monogamous relationship, but Roosh V’s Bang and Day Bang was my starting point.

            There’s nothing mysterious about the advice, in fact a lot of it is essentially just standard job interview tactics applied to flirting, but it’s presented in a systematic and logical way.

      • Reasoner says:

        Take dance classes?

        Also, if you’re in the Bay Area, move out. Maybe try NYC or Research Triangle.

  34. Furslid says:

    I can think of a couple reasons this would happen that don’t rely on pain.

    1. People don’t check all possible relationships because they are worried about getting multiple matches. If someone gets 3 different matches, it could be difficult to chose how to handle them without causing problems.

    2. People don’t go through their friends and consider them individually, checking all possible relationships regularly. Instead they check the boxes of the people who come to mind. There are people who just aren’t considered for some reason, who they would have checked if they considered them.

    3. People don’t update reliably. There are people who are not checked because someone doesn’t want a long distance relationship. Then one of them moves nearby and it isn’t updated. There are people who are not checked because they are dating someone else. After a breakup it isn’t updated.

    • deciusbrutus says:

      And in addition, there are the boxes left checked when things change, and the fact that new users start with no boxes checked, because nobody else had their box to check it before they began using the service.

  35. Radu Floricica says:

    My experience with (a certain niche) of online dating in the past couple of years is that mainstream dating is missing a lot by trying to be mainstream. There are sooo many preferences which could be used to match people, and right now we have… tinder. What we need is:
    – a way to specify preferences honestly
    – a way to specify traits honestly (and this will require a lot of creativity)

    Which is why tinder is such a success – everybody there prefers good looks, and looks are reasonably obvious at a glance. Plus a simple algorithm to match you with more attractive people based on the matches you already get.

    Proper dating software should be made by economists. @DavidFriedman – would you mind talking about it?

    • My main suggestion is feedback.

      You start with an algorithm for figuring out who would be interested in whom, have your customers report whether they tried going out with the person the software advised and how it went, then modify the algorithm accordingly. I don’t think I have any very good insights to what your starting algorithm should be.

      One possibility for starting would be to get access to data from an existing dating app that showed what information it had on clients and which clients ended by pairing up.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        @DavidFriedman

        Feedback has been tried, occasionally by very smart people. Okcupid had a great blog once, and their CTO wrote a book on the subject. But the problem is not with the people doing the software, but with the people using it.

        For basic stuff like “want to date people of this age in this city”, the problem is solved. For “want to date the most attractive people I can, using just my looks”, it’s also solved by tinder. But when you get into specifics, the current market fails, hard. And my guess is that most of the market would love to be segmented.

        Let’s take a look at two very different segments: money/status and kinks. The current examples for each would be sites like http://www.seeking.com and http://www.fetlife.com. They are very much not mainstream, and very much successful.

        Seeking is a controversial niche, and in my opinion much open for disruption, because it comes from a beginning of transactional sex. Either sugardating (aka we date, you keep me through college) or plain high end escorting. The side-effect is a lot more interesting – it is also a place for girls to find high status men. This isn’t apparent until you actually take 2 minutes (2 literal minutes, if possible) to try and think of how an attractive young woman could meet a high status man. The culture has been obsessed with the reverse, but that’s actually quite easy – charming women stand out. Men, on the other hand, don’t. This is compound a lot by the fact that women don’t pick up, not directly. They have to be in an environment where they can meet naturally the kind of men they would like (not very different from your experience, I think). Anyways, try the 2 minutes.

        The problem here is that you can’t take men on their word that they’re high stratus – which brings me back to the need to honestly identify traits. You need to be inventive. Incidentally, I thought of you because I remembered the “who’s richer” dilemma in the Athenian chapter on Legal Systems 🙂

        FetLife is one of (probably many) sites that cater to matching people with different kinks. You say what you are (Dom, Sub, etc), create a profile that matches your hobby, and look for people that are compatible with you. The main filter here is the effort in creating the profile – you can’t go typical male shotgun and say you’re everything – and the fact that you actually want to meet somebody compatible or things could go pretty bad. So conversations there are a lot more likely to hit it off than on a mainstream website.

        That’s the state of the world right now. Moving forward… probably you’d need to take every kind of preference people like listing on their profile (like how half the girls are “sapiosexual”) and create markets where preferences and traits can be honestly matched. Personally, I’d like to start by separating the money/status from the sugardating.

        • Garrett says:

          What should someone take from being unable to arrange a meeting via a sugaring website?

        • What people say about themselves isn’t necessarily true, but it is a characteristic of theirs. In principle, one should be able to correlate characteristics with outcomes and build an algorithm without knowing why it works.

          I originally started thinking about the problem in the context of predicting what books someone would like. I go into a bookstore looking for a book by a favorite author (this was pre-Amazon). There are probably books there by several other authors that I would like just as much, but I don’t know which ones they are.

          I had heard a talk about multidimensional voting theory. You have a bunch of candidates, a bunch of voters, and information about which candidates which voters prefer. You try to match that by locations for voters and candidates in an n-dimensional space, where you don’t have information about why a voter likes a candidate, only about which voters like which candidates. If you do it well, you can conclude that voter A will like candidate X because A likes candidate Y and X is close to Y, as shown by the reactions of other voters to both of them.

          My idea was to use this approach with books as candidates and readers as voters, to predict what books that you hadn’t read you would like. I know there are places online that try to do things like this, don’t know how close their approach is to what I imagined forty years or so ago.

          One should be able to do something similar with dating apps. You don’t have a large number of men who have reported results on dating the same woman, unlike my cases of voters or books, so you have to somehow pool men who appear similar by whatever characteristics you have data on, treat them as one man, and similarly for women. So you are ultimately trying to discover what bundle of male characteristics is close to what bundle of female characteristics in the n dimensional preference space.

          Does that make sense? It isn’t something I have done, and people who have tried to do the equivalent probably know a lot more about the difficulties than I do.

          • Lambert says:

            @David Friedman

            Then, you analyse the predictive models it has built, and do all the same stuff that they have with language models.

            Like what dude do you get if you subtract Chris Pratt from Kevin Bacon.

            More seriously, I’m guessing that that is the optimal way to go about building a platform that matches people well. But not a good way to make money, for whatever reason.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @DavidFriedman

            That’s a computer scientist’s approached, and has been done to death by very smart people, like OkCupid. It has some value, and it will work one day – specifically when Facebook finally launches its own dating service, because they’re the only ones with enough data to make it work. And boy, will it work – it will be _the_ mainstream dating arena. Their data is “real”, i.e. isn’t created by the user with the specific purpose of dating.

            But until then, it’s lukewarm at best. If I were to guess why, I’d say that information is being lost – what people are putting in their profiles is not a compressed version of themselves, and not even a hash of themselves. Social climate creates attractors, and people fall into very broad categories. I quit OkCupid the moment I had three identical dates with three 31yo professionals, sexually open, travel loving, averse to commitment. You could say that OkC works, in the sense that if found me a “type”, but… it turned out the most interesting relationship was longish term with a 24 yo poli Mistress student (and I’m moderate dom myself, so it wasn’t even a bdsm thing). Waaay out of my “type”.

            Like I was saying, half the girls today are sapiosexual. It becomes a meaningless label, like a 12 yo liking Justin Beiber – it’s not saying anything about her tastes, only that she’s born in a certain year.

            The best matching algorithm in production right now is the Netflix recommendation engine. They put an enormous amount of money and thought into it, and it works – but it’s not really that awesome. It may work better for people who’s tastes fall more neatly into broad categories.

            ———————————————–

            What I wanted to run by you was the view of dating as an economic problem. This should probably begin with a very realistic evolutionary framework (borderline non-PC most likely), with stuff like men like looks first, but women have more plastic preferences, some set during puberty. So the spectrum is probably made of looks (height/size/prettiness), personality (wittiness, intelligence, dominance, ambition, kindness), status (professional, social, contextual), resources (wealth, conspicuous consumption, access, perspectives), social (social network, common hobbies), values (culture war side, commitment/promiscuity). This is very differently weighted for each of us, with a much higher variability for women.

            Within this framework we have two problems, which is where economics begins. Finding preferences, and finding honest values for traits.

            Finding the preferences is solved in two ways that I can see. One is what you mentioned – algorithms that ask you questions, watch your behavior, and spit a result. Second is to fence off communities – if you’re on FetLife you’re kinky and you like kinky people. If you’re on Seeking you like rich or high status guys.

            Finding honest traits in potential partners is where things get really fun. Walling communities works here too – if you’re on Fet, you’re kinky and that’s likely an honest signal. If you’re on Seeking, you’re probably rich because otherwise it’d be a waste of time. Some physical attributes are visible in pictures, but like Aapje said, it’s still a bit fuzzy. Not to mention there’s an art of taking picture that is already starting to rival makeup. Some of your hobbies are also visible in your written profile, but not a lot.

            But the rest are hidden. There is no way in a mainstream dating site to be verifiable honest about your wealth. Trying to put pictures or your car/house/diploma would be tacky as hell. Your personality, status, social context, wealth and values are completely invisible – and considering the high preference variability in women, this means most matching options aren’t going to happen in a classic dating platform.

            ————————-

            To be perfectly honest I’m not sure where I’m going with this. One day I’d like to take a stab at a dating site – I’m moderately well positioned to do it, at least once my main activity starts paying better dividends. Until then, I just keep gathering data.

          • Your personality, status, social context, wealth and values are completely invisible

            Almost completely invisible–if you have an email address at Google (assuming there are such things) that gives some information on wealth. If your email is at a university and the university web site shows you as a professor that again gives information. I would expect that with modern search tools, someone willing to bother could get more such information–confirm your claim of what university you had graduated from, for instance.

            But a good deal of this, although not all of it, is visible on the first date—most obviously personality, physical appearance and intelligence, but also some signals of wealth (what kind of car do you drive, what sort of restaurant do you take her out to and do the staff recognize you as a usual customer). If the platform is Tinder and the objective is a one night stand, the second stage doesn’t do much of the work–it just tells you whether you have wasted the evening. But if you are looking for a wife, you expect the second stage to do most of the work. A first stage that gives you 90% candidates who you obviously don’t want and 10% superstar wife candidates is much better than one that gives you 100% women you enjoy going out with a few times but have zero chance of ending up marrying. From that standpoint, a woman who you obviously don’t want to end up married to is better than one who it takes a few dates to decide you don’t want to end up married to—less time wasted.

            In principle, you should be able to find out what your customer is looking for by asking him, since you are going to tailor the search algorithm to be optimal for that customer. That may require keeping what he tells you secret from potential dates, since if what he really wants is sex without commitment he may prefer to keep that secret.

            Definitely an interesting puzzle, and one whose solution would produce enormous benefits.

        • Nornagest says:

          Fetlife is designed as a social network for kinky people and deliberately broken as a dating site: it doesn’t construct matches by any means and it’s missing basic features like the ability to filter searches by gender, age, or orientation (or anything else besides location). Some people still use it as a dating site, apparently successfully, but that’s in spite of its design, not because of it.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Fetlife works as a dating site because it’s intentionally broken as a dating site.

            If they enabled dating features, it would drive away the user base that makes it work as a niche dating site.

            Similar to how a club or venue is broken and uninteresting and thus fails to draw people, if the only thing that happens is pickup or meatmarket.

      • Aapje says:

        @DavidFriedman

        A major issue for dating apps seems to be that deception is common. It increases the chance of getting a date, at the expense of reducing the success of the date. The equilibrium here is towards substantial deception.

        Then people respond to this by ‘grade inflation,’ which forces people to go along with this. If you are a man and say that you are 1.80 meters, but women expect that men exaggerate by 3 centimeters on average, then they will perceive the man as actually being 1.77 meters. So the man who is actually 1.80 tall, then has to claim that he is 1.83 to have women perceive his length correctly.

        Another form of feedback could be to have people rate the profile after the date for honesty. However, the chance that people will abuse a rating system to punish honest, but shitty daters, while not punishing deceptive, but pleasant daters seems very high.

        PS. OK Cupid used to ask people to rate both the profile text and pictures, but they found that the two correlated nigh-perfectly. It turned out that people rated even empty profile texts very high for profiles with beautiful pictures.

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t remember exactly how the OKC interface worked back then, but if it communicated both ratings to the ratee when there’s a match, or even if it wasn’t very clear about not doing so, then there’s a pretty obvious reason to rate both high or low: if you meet someone who you think is charming and witty but kinda plain (just not enough to be a deal-breaker), or alternately someone who’s a little dull personality-wise but super hot, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you say so. People don’t like to think of themselves as compromises.

  36. DinoNerd says:

    Bizarre! Not the behaviour, but the explanation.

    First of all, there’s a difference between “I’d like to date X” and “X might be OK to date”. The real preferences are, at least, 3-valued.

    Then there’s the problem of having difficulty saying “no” gracefully/comfortably, doing something you wouldn’t have chosen (but aren’t adamantly opposed to) and then either finding out you liked it, or being “too polite” to say “well, that sucked, let’s never do it again,” even while updating your preferences to “will NEVER date that person again”.

    If the people on the site tend to devalue polite lies, and live up to their values, then it’s the 3-value problem primarily. But lots of people claim to be into honesty, and in fact let “politeness” trump that value routinely, so YMV.

    But I absolutely don’t see valuing “pain” here. At most, it’s the case of people wanting a *little* bit of some multi-person activity (dating in this case), routinely getting more opportunities than they can handle, and falling into a habit of letting the other parties do all the work (dating the person who figures out when and where, etc.) – but then why would they be on Reciprocity at all? (But FWIW, I *do* use this algorithm in other parts of my life – getting together with old friends is almost never organized by me, because I’m an introvert that needs more alone time than I get, routinely, and thus almost never find myself seeking out social opportunities.)

  37. Lignisse says:

    Anecdote: I signed up for Reciprocity based on this post (I hadn’t previously heard of it). I found that only two of my Facebook friends are signed up for it, and both live far away from me. Since I’m not interested in long-distance dating, I didn’t check boxes.

    In order for this to be useful to me, it would have to be more popular in my home city. Well, I’m doing my part, I guess.

  38. Mark Atwood says:

    Reciprocity is just a redo of the old “Down” app, which got written up with all the appropriate faux outrage in the media a few years ago.

  39. Well... says:

    Does “dating” mean going out to coffee or lunch or an outdoor activity, then to dinner, then to a movie and dinner, then to dinner at one of your homes, then to something where you hold hands and maybe kiss, and then somewhere down the line maybe have sex (which also sort of means you agree not to have sex with other people after that unless you stop seeing each other), or does “dating” just mean meeting up for drinks and then having sex with few or no strings attached?

    Growing up, “dating” meant the former thing to me, but lately it seems like it means the latter thing to most people. If I wasn’t married, the people I’d want to date (put a checkmark next to) would vary depending on which definition was being used.

  40. Plumber says:

    Reciprocity greatly puzzles me – specifically it’s reliance on “Facebook friends”.

    I’ve never logged onto Facebook so I’m unfamiliar with how it works but for Reciprocity to work you first have to have Facebook friends, so if your going to try to find dates through Reciprocity you first ask them to be a Facebook friend of yours then hope they are also users of Reciprocity?

    Why not while your getting to know people enough to convince them to be a “Facebook friend” of yours just save a few steps and ask them out on a date in the first place?

    What’s the advantage of the extra steps?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Most Millennials already have a Facebook account and at least a few dozen friends. If you don’t, this site and others like Coffee Meets Bagel are essentially useless to you for the reasons you outline.

      I think it’s poorly conceived idea for other reasons but this isn’t one of them.

      • Plumber says:

        @Nabil ad Dajjal,

        I’m not a “Millennial” (I was born in ’68) plus I’ve been with my wife since the early ’90’s so I have no plans of dating, but I’m curious – how do they get a dozen friends on Facebook, but be unable to ask them for a date face to face?

        What benefits do the two organizational layers add that makes them worthwhile?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Most of my Facebook friends are people I’ve maybe spoken to once or twice several months or years ago. A not-insignificant minority are people who I’ve literally never spoken a single word to face-to-face. Really the term is a misnomer, the way most people use it “acquaintance” would be more accurate.

          As for your second question, I’m the wrong person to ask because I don’t think it’s worthwhile. But from what I understand the theory is to ferret out any mutual crushes where neither person is aware that the other is interested. This is an unusual enough situation that it seems silly to design a website around the concept.

          • Plumber says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            “Most of my Facebook friends are people I’ve maybe spoken to once or twice several months or years ago. A not-insignificant minority are people who I’ve literally never spoken a single word to face-to-face…”

            Why would people who’ve hardly (or not at all) spoken to each other become “Facebook friends”?
            (Sorry, but I’m curious about what Millennials culture is like, I only have one co-worker in that generation and he’s not in the collegiate class and I understand that most Millennials have “some college” so I suspect that he’s not representative).

          • carvenvisage says:

            The main thing is that everyone knows the term is a misnomer, so there’s no reason not to because it’s not regarded as meaning anything.

            To put it another way, there doesn’t have to be a reason, you just click a button and it adds them to your contact list without you having to even type a name or a number, so why wouldn’t you?

            The other thing is that you can see who your friend’s (sorry, “friends”) are, and who theirs are and so on, you don’t need to get a contact from someone personally, it’s a giant network/lattice where you can hop from one part to another.

            I gather some people like to just explore and see what connections-of-connections-of-connections are up to, sort of like a cross between a wikipedia binge and instagram, but the main thing is just that (bizarre as it is) friend and friend can be completely different words in modern parlance thanks to this naming artifact.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Plumber, before I graduated high school, I sent Facebook friend requests to pretty much everyone from my graduating class whose face I’d recognize, since I thought that’d be our main way of keeping up with each other in case I wanted to. Since then, there’ve been a number of times I’ve bumped into a friend-of-friend, had a good conversation or two, and then gotten a Facebook friend request shortly afterwards. I usually accept becase, as Nabil ad Dajjal said, why not?

            All this adds up to my having several hundred Facebook friends I’ve never talked to in years. I don’t prune them because I don’t really see any reason to.

    • The way friending works on FB is that you get a message that someone wants to friend you and either accept or reject it. The main effect is that you can then see FB posts by that person which have been marked as for friends only, and the friend can see similar messages of yours. I think it also means that you may be randomly shown some messages by that person, and that person randomly shown some of yours.

      I make all my FB posts for anyone to read, so the first part doesn’t matter wrt my posts. I accept friend invitations if it looks from that person’s page as if I would like to sometimes see random posts and be able to see friends only posts, otherwise not.

      I have somewhat over a thousand FB friends, most of whom I have never met. No idea what the average is.

      • Plumber says:

        @DavidFriedman,
        Thanks very much for explaining how Facebook “friends” work, seems then that Reciprocity would have pretty limited utility.

        • raemon777 says:

          Plumber, basically you should be assuming that if you’re considering using Reciprocity, all the people you know are already friends on Facebook, so it’s basically not a restriction.

  41. greenteapot says:

    The described behavior of ‘Reciprocity’ would make 100x more sense if you imagine it as being for people in committed relationships which are contemplating cheating with someone else in their social circle. Because it is extremely shady to express interest in a married friend especially if you’re married yourself, the functionality of reciprocity would be very useful to avoid keeping your interest to known only to equally guilty co-conspirators.

    In that countext fact that it is much less effective for finding a date than simply asking would be a small price to pay.

    • OriginalSeeing says:

      In a small community (like the rationalists in Berkeley that this was mostly created for), there is a similarly high cost of directly expressing interest in someone and asking them out. That environment is also high in polyamory and even if you know someone is already dating 1 person, it can be hard to find out exactly how many people they are dating and whether they are potentially interested in dating another person without being extremely obvious about it all.

      Most of dating is based on plausible deniability and this system lets a person maintain plausible deniability up until the point when both parties simultaneously drop plausible deniability.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        Most of dating is based on plausible deniability and this system lets a person maintain plausible deniability up until the point when both parties simultaneously drop plausible deniability.

        A large part of all human interaction is based on plausible deniability- on using the maximum number of layers of deniability possible without completely losing the intended signal in the underlying deniable noise.

        That’s why people capable of doing nuclear physics or building entire houses from raw materials single-handedly can nonetheless be bad at it.

  42. drethelin says:

    I think part of it is the vagueness as opposed to specificity. If someone asks you to do a specific thing at a specific time and place it’s a lot easier to come to a quick decision and say yes. If someone asks if you want to date, that’s a whole nexus of interconnecting decisions and potential commitment and suddenly you’re potentially imagining a whole life together and then you don’t click yes.

    • OriginalSeeing says:

      You also have to consider what will happen if you leave a checkmark on “yes” for several people, but aren’t sure if you want to leave things that way for several months. That encourages you to click yes, then unclick yes if a match doesn’t appear afterward. BUT if everyone puts that strategy into effect, then almost no one will ever get paired.

  43. Worley says:

    A lot of this discussion seems to be coming from incorrect assumptions. The mating game is a multi-player game with vastly un-aligned interests between the players and highly incomplete information. There’s no reason to assume that the fundamental problem is the lack of a good information-sharing algorithm between the players. Instead, one expects a lot of tricky signalling strategies. One expects (a la Trivers’ theory of the subconscious) that the players aren’t fully aware of their own strategies, or even their own preferences. And, since people have been doing this since long before they were people and the game hasn’t changed much in a million years, it’s quite possible that people’s minds don’t even contain a proper model of their interests and strategies, just a collection of instincts that cause one to execute a good strategy.

    One interesting question is why anyone would assume that a matching algorithm is all that is needed. Perhaps it is the American tendency to think that the correct way to handle un-aligned interests is for everyone to play the game with their cards face up:

    Unlike most people in the world, Americans have this belief in rugged honesty at all costs: If you aren’t honest, you’re not good. Whereas many peoples in Latin America, for example, and throughout much of Asia, will graciously say dishonest things in order to be polite. I would say that, in most tribal societies, where community is absolutely essential, most people are willing to tell white lies to smooth over difficult social situations. — Darwinian anthropologist Helen Fisher

    None of this explains the success of Tinder, though, which seems to assume that there is a great unsatisfied demand for casual sex (on the part of women) that only requires a suitable matching algorithm.

    • Aapje says:

      Lots of women seem to use Tinder as an ego-boost, the (much more pleasant) equivalent of intentionally walking by the construction lot to have builders whistle/holler at you*, to affirm that one is still attractive.

      * I’ve seen quite a few older women lament that they no longer get this, even including hardcore feminists who ideologically strongly oppose catcalling.

  44. So on the one hand, if you’re going to be romantically or sexually successful, you’re going to repeatedly creep people out unintentionally.

    A stranger in a bar “creeped out” is completely different than a formal charge of harassment at the workplace. A formal charge of sexual harassment is serious business, but not whatever “vibe” random strangers feel. It seems so strange to present a non-dating danger as the worst case scenario for dating. Employment/Dating are apples/oranges.
    Sorry about the friend. I sympathize with the plight of non-neurotypical. I’m a bit ADHD myself. I can’t comment on dating feminists, since I’m a long married cis woman.

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