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Study: Women Should Probably Make the First Move More Often

... at least online, but possibly offline as well.

Source: racorn/Shutterstock

The rules of chivalry suggest that men should make the first move when it comes to love. But that may not be the case anymore, at least according to a new report on OkCupid, a popular online dating website.

First some basics: On OkCupid, men tend to outnumber women (one-and-a-half men for every woman), and heterosexual men tend to send a first message more frequently than heterosexual women. Most men, in fact, send about 14, while most women send out about four. Women who send first messages aren't receiving more from men than those who don't send messages; they are no different in physical attractiveness than women who aren't sending first messages; and they're not older or younger than those who don't initiate, either.

So the first puzzle is: Why are some women initiating and some not—and are they having any success?

OkCupid's researchers discovered an interesting habit: Most people who send first messages are sending them to others who are more attractive than themselves. They're aiming high. Women do this as well as men, but men tend to contact women who are even more "out of their league" (at least in terms of physical attractiveness) than women do. This means, then, that if a woman simply waits for contact, her suitors may be primarily men who are considerably less attractive than herself (again, physically).

So why not reach out?

Get this: Those women who do reach out tend to be quite successful in starting a conversation. This is partly due to an interesting trend in which men are more likely to respond to any given first message, relative to most women. They're about two-and-a-half times more likely to respond than women are. This makes being the initiator a total game changer for women—these women upgrade the quality of their suitors and are quite successful in starting conversations that could lead to real relationships.

In sum, at least online (but potentially in other dating contexts offline as well), women are in an advantageous position to attract a highly desirable partner. Women who reach out and contact men who might seem out of their reach are much more likely to get a response than men who do the same.

If you needed one, this is a great argument for taking the initiative.


More from Theresa E. DiDonato Ph.D.
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