By Chris Hoenig
Black men and women have a far harder time with online dating than almost every other race or ethnicity, with the exception of Asian men.
Research gathered by online dating site OkCupid points the finger at a racial bias that has only intensified over the past five years, where Black men and women and Asian men are found to be less attractive by those who sign up for online dating sites than the “average person.”
Using a collection of responses to OkCupid’s QuickMatch system, which allows users to quickly view a profile and give it a rating from 1 to 5, the researchers found that Black men had little racial preference at all—they actually rated Black and white women the same, both below their ratings for Asian and Latina women—while non-Black men all gave very low ratings to Black women.
Women, meanwhile, all preferred men of their own race, but rated Black men and Asian men significantly lower (with the exception of Black women rating Black men and Asian women rating Asian men).
“The more you look at the data, the more it does confirm the cynics’ intuition about humanity,” OkCupid co-founder Christian Rudder told Salon. “People online are free to act out their worst impulses with very little incentive to act out their best. I guess it just goes to show how politeness or propriety keeps us decent human beings. Offline, society actually has a very good effect on behavior in a very large sense.”
Research into the overall use of online dating websites varies. According to a Pew Research Internet Project study last year, just under 40 percent of single Americans have tried online dating sites or mobile matchmaking apps (equaling about 11 percent of all Americans). Reuters research puts that number much higher: More than 41 million of the 54 million-plus single Americans (or 76 percent) have tried online dating.
“Beauty is a cultural idea as much as a physical one, and the standard is of course set by the dominant culture,” Rudder writes on OkCupid’s blog. “I believe that’s what you see in the data here.”
But does all this research mean that society in general—or at least the large online dating community—is racist?
“I’m not qualified to give a real opinion on where society as a whole is headed, but I think when you look at stuff like rage storms on Twitter, or even … the celebrity nude photos being leaked, you see that there are definitely some disgusting impulses that the Internet can gratify instantaneously,” Rudder said. “In the same way Cool Ranch Doritos gratify certain taste receptors that are probably not very good for my digestive tract, things like Twitter or Reddit or even OkCupid gratify our tastes in ways that should probably best be left unsated.
“I definitely have a certain amount of ambivalence about the Internet generally and what we do at OkCupid. OkCupid does a lot of great things. We do find people love, we do create marriage and children and happiness in a pure sense, in a way that, say, Amazon does not. But there is a downside: In the process of finding that love or sex or whatever they’re looking for, people are able to be more judgmental. It’s a fraught thing. I can see the good and the bad in all this, but where it all comes out in the end, I’m not sure. I think the existence of the Internet is a good thing, but I do wish people exercised more humanity in using these tools.”
Rudder’s extensive research based on usage of his site also found a glaring difference between men and women when it comes to age preference. Up until roughly age 40, men prefer their own age (women over 40 prefer men right around 40 years old).
As for the men … well, the old adage that men are pigs might just apply. Men of pretty much every age are most attracted to 20– to 22-year-olds.