Male dependency on dating apps — now the leading way couples meet — has markedly increased, with a smaller number of men today willing to approach a woman they don’t know in public. In the early days of Tinder, in 2014, the gender split was 60 per cent male, 40 per cent female. Today, 70 per cent of users are male and 30 per cent female, with the latter still meeting a larger proportion of men via work, friends or on nights out (as a minor note, if you meet your spouse in a bar or club, your chances of divorce increase by roughly 45 per cent).
The result of these trends is that women of average to high levels of attractiveness are typically inundated with matches, whereas the Tinder experience of the average man is a decidedly more desert-like experience. App data indicates that women ‘swipe right’ an average of 12.5 per cent of the time, whereas men ‘swipe right’ 65 per cent of the time. Women on apps can be exceedingly selective, whereas most men aren’t.
A contributing factor is that men tend to have fewer flattering photos of themselves to post on apps that thrive on initial physical attraction rather than personality. Part of this is evolutionary. As a relic of our primate heritage, most men are physically unappealing, compared to other traits that might signal they’d make good partners (even modern dating app data shows women rate 75 to 80 per cent of men as ‘below average’). For 55 million years, only a fraction of male primates enjoyed reproductive success. And for about 2 million years, men have relied on more than just looks to signal their appeal to a potential mate, such as charming conversation and/or telegraphing utility and aspirations. The upshot of male dependence on dating apps is that male sexlessness is at record levels, with approximately 17 per cent of men under 30 being virgins and 28 per cent of them not having had sex in the past year.
Dating apps can also be punishing for women, but for dramatically different reasons. The flood of matches has created an illusion of choice, which does not translate into greater reproductive success for most women. According to app data, female ‘right swipes’ tend to cluster toward a minority of men (5 to 15 per cent), with a great deal of overlap, eliminating other contenders who may have made perfectly good mates. On one level, you can hardly fault someone for choosing what’s in front of them. If you have 100 people offering to sell you a Ferrari for a dollar, you’re hardly going to pay much attention to the 900 people offering to sell you a Ford Fiesta.
The successful minority of men on dating apps tend to be exceedingly handsome, photograph well, imply they have well-paying jobs, and often advertise their height. To illustrate the point, there is a popular meme related to modern female mate choice: ‘6, 6, and 6’ (at least six feet tall, with a six-figure salary and a six-inch penis). Yet only 14.5 per cent of men are six feet and over, only 20 per cent of men have penises six inches or longer, and only 13 per cent make six figures or more. If you want a man who has all three, the percentage is less than 5 (and not all of them are single). With roughly 49 to 51 per cent of the population being female, this is a disaster in the making.
The result for women is that while the average number of sexual partners they have under 30 has roughly doubled in the past 20 years, there has been a marked decrease in long-term cohabitations and marriages, with nearly half of women aged 30 to 45 being single, and the ‘involuntary childlessness rate’ in developed countries being between 20 and 35 per cent.
The disadvantage one sex reaps is largely reversed at the other end. It is clear that sex in the modern era is becoming something of a dystopian ‘brave new world’ for many people. Welcome to modern dating.