Do women on OkCupid follow the Standard Creepiness Rule?

Written by: Randy Olson

Primary Source: Randal S. Olson

It seems that there’s an XKCD comic for every life situation that we run in to.

One of my favorites, by far, is the comic titled “Dating pools.”

This comic highlighted the Standard Creepiness Rule, a.k.a. the “half-your-age-plus-seven” rule, which states that no person should date someone under (age / 2 + 7), otherwise they will look like a creeper. This seems arbitrary, but if you crunch your age into that equation, I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t even consider dating someone under that age. (I would never consider dating someone under 21!)

If we plot the Standard Creepiness Rule out for women:

women-standard-creepiness-rule

(Note that you can easily just change the axis labels in the above chart and it works just as well for men.)

It just so happens that Christian Rudder released his book Dataclysm last month, which features a chart showing us the age range that women search on OkCupid for when looking for men to date. One of my first thoughts when I saw this chart was: Do women on OkCupid follow the Standard Creepiness Rule?

(In case you’re wondering about whether men follow the rule, check this post out.)

okcupid-standard-creepiness-rule-women

Sure enough, if we overlay Rudder’s OkCupid data over the first chart, we see that women follow the rule almost exactly. There are a few spots in their teens and low-20s where women actually seek older men than the Standard Creepiness Rule says they should, but that trend quickly ends by the time they’re 21.

It’s interesting to note that in their younger years, women seek older men much more than younger men and refuse to date men more than a year younger than them. This trend ends around their mid-30s, when women suddenly become okay with dating men up to 5 years younger than them.

The most interesting trend reveals itself when you compare this chart to the male OkCupid user’s chart: Whereas women tend to seek older men (in their younger years, at least), men are doing the exact opposite and seeking younger women. This results in an unfortunate situation for women as they age: During their younger years, they’re highly sought after. But as they grow older, men’s tendency to seek younger women leads to an ever-shrinking dating pool for older women. Check out Rudder’s article on the topic to learn more.

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Randy Olson is a Computer Science graduate research assistant at Michigan State University in Dr. Chris Adami’s lab specializing in artificial intelligence, artificial life, and evolutionary computation. He runs a research blog where he writes about Python, scientific computing, evolution, and AI. Randy is an ardent advocate of open science and regularly travels the U.S. to teach researchers scientific computing skills at Software Carpentry workshops.