Men Are Most Attracted to 20 Year Old Women. So What

I love big data.

While statistics can, theoretically, be used to prove/disprove anything, smart people can usually see through the lies to focus on the numbers.

Christian Rudder, president of OkCupid, is the guy who digs up the numbers from the millions of people using his free dating site. In his book, “Dataclysm,” he points out that who we want to be and who we really are can be two very different things. Data reveals truths that we might not want to say out loud.

While statistics can, theoretically, be used to prove/disprove anything, smart people can usually see through the lies to focus on the numbers.

In this 538 article about Rudder, the author recounts a presentation Rudder gave with graphs that illustrate the ages at which men and women find each other the most attractive. From the piece:

“Women who are, say, 28 find guys who are also 28 about the most attractive, and so forth. Up until about 40, when that’s getting too old.”

This is no surprise, much to the chagrin of 40+ year-old guys who swear that they have the same chance at the hot 28-year-old as they did 10 years earlier.

Of course, when you flip the data around and look at what age men find women most physically appealing, you get an appalling answer. Instead of the female curve, which suggests that 34-year-old women like 34-year-old men, men find 20 year-old women most physically appealing, no matter how old they were.

20 year old men prefer 20 year old women. 40 year old men prefer 20 year old women. It’s shocking to see on paper, but not so surprising if you’ve ever talked to an actual man, read a men’s magazine or looked at porn intended for men. This doesn’t mean that 40 year old men want to MARRY that 20 year old woman, only that they find her the most physically appealing. To tell men NOT to feel this way would be akin to telling them not to breathe.

I think we’d all be well served to pay attention to how people really act when no one’s looking instead of taking their word for it.

Now, I don’t always agree with all of the conclusions that Rudder draws from his OkCupid data. Once upon a time, he was trying to illustrate why free dating sites were “better” than paid dating sites, but it was clear that he was advocating for OkCupid. Regardless, big data is often very revealing about people’s real preferences – height, weight, age, income, sex, and so on.

The one problem with big data is that it removes the human element – and dating is very much about human connection. But the same way I try to lay out best practices for dating and relationships while allowing for many exceptions to the rules, I think we’d all be well served to pay attention to how people really act when no one’s looking instead of taking their word for it.

Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.