Savage Love Jul 6, 2021 at 3:35 pm

Sack Lunch




"I still don't have a handle on things."

I think that during a global pandemic, pretty much everyone struggled. I think it's been a time one should feel proud to have just hung on as best one could. The light is appearing at the end of the tunnel, and progress shall become easier!

Sorry to be @1; I just didn't wanna wait until someone else came along. I refuse the prize, and grant it to whoever comes next.


Secnod! Very gracious of you, Curious2.


@1 enjoy the prize (if you reconsider), or I'll swap you for secnod


Re the poly breakup, remember that monogamous relationships also often end in heartbreak. So don't let a little heartbreak sour you on the whole thing, if you otherwise felt polyamory was working well for you.

Specific to dating in a triad, I would suggest asking up front whether breaking up with one of them means breaking up with both of them. It's extra hard going through two breakups at once, and if you want to avoid that in the future, avoid dating people who are a "package deal."


As a Magnum subscriber to the Savage Lovecast, I'm dismayed that I've never heard of "Sack Lunch". Now I've discovered that my subscription expired. Gasp!

Is there a term for those like me, who are only attracted to people who want to fuck them? Do we have a flag?

Is there a safe way to enlarge a clitoris? Yes, give it a rub.


I guess I'm "fraysexual" or on the fraysexual spectrum. It's very hard for me to feel desire for someone after the first month or two of fucking. My partners are the opposite, they have better sex the more they get to know a person. I assume most people are like this? For the letter writer, if you're interested in the maintenance of long-term sexual relationships, I personally manage this nonmonogamously. Having hookups with nice randos once in a while keeps my libido ticking over in general.


@1 curious2, @2 fubar, and @3 delta35: WA-HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! X 3 I am awarding the three of you FIRDT! honors in a three-way tie! Bask in your shared glory and savor the envied perks of leading this week's Savage Love: Sack Lunch comment thread. :)

@1 curious2: I copied your email address--many thanks! Some of my latest mp3s are on their way to you for your listening pleasure. I appreciate your feedback. :)


A1 - Nothing wrong with any of Mr Savage's reasons, but what jumped to my mind first is that he's having an affair with Mummy's best friend.

A3 - It's nice having lots of terms.

A4 - Too Pollyanna. It may get better, but rarely just on its own. When ready, learn from the experience; perhaps one can make it better.

A5 - Life would be pretty ghastly if the poor questioner somehow just did get over that resentment, as nothing that's causing it would change.


@1 curious2: I have now sent you a trio of mp3 sound recordings to listen to at your leisure, when you have a chance. Enjoy!


Savage Love is the only content of any value at The Stranger anymore. The Stranger will be dead inside a year.


Fubar @5, as a term for people who only want to fuck people who wan tot fuck them, I'd call that "convenient" or "lucky." No unrequited crushes ever, I'm so envious! Do you mean you don't experience sexual attraction unless someone triggers it by expressing an interest in you? Like your kink is being desired? Very convenient kink indeed, that.

Wambenger @6, a fraysexual could be happy in a relationship with an asexual that was open. So it wouldn't matter that they didn't desire their primary partner.

Venn @8, mine was no wonder he's having trouble with such an overprotective mother. Mom, please back off and let your son sort it out. His sex/love life are none of your business unless he chooses to share -- and given your over-involvement, I can see why he might be motivated to keep any partner a secret.

LW6: I'm not sure I agree with Dan that the proof of being in good working order to date is that someone who doesn't even know you thinks you're in good enough working order to date, or that your friends think you're in good enough working order to date. The first method isn't reliable because someone you've just met will be looking at you through rose-coloured glasses, not seeing your faults, not knowing you anywhere near well enough to understand your issues. How many of us have unwittingly dated people who seemed charming, or quirky, and turned out to be nth-degree hot messes? As for your friends, they'd say you were too hard on yourself regardless, right? Show me a friend real enough to say to someone's face, "You're undateable." If your friends were actually dating you, that might prove they thought you were suitable for dating.

I would amend Dan's advice to: Ask your therapist if they think you're in good working order to date. Since they're one person, perhaps also join a support group, attend enough sessions and bare enough of your soul to let people there get to know you, warts and all, then ask them if they think you're dateable. (Make sure it doesn't come across as asking them for a date!) Or, go for it very cautiously. Be up front with new people about your issues, and take things slow. Be aware that many dates will employ denial, will think your issues can't be that bad -- so many of us with seriously broken exes minimised what they literally told us because we wanted things to work out. Let them get to know you before making too big of a commitment. Tell them to expect the unexpected. Also don't forget you aren't the only one -- a good percentage of your dating pool also struggles with mental health issues. And a very, very large number of people with mental health issues are in happy, loving relationships. My definition of good enough working order starts with: recognising you have issues and actively working on them, so you have already taken the biggest step in the right direction. Good luck to you.


LW1-- Can you tell us why you have this bizarre interest in your adult son's sex life? Or why you suspect he's terrified as opposed to, say, suspect he's shy or suspect he's conflicted over possibly being gay? How do you know he's never been kissed? Have you been keeping that close tabs on him? This letter just begs for a backstory.


Why would one want to enlarge a clitoris? Is there a disadvantage to a small one?


"Is there a term for those like me, who are only attracted to people who want to fuck them?"

May we infer from that that you don't consume porn?
(Aside from the pornstars who IIRC you personally dated.)

It turns out that, yes:
"Reciprocal liking, also known as reciprocity of attraction, is the act of a person feeling an attraction to someone only upon learning or becoming aware of that person's attraction to themselves."


Curious @14:
1a. Plenty of people watch porn that involves people they're not personally attracted to, witness Rear Window from a couple of weeks ago.
1b. A lot of porn involves the performer looking at the camera, giving the appearance that they are attracted to the watcher.

That seems to refer to reciprocally liking a certain person, which is a different thing from ONLY liking people who are attracted to you. For instance, if I only develop an interest in George only after learning that George likes me, that doesn't preclude my having independent, and potentially non-reciprocated, attraction to Steve, Mary and Sue. I think developing a reciprocal attraction is pretty common, because "interested in me" is a desirable trait in a partner. George, for example, might not be my type, but I might be inclined to try to look past type if George is willing to date/shag me -- as opposed to waiting around for Steve, Mary or Sue, who've shown no interest.


Argh, what happened to number 2.


1a. IIRC I didn't believe Rear Window's fake letter when it said he wasn't attracted to his pornstar.

1b. I'm not sure it would matter to fubar that the performer pretends attraction, he spoke of actual attraction.

[2.] I see what you mean, thank you very much. The wiki term is useful, but only matches fubar's request for a term if we specify something like that fubar experiences

Reciprocal Attraction ONLY
EXCLUSIVELY Reciprocal Attraction


Fubar @5

"Is there a term for those like me, who are only attracted to people who want to fuck them? Do we have a flag?"

There is and you do! Welcome to the reciprosexual community! :)


Great work!

I was a lazy googler.


LW1 - What @12 said. And perish the thought of foisting a sex worker on him. Just be a mom.


@11: I'm going to make sure LWS sees your comment, BiDanFan.


Sorry, BiDanFan, I meant LW6.


Ms Fan - That, too; I was just thinking of what Mummy deserved. Perhaps S1 is an oversharer and she's afraid he'll go the incel route, though even there she's still well out of bounds.


'"Sack Lunch," an online hangout exclusively for Magnum subscribers to the Savage Lovecast.'

Wow that is so sad.


@24: Not even Tom Selleck can get in.


Thank you, Dan! :D



Nowadays, it really is not uncommon for a young man to be 25 years old and have a meager or non-existant dating/sexual history.

Sure, Dan MIGHT be right and this young man might have a perfectly fulfilling sex life his mother knows nothing about. Yeah, sure, I guess. It is more likely that he has very little to speak of and he is confused and ashamed.

Dan's advice is kind of weak, but what advice would be really useful? Sure, talk to your kid, perhaps the dad should do that, but don't be too invasive. Perhaps recommend a therapist. Now that things are opening up, encourage him to develop interests. This will boost his confidence, and give him things to talk about and be excited in. Perhaps he can meet someone through the activities, or meet friends who can introduce him to women.

The cold hard truth of the matter is, I think that a large swathe of men are destined to never have much of an opportunity to have anything approaching a satisfying love life.

@12: There is nothing bizarre about a parent wondering if her child is in a position to find love and not wanting her child to never experience it.


BiDanFan @11: In my younger days, I was drawn almost exclusively to women who weren't interested in me. Thanks mom! A metric tonne of therapy later, I proactively self-surveil for this quirk of mine.

Curious2 @14: As it happens, I don't really consume porn, because I don't find it interesting. I'd rather go to a club or play party (when there were such things) and play. I've dated women who enjoy porn, and watched it with them, but I don't find it compelling myself. I've also watched HUMP a few times, but largely in support of the artists.

None of this to say that I don't appreciate a well turned ankle. I do. But I'm careful where I invest my energy. So alas I probably don't qualify as reciprosexual; just straight and worn out by drama.

Thanks Margarita @18 for Googling that up!

Yeshua @24: What's sad about that? It sounds like fun to me. You do know fun, right?


Fichu@13~ “...Why would one want to enlarge a clitoris?...”

1) You can hang your swimsuit on it to dry after going swimming.
2) Fits in perfectly with your Pinocchio groin tattoo.
3) Don’t have to wet a finger to figure out which way the wind is blowing.
4) Convenient way to stir your drink.
5) Much better way to get noticed when hitchhiking than sticking your thumb out.
6) Double duty as a “sight” when aiming your piss stream at a certain ex-president’s face.
7) Even the densest boyfriend can find it.


"So alas I probably don't qualify as reciprosexual"

Maybe that's for the best.
I was just imagining how a singles party of exclusively Reciprosexuals would go. No one would be attracted to anyone because everyone would need the other person to be attracted to them first. And by definition no one there would ever be attracted to anyone first.


@29 curious2 that is a hilarious scenario!

@27 gutsgutslifelife2 inequality in the dating "market" is something economists have written about, and Tinder monetizes:

The writers say dating apps and monogamy not being forced has resulted in a lot of women competing for a small % of "eligible" men - who sleep around but won't commit. So the women have sex but not partners even if that's what they prefer. And most of the men don't get either partners or sex, since the women are deciding and focus on the more attractive men. Apparently Tinder profits from this, the more people fail and keep buying subscriptions, the more money. Over in gay land, Grindr profits if you get laid a lot, it's more symmetrical as male-male, but also promotes hookups over relationships. Not being hookup negative.


@30 Delta35:

Yes, I have read that article before. It seems as if more and more people are realizing that when you remove the senseless vitriol, everything that incels say and write has more than a bit of truth in it. I really think that incels should drop the vitriol because 1) it is terrible, and 2) it obscures the cogent points they do make. Let's be honest, what makes more sense...

A) Nowadays, women are largely clamoring for the top 20% of men. Those men are quite happy, but unwilling to settle down, few women are happy with this, and most men struggle to find dates. or...

B) Women are held to unattainable standards of beauty.

I think that B is indefensible, at least it surely is not men who hold men to unattainable standards of beauty. It shocks me how society cares so much about female self esteem when it really is men who need it more. Here is a series of letters between a man and a woman who can articulate this issue:


I'm creeped out by how many seem to think that LW one's son is doomed to a life of lonliness or a dangerous psycho incel because he wont' share his sexual misadventures with his mom.

Kids who grow up with controlling, nosy parents tend to be good at hiding things. And I think this really isn't about his dick, the problem is that he isn't living his life the way his mother wants.

It's about control. I get the feeling she wants him to be married, or engaged or on the way to starting the 2.5 kids American dream life and he isn't. This isn't a bad thing but I have to wonder does she even know what he wants? Does she even care?

This guy shouldn't go to therapy or visit a sex worker unless he's struggling or wants to. He's not broken because sex isn't a priority for him.

The best thing she can do for him is back off and let him figure it out on his own. She can offer advice if he asks but stop acting like he is broken because he has a life beyond his dick. Have some faith in her son.


@32 msanonymous:

LW1 is in a tricky situation which more and more men find themselves in, and it is totally reasonable for parents to be concerned.

I definitely disagree with your 3rd paragraph. Parents like that don't write to Savage Love.

The son is 25 and the mom hasn't heard anything about girlfriends, dating, or anything. A lot of people have their reasons to deny it, but the truth of the matter is that an increasing number of men are finding themselves unable to have any kind of a sex/dating life, or at least anything approaching satisfying.

It is possible that the son is putting up a facade and the mom is right that he is terrified, self conscious, and embarrassed by his lack of experience. It is possible that her broaching the subject might make him feel worse. Or better. Or worse at first, and better later. I think that it is very unlikely that he secretly has a satisfying love life. Most young men want people to know they are getting some action, and yes, to make family stop worrying is one motivation.


@16 BiDanFan: Agreed with Dan: kudos for spot on advice to LW6.
Secondly, "Argh--what happened to number 2? " Do you mean SECNOD honors? Oops--I forgot about that! :o
Since I thrice awarded this week's FIRDT! honors to @1 curious2, @2, fubar, and @3 delta35, that does put the SECNOD honors up for grabs. Do you want to call dibs?
Anyone for sharing the SECNOD honors? :)


Donny @28: ROFL! I imagine your last reason is probably closest to the LW's.

Curious @29: So it would be like a bi women's meetup then.

MsAnonymous @32: For instance, who?
Venn @8 seems to want there to be some poetic justice because Son is shagging Mom's best friend on the down low. I'm not sure how that's supposed to be hurtful to Mom but ok.
BDF @11 opined that Mom's hovering, and its effects on his psyche, may be scaring women (or men or enbies) off.
Fichu @12 commented on Mom's bizarre behaviour, didn't offer an opinion as to its effects.
Venn @23 opined that perhaps Mom was afraid he'd become an incel, which is not the same as suggesting he would. He also opined that Son was an "oversharer," which I can't see -- if anything, it's possible he's the opposite, and has a rich life he hasn't told his parents about, for reasons which seem obvious.
Guts @27 projected himself onto Son.
Nobody opined that Son is doomed to solitude because he won't talk about his sex life to his mother, which seems self-contradictory -- if he has a sex life he could be talking to her about, then he's not an incel, and I doubt many women would fly a coop because a guy didn't tell his mum he was banging them.

I agree with the rest of your post.

Griz @34, I meant that in my comment @15, I replied to Curious's points 1 and 2 but the 2 was missing from the beginning of my last paragraph. Stranger formatting strikes again.


I'm not the mom who wrote in, but I am a mom of a man who has not ever given any indication he has a sexual or dating life. And yeah, sometimes I worry about him - I want him to have love in his life, I want him to have sex in his life, I want him to be happy and fulfilled.

Can't imagine thinking there was something I should do about this, though - if he does want some help, he can ask me, though I would think his mom would be pretty far down on the list of those he'd go to for help on this issue.

And it's very possible indeed that he's just fine and having all the sex and love he wants, and just isn't talking to me about it.


Agony @36: "Can't imagine thinking there was something I should do about this, though - if he does want some help, he can ask me, though I would think his mom would be pretty far down on the list of those he'd go to for help on this issue." Exactly! LW1 might ask her son if he's happy, if there's anything he wants to talk about. Hire him a sex worker!? Good lord. Agony, I hope your son is just slow to launch, and/or happy single. (I think it is in mothers' nature to worry -- my mother clearly wants a particular sort of life for me, and struggles to wrap her head around the idea that I'm actually happy in a different kind of life. Never mind that my siblings are both married with children, and every week there seems to be a new drama happening!)


To the person who moved to the UK to be with their partner and is struggling - I really feel for you. In addition to COVID and all the general immigrant woes you mention, there are some UK-specific cultural factors that make acclimatisation difficult. British culture is reserved in ways that aren't immediately obvious, because people are generally friendly and personable and accommodating. But if you try to reach for a deeper connection, you may feel like you're hitting a brick wall. If you come from a warmer, more immediately open, or more communally interdependent culture, this can be a very alienating experience. It can be hard to shake off the not-entirely-paranoid feeling that people are being nice to your face, but are secretly judging you and don't really want to be friends. Learning to read the culture takes time.

I think Dan's advice is good. Give it a year, see how you feel about it then. To ease your loneliness in the short term, maybe seek out a more international friend group. Not necessarily expats from your own country, but just other immigrants. They'd know how you feel :)


"...because he wont' share his sexual misadventures with his mom."

IJWTS that this is speculation (as is much that follows it). It would be better to consider it, and to frame it for the reader, as such.

"So it would be like a bi women's meetup then."

Oh, I am /so/ sorry! (While delta said the scenario was amusing, it is of course also tragic.)

I had no idea there was that dynamic. (I guess then y'all require a straight woman [person?] to be attracted to you to first?)(I hope you, like fubar, are kidding about this!)


27-Guts-- Sure, there's nothing bizarre about a parent wondering if her child is in a position to find love. I agree with you there, but there's a world of difference between that and LW1's question which zeros in on how he's never been kissed. Mother then jumps to talking to him which makes me wonder what she had in mind to say, or a sex worker which makes me wonder how exactly that would work. I've heard of parents apply for and going with their teenagers to their after school jobs and thought that was a bad idea. The picture of a parent arranging for a sex worker makes me cringe, and I'm not even there. I imagine it must make the poor young man cringe even worse.

What would work? First, make sure this is something the son wants and not something the mother wants for him. Ask him. If the answer is stay out of this, take no for an answer. If the answer is "I'd like some help," then online dating is probably a good way to go or asking around in that friend group.

About that statement that a large swath of men are destined never to have much of an opportunity for a satisfying love/sex life. I read the quillette article that applies economic theory to dating. I have a hard time believing that once you remove the each-man-gets-one-woman requirement it's as bad as all that. Maybe it is. I don't know.


Thanks for calling my attention to Guts' Quillette article, which I just skimmed.

On the one hand, it's very interesting.

I think it also takes a simplistic view of the situation, only looking at data where people have little beyond still photos to go on. That takes much of what a individual can to do elevate their attractiveness out of the picture.

However, I would not be surprised if the big picture is as grim as the article suggests. My lack of surprise is probably in part because my own picture has been grim.


curious2 @41 - re photos, I do think part of the gendered imbalance in attractiveness comes from society training women in how to look attractive, while training men to think it's foppish to look neat and well-groomed. If the men on dating sites each got a two hour makeover and a professional photo session I bet the gendered imbalance in responses would go way down.


"society training women in how to look attractive...if men...the gendered imbalance in responses would go way down"

I'm assuming that you're referring to the Quillette article, so I looked at it again. In it, the Tinder study showed that, based upon 'Likes'

“the bottom 80% of men (in terms of attractiveness) are competing for the bottom 22% of women and the top 78% of women are competing for the top 20% of men.”(1)

And you're saying that men's degree of (in)attendance to their appearance is very significantly the cause of that?

At the same time, as I understand it men don't care at all (I don't) whether women make the effort to look attractive (an effort that as I understand it, women thus sensibly don't do /for/ men). That's rather tragic then: each gender is apparently putting forth the effort they are perfectly happy to see, in neither case at all productively in the eyes of their potential partners.

In any case, I find myself with a vague concern that we not let ourselves blame men for being who they are.

(1) Which means that "Tinder's Gini coefficient is 0.58, which means that it has higher inequality than 95% [of] the world's national economies".


@35 re @15 & @34 BiDanFan: Ah. Thank you for the clarification. I went back to your comment @15 for a reread. :)

Speaking of numbers.......

Who is salivating for this week's Lucky @69 Award honors? Tick...tick...tick....


curious2 @43, I was actually thinking of this part of the Quillette article "another study, run by OkCupid on their huge datasets, found that women rate 80 percent of men as “worse-looking than medium,” and that this 80 percent “below-average” block received replies to messages only about 30 percent of the time or less."

I haven't been on OKC in a year, but my memory was that many guys looked scruffy or like they had just put up a random photo with their face, rather than having photos taken to make them look good. Some photos weren't in focus; in many the men had unfriendly expressions. There's a reason actors invest time and money in making sure they have a good headshot to present at auditions!

This bit you wrote confused me: "men don't care at all (I don't) whether women make the effort to look attractive"

Would you agree or disagree with the statement that many men are drawn to a photo with cleavage and a clear view of her smiling face? I'm not talking about fashion (which is mostly for other women), but about choosing photos likely to be visually appealing to guys.

When they have the chance, men often introduce themselves by sending a close-up shot of their dick, which indicates better than anything else that they aren't thinking about what would appeal to their audience.


Oh, right, I forgot about those numbers that 80% are "below average".

I'm sure you're right about guys' photos. I, OTOH, put time into it and read an OKC data analysis about how to do so.

You're right, I'm sure that (I forget which exactly the data analysis said) some physical stuff in photos are advantageous. I was surprised in the data analysis by some.

Here's the article OKC put out (not on their site now):

For example:

"Men’s photos are most effective when they look away from the camera and don’t smile"
"she actually gets the most messages by flirting directly into the camera"

I'm glad I read the analysis, because here again we have the genders made happy by different things.


BiDanFan well we seem to have a lot of Reddit refugees who don't seem to understand how math works, and who seems to think harems are still a thing. That's who I was referring to.


curious2 @46 - thanks for the link; interesting data. I do think that the average guy would benefit if dating sites nudged him to improve his profile, maybe sending him some samples of excellent photos (of average looking men) and selling an affordable one-time coaching session on how to achieve better pics.


Margarita @38: I agree with you completely.

As an aside, I commented today to an Italian friend that the only opportunity for English men to express emotion is when their team has scored a victory.


Nothing is more unattractive in a man than resentment of women for being more attractive on average than his own gender (after, as mentioned, putting in TONS more effort -- which some men don't even realise they notice, ahem).

Get real here. Apps are not real life. Most women do not want to be part of a harem. Not to mention that women are not a monolith; we do not all consider the same 20% of men attractive and the same 80% of men unattractive. Looks may get clicks but personality and common interests are far more important to most people when it comes to actually want to date someone, as opposed to swiping on their photo. Get out and meet people, and be genuinely nice. Otherwise it's a self-fulfilling prophesy -- women will see right through the scorn you have for them for not seeing what a wonderful guy you are (eye roll).

Two weeks in a row here, y'all are making me glad I'm not straight.


Curious @39, it was a joke with a grain of truth. Google "lesbian sheep syndrome." The term derives from the fact that when young rams are horny, they mount each other, while ewes signal their interest by approaching a ram and just standing there waiting to be mounted. They do the same with other ewes, so you end up with two ewes just staring at each other, waiting for the other to make a move. Queer women are much the same way. As per the discussion above, people who are socialised female are taught to be approachable, not to do the approaching. This works fine when you like men. Not so well when you like women and they are doing the same thing -- looking cute and hoping you'll approach them! Actual lesbians quickly learn they must overcome this and make moves otherwise they'll never get a date, they don't have any choice. But bi women have the choice of just standing there, not risking rejection, and eventually someone of one of our target genders will approach us. This is one reason why the overwhelming majority of bi women end up in relationships with men. While we were angsting about whether and how to approach that cute girl, five dudes hit on us. What can ya do. :)


EricaP @45: "another study, run by OkCupid on their huge datasets, found that women rate 80 percent of men as “worse-looking than medium,” and that this 80 percent “below-average” block received replies to messages only about 30 percent of the time or less."

30 percent of the time or less -- let's call it 25% -- replying to a message sounds pretty good to me, actually! Joe Average sends out four messages and gets one reply. What is Joe complaining about? Especially if 78% of the women he could possibly message are hot. Women are picky, this is not news. But also, women are less likely to pursue. So most of them are more likely to say yes to a sent message (so long as it's a good message -- more than five words, all of them spelled correctly, none of them referencing sex acts, clearly personalised to indicate you've read her profile -- doesn't sound like an impossible task to me) than they are to initiate a message to a Mr Top-Twenty-Percent. Improve your photos and improve your messages, how to get dates in two easy steps.


If you look at dating and sex across a whole lifespan, it is possible to conclude that women tend to do better while younger and men tend to do better when older. While that can be stressful for an unattached young man, he at least has time on his side.


"women...being more attractive on average than [men]"

They are? (I know they are to me, but I've never heard anyone say that.) Objectively women are more attractive?

Are you sure that that data that...

"women rate 80 percent of men as “worse-looking than medium”"

...doesn't stem from some kind of judgement bias? Because statistically it doesn't make sense that 80% can be in the bottom 50% of something, so I assumed that the data was highlighting an irrational bias, not a statistical impossibility.


misspiggy @53, yes, and if he's impatient he could try connecting with older women on a dating site. If he approached them as someone attracted to older women and looking for advice on how to approach them successfully, I bet he'd get a lot of advice and quite a few dates.


Misspiggy @53, not to mention that Gen Z has lived their entire lives (and particularly the past year and a half) online in a way that people never have before. Son may have had deep, wonderful connections with people he's only met online. Physical interaction is far less important to those who grew up with smartphones. I don't think being 25 and not having had an in-person relationship is all that unusual.

Curious @54, you've heard me say that, and Venn object strenuously to it! ;)

The way I'd interpret the data is that apps are a buyer's market. It's not that women find 80% of the men below average -- though perhaps that's true, as it's only below-average men who need to be on apps in the first place, the better-looking men are doing fine in meatspace -- but that women don't need apps to find average guys. They get plenty of interest from average guys in meatspace, so what they want from an app is above-average guys. And that's why they swipe left on anyone who's not above average.

Another factor may be that women are only seeing pictures. And for many, that's not enough to find someone attractive. Women also want chemistry, which is impossible to get via an app. The same guy they'd rate as attractive after a positive in-person meeting comes across as meh online. Particularly if, as mentioned upthread, his photos do him no favours. (Stop it with the group shots and fish, guys.) Women, on the other hand, will choose the most flattering photo of themselves they can find -- or enhance -- so no wonder 73% of women on dating apps appear attractive.


It's true, I have read that before. Certainly from a million men. (It's just not clear to me it is objectively true. It's also not clear to me what it would mean since attractiveness is subjective.)

Great point that there's no mathematical reason that, say, the X% of men on the apps couldn't all be in the bottom X% of desirability. (Though physical attractiveness would be just one factor in the desirability portfolio of each.)

"They get plenty of interest from average guys in meatspace, so what they want from an app is above-average guys"


"only seeing impossible to get via an app"

Sigh. It's true, in-person is vastly better; I guess it was silly of me to hope for more during the pandemic.


@57 p.s.
"hope for more during the pandemic"

Because I wasn't doing meetings; I imagined setting some up for after.


(Content warning: I'm going to talk about my personal life in this post.)

I'm curious how people find each other in "meatspace" after the age of, say, 23 or so--when they're finished with college or have settled into a job where they'll stay a while.

Because I haven't met anyone new--male or female, potential friend or lover--in the real world of "meatspace" in at least a decade. This has nothing to do with COVID; it's that my late-middle-aged life is structured in such a way as to not invite meeting anyone new. I hate the apps, which I find dehumanizing, but I'm still on them, despite not having a jot of interest in anyone that OkCupid or Hinge or Bumble deigns to show me (apparently, I'm not hot enough to warrant being shown anyone who can spell or doesn't take a photo making him look like a serial killer), because the last time I met someone in "meatspace," I was in my early 40s. Being a woman in her fifties renders one invisible.

I don't meet anyone new in my workplace, as it's pretty stable in terms of employees coming and going--and all the people who work there are either already partnered (the vast majority), or gay (the majority of whom are also partnered), or otherwise not interesting to me (and I assume the lack of interest is mutual). Not to mention that I think it's a bad idea to date someone you work with.

I belong to several friend groups and now that I'm considering re-emerging from my Covid-cocoon, I'm cautiously looking forward to resuming some of my regular pre-Covid activities, such as taking either a drawing or a ceramics class, going back to sing in a community choir, participating in my book club without Zoom, attending live performances, going back into the yoga studio (well, finding a new one, as mine closed down, a victim of Covid), and taking a dance/exercise class.

Most of those groups are pretty well fixed, meaning I've met everyone and have already made my friends from that group, and those that aren't, well, all I can say is, I've never found them fertile ground for picking up potential dates.

None of my many friends claim to know any single men--not a single one, not even the proverbial guy who lives in his mother's basement. It has been years since I attended a party that has any unattached men present. I've told virtually everyone I know that I'm open to being fixed up, but no one's bitten; I've only been set up on a blind date once in my post-teenage life.

Bars? If I go to a bar these days, I'm there with friends or a friend, usually deep in conversation. It's been close to three decades since a man interrupted us and tried to hit on one of us. Those things may have happened when I was younger, but see the earlier comment about the invisibility of women over the age of 48 or so. I have even sat a the bar alone (before Covid; I haven't gone to a bar yet, and don't know when that will feel safe, disease-wise), and again, once I passed, say, 45 or so, no one approaches me. Nor did I see anyone I would want to approach, myself (and yes, I have done and will do the initial approach).

I imagine it's just as difficult for lots of people to meet as strangers in the real world once they hit middle age. But if one of you can think of something I'm forgetting, I'd be interested in hearing it.


I relate and sympathize.

"I think it's a bad idea to date someone you work with."

I think that too.

OTOH I wish I could still work, because when I did it was a rich source of social opportunity. Including a number good relationships, the only real downside being still having to sit in the desk next to one after she had broke up with me.


If I met a cute 25 year old who'd never been kissed between about 19 and now I'd be thrilled. If I then found out he'd visited a sex worker for his first kiss, I'd be crushed. Has the mom been smoking J.D. Salinger?!


nocute - do you identify as non-monogamous / polyamorous? Would you consider going to poly social events? (Not talking swinging, just a potluck.)

You might also ask your male friends what classes they'd take (to improve the gender balance in any new group activities you might take up).

But no question dating is hard. Hoping you have better luck soon.


I don't think it's in any way off that Mom is worried about her 25yo son's apparent lack of a sex life, though she may be the last person in the world to be able to help. She doesn't say enough for us to get a handle on the problem: Is the young man nerdish? Uncommunicative or shy? Does he have very particular interests? Of course she finds him cute and smart--but how might he appear generally? He is more likely to find dates with the same interests in the circles in which he usually moves, than he is to change radically and as it were all at once appeal to a new constituency of women (or men or others).

Outside Italian films about noblemen, has any virginal boy or man ever gone to a brothel and there acquired the confidence to be successful as a lover? It's a genuine question in a way--the sort of question, hedged about by misleading prejudice and cliche, that I wanted answered when I studied sociology.


Speculation is not opinion. The asker of Q1 seemed to be the sort of person who would be badly put out by an affair between her child and her best friend, which is why that reason occurred to me. And I don't think S1 is an oversharer; that was just the most charitable explanation for Mummy that occurred to me.

As for attractiveness, I grant that women are generally coerced into making more effort. Beauty is very much a Humpty Dumpty word, and so often used more for sociopolitical purposes than aesthetic ones. Those of us who are unattractive non-women can perhaps agree that there are many more people who will insist that all women are beautiful than there are who will do anything other than mock us for making an effort. If I took to being socially active again, I'd get far more scorn for dressing well than any other response.


On second thought, "well" is too ambitious. Anyone who read the novelization of Clue may recall that Mrs White ensemble was "expensive and tasteful without being fashionable or flattering". I mix that a bit, dressing with some taste and occasionally with fashion, but never expensively, and absolutely nothing flatters me, but in a way that's a plus as it lets me wear what I like with a clear conscience, even though the general opinion is surely that I could never live up to my wardrobe.

Ms Cute - My best friend found that her number of male peer friends did greatly increase after she took up chess on the club and tournament levels in her sixties. Had she not been pursuing someone chronically unavailable at the time, she might even have taken up with one or two.


@ 59 Go by yourself to karaoke. I'm in my 60s, obese, haven't worn makeup for thirty years and am usually wearing a t shirt and sweat pants, and while I'm not beating them off with a stick, I get chatted up often enough. The odd nice guy out of the bunch.

The thing about karaoke is it's an excuse to be there alone that isn't just "Somebody please pick me up!" - you're there because you want to sing. Of course if you hate singing, that doesn't work so well, but bars have other trivia nights, darts, pool....a reason to be there.


BidanFan @15 Curious @16, 29 Fubar @27

I'm nearly exclusively reciprosexual. I'm also on the demisexual spectrum. ~ 99% of people I'm not attracted to unless they first express attraction to me/flirt with me/ask me out/etc. I can appreciate their looks aesthetically, but more akin to the way I enjoy looking at a beautiful sunset.

Seriously, I'm on FetLife, and see lots of fantastic cock photos, nude women, etc. My reaction isn't "ooh, so sexy, I'm turned on!" It's more "wow, the lighting/composition/musculature/etc are wonderful! They have an excellent photographer!" "That lingerie is absolutely gorgeous!" "That cock cage has such intricate metalwork!" "Such intricate shibari!"

That doesn't mean it's impossible for them to turn me on. It means usually I have to get turned on by someone before I have any clue whether or not I'm attracted to them!

Once in a blue moon I get turned on while dancing with someone, doing kink stuff with them, etc when I'm not otherwise attracted to them. It's primarily hormonal, if it happens, I know I'll have my period in a couple of days!

To answer Curious' question, I doubt there's much of a market for speed dating for reciprosexuals! Most of us are approached by people who aren't. I frequently flirt/initiate sexy things with my boyfriend even if I'm not turned on. We're both in the "primarily getting turned on by our partner being turned on", so I figure someone has to get the party started!

I know that if I do, he'll get turned on (unless he's exhausted/etc), and that'll turn me on, and so the feedback loop goes! I can orgasm just from giving him (or previous partners when I was with them) a blowjob, without any direct stimulation occasionally. I can nearly always get within seconds of one, and just need a little at the end to get over the top.

Here's what my dating process looked like when I was looking. 1) Get interesting message from someone on a dating/kink site 2) Have a few conversations 3) Meet up within a couple of weeks 4) If I like them as a person and think we might be compatible, I ask them to do something mildly kinky or sexy (pulling my hair, etc). 5) Sometimes I find out right away that we have a ton of chemistry, and I react very strongly to them! Sometimes it takes a few tries to get the pump primed. Sometimes I react very strongly, but it's a temporary hormonal thing, see above.

In person, the only people who have approached me were already attracted to me. Some were only interested in me sexually, not in a relationship with me. That confuses the heck out of me, and sometimes I get attracted back (reacting to their attraction).

I'd much prefer they not flirt with me in the first place if they already know they aren't interested in a relationship with me. If they don't know, and want to explore things, that isn't upsetting. I know that life doesn't come with guarantees!

I can get turned on by video porn or by reading, but it's a reaction to what their doing, not necessarily attraction to them as a person/individual. If it's a longer porn with "plot", I'm not turned on or attracted to them until they get to the parts that interest me. I wouldn't be interested in actually having sex with or dating them, not because they're a sex worker, but because they aren't interested in me (guaranteed, since they've never met me).


Guts @27, 31 Fichu @40
I've been in a few relationships with men who were virgins/very inexperienced sexually. None of them had the incel attitude. None of them did it for religious reasons. It was more that they wanted someone who WANTED them, to be special. Or they only were hit on by women who were drunk, and they felt acting on it would be unethical, etc.

I agree that some incels do have a good point about SOME things. However, they're overshadowed by the ones who don't want women to be allowed to have jobs or work. Or think the government needs to subsidize sex workers for men who are virgins. Or who think that when women have sex with the third men, their pussy falls apart. And so forth...

I think Mom needs to stay out of it, unless her son asks for help. I agree with Fichu that she's probably embarrassing and upsetting him.


Curious @41, 45, 54 Erica@42, 46 BiDanFan @52, 56 Venn @64
The flip side of my being so strongly reciprosexual is that I'm rarely actively NOT attracted to anyone. Over 85% of people come across to me as at least ordinary/normal, cute, or better. I can usually find at least one feature aesthetically pleasing.

I agree that women put more effort into their presentation then men do, on average. I'd say that a lot of men do care about how women look/present themselves. If they think she's pretty/sexy, they'll still think so if she has bedhead, no makeup, etc. I've been hit on a couple of times by strangers when I was a hot mess! I try to look beautiful for my partners, but they're still attracted to me no matter what I wear or don't wear (including makeup).

The numbers I've heard from most men I've interacted with on dating sites, partners, friends, etc., the reply rate for men seems to be under 10%, not counting obvious scammers, Only Fans/etc. marketers, etc. I definitely think it's a buyer's market! A lot of men seem to actively try to turn off as many women as possible, which of course skews the figures even further.


There should be a "however" in front of "If they think she's pretty..."


I thought the Quillette article had stewed in sour grapes. It suggests that a top 20% of (het) men had their pick of the top 80% (to them? Or to whom?) of passable women. If any kind of power law does operate in getting sex, I would think it's through 20% of people in stable, happy, sexually functional relationships being responsible for 80% of the total 'fucks'. Though there are many of us on the site who do our best to be outliers, I would think on the global level (and excluding rape and coerced sex) the overwhelming majority of those with a frequent sex life will be monogamously married. Certainly in the het world there isn't a band of easy-on-the-eye swaggering single guys going around and ordering up casual sexual relationships at will from a phalanx of women hoping to snare them. Put like that, the worldview betrays a corrosive sexism on all sides.

Het guys getting no sex and working themselves about their lives' sexlessness as such get themselves on a frustrating, embittering feedback loop. The question for them shouldn't be 'how do I get sex?' but 'how do I like people more?' or 'how do I meet more people?' Or, more realistically, if they are not people people, 'how do I have more substantial relationships'? 'How do I spend more time doing what I like, with people I like', and less fretting unprofitably about something that can't be solved in any way by my stewing by myself? If you know more people, there will be more people you like--more you want to go hiking with, go to a gig with, to the bar with, do live RPG with--spend time doing whatever you like doing with. There will be people with whom you're mutually and excitingly attracted--but accept these will probably be a 'sliver' of the friend groups; whether in nature or as a feature of how social life is organised, sexual bonds make up a very small fraction of all the meaningful human relationships we have.


Nocute @59, for me it's been the kink scene 99% of the time, for both partners and friends. It depends where you live, of course, but even in my relatively quiet corner of the world there is a constant influx of new people at kink events. And personally I find it way easier to make meaningful connections in these environments, where you can skip the small talk and directly ask people about their kinks, which usually leads to a general conversation about their sexuality, relationships, history, etc. For me, finding the kink diaspora nearly a decade ago definitely removed a lot of social anxiety associated with finding and maintaining friendships, as I now know that I can move nearly anywhere in the world and step right into a ready-made welcoming social group, and there'd probably be people there I'd mesh with on a deeper level.


@59 Nocute it does sound like you might have to shake things up a bit. The social groups you've spent time with in the past are kind of tapped out for you in terms of new people. So, maybe you've gotta put some energy into an entirely new social group? You don't have to commit to one new thing, but you might want to "timebox" it (I'll spend N months diving into: New place/new interest/new group, and if it's not working for me, take a break and then choose a new thing.) Feeling unseen sounds kind of unpleasant, and maybe exacerbates loneliness? I'm reaching a little here, but if it's possible maybe ditch activities that make you feel that way?


Curious @57, the good news is it is dead easy to be a well-above-average man on the apps! Like many have said, be a human being and treat her like a human being. Get some good photos -- consult with friends, perhaps have a friend who's a good photographer take some for you. Use good English -- this shouldn't be a problem for you. When messaging women, do not copy and paste an obvious chat-up line. Be polite and express a genuine interest in this particular woman. If you don't get a response or if the response is no thank you, be graceful, don't insult her. (If someone says you seem nice but you're not my type, perhaps ask if she has any friends who might like you -- seriously.) I know this seems obvious but there's such an overwhelming number of badly behaved men on apps, just behaving well will give you an advantage!

As for "objective attractiveness," I agree that's an oxymoron. There is, however, "traditional attractiveness" -- possessing the features that are generally considered attractive by societal standards, or by a majority of the people of one's target gender. Also, I would say that anything improves with effort, right? Someone who practices singing is a better singer than someone who doesn't; someone who regularly plays tennis, etc. So it stands to reason that people who put effort into their appearance (ie women) get better outcomes than those who don't, so perhaps it is safe to say that women are objectively better looking (on average) than men.

Nocute @59, I'm part of a subculture in a large city, so that's how I meet people in meatspace. Not a strategy that can work for everyone, but any subculture that draws a mix of genders, or primarily men, could be fertile hunting ground. Join a chess club (seriously, one woman I met said she was the only woman among 20 men) or go to board games events. Go to beer festivals or car shows or amateur sports events. You should have at least some genuine interest in these hobbies, of course, so you can enjoy yourself even if you don't meet anyone (and don't find yourself baiting-and-switching by no longer wanting to go to the same kind of events once you've landed your guy). As to not being approached in bars, I think apps have something to do with that too -- men have more success, or at least less in-person rejection embarrassment, on apps so I'm not surprised they're not trying to pull at bars.

(Do you and Curious live in the same time zone? Hmm.)

EricaP @62, poly meetups are another good idea.

Venn @64, I'm not sure how it works in the gay world, but the saying "every girl's crazy about a sharp-dressed man" is one of those clichés that are accurate. Straight guys, dress better and improve your attractiveness immediately.

Opal @69, congrats on the magic number! "A lot of men seem to actively try to turn off as many women as possible, which of course skews the figures even further" -- for sure. Men like Curious largely have men like Guts to thank for not getting many dates. Ain't nobody got time for Schrodinger's Incel, and indeed dealing with men's attitude problems doesn't help predispose us positively to men in general.


"Ain't nobody got time for Schrodinger's Incel, and indeed dealing with men's attitude problems doesn't help predispose us positively to men in general."

(I'm not certain I understand the joke, but since I'm charmed by quantum mechanics, I find it irresistible.)

Might this explain why for a while a frequent early question I got asked started with 'how long have you been on here?' and continued wanting to know how many dates and relationships I found on the site.

(To be honest, the period of high frequency of this question might have been that the profiles that asked it were actually bots, of which there are great numbers for a guy to wade through.)

Even when the profile is real, I think this line of inquiry flows from very different possible impulses.

I figure that most are new on the site and trying to make conversation about something they'd like to know about.

I was less thrilled with, for example, the few who immediately offered judgement that some reason they speculate for a lack of success must be my fault; one was so caustic in doing so that I mentioned with one word that it her immediate accusations had been "rude".
(It's not that I doubt that that judgement is often correct, but I do know that in my case there are uncommon factors. Which didn't make this my favorite way to begin an exchange.)
I imagine that these few might be trying to take a shortcut by eliminating from consideration men that /other/ women have eliminated from consideration. I know that women have oceans of men to wade through, and I understand that the demands of time might make it necessary to only 'compete' for men that other women have judged worth 'competing' for. So it saves everyone involved time for them to discover early I'm not in that pool yet.


@75 p.s.
Naturally, my answers to that line of inquiry are always cheerful and positive.


@69 Opalescent: WA-HOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Congratulations on scoring this week's luscious and hotly envied Lucky @69 Award numeric honors! Savor your recently won good fortune and bask in the glory. :)


@59, 74; It's pretty sad that all a guy has to do is dress decently and not be a boor while a woman like Nocute has so much difficulty finding a literate non-serial-killer-looking guy.


Curious @75, it wasn't a joke. I meant that when you get a message, it's simultaneously from a nice person who wants to get to know you, and a bitter sexual harasser - you don't know until you open it! Sadly, there are so many of the latter that we brace ourselves for the smell of dead cat before we even open the box.

"Might this explain why for a while a frequent early question I got asked started with 'how long have you been on here?' and continued wanting to know how many dates and relationships I found on the site." Hmm, I don't really know. One speculation is that they were in a free trial and wondered whether to continue with a paid subscription? Or just whether they were wasting their time on a site full of spammers and scammers?

"I was less thrilled with, for example, the few who immediately offered judgement that some reason they speculate for a lack of success must be my fault; one was so caustic in doing so that I mentioned with one word that it her immediate accusations had been "rude"." Well, there are rude women on these sites as well, and I'm not going to try to make excuses for that. I think we can speculate on the reasons THEY are single!


Ah yes, I see how the moment before opening a message must become like the moment one opens a box that might contain a stench.

The majority of messages I get or get back turn out to be from bots or spammers or scammers, so it's a delight when I get one from a genuine human.


@54 curious, about the math: Here is an exaggerated example using wealth: If 99 men have a dollar and one man has a million dollars, then 99% of the men have less money than average.

Cue Lake Wobegon, "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." :P


Another example: Approximately 85% of American households are poorer than average.

Curiously close to that 80% percentage of less-attractive men. Have most people on dating apps perhaps not evolved beyond naked materialism?


While the thread has drifted into talk of "average", the Quillete article and the OkCupid blog it quoted did not.

The blog spoke of "medium" which looking at the chart means not average but what I understand statistical "median" to mean: "the number that is in the middle, with the same amount of numbers below and above". (Your median man has one dollar.)

As BDF helped me to understand, the way that 80% on OkCupid could very well really be below median attractiveness, is that enough of those above the median in the real world, aren't even on OkCupid. Only one in five would have come from above the real-world median (and maybe they've all still on the dating site because of factors not relating to physical attractiveness).


Anyone still hungry for the Big Hunsky this week? Tick...tick...tick...


Cocky @82, materialism? I don't understand. Shallowness perhaps, but at least in this medium, people are being judged initially on their appearance, not their income.
This whole "bottom 80%" is still subjective. There are plenty of people out there whose preferences don't line up with the mainstream. We already know we need to put other feet forward, and it's the same on an app versus meatspace.


BDF @85, I have no experience of Tinder, but on Grindr, class and wealth permeate the app. This includes looks - one can spot a trust fund kid a mile away - but there are many other signifiers. If wealth is not obvious from the neiighborhood, which is the first thing these apps tell you, then look at the hobbies, professions, and how they work out. You have to be well off to do boating, Crossfit, serious biking, world or even certain domestic travel, and so on. I don't display wealth because I don't have much, I grew up Gen-X and still adhere to that antimaterialistic foundation, and I purposely don't even fake wealth, so as to filter out the bougies. I still get a lot of materialistic younger guys hitting me up just because they make certain assumptions about guys my age. Imagine their surprise when they visit and see that I'm possibly poor or at best lower middle class... I'm still not above fucking someone shallow once and then throwing them back in the pool. At least I know the ones who come back are the keepers. ;P


Just to clarify lest my remarks be taken as potentially sexist. I think it is repulsive to be attracted to signs of wealth but equally repulsive to display wealth, however subtly. Both sides are equally repulsive.


Cocky @86, interesting. I guess I've never noticed those sorts of things because I'm not looking for them. One thing I have noticed -- and have done so myself -- is people posting photos of themselves on holiday, but my thought was that this was done to signal "I'm a fun person who likes to travel." With cheap flights to many destinations in Europe (and four weeks' holiday per year as standard), a photo of a Brit on holiday would not necessarily suggest wealth the way a photo of an American abroad might.

I have no experience of Tinder either. My impression is that it's geared toward younger, straighter, more casual sex-orientated people than me, whereas OKCupid facilitates queer, non-binary and polyamorous people connecting. I just feel like Tinder would deliver all the downsides of OKCupid and none of the up sides, so I'm sticking with what works for me!


Ens @75, indeed. Hearing the woes of app-based dating reminds me of the 1992 Cameron Crowe rom-com "Singles." Bridget Fonda's character starts the movie with a not-horribly-unreasonable list of traits and characteristics that she's looking for in a male partner (looks, security, caring, his own place, someone who says "bless you" when she sneezes) that she increasingly whittles down throughout the film. By the end of the movie, all she wants is someone who will say "bless you."


@89: Recall that George Costanza wrecked a marriage by saying "bless you" to a wedded woman.

And what ever happened to Bridget Fonda, anyway?


Ens @90 - thanks for prompting what turned into a happy googling! Apparently Bridget Fonda retired from acting in the early oughts to start a family with her husband Danny Elfman! Good on them!


Yes good on them!

Though I very much miss seeing her onscreen.


@90 Ens. Pulver, @91 fantastic-mrs-fox, and @92 curious2: Bridget Fonda. Wow--what a legacy she comes from! I think the last film I saw her in was It Could Happen to You, with Nicholas Cage from 1994.
Good for Bridget Fonda and her husband Danny Elfman for having a family together.


Cocky @87: Attraction to wealth seems to be baked in, even if it's subconscious.


I think that's correct.

All beings need the basics of survival (water, food, shelter), and wealth provides security of those needs. Beyond that security, wealth must be quite nice to have. (At one point I was doing pretty well, and I recall thinking that learning that 'money doesn't buy happiness' was very enjoyable.)

Though at some point the acquisition of wealth becomes an obsessive-compulsive end in itself driven by insecurity and fear. Apparently becoming wealthy has it's own challenges; fear of losing the wealth; shock that having it doesn't fill an inner emptiness they might have thought it would.


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