When it comes to selecting a mate of an appropriate age, one common, decidedly nonscientific rule is "half your age plus seven"; in other words, it's probably inappropriate to date someone who is younger than your age divided in half, plus seven years. (If you're 29, like the author, you shouldn't date someone younger than 22.) The web comic XCKD memorably called this the "Standard Creepiness Rule".
Here it is plotted out for men:
But how do people dating online adhere to this rule? Given the now-ubiquitous spread of stories of lechery and malfeasance, you might expect that people — namely, men — widely disregard this social standard when they look for a date online.
Last week, the data scientist who founded OkCupid, Christian Rudder, released a book, Dataclysm, that included a chart depicting the age range that male OkCupiders use to search for dates. Randy Olson, a computer scientist at Michigan State, dropped that chart on top of his chart of the non-creepy zone:
Surprisingly, the overlap is almost total: Men tend to stick to the "half your age plus seven" standard. In fact, the only men who don't follow this rule appear to be between the ages of 34 and 38. It's easy to speculate about what differentiates men of that age from all other men dating online; perhaps, as their female cohort settles down, they look for younger women, or perhaps they're reliving their glory days before the dreaded 4-0.
But they're the exception. So although many men are undoubtedly creepy in the frequency and content of their communication, the one, modest, thing that men as a group appear to be decent about when it comes to online dating is age.
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
Contact Joseph Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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