Why You Should Play Up Your Flaws in Online Dating

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The folks over at OkCupid, who are consistently interesting when it comes to examining the data generated by the Internet dating service they provide, have some new research for us. As their blogger Christian wrote:

This post investigates female attractiveness, but … we look past a woman's picture. … Among the remarkable things we'll show: … guys tend to ignore women who are merely cute. In fact, having some men think she's ugly [can] actually [work] in a woman's favor.

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He goes on to warn that he's about to objectify women — but promises that men will get their turn to be objectified soon enough. (Okay, Christian — we'll keep our eyes peeled for that one.)

Anyway, after crunching some data (which you can read more about here), Christian and the other self-proclaimed math nerds at OkCupid found that women who were consistently rated above-average on the attractiveness scale by "most" guys were less likely to get messaged than women who were sometimes rated significantly below-average but often rated above-average. As Christian put it: "This pattern presented itself again and again: The less-messaged woman was usually considered consistently attractive, while the more-messaged woman often created variation in male opinion."

What he and his cohorts hypothesize is going on is this:

When some men think you're ugly, other men are more likely to message you. ... Why would this happen? Perhaps a little game theory can explain.

Suppose you're a man who's really into someone. If you suspect other men are uninterested, it means less competition. You therefore have an added incentive to send a message. You might start thinking: Maybe she's just waiting to find a guy who appreciates her [or] at least I won't get lost in the crowd. Maybe these small thoughts, plus the fact that you really think she's hot, prod you to action. You send her the perfectly crafted opening message.

On the other hand, a woman [who is] … conventionally cute ... might appear to be more in-demand than she actually is.

So what good might this knowledge do you? Christian puts it this way:

Take whatever you think some guys don't like — and play it up. … Women with tattoos and piercings seem to have an intuitive grasp of this principle. They show off what makes them different and don't care if some people don't like it. And they get lots of attention from men. But our advice can apply to anyone. … We now have mathematical evidence [that suggests] that minimizing your "flaws" is the opposite of what you should do. ... If you have a big nose, play it up. If you have a weird snaggletooth, play it up. Statistically … the [guys] who do like [your "flaw"] will be all the more excited.

I think the OkCupid kids are right on about all this — and mathematical analysis aside, the confidence that you display when you own the unusual things about your body or your appearance can be very charming, if not downright sexy. I'm thinking of Susan Sontag with her great white streak of hair. Lauren Hutton with the gap between her teeth. Patti Smith with her unkempt, androgynous look. And Queen Latifah, who is more curvaceous and more of a bad-ass than a lot of the other ladies she outshines on the red carpet.

Who are your favorite unconventional beauties? What "flaw" might you play up about yourself?

And do you think the OkCupid folks are right, or do you take issue with their conclusions or advice?

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