Female Mating Skew


The female choices are more skewed than are those of men, indicating greater mate choice agreement and hence greater potential effects of sexual selection at the hands of women as the choosier sex.  Hence mating skew in females is an important measure of this inequality in male mating success. Female mate-choice is a fundamental principle in evolutionary biology. It predicts that women should have the ultimate choice in selecting a mate because of their significantly higher level of investment in gestation.

 In biology, Bateman’s principle suggests that in most species variability in reproductive success, or “reproductive variance,” is greater in males than in females. This is ultimately a consequent of anisogamy. Bateman’s principle anticipated and is consistent with Trivers’s theory of Parental investment. In most species females are a limiting factor over which males will compete. This competition results in some males being more successful than others.

 Most animal species display strong skew in mating frequency in which a few males obtain most of the matings, while the rest have little or no success. Variance in male mating success can be thus interpreted as a result of phenotypic differences among males which females perceive and to which they respond. Variation in mating success is most pronounced in Leks species (and which 10-20% of males often obtain 70-80% of the matings). In humans evidence indicates that the main mating Leks (bar/nightclubs, speed dating, online dating), exhibit much greater variance in male mating success than in females.

The fact that females are the (reproductively) rate-limiting sex has always manifested in their higher selectivity (DNA analysis shows that only 40% of an ancestral male population was reproductively successful, compared with some 80% of females).


 Well our starting point is that empirical evidence proves that men initiate many more contacts than women; therefore women’s popularity is substantially higher than men’s overall: Males daters tend to contact women much more often than women contact men:

Unsolicited messages

Taylor et at (2011)

Millward Blog (2012)

Fiore et al (2010)

Hitsch et al (2010)

% males initiating contact





% females initiating contact





Online users vary in the degree to which they favor the more assertive path or the more passive path. Compared to women, men are more likely to favor the assertive path over the passive path, i.e initiating contact, browsing females’ profiles, (e.g., Hitsch et al., 2010b). Mainly associated to vast majority of men are receiving much less unsolicited contacts and receiving just a few replies (or even zero) to their first messages. That’s a feedback process.

This sexes differences in behavior occur are not a result of culture-specific learning processes.  You are wrong if you think that there is gender stereotypes socially constructed that allegedly require men to take the initiative in courtship. Woman is able to affect male approaches by exhibiting or withholding non-verbal displays: they can elicit a high number of male approaches allowing them to choose from a number of available men, or they may direct solicitations at a particular man.

 In field interactions, women themselves take control by sending subtle signals. Two phases of the initiation of courtship behavior are distinguished, namely the first move of making the contact, and the self-presentation after the contact has been established. Both genders use eye contact as the most frequently used initiation tactic. However, the genders differed in other tactics, women use indirect nonverbal tactics more often than men, and men engage in direct verbal ones more often than women. (e.g see Grammer).

 1-     There is a sex difference in the professed interest in the other sex. Men are more interested in women than the other way around. Women seem more reluctant than men to make contact. Women were more cautious and choosy than men and women were less likely to want contact, and females (compared with men) were less likely to want further contact because they perceived their partners as possessing less attractiveness and as falling shorter of their minimum standards of attractiveness thus generating lower romantic interest. (e.g. Fletcher et at 2013).

 2-     Male selectivity is invariant to population size, while female selectivity is strongly increasing in population size. (R Fisman et al 2006). And online dating sites offer and demographic environment with a high density of population

 3-     Mate choices can vary as a function of the choice environment. The common rationale behind sex ratio effects is that the “market value” of members of the rarer sex increases due to their shortage.  According to sexual selection theory, whichever sex is more abundant is expected to compete more strongly and the sex that is less abundant is expected to be “choosier” in who they decide to mate with. And the vastmajority of datins sites have a male-biased sex ratio ( e.g Match.com: 59% of their subscribers are men and 41% are women/ or  see sex-ratio chart for okcupid: http://www.rooshvforum.com/thread-20387.html)

 Regarding to Okcupid data (2009), which marketed their own study on mating distributions posted on OKtrends:

 First, women rate 80 percent of men below average. It’s evident that data don’t fit with a gaussian distribution of male physical attractiveness within the general population. This is due to:   “Quickmatch” feature prompts users to: “Give 4 or 5 stars if you’re into her/him”, therefore “quickmatch” is not asking users to rating physical appearance on a 1-5 scale. Those data are not strictly judgments of attractiveness perceptions. It resembles a yes/no binary scale, being analogous to other dating sites like badoo, which provided a binary scale within its “encounters” tool. Females are aware that if she chose to rate the target 4 stars or 5, the system automatically email the male target informing him about she would be willing to have a romantic relationship.

 So this graph shows us the overall female bias on their mate choices – following aPareto (principle)distribution –, a strong mating skew for optimal strategies, contingent on the single condition or male phenotype of the (conditional or limited optimal phenotype).

 Second, they give response rates for physical attractiveness, where:

 -We can see that the medium-attractive male senders (orange and yellow lines of chart) have average rates of around 40-45%.

–  And least attractive male senders (red line of chart) have average reply rate around 25%.

 Resulting a different rate than that provided in another post of the same dating site: (http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/online-dating-advice-exactly-what-to-say-in-a-first-message):

 – Female recipients answered 27% of men’s messages

– Male recipients replied 45% of women’s messages.

 Solely counting the subset of unattractive males (25% of rate) almost reaches the average response rate (27%). If we consider the other male groups (medium and highly attractive male senders) the average rate should be much higher, right? How is this possible? These data do not match. Unless the male population within the sample (they supposedly analyzed more than 500,000 initial contacts) was composed mainly by men rated as unattractive- True that 80% of men have been rated below-average attractiveness (ratings obtain of quickmatch). Note that male ratings in okcupid are adulterated (it would be necessary make beauty assessments by independent judges), where there may be:

– Médium-attractive male senders (in the 3 quintile of beauty) scored as below medium level on beauty scale (in the 1-2 quintiles)

– Moderately-attractives males rated as medium attractive

-Highly-attractive (in the 5 quintile) rated as moderately attractive (in the 4 quintile)

After examining their overall resulting data, I would say they are quite suspicious, at least for those, like myself, who have spent years observing the online dating dynamics. Itwould not be surprisingit if it was just a marketing tactic to entice male users into registering. Perhaps they are providing fake data as a way to establish a good business. Honestly I trust more in unbiased academic studies. Fortunately other dating sites have posted their mean reply rates, more in accordancewith reality:

 Average response rates by gender on the datins site Ayi.com: Men: 1-10 % / Women: 12 -22.5 % (http://www.businessinsider.com/likelihood-of-getting-a-response-in-online-dating-men-vs-women-2013-7). And plenty of male daters in forums; e.g:




 Females are the reproductively limiting sex (rate limiting in reproductive success) – which manifests in *all* dimensions of mate choice (in other words, females are more selective in all their mating considerations). Here you have a few examples

 Online dating:

 Taylor et at (2011) found that:

 1) Physical attractiveness of male initiators was more correlated with the mean physical attractiveness of their females targets contacted, than attractiveness of women was with their male targets contacted. ; For male, r = 17 %, p > .19, for female r = 1%, ns. Thus we see that mate choice in women is more skewed than men.

 2) Average unsolicited messages received (popularity):

   Males: 16.04 messages /  Females: 44.19 messages

 3) Men replied to 26% of the messages they received through the site, and women replied to 16%.

 According to Fiore et al (2010) study:

 1) “For online daters seeking to improve their odds of finding a mate, the message is clear: choose wisely and, if possible, be female. Women in our study were contacted much more often than men and so had their pick of whom they replied to. “

 2) “Women are pickier than men in online dating: their preferences for age and ethnicity are stricter than men’s, and they initiate contact and reply to others at a lower rate than men. Men cast a wider net, stating fewer and less restrictive preferences for their ideal date, contacting a relatively large number of women, and discriminating less in their replies. These findings align with the long-substantiated predictions of evolutionary psychology, though our research was not intended as a test of evolutionary theory. “

 3) Men contacted by women replied 26.4 percent of the time, while women contacted by men replied just 15.9 percent of the time. These differences perhaps reflect the relative rarity of a woman initiating contact with a man, but they also suggest that women are pickier in their communications.”

 4) “for men contacting women,  the interaction between his popularity and that of his  recipient was also associated with a slightly higher probability of reply, implying that a reply is more  likely when the two people have similar levels of popularity, all else being equal. This interaction was not significant for women contacting men.

 Indeed, the odds ratio for this term in the model suggests that a woman contacted by a man would be 86 % more likely to reply.

 5) Peng Xia et al (2014) using a large dataset (200,000 users) from an online dating site in China found: males are more likely to initiate contact than females, females are much more likely to receive messages than males while messages from females are more likely to generate replies than those from males: reply rate for females: 17.9% / reply rate for males: of 9.5%.

 Speed dating:

 1) Belot and Francesconi (2006) reported data on approximately 1800 women and 1800 men who participated to 84 speed dating events. “As emerged in many previous psychological studies [Trivers 1972], women are much choosier than men: On average, women choose 2.6 men and see 45 % of their proposals matched, while men propose to 5 women and their proposals are matched in only 20 % of the cases. About 36 % of men and 11 % of women do not get any proposal. And 38 % of men and 46 % of women do not choose anyone.”

2) Berlin Speed Dating Study (BSDS) made a set of carefully controlled experimental speed-dating sessions run at Humboldt University in Berlin: The mean offer rate of men was 41%, and 31% among women.

3) Kurzban & Weeden (2004) analyzed the percentage of yeses that a person received from members of the opposite sex, a measure of desirability in this context. On average, men were chosen by 34% of women (S.D.=21%), and women were chosen by 49% of men (S.D.=22%)

4) A a set of speed dating events conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of Groningen (Jessica Pass, 2009),  found their study was able to replicate earlier findings on mate acceptance in a speed-date setting. Consistent with previous findings (e.g., Kurzban & Weeden, 2005; Todd et al., 2007), women were choosier than men: on average, female participants accepted 26.3% of their dates, compared to 49.3% for male participants (t(90) = 5.21, p < .01).”

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18 Responses to Female Mating Skew

  1. It’s an amazing post for all the web users; they will
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  2. Norman says:

    “Female mate-choice is a fundamental principle in evolutionary biology.”

    The problem is how much choice did women actually have in prehistoric times? In modern societies we have strict laws against rape, abduction, forced marriage, etc that have given women a lot of freedom of mate choice. Because men can no longer acquire wives by just buying or abducting them the only option they have left is to try to attract and seduce them which puts women in the position of the chooser. In the prehistoric societies in which we evolved things must have been very different. Females were probably treated like property and didn’t have much say in who they got married to at a young age. This must have big implications for the evolution of womens’ preferences.

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  4. Norman says:

    Is it really fair to compare nightclubs to leks? On the surface they do look similar. The males show off and attempt to entice the females similar to what happens in leks of other species but what needs to be appreciate is that the people in nightclubs aren’t living under natural conditions like other animals. They are living in a modern peaceful society with strict laws against violence and sexual exploitation. Take away all those laws and people are going to behave a bit differently.

    Just imagine it. 20,000 years ago fifty men and fifty women who are mostly strangers to each other come together at a watering hole. There’s no police, governments or laws to restrict their behaviour and they can do whatever they want. What’s going to happen? Will the men be civilised and try to chat up the females and convince them to have consensual sex? Be serious. I think the men will just abduct and rape them. The men will probably group together into gangs who try to acquire as many females as possible, often stealing them off other gangs. They will fight each other for possession of the most reproductively valuable females which would basically be the young ones with the perkiest tits.

    So, if we do behave like a lekking species today it’s only because we’re living under laws that have been designed to make us behave that way and not because we are adapted to that mating system.

  5. sirtyrionlannister says:


    “Just imagine it. 20,000 years ago fifty men and fifty women who are mostly strangers to each other come together at a watering hole. There’s no police, governments or laws to restrict their behaviour and they can do whatever they want. What’s going to happen? Will the men be civilised and try to chat up the females and convince them to have consensual sex? Be serious. I think the men will just abduct and rape them. The men will probably group together into gangs who try to acquire as many females as possible, often stealing them off other gangs. They will fight each other for possession of the most reproductively valuable females which would basically be the young ones with the perkiest tits.”

    Dominance hierarchies typical of primate societies disappeared in theancestral human lineage. It was the emergence of large-scale societies during the Neolithic implied increased social differentiation, the creation of status hierarchies, and, eventually, political centralization. Hunter-gatherers’ dependence on sharing each other’s hunting and gathering luck makes them remarkably egalitarian.

    Arranged marriages are inferred to go back at least to first modern human migrations out of Africa. Reconstructions are equivocal on whether or not earlier human marriages were arranged because several African hunter-gatherers have courtship marriages. Phylogenetic reconstructions suggest that marriages in early ancestral human societies probably had low levels of polygyny (low reproductive skew) and reciprocal exchanges between the families of marital partners (i.e., brideservice or brideprice).

    Phylogenetic results suggest a deep history of regulated exchange of mates and resources among lineages that enhanced the complexity of human meta-group social structure with coalitions and alliances spanning across multiple residential communities. Remarkably, rape, is rare among the most hunter-gatherer societies. By example, among !Kung. Thas been reported in only a handful of cases.

    • Norman says:

      What are you saying exactly? That prehistoric societies were peaceful and rape was rare in them? If you are then you’re way off. The murder rate in most modern HG societies something like 25% of higher and even the so-called peaceful HG societies like the !Kung (who probably aren’t very representative of our prehistoric ancestors anyway) have murder rates far higher than in industrial societies. Women and adolescent girls without male protectors are often raped by other men in the tribe and all females before menopause are in constant danger of being abducted by raiders from neighbouring tribes. Chagnon estimated that about 20% of the wives of men in the Yanomamo societies he studied had been stolen from other villages.

      “Phylogenetic reconstructions suggest that marriages in early ancestral human societies probably had low levels of polygyny”

      What? Genetic evidence shows that about 80% of ancestral females reproduced but only about 40% of the males did. Assuming that most reproduction happened within marriages, this means that the average harem size in ancestral times was about 2. On average every other man had 2 wives and the rest had none. Some very high status men would have had more than 2 wives. This is close to what Chagnon saw in Yanomamo societies.

      • sirtyrionlannister says:

        It’s right if you’re talking about inter-village warfare. Where Yanomami and other hunter gatherers societies fight and raid nearby tribes, and where women are often raped, beaten, and during the raids. It’s true that Yanomami men capture and bring back the other women in hopes of marrying them,and wives are beaten on a regular basis, so as to keep them docile and faithful to their husbands. But rapes in Yanomami within village is are almost non-existent, since polygynous marriage is a social dynamic within villages, and they are usually driven by political opportunity by men who are seeking alliances with other men from different villages.

        First, male-female aggression is widespread among primates, but I’d tell you that humans differ, however, from most primates in that male-female sexual relationships are typically long-term and biparental care is critical to infant survival.

        I would like to add that Kim Hill studied the Ache, who live much as humans did 100,000 years ago. He and two colleagues therefore calculated how rape would affect the evolutionary prospects of a 25-year-old Ache. (They didn’t observe any rapes, but did a what-if calculation based on measurements of, for instance, the odds that a woman is able to conceive on any given day.)

        The scientists were generous to the rape-as-adaptation claim, assuming that rapists target only women of reproductive age , for instance, even though in reality girls younger than 10 and women over 60 are often victims. Then they calculated rape’s fitness costs and benefits. Rape costs a man fitness points if the victim’s husband or other relatives kill him, for instance. He loses fitness points, too, if the mother refuses to raise a child of rape, and if being a known rapist (in a small hunter-gatherer tribe, rape and rapists are public knowledge) makes others less likely to help him find food.

        Rape increases a man’s evolutionary fitness based on the chance that a rape victim is fertile (15 percent), that she will conceive (a 7 percent chance), that she will not miscarry (90 percent) and that she will not let the baby die even though it is the child of rape (90 percent). Hill then ran the numbers on the re productive costs and benefits of rape. It wasn’t even close: the cost exceeds the benefit by a factor of 10. “That makes the likelihood that rape is an evolved adaptation extremely low,” says Hill. “It just wouldn’t have made sense for men in the Pleistocene to use rape as a reproductive strategy, so the argument that it’s preprogrammed into us doesn’t hold up.”

        Genetic evidence shows that about 80% of ancestral females reproduced but only about 40% of the males did.

        I support that view that we are descended from males who were successful in a highly competitive context, while females were facing a much smaller female-female competition. Although we also should consider the effects of sex-biased migration and sex-specific death rates to explain alone the sex-biased TMRCA (The Time To the Most Recent Common Ancestor) ratio observed in humans.

        “They will fight each other for possession of the most reproductively valuable females which would basically be the young ones with the perkiest tits.”

        I respect the sexual proclivities of each individual. But I realized that you used to leave some statement in your comments denoting pedophile tendencies. Such comments are not welcome in a serious and rigorous blogsite, so I would appreciate that you avoided such allusions. Thanks.

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  16. Macgyver says:

    Reblogged this on The Mating Mind.

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