There are plenty of urban myths linking specific personal characteristics of an individual (e.g. body shape, age, lifestyle), with the outcome of a date with that individual (e.g. no physical contact, sex, something in between).
The aim of this research was to throw some robust statistical analysis at our data, and see if we could confirm/debunk the myths, as well as looking for less obvious predictors of first date outcomes.
For example, does body shape predict first date outcome? And does it do so differently for men and women? The answer to both questions is yes:
As we will see, first date outcomes are significantly predicted by all sorts of characteristics which users freely divulge on a typical dating site profile. But first, let's talk about data.
We surveyed 10,000 FreeDating.co.uk members with a single multiple choice question: How far you would go on a first date?
They were presented with a series of answers ranging from no physical contact to would go all the way.
We combined their answer with anonymised data from their dating profile, and passed this to our statistician.
He analysed the data using a variety of statistical models designed to find which profile attributes significantly predicted any given answer.
Some of the key findings are summarised in the below charts:
When two or more significant attributes are combined, their effect is also combined.
So a date with a married drinker (regardless of gender) is more likely to result in a physical outcome, than a date with a married non-drinker, or a single drinker.
The chart below illustrates how this works:
Traditionally, the idea that larger women are more likely to have sex on a first date, has been linked with supposed issues around low self-esteem and reduced confidence.
So it is interesting to see the same effect in taller women too - 5'9" and above - an attribute we might associate with high self-esteem and increased confidence.
In fact, our research indicates no real pattern regarding attributes which might be associated with levels of self esteem and confidence, and first date outcomes.
So not only does this theory presuppose that larger women have lower self-esteem and less confidence, it also relies on a dubious connection between low self esteem, less confidence, and an increased willingness to have sex!
We actively discourage people who are looking to cheat on their partner from using FreeDating.co.uk, but inevitably on any dating site you are going to get this type of behaviour from a proportion of your users.
So we ask that they at least classify themselves as "married" in their profile, giving other users the option to avoid them if required.
Of course, this makes things much harder for the cheater - by being up front about being already married to somebody else, they have dramatically reduced the pool of users willing to engage with them.
This creates an obvious incentive for the cheater to lie about their current relationship status, so it is interesting to see that where a user had selected other as their relationship status, they responded in exactly the way as users who had selected married!
In other words, if you suspect someone is not being up front about their relationship status because they have something to hide, you are almost certainly right - they are probably married!
Incidentally, both other and married predicts a significantly increased likelihood of sex as a first date outcome, but only amongst men. Perhaps this is because there is a reduced opportunity and/or willingness to progress things onto a second and third date.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, attributes which we might associate with a more hedonistic lifestyle, such as drinking and smoking, tend to predict a greater openness to sex on a first date.
Women who prefer to spend their time in a bar, were increasingly likely to consider first date sex, whereas users who would rather be out cycling (male or female), or spending time with their family (men only) were significantly below the baseline in this respect.
We have already seen how body shape predicts different first date outcomes in men vs. women, with athletic men aligned with large women.
Our research found other differences too:
One of the more extreme pieces of information we collected was:
Would you go all the way on a first date, regardless of whether you liked that person or not?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, only men fell into this category - around 10% of men to be precise.
Also unsurprising: students were more likely to fall into this category than men with jobs.
What is more interesting is the age profile of this category: we see a significant uplift as men move from their fifties into their sixties:
Despite wide variations from woman to woman, it is interesting to note that women as a group are still way more reserved than men!
So the youngest, largest, most drunken women, is about as open to first date sex as an average sixty year old guy.
This chart shows where the sexes crossover: