It seems like a new dating study comes out almost every day. Psychologists, scientists, students, businesses, and dating sites and apps, among others, all doing their own research to learn more about our romantic behaviors. However, there are a dozen or so studies that have stood out among the rest.
Going all the way back to the 1940s and ending in present day, we’re going to tell you more about 16 studies that gave society a new outlook on sex, dating, and relationships.
1. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male: 46% of Men Have Sexually Reacted to Both Genders
We kick off our list with none other than Alfred Kinsey, an American biologist, professor of entomology and zoology, and sexologist who founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University.
He’s most famous for writing the Kinsey Reports, along with Paul Gebhard and Wardell Pomeroy, who were also American sexologists. The first volume was published in 1948, and it was called “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” which took a more scientific approach than had past sex research.
The researchers interviewed more than 5,000 men and gathered information over a 15-year period. This volume was also when the Kinsey Scale was introduced. The scale measures a person’s balance of heterosexuality and homosexuality from 0 (completely heterosexual) to 6 (completely homosexual). In addition, the grade X was given to those with “no socio-sexual contacts or reactions.”
Some of the biggest takeaways from this study include that 46% of men had “reacted” sexually to both men and women at some point in their adult lives, 37% had had at least one homosexual experience, and 10% were exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55.
“Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats,” Kinsey wrote in the report. “It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories… the living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.”
2. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female: 7% of Single Women Have Sexually Reacted to Both Genders
They personally interviewed 6,000 women — and they analyzed how often the women participated in certain types of sexual activities and looked into how age, socioeconomic status, and religion affect sexual behavior.
A few of the most important conclusions they came to were that 7% of single women and 4% of previously married women were given a 3 on the Kinsey scale — meaning they were about equal in terms of heterosexual and homosexual experience/response. In addition, 2% to 6% of women ages 20 to 35 were more or less exclusively homesexual in experience/response.
3. From Front Porch to Backseat: Dating Went From Public Acts in Private Spaces to Going Steady
As you can probably tell by the name, “From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth Century America” explores the different dating rituals this country has seen over the past several decades. Written by American historian Beth Bailey and published in 1989, the book starts in the 1920s — when a man would “call” upon a woman he was interested in. They’d usually sit in the parlour of her parents’ house having tea with a chaperone nearby.
When cars became more accessible in the 1930s and the interest in having chaperones waned — singles started dating out in public more. They valued getting as many dates in a week as they could and “cultivating an image of popularity.”
As the US entered World War II, singles focused more on finding someone to “go steady” with and eventually marry — as a majority of men between 18 and 26 were being drafted into the military. Bailey said this “system provided a measure of security.”
With people marrying younger, this also meant they had to start dating and preparing for marriage earlier. For some, this also meant participating in sexual activities since the going steady relationship was sort of a “mini marriage.”
“Experts told parents to help their children become datable, warning that a late start might doom their marriage prospects. Thirteen-year-olds who did not yet date were called ‘late daters’; magazines recommended formal sit-down birthday dinners and dances for 10-year-old boys and their dates. A 1961 study found that 40% of the fifth-graders in one middle-class Pennsylvania district were already dating,” the book reads.
This model of dating continued until the sexual revolution when “many young people rejected the artificialities of dating, insisting that it was most important to get to know one another as people.”
Bailey wrapped up by saying, “Since the early 1970s, no completely dominant national system of courtship has emerged, and the existing systems are not nearly so clear in their conventions and expectations as were the old systems of dating. Not always knowing ‘the rules’ is undoubtedly harder than following the clear script of the traditional date, but those critics who are nostalgic for the good old days should first understand the complicated history of the date.”
4. Pew Research Center: Half of Americans Say They Approve of Online Dating
Now we’re going to jump to the ‘90s when perhaps the biggest change in dating happened. Of course, we’re talking about online dating.
Like most things, online dating received some criticism at first, but as the sites improved their matching systems and added more helpful features, more people joined.
As more people joined, the less taboo online dating became.
By 2005, almost half of Americans (44%) agreed with the statement that “online dating is a good way to meet people.” Only 29% of Americans thought “people who use online dating sites are desperate.” By 2015, those numbers had flipped to 59% and 23%, respectively.
5. MIT Media Laboratory: Like Attracts Like
Many movies and studies have shown that opposites attract, but one study in 2005 dispelled that myth — particularly in terms of online dating. In the paper “Homophily in Online Dating: When Do You Like Someone Like Yourself?” MIT Media Laboratory researchers Andrew T. Fiore and Judith S. Donah found a correlation between similarities and attraction/relationship satisfaction. Specifically, the similarities included demographics, attitudes, values, and appearance.
Fiore and Donah studied more than 221,000 members of a dating site over an eight-month period, and results showed that “users opted for sameness more often” and “were slightly more likely to respond to an initiation from a more similar other.”
6. OkCupid: Black Women & Asian Men Often Have the Most Difficult Time Online Dating
Some of the most influential dating research came in 2009 from OkCupid — which discovered that black women and Asian men have a more difficult time on the dating site than those of other races and genders.
Co-Founder Christian Rudder analyzed millions of OkCupid interactions and members’ racial and gender preferences. He had them rate potential dates with the QuickMatch feature on a scale of 1 to 5, or they could skip the person.
In the end, black women and Asian men had the worst ratings. For example, Latina women rated Asian men as 16% less attractive than the average guy — and white men rated black women as 18% less attractive than the average girl.
Rudder continued this research every year until 2014, looking at a total of 25 million users. Ultimately, he found that perceptions of race and gender hadn’t changed that much. Black women and Asian men still appeared to be the least desirable to OkCupid members.
7. University of Madison-Wisconsin: Most Online Daters Lie About Appearance
In 2011, The New York Times did a roundup of studies that analyzed how truthful people are in online dating. In one study conducted by professors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornell, and Michigan State University — the results showed that 81% of online daters lie about their height, weight, and age in their profile.
Professors Catalina L. Toma, Jeffrey T. Hancock, and Nicole B. Ellison noted that these are small lies, but they’re still lies. On average, women would shave off about 8.5 pounds on their profile and use photos that are about a year and a half old. On the flip side, men shaved off about 2 pounds, rounded up their height by half an inch, and used photos that were about six months old.
“Daters lie to meet the expectations of what they think their audience is,” Toma said.
8. University of Chicago: Couples Who Meet Online Express More Marital Satisfaction
By 2012, thousands of dating sites and apps existed, and many of them had their own matching algorithms. A lot of dating platforms also began releasing statements and their own research showing that online dating is superior to offline dating.
Specifically, that dating platforms are able to facilitate more marriages (e.g., compared with being set up by a friend) as well as marriages that are more satisfying and last longer. The University of Chicago did its own study called “Marital Satisfaction and Breakups Differ Across Online and Offline Meeting Venues” and discovered this might be the case.
Out of more than 19,100 people who were married between 2005 and 2012, researchers found 7.6% of those who met offline broke up (e.g., separated or divorced) compared with 6% of those who met online. Furthermore, those who met offline reported a mean score of 5.48 marital satisfaction, while those who met online reported a mean score of 5.64.
Researchers said that some of “the reasons may include the strong motivations of online daters, the availability of advance screening, and the sheer volume of opportunities online.”
9. American Psychological Association: The Rise of the Hookup Culture
With online dating making it easier to meet people, and with marriage rates declining, psychologists, scientists, and other experts started noticing that younger singles were doing less dating and more hooking up. Soon this became known as “the Hookup Culture.”
In particular, a 2013 article published by the American Psychological Association examined this behavior more closely. Researchers defined hookups as “brief uncommitted sexual encounters between individuals who are not romantic partners or dating each other” and looked into the effects of participating in uncommitted sexual activity.
Findings suggest that media and entertainment play a major role — with books, movies, TV shows, and music influencing what people think about sex (e.g., who has it, when they have it, how they have it, etc.) more than ever. Most young adults expressed that they were interested in romantic relationships, but it seemed they were using hookups as a placeholder until that happened. They also didn’t seem too worried about contracting an STD and often had greater feelings of depression and loneliness.
“By definition, sexual hookups provide the allure of sex without strings attached,” the article reads. “Despite their increasing social acceptability, however, developing research suggests that sexual hookups may leave more strings attached than many participants might first assume.”
10. Match: Older Singles Care About Sex Just as Much as Younger Singles
Speaking of sex, in 2013, Match released some compelling research in its third annual Singles in America study, and the topic we want to focus on is mature singles and sex. There’s a myth that says people often stop wanting to have sex once they reach a certain age, but Match found this to be false.
When asked “What would make you happier?” 30% of respondents 70+ and 25% of respondents in their 60s answered “more sex.” For respondents in their 20s and 30s, those numbers were 28% and 27%, respectively.
11. Gallup: Millennials are Marrying Later Than Older Generations
News that broke around 2014 that people can’t seem to stop talking about even today is that millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are delaying marriage.
According to a 2014 Gallup poll, only 1 in 4 millennials were married — despite the fact that 86% said they eventually want to be.
When Generation Xers, baby boomers, and traditionalists were their age, 36%, 48%, and 65% were married, respectively.
The factors behind this trend could be that more millennials are living in multi-adult households than have past generations, are choosing domestic partnerships/living with a partner before marriage, are focusing on their career, or are trying to improve their financial situation, among other reasons.
12. PRI: Singles Outnumber Married People
Another interesting statistic that was reported in 2014 was that 50.2% of American adults were single. In 1950, only 22% of American adults were single.
Some experts attribute this to not only society changing (e.g., marriage being less important), but also that singles have so many more date prospects that it can be hard to narrow down “The One.”
“I do think there’s a little bit of that paradox-of-choice problem,” said Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University. “You have so many different options that it’s easy to find the flaws with each one and difficult to just pick some person with all their flaws — since we all do have them — and just stay with it.”
13. PubMed: Post-Sex Affection Increases Sexual and Relationship Satisfaction
In 2014, Amy Muise, Elaine Giang, and Emily A. Impett conducted two studies to see how affection after sex influences how satisfied couples are with the sex and their relationship, in general.
For this research, post-sex affection included caressing, cuddling, or talking, among other acts.
Overall, the results were consistent for men and women — “the duration of post-sex affection was associated with higher sexual satisfaction and, in turn, higher relationship satisfaction.”
However, researchers did find that “the association between the duration of post-sex affection and relationship satisfaction was stronger for women than for men… and women, but not men, felt more sexually satisfied when their partner reported higher quality post-sex affection.”
14. Society for Personality and Social Psychology: “Unclean Appearance” a Top Dating Dealbreaker
Prior to this 2015 study, most mate preference research had focused on what people wanted in a romantic partner, not what they didn’t want. So Peter Jonason, Justin Garcia, Gregory Webster, Norman Li, and Helen Fisher set out to reverse the tables — and they found the top two qualities that people consider a dealbreaker were a sloppy appearance and laziness.
“People weighed dealbreakers more negatively than they weighed dealmakers positively; this effect was stronger for women (vs. men) and people in committed relationships,” according to the study.
15. Rhode Island Department of Health: Dating Sites Linked to Rise in STDs
Dating apps have been linked to laziness and pickiness, but in 2015, they were also linked to STDs. In 2015, the Rhode Island Department of Health said dating apps could be partly to blame for the state’s rise in STDs. From 2013 to 2014, cases of syphilis grew by 79%, HIV by 33%, and gonorrhea by 30%.
However, this isn’t the first time someone has said this about dating apps. In 2013, a New York University study found that Craigslist was responsible for a 16% increase in HIV cases from 1999 to 2008. In 2012, Christchurch Sexual Health Clinic in New Zealand reported that Grindr was associated with more than half of all syphilis cases.
16. eHarmony: 20% of Relationships Begin Online
eHarmony released an infographic in 2016 that had a lot of insightful information.
However, the standout statistic was probably the fact that 1 in 5 relationships now begin online.
It’s a big step for online dating — especially because it was revealed that only 9% of women and 2% of men have had relationships start with someone they met at a bar or club.
However, people are still mostly meeting their future partners through friends (63%).
We Can Only Imagine What Future Research Holds
Kinsey, Rudder, and all the other influential researchers in the studies above have provided society with a lot of information about dating. Sure, it’s interesting, but it’s also helpful. Dating sites/apps, universities, companies, and people, in general, can use these findings to better their lives and the lives of their clients.
Even right now there’s so much data being collected about who’s dating, how they date, why they date, why they don’t date, etc. We expect that we’ve got a lot more compelling research coming our way.