OKCupid: White People Like This, Black People Like That.

Cross-posted at Campus Progress.

The online dating site OkCupid has released its latest OKTrends study of its users, this time focusing on what people of different racial groups like. By poring over the profiles of more than 500,000 users, they aggregated key words and phrases, then grouped them by the self-identified race of each user.

Trends emerged: white males like Tom Clancy. Black women like soul food (whether this pertains to the cuisine, the film or the television show, is unclear). Both Asian men and women claim to be “simple.” Black men, on the other hand, are much more likely to call themselves “cool.”

In traditional OKC style, the post is cheeky. While parsing what white users like, author Christian Rudder writes: “If I had to choose over-arching themes for white people’s lists, for men, I’d go with ‘frat house’ and for women, ‘escapism.’ Whether one begot the other is a question I’ll leave to the reader.”

OKC set out to answer the question, “What tastes, interests, and concepts define an ethnic group?” And on the surface level, it seems that the words of its users prove a number of stereotypes about what various ethnic groups “like.” And while the results are fascinating, I think they’re less a sign of what people like, and more a sign of what people think they *should* like, in order to attract that special someone.

One of OKTrends’ most recent posts was on the “big lies” that people tell in their profiles — why should some of this be any different?

And in fact, as Rudder points out, white women are probably not being completely honest. He writes that it’s “amazing the extent to which their list shows a pastoral or rural self-mythology: bonfires, boating, horseback riding, thunderstorms. I remind you that OkCupid’s user base is almost all in large cities, where to one degree or another, if you find yourself doing much of any of these things, civilization has come to an end.”

Why is it “self-mythology” when white women talk about how much they love boating? Couldn’t the same be said about black women who have a lot to say about God? Sure, blacks are some of the most churched people in the country, but it stands to reason that when a woman is part of a community where positive associations are placed on church, then she’s going to talk up how important it is to her — especially as she tries to distill herself into a few sentences to attract a partner.

And look at the top phrase used by middle eastern women: “different cultures.” This is a signal that those women who use the site are probably interested in dating men who aren’t of similar backgrounds. Again, this has less to do with what these women are “really like” and more to do with whom they want to attract.

OKCupid’s trend blog is a pretty cool site, nonetheless. Their infrequent, but informative, posts have covered everything from the best time of day to take a profile picture to who messages whom. Empirical data is lots more informative than the generic “10 Ways You’re Driving Him Away” articles other sites seem to love posting. And while OKC’s users skew heavily toward young, urban, tech-savvy individuals, it’s still useful to know how this demographic is dealing with love, sex, and relationships. And even though the site comprises a subset of people looking for partners, it does prove one thing: no matter the platform, people will always present themselves in a way that makes them look most attractive to the group they’re interested in.

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  • This is interesting…as hell…

  • *Dances merengue through post*

    • Scipio Africanus

      I was shocked that “Mexican” didn’t get a specific mention in many Latinos’ profiles.

  • Matt

    Yes. Registering aspirations, which are descriptively useful, but not exactly descriptive. Also, thank you for using “comprises” the right (best) way, as a transitive verb. This is rare.

  • Naima

    You make me wanna sign up…My lil’ sister uses it and boy does she LIE about herself…

    Tangent: The black women toting faith (regardless of their actual attendance to bible study) as a means to attract is concerned, it sort of reminds me on the CNN/Deb Cooper article on how women god-fearing-church-going-ways are what is to blame for their being single…Not that i agree, funny how those on OKCupid didn’t get the memo…

    Overall good thoughts…but now if we’re putting down things for the sake of attracting those who possess those traits does that make stringing together phrases like “soulfood-church-John Legend-boondocks-cool” all the better? We surely seem to make a lot of assumptions about the “likes” of those “we want to attract” in one–even if they are a little inflated.

  • ACLS

    I did notice that black men and Asian women seemed to be the only groups who had decent taste in music.

  • TMA

    Wow. This was interesting. When I was online dating I used Match, not OK Cupid. And I made sure to list the things that I actually like and do. The last thing I wanted was to meet someone who thought it would be a good idea to go to a soul food restaurant and catch a Tyler Perry movie after. o_O

    • April

      Yeah, clearly that person would be a terrible mate. The horror!

  • Darth Paul

    “Why is it “self-mythology” when white women talk about how much they love boating? Couldn’t the same be said about black women who have a lot to say about God?”

    I suppose it *could*. To me, they’re both a sort of idealized fantasy. The question and availability of “God”, though, are way more abstract and nebulous than bonfires, horseback riding, and boating in the metropolis. The former are distinctly fanciful as regular activities for city folks whereas religion can be framed in any environment.

    But you nailed it- voiced interests on matchmaker sites are about attracting a person you think would like to hear them; not really about whether you really do it or not. It’s easier to BS there than it is about your appearance or background. Facebook’s a cruel mistress.

    • Scipio Africanus

      I don’t doubt that many of those white women really do many of the things they listed (not claiming that you’re saying something different – you’re the only one who commented on this point.) And I also don’t doubt that many of those black women do regularly incorporate Christianity and churchgoing into their lives. But to me, the difference is that that pastoral, rustic stuff lies in contrast with their living environs, as the author points out. It’s as though they’d rather focus on that stuff than their day-to-day. For many of these black women, the church often *is* their day-to-day.

  • MH8D

    do you mean to say that these people are being dishonest in some way? perhaps the younger, more immature people, but I think that once you pass 25 years, the interest in going along with things that you don’t really care for in order to fit in fades away.
    Maybe it’s true that people will describe themselves and their lives in ways that they believe to be attractive to the people that they want to meet, but a mature adult with goals knows that time is precious, and it matters who you spend your time with. As such, deciding and defining who you want to be with is a large and vital part of your true personal identity.

    Like the saying goes, ‘a man doesn’t know what kind of man he is until he knows what kind of woman he wants to be with.’

    In my personal experience, women who talk about wanting a God-fearing man are true to that. For the most part I don’t think that they are espousing an enthusiasm for religion to fit in, they are really religious. Females are the overwhelming majority in most black churches. It’s black men who can take or leave the church, for the most part. Like I said, this is my own personal experience, but black women are always trying to drag their men to church, it rarely works the other way. Some Negroes use the church as a hunting ground, because that’s where all of the women are. A lot of black women want to know if you are ‘God-fearing’, black men rarely ask, or care. We like to stay home and watch football on Sundays.

    • Scipio Africanus

      Pretty much all of this matches my experience, too. Most of the black women who will go out of their way to have religious references all over their pages are serious about it and are not doing it just for show, or even for ‘self-mythology’.

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