The site OkCupid is pretty interesting. It’s completely free, and I happen to be on it myself. It is ostensibly a dating site, but was invented by math nerds from Harvard, so I think its functionality as a dating site is merely a facade for the opportunity for the site’s curators to mine it for interesting data. When you get enough people on one site and are capable of tracking all sorts of behaviors on it, you can discover all sorts of interesting things. What makes OkCupid different is also that they are very open about it – as opposed to Facebook, which analyzes its (considerably larger) pile of data to share with advertisers and make a ton of money.
To that end, OkCupid runs a regular blog which reports their findings. In the past, I’ve seen posts on their about about picture trends that result in more page views (protip: be actively doing something in your photo, as opposed to taking a blurry cell-phone picture in the mirror) as well as charts showing height and age distributions (height distributions are shifted to the right, and way more people say they are 29 than is possible for a random sampling; i.e. people lie about their height and age).
Today’s post is about comparing gays and straights. The whole thing is worth reading, as there are many nuggets and interesting factoids in there. One thing that stands out was this:
Gay people aren’t promiscuous.
Another common myth about gay people is that they sleep around, but the statistical reality is that gay people as a group aren’t any more slutty than straights.
Median Reported Sex Partners
- straight men: 6
- gay men: 6
- straight women: 6
- gay women: 6
It is common for stereotypes to have some basis in reality. We’ve all probably heard “Asians are smart.” Now, first I’ll acknowledge that all stereotypes, even so-called “positive” ones such as this one, are harmful. But it is true that as a race, Asian American students have the highest average SAT score, for whatever that’s worth to you (to me, SAT scores are vastly overrated, yet still worth something). So perhaps we can see that there are some observable trends that could lead to a stereotype arising. What’s interesting about the gay stereotypes, including promiscuity and a predatory inclination to go after straight people, is that – at least for the OkCupid data – there is no factual basis for these stereotypes.
Which makes me wonder: why did these stereotypes arise? I suppose it’s possible that they used to be more true than they are today. But I find a more likely explanation to be that these are negative stereotypes born out of ignorance and fear. Now unfortunately for all of humanity, facts are greatly overrated in their ability to change peoples’ minds. But still, I suppose it never hurts.