Modern Mating

When Technology and the Sexes Collide

Monday, April 17, 2006

Casual Encounters on Craigslist

Where daters can sort and search on">, Craigslist offers immediate ad visibility – for free. As soon as you post your an ad on Craigslist, it goes to the top of the list where it will be viewed by anyone looking for such an encounter. This immediacy is important in the Casual Encounters section, because if you’re “lonely in Brooklyn right now”, your ad has the potential to be seen right away by someone who is “horny in Brooklyn.”

Though Craigslist offers more conventional types of personals, Casual Encounters offers the least ambiguity. With listings like “Bored in my hotel room, m4w”, “Rain doesn't bother me. Invite me over, and we can party and play - m4w” and “Really horny. Looking to meet up, mess around and have some fun – m4m” it is easy to know exactly what the advertisers are looking for.

In any given day in New York City, over 90% of the Casual Encounters ads are placed by men looking for company, split between the 70% of the ads from men looking for women (the “hope springs eternal” crowd), and the 20% of ads from men looking for other men (the group most likely to find what they’re looking for). The balance of the ads are placed by women – mostly women looking for men, though a small number of ads are placed by women looking for other women.

The posters are hopeful, though the men looking for women seem skeptical about the process. One fellow writes “Do women really respond to these things?”

The women who advertise on Casual Encounters appear to be split between the coyly commercial – prostitutes who use a subtle come on to entice men to respond – and the genuinely willing. One probable sex worker wrote “Hi fellas! I need to find a new lover. My current friend-with-benefits is never available. He's not dominant enough for my taste and he's selfish when it comes to taking care of my sexual needs-- plus its seems its only when it's convenient for him. He's adorable and has lots of stamina but he's young and inexperienced and I need a real man who knows how to take care of a real woman. Any takers with at least 7"? Send a pic and a blurb.”

A less entrepreneurial, but no less enterprising woman wrote, “My slumlord hasn't turned on the heat (bastard) and I'm freezing!! A casual encounters cliché, I know, but I really am looking for someone to come over and keep me warm! A hot makeout would do the trick, maybe more if you do a good job. If you brought over some soup and hot chocolate you'd be my best friend forever. Sorry to disappoint but I'm very normal. I’m attractive with long brown hair, green eyes, 135lbs, 5'7”. Looking for someone just as normal, cute, clean cut, in shape, great kisser, D&D free and all that good stuff... NO REPUBLICANS.”

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Adult Friend Finder in the news

AdultFriendFinder, which bills itself as the “World’s largest sex and swinger personals site,” has been in the news lately. In addition to being the most popular of the dating sites dedicated primarily to libidinous pursuits, it was also the site Neil Entwistle - the British man accused of murdering his wife and infant daughter in Massachusetts - used to cultivate a little extra-marital action.

After exploring Entwistle's computer records, prosecutors found email correspondence between Entwistle and a woman he found on AFF. Entwistle was "looking for a bit more fun in the bedroom" and a "very discreet relationship just for fun." "Discreet", of course, being the code word for "I'm married and any sex is strictly on the side."

AdultFriendFinder is the top "adult personals" site, according to Websearch. In an interview with OnlinePersonalsWatch, its founder, Dr. Andrew Conru describes how the site came to fruition:
"Shortly after we went online with FriendFinder, people started posting explicit photos that pushed the envelope of a friendly dating site. Our first response was simply to delete profiles with explicit photos in them. Later on, instead of fighting the persistent trend, we decided to go with it, and we created a new site called AdultFriendFinder. It started out as a kind of release valve for the more erotic adventurers. But it was so well received, it just grew like kudzu from there. "

It's not surprising that Entwistle went on AdultFriendFinder if he was looking for sexual action beyond his marriage. AFF knows its market well, and offers its member the capacity to search for partners for activities such as group sex, erotic chat, or a discreet relationship. It doesn’t discriminate on the basis of sexual preference, claiming that gay or straight, it offers the sexiest men and women. Of course, the site has greater aspirations. AdultFriendFinder wants to be “even more than a sex site. We want people to use the site as a way to grow and develop sexually.” With almost 20 million active members, at least some must believe that threesomes and moresomes are a road to enlightenment. Where Entwistle is concerned, however, the AdultFriendFinder connection demonstrates a willingness to keep secrets from friends and family, and shows that both his marriage and his judgement were very flawed.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Lake Wobegon Effect

In a 2004 study of online dating practices by Guenter Hitsch, Ali Hortacsu and Dan Ariely (three economists), the researchers found a strong relationship between men’s self-reported income (i.e., how much they say they earn) and their success on the site as measured by the number of email approaches they received. Those men with college and graduate degrees were also approached more often than their less-educated counterparts. Women, on the other hand, were more successful the more attractive they were.

The researchers also found something quite fascinating. As in Lake Wobegon where everyone is above average, a large percentage of both the men and women rated themselves as at least “above average” looking. Some 67% of men in Boston and 71% of women in Boston said they were “above average” or “very good looking”; 31% of men and 28% of women said they were “average”; while less than 1% of each gender described themselves as having “less than average” looks ( some people did not report their looks). Having lived in Boston, I know what the locals look like – and they are not overwhelmingly good looking. Unless dating sites attract an unusually handsome population, the prospective daters are very generous in their self-descriptions.

As these descriptions of appearance become less and less useful in screening, many people will only look at profiles that contain photos. The researchers found that those women who post photos receive twice as many inquiries as the women who post no pictures, and those men who post photos receive 50% more inquiries. Given the importance of photos, it is no surprise that services have sprung up to make sure that a dater’s picture is enticing. There are services like which bills itself as an “easy and economical way to get great new photos for your online dating profile.” It is a network of photographers in 6,000 cities who will provide daters with 12 headshots for $129. These photos promise to “deliver emails, date offers and fantastic matches”. It’s “Glamor Shots” for Internet daters.

Since it is much more difficult to verify income than it is to verify attractiveness, this is another area of dater exaggeration. In Boston, the researchers found that 12% of the dating service respondents claimed to have incomes over $100,000. However, only 8% of Boston residents and 8% of Internet users have incomes over $100,000. Perhaps the affluent are drawn to Internet dating sites? More likely, people overstate their incomes. While such exaggeration has little effect on the success of women (men seem not to care how much a woman earns, men just don’t want to date women who earn too little or too much), it could have a huge impact on a man’s online dating prospects. (What next - W-2s as part of a dating profile?)

Internet personal ads reflect profound societal biases in mate selection. The statistics show that women look for men who have means, and men seek out women who are attractive (and who can prove it with a photo). And both genders are willing to finesse the truth to achieve their goals.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Software for people with busy bedrooms

Contact management software isn't just for sales people. It's also for escorts and gay men with busy social lives. iTrick was developed as a tool for gay men, so that a man with an active sex life could easily remember the specifics of his various sexual partners.

iTrick enables its users to input information like appearance, cock size, sexual prowess, as well as contact information. It couples that data with tools that any geek would love. Want to know the average age of your sex partners? iTrick offers reports that can provide information on every statistic, from age to cock size. It can also provide its users with a chronological picture of their sex lives. If you're the kind of person who wants to quantify and compare how much action you got one month to the next, this feature is for you.

The site's pitch may not resonate with most:
"Do you meet guys online and hookup with 'em? Ever lose track of 'em? Ever figure out that you're talking to the same jerk that wasted your time a few months ago? Ever have a bro ask if you want to hookup again and you can't remember who the hell he is, or what he looks like, much less if he was any good at it? If you can answer yes to any or all of these questions then iTrick is for you!"

Fortunately, the software is free.

While this is a tool that borders on parody and has limited significance, it does have one useful function. If a diligent user discovers that he has an STD, it's easy to send past sex partners an email with the bad news.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Not tonight, please. Or tomorrow. Or the day after that...

Where the Internet provides those with the most obscure, distasteful or strange kinks with a chance to interact with others who share their perversion, one online group eschews sex entirely. Asexuals – people who do not experience sexual attraction – have an online community at The group was created in 2001 with the goals of “creating public acceptance and discussion of asexuality and facilitating the growth of an asexual community. Since that time we have grown to host the world’s largest asexual community, serving as an informational resource for people who are asexual and questioning, their friends and families, academic researchers and the press.” The site has been very successful in spreading the word about the 1% of the population who has never felt sexual attraction, garnering press on and comment by sex columnist Dan Savage.

There is considerable depth to In addition to educational articles, there is a substantial message board covering a broad range of topics such as the challenges of asexual relationships, advice for the romantic partners of asexuals, an exploration of the linkage between asexuality and autism, and the educational background of participants.

The site even offers advice on how to come out as asexual. It even provides snappy comebacks to the most common replies. For the response, you are a lesbian, not an asexual (two thirds of the site’s participants are women), SwankIvy – an active contributor to the site - notes “For some reason people can understand that I'm not interested in penises, but only if they can project my hypothetical feelings onto a buried desire for vaginas. Being gay is fairly acceptable these days--actually, much more so than being nonsexual--so I venture to say if I WAS a lesbian I'd come out. It just isn't the case.” If somebody wonders whether she’s asexual because she hasn’t met the right man yet, SwankIvy replies “Maybe I haven't. But it's not fair to assume that there is one, or that my life won't be complete unless I do meet him.” When someone suggests she’s sworn off sex because she was in a bad relationship, SwankIvy is clear, “That's the most common suggestion--I've obviously been hurt, scarred by a bad experience, and have sworn off men as a result. No.”

The internet provides a place for people seeking every imaginable sexual interest or proclivity. From those who want to do it lying in the missionary position, to those who want to do it swinging from a trapeze. And for those who don't want to do it at all, the internet provides a nice, lust-free place for them too.

Getting crushed

A few years ago, I received a mysterious email where I was notified that an unnamed someone had a crush on me. "How highschool," I thought (except that I never got any notes from secret crushes when I was a teenager). The email came from, and it included an invitation. If I were so inclined, I could reply back through the service with the names of any friends or acquaintances that I also liked. If the name I offered matched the identity of the initial sender, we’d both get an email saying that we had “matched”.

I spent some time trying to figure out who might have feelings for me while simultaneously lacking the nerve to pursue those feelings in a straightforward manner. No one came to mind, so I ignored the email.

A couple of days later, a follow-up email arrived, providing a “hint” about the appearance of the sender of the eCrush. Though I wasn’t certain, the description sounded like a former client of mine. If it was who I thought it was, the crush was not reciprocated. The guy was okay, but the backwards, childish manner of his approach left me unimpressed. I didn’t pursue the eCrush further. Because I didn't follow up, I will never be certain of the identity of the sender as there was no “match”. The site's anonymity means that the sender's delicate ego has been protected.

While the site may have limited appeal to those who prefer a more direct approach, it has considerable appeal to teenagers, who flock to the site. It is also appealing to those who don’t want to reveal their interest until they can be sure it is reciprocated at some minimal level. eCrush has matched over 350,000 people, succeeding in their goal to “provide a safe way to build upon feelings for someone you’ve already met and have feelings for.” It's a fun diversion for children, but adults should think hard before trying it out.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Castration for kicks

Penis envy. Freud believed this was a repressed desire, on the part of women, to possess a penis. Given the news out of Charlotte NC, Freud got the gender wrong.

Yesterday, three men - none licensed to practice medicine - were arrested and charged with performing illegal castrations. They had performed at least eight surgeries on six different clients. These surgeries included castrations, testicle replacements, urethra rerouting and penis removal.

The men had a "dungeon" where, in addition to lopping off the odd testicle, they produced S&M content for a local website. Their surgical "clients" had come from as far away as South America, demonstrating the power of the internet in bringing the crazy to the perverse. There is even a website for eunuch wannabes that casts itself under the rubric of "body modification." It comes complete with busy message boards and thousands of stories, so this fascination cum compulsion is hardly unique.

The three would be surgeons have each been charged with "five counts of felonious castration without malice, five counts of felonious conspiracy to commit castration without malice and eight counts of misdemeanor performing medical acts without a license." Just how many castrations have occurred in South Carolina to make the law distinguish between the malicious and the non-malicious sort?

Some men are obsessed with penises. Before the German cannibal's meal passed out the from blood loss following his penectomy, Meiwes and the donor/dinner tried to eat the man's penis. By comparison, what happened in the dungeon seems almost benign. And while it's certainly not a good idea for unlicensed people to be performing serious operations in their basement, there is one upside to this story. None of the willing patients will be able to further reproduce.