Sex by Numbers: Online Dating’s Stranglehold on Desire

ColumnNow that internet-dating revenues exceed even those of the once-indomitable porn industry, online matchmaking is no longer the pitiable purview of computer trolls seeking intimacy and connection. This $4-billion global empire has become commonplace and, in some circles, even cool.

ManHunt (gay men), Amigos (Latinos), MillionaireMatch (wealthy), DeafDate (deaf), JDate (Jews), Prescription4Love (invalids), GreenFriends (environmentalists), CougarLife (older women and younger men), DiscreetAdventures (cheaters), TrekPassions (Trekkies, as in Star Trek) and WeWaited (virgins). With expanding niche psychographic and demographic forums and reported $4 billion revenues worldwide, online dating is no longer the disgraced purview of internet trolls seeking intimacy and connection through the web.

With global Facebook usage at 700 billion minutes per month and more than 600 million active users, social media networks of all stripes are a normalized, firmly entrenched aspect of contemporary culture. In the States, aggregate online dating revenue exceeds $1 billion; can’t quite wrap your head around that number?

Think of it this way: For the first time in history, more people shell out their money for internet match-making than online porn. In fact, porn sales are on a downward spiral, with a reported $74-million decline last year. The industry directly blames sites, such as eHarmony,, and OkCupid.

Love – and lust – have perplexed and confounded us throughout the ages. It drove Moghul emperor Shah Jahan to construct the Taj Majal after his beloved young wife, Arjumand Banu, died; in ancient Babylon, it prompted the suicides of studly Pyramus and lovely Thisbe; and it precipitated the murders of cheating Paolo and Frenchesca in Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Increasingly, however, these epic narratives seem quaint – and maybe even obsolete – in the face of online communications’ ever complicated stranglehold on the manufacture, and maintenance, of desire.

Thinking of throwing down $25-per-month into membership with an online dating behemoth, filling out 400 compulsory multiple choice questions to hone in on the optimal future father of your children, and sorting through reams of messages in your inbox, such as Yr hawt! LOL. Luv yr eyes! What’s yr cup size? Wanna go out for a cup of coffee….and then go from there? Think again – or, at least – think twice. Here it is, your weekly top-ten Sex by Numbers:

  • Number of sex offenders who use online dating to meet people: 1 in 10
  • Number of women who have sex on the first encounter after meeting a man through online dating: 1 in 3
  • Number of states to pass Internet Dating Safety Acts: 2
  • Top three basic facts men misrepresent in their online dating profiles: Age, height, income
  • Top three basic facts women misrepresent in their online dating profiles: Weight, body type, age
  • Percentage by which baby-boomer online dating usage has increased in past five years: 89
  • Average number of months couples who meet in real-life wait before marrying: 42
  • Average number of months couples who meet virtually wait before marrying: 18.5
  • Percentage of childless women who decline to be matched with men who already have children: 70
  • Number of online-dating users in India, the United States and China, respectively: 15 million, 40 million, 140 million

Sex By Numbers is an ongoing look into the emotional and sexual lives of the modern day woman. Follow Abigail Wick weekly here for insight and inspiration as she explores the “sex” of women and the terrain they must travel.

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