Old Content: Further Research on the Maths of Internet Flirtation

The following was originally published on Fetlife.


(I have been roundly called to account by my friend SmallMoves, who has pointed out that I never mathsed the question she raised as a counterpoint to mine. I shall endeavour to correct this forthwith.)

SmallMoves asks:

I’m curious to see the shift in results should it be mirrored, only with C being a woman and R being a man (or perhaps women-women / men-men which I expect would have similar results). For sure, women equally send short, nominal effort messages – but I bet that the results are drastically more successful, that the gender and social differences between how women perceive men (creep, weirdo), and men perceive women (tits, pussy), would bend this more favourably for low-effort messages from women, on the basis that the reward is generally greater for men than the cost is for women (in that men value easy sex higher, which is probably what they believe will be the outcome).

I’m not going to pretend to do maths, but somewhere in that I think you’d likely find that that ‘one women out there so desperate’ is equal to ’10 men out there so desperate’. The cost/effort for women is much lower and the success rate much higher.

That’s an interesting question. I can do maths, so let me take a worked look through it to see what we can find. As always, you are encouraged to follow along. It’s simple algebra.

According to some numbers I found on the internet, two thirds of fetlifers are male. If we assume that each gender is equally likely to be gay (or more accurately, that the proportion of gay people plus the proportion of bisexual people who tend to date the same gender is the same for each gender, to represent the demographic trend that bisexuality is more common in women but most female bisexuals tend to do most of their dating with men, whereas lifestyle homosexuality is more common in men), we arrive at:

Number of available men: (Total men – Number of men content with the amount of action they’re getting)
Number of available women: (Total women – Number of women content with the amount of action they’re getting)

Please note that the contentment number isn’t the same as the number of couples. There are poly people who have three partners and want more, and there are people who’re single and quite happy being single, using Fetlife merely as a way to connect with friends. (Like me, in fact.) In my experience, the contentment rate is more or less equal for both genders once they’re in a relationship. We can thus use a single symbol for it, R. Representing available men with m, total men with M, available women with w and total women with W we get the following:

m = M – R
w = W – R

M = 2W since two thirds of Fetlifers are men, therefore:

m = 2W – R
w = W – R
W = w + R
m = 2(w + R) – R
m = 2w + R

Let’s define W = 1, M = 2 here to make the maths easier. We therefore have:

w = 1 – R
m = 2 – 2R + R
m = 2 – R

m/w = (2 – R)/(1 – R)

Where R goes between 0 and 1, representing the proportion of people who aren’t available.

When R = 0, m/w = 2. If every man and every woman sends one message each, this means that there are m messages received by w women, for an average of 2 each; and there are w messages received by m men, for an average of 0.5 each. On average, women are getting four times as many messages as men – and this is the most equal situation. It only gets worse from here.

When R = 0.5, m/w = 9. The women now receive nine times as many messages as men. On average, assuming that each gender has the same appreciation for receiving messages, this means that women’s messages are nine times as likely to be successful as men’s messages.

When R = 0.8, m/w = 6. The women’s messages are now a full thirty-six times as powerful.

SmallMoves’s equilibrium (women getting ten times as much success per message) occurs at R = 0.5375, meaning that slightly over half the women on fetlife and just over three-quarters of the men are on the prowl. I don’t have any data to support that this is the actual figure though.

Of course, there’s a factor we haven’t considered yet: if you spend more time reading messages you’re less likely to be out there writing them. I have some friends who say that they just read people’s messages and not their profiles. I personally find it easier to reply to a message than it is to write a first-contact one. Readers: what is your experience? Do you find that you spend all your time reading messages and never writing them? Do you find it easier or harder to send a first-contact message than it is to reply to one?


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