Do men on OkCupid follow the Standard Creepiness Rule?

It seems that there’s an XKCD comic for every life situation that we run in to. Is there an XKCD comic for that yet?

One of my favorites, by far, is the comic titled “Dating pools.”

This comic highlighted the Standard Creepiness Rule, a.k.a. the “half-your-age-plus-seven” rule, which states that no person should date someone under (age / 2 + 7), otherwise they will look like a creeper. This seems arbitrary, but if you crunch your age into that equation, I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t even consider dating someone under that age. (I would never consider dating someone under 21!)

If we plot the Standard Creepiness Rule out for men:


(Note that you can easily just change the axis labels in the above chart and it works just as well for women.)

It just so happens that Christian Rudder released his book Dataclysm last week, which features a chart showing us the age range that men search on OkCupid for when looking for women to date. One of my first thoughts when I saw this chart was: Do men on OkCupid follow the Standard Creepiness Rule?

(And now we see why the last panel of the XKCD comic above applies so well to me…)


Sure enough, if we overlay Rudder’s OkCupid data over the first chart, we see that men follow the rule almost exactly. There are a few spots in the mid-30’s where men seem willing to dip ever so slightly past the safe zone of non-creepiness, but that trend quickly ends by their 40’s.

Another interesting trend is how men aren’t even close to reaching the upper bound of the zone of non-creepiness. According to the Standard Creepiness Rule, it’d be perfectly fine for a 30-year-old man to date a 45-year-old woman, but apparently 30-year-old men are already struggling with the idea of dating a 37-year-old!

Dr. Randy Olson is a Senior Data Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, where he develops state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms with a focus on biomedical applications.

Posted in data visualization Tagged with: , , ,
  • Jan Schulz

    Does the book also report the preferences of women?

  • Not in the book, but he does cover it in a blog post:

  • Jernamy

    Good God that’s the stupidest thing I’ve read in a long time. A 50-year old coming on to a 35-year isn’t creepy? Aye right pal.

    • Bob

      This is one of the stupidest articles I’ve ever read.


      AGE is just a number, if you look into it anymore than that you discount EVERYTHING that makes us human.

      Fail article.

      • Sorry you feel that way, Bob. I’m just plotting out the realities of the online dating scene.

        • Craig

          I see no such crossings of the creepy line in the mid-30s. What I see is a chart that’s truncating floats in its data to integers.

        • Jody Shipka

          Brace yourself! MRAs are coming!!!

          Seriously though, this isn’t age discrimination. It’s just a report on the facts. And it is VERY VERY creepy. Nothing more disturbing than being a young and attractive 25 year old with an ugly 35 year old thinking he deserves you. The people who are offended are likely those types of creepers.

          • Yessire

            Jody, you’re clearly a child. A 20 year old guy searching for a 28 year old woman is creepy? This chart has a lot of flaws, generalities and other bull shit.

          • Craig

            There are probably some things in the world more disturbing than being an entitled 25-year-old who thinks every person she’s not attracted to is a “creeper”. For example, thinking oneself a Disney princess who “deserves” anything in life.

      • Xhiggy

        This is talking about what age people seek for, there is limited time and it makes sense to seek for people who are closer to your age as there is a higher chance you will connect. This pre screening and rapid judgement IS what makes us human.

    • Jamie

      I was 21 when I met my future wife, who was 35. It was another 8 years before we were officially not creepy, and by that point we’d already been married for a year.

      It’s a pretty stupid measure.

    • Hector_St_Clare

      I don’t see why a 50 year old dating an 18 year old would be wrong, for that matter. Some girls like older men, some men like younger women (and the reverse happens as well, of course).

      The idea prevalenet in our society that both partners should be roughly ‘equal’ and ‘similar’ in terms of things like age, life experience, etc. doesn’t exactly seem to make for ideal relationships.

  • Bobby

    This website is retarded. There is nothing creepy about guys getting dates with other women, dispite the age difference. Grow a fucking spine.

    • Boblostit

      Bob, calm the fuck down. This article is fine, your comments are not.

    • Jody Shipka

      Other women? You mean like polygamy?

  • majesticDawn

    Actually, this is pretty accurate. I have found that I get all ages of men thinking that they are an appropriate age for me, and I think it’s creepy. Just because you, as a man, do not agree with it, maybe you should check with your female friends. The article is spot on. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble.

    • Jody Shipka

      finally! A realistic opinion!

    • SKK

      That’s your opinion. I know girls who have dated and eventually married guys 10-15 years older than them and been perfectly happy. They see it as being with someone more financially secure than your average mid-20s guy tends to be. Don’t assume your opinions apply to everyone…that’s just arrogance.

    • Anon

      Huh? Have you looked at OKCupid’s numbers for women? It’s the mirror image of the 2nd graph. Meaning, for example, 24-year-old women on OKCupid generally are receptive to 34-year-old men.

      If I misunderstood your point, never mind.

  • Old Man

    It’s weird that everybody on your planet dies at exactly age 50

    • ian

      I’m 56. Yes, that’s exactly what happens. Or at least you become invisible to anyone under 50.

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  • Norman

    Why do all your graphs involving age start at 20?

    • Norman

      Sorry, just realised they’re not your graphs.

      • They are my graphs, but the data is from OkCupid. They start at 20 and end at 50 because that’s the age range that OkCupid has reliable data for.

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  • Helena

    I would like to stress the distinction between relationships and dating. Dating is a screening and weeding process – subtractive and applied to a population; a relationship may develop in an additive process as well, meaning a previously platonic friendship becomes romantic. The creepiness rule applies to dating only because the process is one of finding fault in order to winnow the population. If you know someone and fall in love, things like age and gender are irrelevant – you just want to add him or her into your life.

    Personally, I find the cavalier attitude of younger men toward things like privacy and date-rape drugs far more creepy than men who are technically “too old” for me.

    As for dating online: Every man is creepy until proven otherwise.

    • Imsuresweetheart

      Sweetie, that may be your hint either up your standards if you are decent looking or just go back to hiding under your bed curled up in the fetal position as your pick of men is just very limited…which may be a good thing.

      • Helena

        I find your hostility curious. Other than a hilariously misdirected and content-free ad hominem attack, you have contributed nothing to the discussion.

        This is a perfect example of how female-identified voices are regularly attacked online merely for expressing an opinion. The combination of XX chromosomes and words incites the most overblown online reactions from those who are far too cowardly to ever say “boo” to a real woman’s face.

        While men may receive unbidden nude shots by professionals plying their trade, the “dick pics” and aggressively lewd messages men send to women with whom they have no contact history are intended to intimidate rather than invite. This is a regular occurrence for women on all sorts of platforms, not just dating sites and not just when the subject is sex or gender relations.

        Anonymous intimidation techniques, both pictorial and verbal, are indicative of the pathetic weakness of those who have neither the capacity to make a real contribution to the discussion nor the emotional maturity to realize that they should just STFU and concentrate on the talent they do have (for every one of us has some talent, however tiny and sad).

        Young men, especially the ones who consider themselves the best catches, have a sense of entitlement to rival that of Wall Street (and, of course, the overlap between the two on the Venn diagram is populated by the worst of the worst). Elliot Rodger is just one extreme example of a widespread and very aggressive attitude among men that they have a right to women’s bodies (roofies), to invade their privacy (stolen selfies), to manipulate (pick-up artist “theories”), to abuse and rape women (NFL, NBA, etc.). There are rarely any significant negative consequences for such behavior, and it is encouraged and reinforced by the echo chamber of fratboy/brogrammer culture. Given this stark reality, it should surprise exactly no one that women approach dating online with a mixture of caution, frustration and disgust.

        While this attitude is not absent in older men, as with most youthful stupidity, successful men either grow out of it or learn not to embarrass themselves quite so much in public: it is considered normal for a 23-year-old to spend Saturday nights doing shots of Jager and chatting up strangers in bars; the same behavior in a 50-year-old is a Very Bad Sign to most women of any age.

        I advise you to grow up and realize that you may actually get a date if you follow in the footsteps of your betters and develop some circumspection and self-awareness. Ask yourself if your immature attitudes are making you more or less attractive and you may figure out why women who keep rejecting you. Resentment is hardly a pretty look on a boy.

        Tl; dr: Thank you for proving my point for me.

        • c

          Your entire post is dripping with self-unaware hypocrisy and projection. Resentment isn’t a good look for you, either.

          • Helena

            Still contributing nothing but unsubstantiated insults? Stop digging: you are just reinforcing my point and embarrassing your gender further.

        • David

          Aren’t you overreacting/reading to much into the post just a WEE bit?

    • Erik

      That last line was an eye opener. ‘As for dating online: Every man is creepy until proven otherwise.’ It gives a better context for this post and fits an opinion I have about online dating: men are probably more willing to meet a female after chatting online than vice versa.

      • mrSugar Rick

        PARANOID….. someone is watching too much ID discovery…

    • Gregy buu

      thats exactly how I feel about women and them being gold digging whores, they guilty until proven innocent

  • Josh Spellman

    “mid-30’s where men seem willing to deep ever so slightly”
    I think you mean “dip ever so slightly”.

    • Typo – thanks! Amusing that your last name is Spellman and you’re correcting a typo. 😉

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  • Stewart

    Interesting post!

    I think some people don’t get that you are just reporting the facts, no whether you think it is right or not.

    Anecdotally, I’ve believed this to be true (just like the guy generally being taller than the girl).

    Great work, Randy!

  • Mike

    I’m 61. My chances with a woman of 37 would be zero or less

    • Helena

      Not necessarily: my husband and I are separated by 23 years and we are incredibly happy. We didn’t meet online, though, and we were friends first.

      There is a hidden downside for the woman I was unaware of before marrying: when we meet new people, they sometimes assume I am a trophy wife (common in our area and industry) until they find out what I do and my background. It can be a bit frustrating but the schadenfreude when they embarrass themselves is usually worth it.

      What is wrong with a 61-year-old woman? Tony Randall aside, most 61-year-old men have either already bred or aren’t interested in starting so late.

      • David

        He didn’t say anything was wrong with 61 year old women, don’t put words in his mouth. In fact if anything he was commenting that it is MORE likely/appropriate for him to hook up with a 61 year old, by questioning that he would have any options at a much lower age.

  • PooperScooper

    While men are young, the pool is small based on age since young men dont date older women. As men grow into their 20s, the pool gets bigger again but mainly below the age group. As men grow past the 30s, the floor starts to raise up because no man wants to deal with the drama of younger women even though they are typically more mature for their age. At some point in their 40s, men dont care or stop caring and the pool gets bigger again. This of course applies to men looking for relationships and not bottom feeders or players.

  • Brian

    I always noticed on okcupid that guys are looking for a younger female and girls are usually looking for a little bit older guys. As a divorced guy that’s 42 with 3 kids (oldest is 20), I never understood the younger female thing. Short term I guess I understand it. But long term, younger girls will probably want to have kids eventuall if they dont have a bunch already. Those days are over for me.

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  • JB

    This OLD chart may make things easy

  • Brad Baylis

    I’m a black Canadian man,62,regarded cover boy handsome,muscular-five-nine,200-205 lb.,18-inch arms,though like a LOT of older chaps,trying to lose about 20 lb.With the boyish good looks,charm and chivalry is BOILING BLOOD,SO OF COURSE I ogle and pursue buxom babes between 22 and 40!!!!!

  • Brad Baylis

    No offence,Mike,but if you looked like me-I’m a year older than you-busty young babes would approach YOU,as they frequently hit on me!!!!!

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This blog is my labor of love, and I've spent hundreds of hours working on the projects that you'll read about here. Generally, I write about data visualization and machine learning, and sometimes explore out-of-the-box projects at the intersection of the two. I hope you enjoy my projects as much as I have.

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