OkCupid has less-than-OK policies. Especially if you're "ugly."

Bitch tipster alert! According to a trusted source (one of our sharpy-sharp readers), OkCupid, the popular (and free) online dating site, has a semi-secret policy that favors those who have been deemed the most attractive. Say what!?

Not OK, Cupid.

Our informant forwarded along an email s/he received from OkCupid, which I am re-posting here in full:

We are very pleased to report that you are in the top half of OkCupid's most attractive users. The scales recently tipped in your favor, and we thought you'd like to know.

How can we say this with confidence? We've tracked click-thrus on your photo and analyzed other people's reactions to you in QuickMatch and Quiver.

Your new elite status comes with one important privilege: You will now see more attractive people in your match results.

This new status won't affect your actual match percentages, which are still based purely on your answers and desired match's answers. But the people we recommend will be more attractive. Also! You'll be shown to more attractive people in their match results.

Suddenly, the world is your oyster. Login now and reap the rewards. And, no, we didn't just send this email to everyone on OkCupid. Go ask an ugly friend and see.

So basically, the users who get the best ratings from other users are granted admission into a special stable of hot people, while those who haven't rated as well are doomed to mill around outside, hoping for a date with whoever's willing to put up with their grotesque physical appearance. This is a problem on several levels.

1. The policy discriminates against those deemed less attractive for whatever reason (bad photo, profile misspelling, etc.). Those in the dreaded bottom 50% presumably do not have access to potential matches in the top 50%, even if they match up in other areas beyond the physical (which, let's remember, is rated based solely on online profile data). OkCupid is segregating the groups, which seems counter-productive to, you know, DATING.

2. The policy reinforces the notion that hot people deserve love and happiness and "ugly" people should just get used to being alone. For evidence of this, just check out some of the offensive language in that email! For those who have been granted "attractive" status, "Suddenly, the world is your oyster." What the hell kind of world were they in before? Oh, I know, the one where ugly people are barred from seeing pretty people.

3. The policy makes dating decisions on the users' behalf without considering personal preferences. Sure, I learned in my Sociology 101 class that people typically end up partnering with other similarly-attractive people; I'd bet many of you have read the same. However, we've all got different preferences when it comes to physical attractiveness, and just because someone hasn't gotten as many click-thrus as someone else doesn't mean that users won't find that person attractive. It's patronizing to think that OkCupid would decide who's hot and who's not, especially when hotness is completely subjective.

4. The policy is kept secret (unless you're attractive!). When you sign up for an OkCupid account, you are not tipped off to this segregating policy in any way, shape, or form. Here is what they DO tell people about their matching process:

OkCupid is the fastest growing FREE online dating site. Our advanced matching system is based on you, and what you find important. Tell us about yourself and we'll help you find your perfect match. With over a million quality singles from all around the world, you can make a new friend or set up a date—all for free!

Note the absence of any looks-related criteria. Maybe they should change that line where they say "Our advanced matching system is based on you" to "Our advanced matching system is based on how hot we think you are."

Assuming that this is all true (and we trust our tipsters around here), this policy is a bunch of discriminatory, attractiveness-norm-reinforcing, bullshit. Not to mention the fact that it just doesn't make sense. Why limit the number of potential matches people can get? Because pretty people can't have their pretty eyes scarred by regular people? No thanks. Does anyone remember that episode of Seinfeld where George uses a photograph of a beautiful woman to get into that secret club full of models? Yeah, this is like that, except not as funny.

I have to admit, this is especially irritating to me because OkCupid markets itself as being sort of ironic and progressive and "cooler" than other online dating sites. If they're so ironic and cool and alternative, why are they falling prey to the same arbitrary attractiveness standards as your local meat market-y douchebar?

So help me out here, folks. Is this for real? If you use OkCupid, have you heard of this policy? What do you think of it?

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Comments

75 comments have been made. Commenting is set to read-only for this post.

Cupid not so ok...

Thanks for bringing this up! I got one of those emails too, although I haven't noticed any difference in my matches so I'm kind of sceptical about any impact it's alleged to have. But you're right - the implication that ugly people shouldn't expect to get dates is highly uncool. My roommate is also on OkCupid and she didn't get one, which I was really annoyed about because she's an awesome person and gets more dates than I do, so clearly the standard is pretty arbitrary.

That said, having tried out a few dating sites I do really appreciate OkCupid's openness to various sexualities and relationship forms. Lavalife won't even let you TALK to someone who's the same sex as you, and sites like eharmony actively discriminate against gays and lesbians. Not to mention a lot of the other sites don't make much room for people who are bi. OkCupid does ask you to identify as male or female, which can be problematic, but there are many people on there who are gay, lesbian, bi, or trans, and they are also open to people seeking polyamorous relationships. Even though I'm not poly, I appreciate that OkCupid doesn't try to pigeonhole and judge people as much as other sites.

Other sites also have their versions of the attractiveness meter, like Lavalife's "party score" that measures how many people click on your picture in a virtual party. So in the grand scheme of things, I don't think OkCupid is that bad, but I will definitely be writing them a message to let them know I don't appreciate being ranked by attractiveness and think the process should stop.

...

I did write them such an email; no response.

I got one, too....

But there's no discernible change in the attractiveness of the profiles OKCupid! suggests for me. It strikes me as nothing more than a ploy to get more people to join by playing on widespread insecurities and needs for validation: in other words, let the news of this policy get out there and loads of people will sign up just to see if they can make it into the top half.

It works better and is more efficient

Okcupid is simply trying to streamline dating in order for you to obtain your best match sooner. This actually works better for both less attractive people as well as those more attractive because the less attractive people don't have to waste their time and effort either rejecting really attractive people out of their league or actually trying to get someone from this field. Let's be honest here, they're already on an online dating site. It means they're having trouble attracting someone in the real world. What's the point in giving them matches that would 99% of the time never happen.

Similarly, I've found that their algorithm does work. I'm now interested in reading profiles that quiver gives me. Call me shallow...or call me normal: your call. I'd call you an idealist...

Maybe and Maybe Not

i have an OkCupid profile (Panty_Buns) and the algorithms seem to be working strangely. The people who check me out aren't finding what they thought they'd find and vice versa. It's kind of fun but a little scary too, even though i'm only in it for pen-pals. i got a couple of pretty hostile sounding comments. Then again i guess my profile does have it's controversial aspects - but why would't the algorithm's point that out and steer people away who didn't like seeing "weirdos"? Hmmmm.. i think they may be trying to maximize interaction.

No one is out of anyone's

No one is out of anyone's league. That's not an idealistic view, it's just the truth. I know plenty of women who think Brad Pitt is ugly. And George Clooney does absolutely nothing for me. For every gorgeous man or woman who is lusted after by the masses, there is a group of people who would classify them as ugly, and more who would call them just average.

Your statement: "Let's be honest here, they're already on an online dating site. It means they're having trouble attracting someone in the real world," doesn't just apply to unattractive people. The so-called attractive ones are using the site, too. So either they're having trouble attracting someone in the "real world" (as if the Internet is an imaginary place full of replicants) too, for whatever reason, or they're looking for something else...friends, casual sex, or validation in the form of stupid emails like OkCupid is sending or countless messages from people they never intend to answer.

This is no different than the clubs that let bouncers decide which people standing on line are hot enough to enter. It's funny how our society rails against discrimination when it's related to race, nationality, gender, sexuality and religion - characteristics that are easy to define and not at all subjective. Yet most of the world has no problem still being openly discriminatory toward those deemed "unattractive," which is completely subjective.

I met my partner on OkCupid,

I met my partner on OkCupid, and I couldn't be happier about that. However, I have several friends on the site. When one of them received the quoted email, she sent it to me right away. I found as offensive as you did.17

Wait, there's a feature

Wait, there's a feature called "Quiver?" How very Harlequin Novel of them. I think Bitch should set up their own OkCupid account--investigative like.

Quiver...

You do know that a quiver is also the equipment used to carry arrows, right? :P

hahahahhaa

hahahahhaa

I'm not on OKCupid, but let

I'm not on OKCupid, but let me just give my well-thought-out analysis of the situation: WHAT THE FUCK.

Indeed, WTF, a very

Indeed, WTF, a very well-though-out analysis and surprisingly accurate.

Also, who are the douchebags that decide if you're attractive? Do you necessarily want to date men/women who are rating women's/men's attractiveness? Because that sounds like something you'd see in a Judd Apatow movie.

it's true!

My husband got that same email. I can see if he's still got a copy.

lol your husband is on

lol your husband is on okcupid? and you know about it?

Polyamory/Open Relationships Exist...

Not all people believe in monogamy. If she is aware of it, they probably are practicing some type of ethical non-monogamy.

http://macktivist.wordpress.com/

Not everyone uses OkCupid

Not everyone uses OkCupid strictly for dating. Many people use it for making new friends.

Curiosity Will Be My Excuse For Investigating

i'm not looking for a date, but curiosity about the OkCupid site, it's "Quiver" feature, and the aforementioned "WTF" factor will be my excuse to investigate by joining (i'm really just looking for comments). i wonder if i'll be considered attractive enough to get the form-letter email?

My partner and I are both on

My partner and I are both on OKCupid, and we're monogamous. He uses it for the quizzes, I use it to try to make new friends.

Ok, this is where you're

Ok, this is where you're wrong. You aren't barred from seeing pretty people as matches just because you are on the bottom part of the scale. It says so in the email:

This new status won't affect your actual match percentages, which are still based purely on your answers and desired match's answers.

Your match percentage is still the deciding factor in whether you're matched or not with someone, but now they're adding the pretty factor (what a thing to say about half your user base, amirite?) into the mix, which will bump some people out, but mostly, if you're a pretty, nerdy girl, you're still going to get ugly nerds in there with the hot ones based on your scores. If you're an ugly nerdy girl, you're going to see more ugly ones, I suppose, but over all, you're still going to get hot nerds mixed in, too.

what?

but why wouldn't they just show you a the same list of people, regardless of how attractive you are rated? if you'll seeing more "attractive people" now, then you must have been seeing fewer "attractive people" before. how does that not seem fucked up?

I think this is just a silly

I think this is just a silly gimmick and doesn't really affect any matching or give privileges. And, regardless of what matches they may send you, it doesn't prevent you from looking or searching or rearranging your matches. Sure, it's offensive in principle but all dating sites have some form of this. I like OKCupid and have met lots of interesting people on there - it's also the most progressive site out there, I think. Unlike eHarmony which consistently sent me "flexible matches" - mostly outside of my geographical requirements but also really, really incompatible people. When I complained they kept suggesting that I should change my profile to be more flexible, particularly around the option of having children. I don't want kids and say so - apparently this makes me unmatchable and I should "compromise".... I haven't heard back from them since my last complaint. I am trying to get my money back. I doubt they ever make those suggestions to men.

Who cares?

I don't see what the big deal is. Most people date people that are of similar attractiveness... and attractiveness is based on subjective opinion. They're trying to automate this... good for them frankly. I've used OKCupid before and I have to go through a bunch of unattractive potentials to get to anyone I find attractive. If they can make that easier, I'm all for it.

OKCupid not so "attractive"

Well if you are simply clicking through people's pictures just to find someone attractive, you aren't really using the website to its full potential. OKCupid deems itself as finding matches based on what the user values and that is according to answers to particular questions. I don't think they questions like "Do you think this person is attractive?"

The point of this post is to point out the fact that a website is trying to regulate levels of attractiveness. But you said it yourself, "attractiveness is based on subjective opinion." And if that's true, then how can an online dating site even attempt to define attractiveness? It's certainly not based on the users' opinions because that information is compiled through a series of "click-thrus."

While it's true that most

While it's true that most people end up with folks of a similar attractive level, these same folks probably wouldn't frame their experiences as such. Moreover, society tends to encourage male identify folks to be a bit more accepting of their looks while discouraging the same in women. That said (Western) Society also does a great job at trying to convince folks that men framed as "average" on TV are in fact "average" in real life, when in MOST cases they are really freaking hot. Examples I would use are men like Ed Harris and Don Cheadle who don't really play the hot leading man on screen, but I'm fairly certain men who look like them (or have similar charisma) are not second bananas and sidekicks. They are the leading men of their communities in terms of desirability.

Since OKC (regardless of what they try to slap together to suggest otherwise) really is about connecting white cisgendered able bodied, conventionally attractive or "hollywood" plain folks together, it's unsurprising they are adhering to some of the tropes about relationships culled from endless viewings of dating shows and romcoms. More importantly, the site is definitely for cis male folk. That gaze is being catered to and they will pretty much do anything in their power to keep those guys there and that means keeping the chicks there. So since they can't lure them there (the stats are like 2 - 1 in favor of males) through joy, they're going try shame (you're hot or you could be hot)

It will not change anything at OKC. 80% of the men will still chase the "top" 20% of the women: 18 - 25 y/o white, thin, cisgendered able bodied (appearing), bisexual, college student who smokes rarely and drinks only sometimes.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

idk

I agree this is a shitty, stupid thing for OKC to do, but I'm also not sweating it that much because it seems pretty damn arbitrary. I first heard about it from a beautiful, platinum blonde, size 2 friend of mine after she received an message identical to the one above. I totally sweated it for a few minutes, because I had not received any such message, and I mean, c'mon, who wants to feel ugly? But see, the thing is, I'm hot. Sure, I'm a size 14 with a partially-shaved head and facial piercings, but I have gotten very positive feedback about my physical appearance my entire life. So in my head I rationalized, "Okay, well OKC is rewarding people who are more traditionally attractive, who are doing a good job of keeping up the gender binary, yadda yadda."

To test my theory, I brought it up with the guy I'm dating right now (who I met on OKC). Now, this guy is really conventionally hot (tall, thin, white, dark hair, blue eyes, square jaw, full lips), to the point where I initially worried he would consider himself out of my league. But much to my amazement, he hasn't been deemed worth of OKC's "MORE ATTRACTIVE USERS" status, either. Do you know who has, though? A nerdy, socially awkward guy friend of mine with a receding hairline, unkempt mutton chops, long fingernails, and generally plain features. He showed me the message in his inbox, ferreals. So there goes my theory, right out the window.

So not only is OKC's new system of segregation totally offensive and dumb, it's also being executed in a pretty strange way. It's cool, though... I still see plenty of hotties in my "uggo user" world!

i think the best part is

i think the best part is where they say go ask an ugly friend and find out. and by best, i mean most annoying.

Bad presentation, for sure

I agree that the way they present it is offensive, but the way that they came to have this feature is actually a reflection of the ways that they are more democratic than most dating sites. OKCupid spends a lot of time exploring the ways that their users use their service, and one of the things they investigated was the relative effectiveness of various types of profile pictures (http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/2010/01/20/the-4-big-myths-of-profile-...).
Yeah, it sucks to talk about, but it's a very real part of online dating. Participation in their "Your Best Face" experiment is voluntary, but I think that there's an argument to be made for doing it. The ostensible goal of participation in a dating site is getting dates, right? Setting aside all the emotional and social anxieties surrounding that, doesn't it make sense to take advantage of information about what works for attracting users on a particular site? I did it, and was surprised by which pictures were popular with other users. If your goal is to have people click through to your profile, there's definitely something to be gained from it.
Full disclosure, I also got one of those emails, and my hotter-than-me husband did not. He's an active user, I hadn't logged in in months. I think the email is just marketing, playing to a common desire to feel attractive. And even when they do things that seem skeevy, there are plenty of ways (covered by other commenters) that OKCupid is still miles ahead of other sites.

What I don't get is that my

What I don't get is that my friend got that email today, and he's a fat, ugly old man. I don't know what that exactly means for their algorithm...

Male identified folks are

Male identified folks are always entitled to the hottest females regardless of how they look! I learned that from TV and OKC. That said, I did find my babbycakes there so I should probably be quiet!

I'm a chubby, brown gal with facial piercings and not exactly the desired demographic there.

OKC is always engaged in some kind of algorithm sanctioned fuckery.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Perfectly acceptable.

Perfectly acceptable. Okcupid is looking at how people really react to each other, not assumptions. On oktrends they go through their data and one of the least surprising things is that people use looks, not well written profiles or developed list of shit you have seen or read, to decide who to message.

http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/2009/11/17/your-looks-and-online-dating/

People are pretty offended by this and lets be honest, it is immaturity that leads this to being offensive. We want it to be like school, where somebody tells us we are special and can do anything in the world if we put our mind to it, but in dating people don't just want the person with inner beauty, they want both inner and outer beauty with advantage going to how you look on the outside. Is it superficial? DUH! Should I, as a less attractive man, be able to deal with this and still find a valuable partner? Again, of course.

The most telling thing here is this "2. The policy reinforces the notion that hot people deserve love and happiness and "ugly" people should just get used to being alone."

OKcupids policy is perhaps the exact opposite of beautyism. This isn't creating an elite user base that deserves more, they are interrupting (specifically int he case of men) the factors that lead to 2/3rds of the male population to message 1/3rd of the women on okc. What the author fails to grasp, and many people fail to grasp who weren't paying attention to okc's blog, it is the population of OKC that has the bad habits, that flip over normal/unattractive persons, that don't read profiles. By segregating, they first cut down on messages to the top percentile of women, and then ENCOURAGE messages to the 2/3rds of women being left behind. If anybody is being patronized it is the Okcupid staff by people who aren't taking time to think about their actions and are simply taking offense to the possibility they may be ugly.

Maybe the author should write a "why I deserve to be handsome/pretty" article instead

Oh hi, that'd be me.

Aaron,

What I think you are suggesting here is that by segregating the most attractive people, OKC is doing the "2/3rds of women left behind" a favor by removing their hotter competition. I find that patronizing and unnecessary. Shouldn't users be in control of who they do and don't correspond with on the site?

Also, what I find particularly offensive about this situation isn't so much that OKC has implemented a looks-based hierarchy on their site (though I don't like that, either), but that they are *keeping it a secret from the bottom 50% of users* and only letting the "more attractive people" know about it. To me, that is most definitely privileging attractive people over those deemed less attractive.

To conclude, I'm not quite sure why you are asking me to write a "Why I deserve to be handsome/pretty" article, though I am assuming it's because you think I'm bitter and ugly (thanks, looks-based hierarchies!).

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

and another thing

Even if Aaron is right and they are actively manipulating their algorithms in the hopes of mixing the matches up a little more... Why do they have to put it in such an immature way? You’re especially hot? Why couldn't they just say popular which is really a more accurate statement anyway since the ratings are supposedly user generated?

How is it patronizing to

How is it patronizing to encourage people connecting with each other? To stop people playing fantasy and have them look at people who are real viable options for a connection? Sure your window gets narrowed, but it isn't like you are destined to fall in love with one person and somehow okc has messed it all up by trying to do something to get people to date.

Another issue I have is that because okcupid decided to recognize that yes, there are differences in "attractiveness", they can see the difference in their data, they can see it in their users browsing habits, they have created a hierarchy. A hierarchy only exists if you believe that a persons attractiveness actually means they are more valuable than another. They haven't done that. They have recognized people don't deal with others they believe are significantly less attractive to them, so now you segregate to increase the chance of people responding to each other.

I mean the site is based on segregation, what do you think a match percentage is? It is a way of breaking down and pairing people. It is a way of refining your options, but now that the refinement reaches a place we are not comfortable for it to go, because we fear being less than someone else, we fear not being beautiful, it has become wrong.

That is what I was getting at with the "why I deserve to be handsome/pretty." I believe the sensitivity has to do with being thought of as ugly, with being thought of as undesirable, and the implications that has in society. So in a sense I see people arguing that they are entitled not to be classified as ugly. I see "beautyism" in the sentiment that segregating attractiveness levels creates an above class and a below class, because the underlying sentiment is that the attractive people are more worthwhile, and at this point i am repeating myself. So what if I can't see this knockout in Berkeley? There are literally hundreds of other options worth my time, and not just my time but anyones time.

and about the secrecy, it is easier to write a "you're pretty" message than a "you're ugly" message.

and thinking you are bitter and ugly? That is too easy an assumption. Don't worry, I am not saying you aren't, but me assuming that would be acting exactly how I am supposed to act, and I like to leave the preconceived narratives to fox.

p.s. you should contact the site owners or a staffer, ask them some qvuestions.

http://www.okcupid.com/profile/MeghanBeres/

I think meghan does PR, not sure.

While your points may be

While your points may be valid, how do you explain the last sentence of email that tells the recipient to go ask an ugly friend? Because even with your weird bell curve logic, that still sounds like they're calling everyone who didn't get that email ugly.

Examples of personality

Examples of personality profiles are: Genghis Khunt (chosen over Brutus the Uterus), manchild, and the playstation. It is their style.

This is a pretty bullshit

This is a pretty bullshit move by OKC, but your criticisms of it are bullshit too.

1. The policy discriminates against those deemed less attractive for whatever reason (bad photo, profile misspelling, etc.). Those in the dreaded bottom 50% presumably do not have access to potential matches in the top 50%, even if they match up in other areas beyond the physical (which, let's remember, is rated based solely on online profile data). OkCupid is segregating the groups, which seems counter-productive to, you know, DATING.

This is just plain incorrect - people in the bottom 50% will be matched up in the same way that they were previously. What has changed is that people in the top 50% will see less people (but not no people) from the bottom 50%.

2. The policy reinforces the notion that hot people deserve love and happiness and "ugly" people should just get used to being alone. For evidence of this, just check out some of the offensive language in that email! For those who have been granted "attractive" status, "Suddenly, the world is your oyster." What the hell kind of world were they in before? Oh, I know, the one where ugly people are barred from seeing pretty people.

Okay, I actually agree with this one. Regardless of the actual changes, their purported rationale for doing it and their way of expressing it to their userbase were both pretty terrible.

3. The policy makes dating decisions on the users' behalf without considering personal preferences. Sure, I learned in my Sociology 101 class that people typically end up partnering with other similarly-attractive people; I'd bet many of you have read the same. However, we've all got different preferences when it comes to physical attractiveness, and just because someone hasn't gotten as many click-thrus as someone else doesn't mean that users won't find that person attractive. It's patronizing to think that OkCupid would decide who's hot and who's not, especially when hotness is completely subjective.

I don't know if you can opt out of this. If you can't, that's a problem, but has anyone actually tried? Just wondering - I use the site, but didn't get the email, so I don't know whether it's an option somewhere in your account. (Perhaps more interestingly, what about people in the bottom 50% who want to opt in?)

As for it supposedly being patronizing that OKCupid decides hotness... you realize that users of OKCupid decide the hotness measures they're using, right? Employees aren't tossing you into one half or the other based on what they personally feel about your profile. Their users more or less agree about what's hot and what's not, and the real problem isn't that they're offering a "collective wisdom" assessment of attractiveness but that they're doing it in the wrong way.

Let me point out that there are profile questions that are effectively math or logic tests. Where's the post arguing that this discriminates against people with learning disorders? What about the ability to search by race, or whether someone lists that they're looking for casual sex on their profile, or whether they use drugs or alcohol?

(All of this before you actually look at their profile, or even a link to their profile!)

If you want to let people express their horrible, awful preferences in partners then - what a surprise - this ends up requiring horrible, awful filtering options. But people have those preferences, and trying to act like online dating was in any way egalitarian before this move ignores that totally.

4. The policy is kept secret (unless you're attractive!). When you sign up for an OkCupid account, you are not tipped off to this segregating policy in any way, shape, or form. Here is what they DO tell people about their matching process:

OkCupid is the fastest growing FREE online dating site. Our advanced matching system is based on you, and what you find important.

Did you think about the implications of what you cited? It's based on you - your opinions, your beliefs, whatever. But that applies to everyone else on the site, too. Depending on what you consider part of the "matching system", it also was based on how often you responded to people or how often people contacted you - that's someone's "you" interacting with your "you". Now it's based on your appearance, too, which is the same: a large amount of other "you"s rating your "you". This doesn't conflict with their promotional materials or TOS at all.

Why limit the number of potential matches people can get? Because pretty people can't have their pretty eyes scarred by regular people?

It actually doesn't limit the number of potential matches. It just makes it more likely that, if you're rated as attractive, you'll run across other people rated as attractive. (But you'll still run across people rated as unattractive, and given enough time, you'll still eventually run across everyone on the site.)

So in closing I think the way you're framing this is really silly. This move is problematic, but not at all for some of the reasons you're claiming it is.

To be honest, though? I have a strong suspicion that this email wasn't actually sent to 50% of their userbase, but to a much more limited subset as a form of social experiment or test. (Maybe a test of broader "automatic" nudging/filtering - right now, you have to explicitly say "I want other white people". Maybe they want to know if people can get over the "evilness" factor of making that automatic, if it helps them find better matches.) I'm kind of expecting them to reveal it some time in the next few months, actually.

"I don't know if you can opt

"I don't know if you can opt out of this. If you can't, that's a problem, but has anyone actually tried? "

Yes. I emailed them and asked them to put me back with the uglies, and they didn't respond.

Come on this is just a stupid marketing gimmick

I use OKC and have always loved it. I met the woman of my dreams there and we've been together happily for 4 years.

I got this email to and have to say I don't consider myself the most attractive guy (although I wouldn't go so far as putting myself in the bottom 50%). But I instantly felt like it was a marketing gimmick to get my to log on and browse my matches more, especially since it had been a few days since I'd last logged in. This seems totally reasonable because the way they make money is off of ads. Also, just like others have noted, I never saw any change to the actual matches I saw.

Is it stupid and offensive? Yes.
Is it for real? I think not.

I'm a user, and this is stupid but almost certainly fake.

I rarely use OKC anymore, as I have a partner, but I have found it to be miles above the other free dating sites on the internet. I experimentally tried over 20, and ALL of the others were entirely user-unfriendly, spam-o-riffic, and/or demanding of money in order to "upgrade" to even the most basic networking functions. As a bonus, OKC is very queer-friendly.

I've received that email too, and I have to say...I'm nearly certain that it's not real. First of all, my notice arrived after I hadn't signed on in a long time, so I'm betting part of it is an attempt to increase traffic, especially since it was during a time I was listed as in a relationship and getting fewer views. Since the alleged system is basically based on getting *more* views than most users, wouldn't I have gotten the email at a different time if this were legitimate?

After getting the notice, absolutely NOTHING seemed to change. It showed me the exact same number of matches as before, so rest assured that whatever is going on, it's not actually hiding people from one another. If there's a change, it can only be in the potential matches that randomly pop up on your home page -- although, again, I *haven't* noticed a difference in their attractiveness; whether that's because there's not one or because of my own taste, I can't say.

Another thing: the entire notion of "the scales tipping" to indicate your attractiveness is BS in the first place, since what they're measuring is click-throughs. That number could be indicative of any number of things about your profile, and logically, whether or not you are single is the biggest contributing factor to your number of views.

The OKC guys (and yes, they seem to mostly, if not all, be guys) have a history of "punking" their users, including an April Fools joke in which they pretended to demand blood samples just to see how many would think it was true. I wouldn't be surprised if this gimmick was orchestrated not just to increase traffic from less active users, but to see if it would attract protest, or even media attention.

So it's almost surely not real, but that said...the way the probable joke has been set up is offensive, for all of the reasons you've covered. A jerky hoax is still jerky.

Yep.

I just want to say that your comment is exactly what I wanted to say about this.

I received the email today, and after seeing this post I am sure it's a hoax. When I signed up recently I thought OKC was relatively cool because it is free and queer-friendly. I've even made a several new real-life friends through it. However, I have been inactive lately as well. I was insulted that they assume their users are so incredibly vain that convincing us we have special privileges for attractiveness would make us log in more often. I don't know, maybe they're just trying to create a buzz about it and get free publicity like this article?

You're special

I think you are reading too much into this. How many grandparents have several "favorites"? Just don't tell the others. It's our secret.

I agree with other

I agree with other commenters that this post paints with a really, really broad brush. Granted, the tone of the email was really off-puttingly snotty and terrible (I didn't receive it, but many of my friends did) but it sounds like you just take issue with the idea that a dating site is talking about attractiveness at all. Now, I wish they had communicated a little bit more clearly in their e-mail how exactly they are defining attractiveness, but I also wish you'd done even a tiny amount of digging to figure out what they're talking about. Here's a little bit about how OkC assesses attractiveness. As others have pointed out, it's nothing to do with some standard the authors of the site have concocted; it's to do with what users, in their use patterns on the site, have communicated:

http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/2009/11/17/your-looks-and-online-dating/

Moreover, the thing referenced in the e-mail, is either a non-existent change, a marketing gimmick, or a new tool based on an algorithm they devised from the above information. It's not a policy.

I like OKCupid and met my

I like OKCupid and met my wife on there. But I've had a few friends who got killed using the site so who knows :s

A couple of points

"2. The policy reinforces the notion that hot people deserve love and happiness and "ugly" people should just get used to being alone."

It seems your implying that "love and happiness" is equivalent to your significant other being hot. Do explain.

"It's patronizing to think that OkCupid would decide who's hot and who's not, especially when hotness is completely subjective."

I've seen this feature at work. OK Cupid is not deciding--users are deciding. Users who opt-in have their photos shown side-by-side with other OK Cupid users. Those users choose which they prefer. After a enough people answer, OK Cupid draws a conclusion based on that. Also, which photo the user chooses may not just be based on physical attractiveness--a user might choose your photo if you're playing a guitar or they like your taste in eyewear.

An attractive person's opinion

As an attractive person, I have to tell all the ugly people complaining about this to go suck it. Hot people rule!

Is this a serious comment?

Is this a serious comment? Because this is a serious issue. And this is why women are still oppressed.

It's A Great Idea...

....if you believe that people of relatively similar attractiveness are a better match.

There is at least some evidence for this claim: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matching_hypothesis

OKCupid attractive bias

The email is real. I got one. I've been trying to figure out WTF this could even really mean since I got it. Also I do think this is a horrible idea from which they are going to catch a bunch of flack.

However, I also have to say that I haven't actually noticed ANY difference in terms of what they are showing me on my home page (which is what this would affect. It won't change match searches) AND one big mistake I think people are making is to assume that it is about PHYSICAL attractiveness. If they are using Quiver and Quickmatch to make these determinations then it isn't just a matter of what you look like. It is also what you say in your profile. So you could be ugly as Cyrano, but if you also wrote like him you might well still be in the top half. What this really means is they are encouraging you to create a profile good enough to get lots of clicks and then you will be shown more to the other hot people. That isn't really egalitarian and I don't really like it, but I can see why they are doing it. It is a pity they aren't as good at PR as they are at math.

pretty sure this email is

pretty sure this email is going to be given to all okcupid users eventually. deliveries are probably just staggered. good job on the indignant overreacting whinefest, though.

OkCupid sent me that "you're

OkCupid sent me that "you're attractive!" e-mail a few years ago.
I was confused and surprised that they'd create a secret club based on superficial ideas. The staff of OkCupid always seemed so proud of their rationality and positive personality matching system. I'm not sure why they would want to do something so middle-school mean.

just marketing

It appears that the letters go out in waves, and started about a month ago. Eventually, every user will get one, including the users who don't even have a real picture of themselves posted. It has generated a lot of chatter. Good for OKCupid. Nothing nefarious about it...they're playing with you. Though, I suppose you could think of yourself as a rat in a cage....they are likely watching to see what kind of response it gets.

Not Ok

I have to say, I just received this email and I've been a member for about 4 or 5 years. I had no idea I was being filtered differently than others. And what changed? Could be that it's completely arbitrary like others have suggested. Or maybe as my friend suggested, it's just a matter of how many people rate you with 4 or 5 stars in quickmatch or profile views only. However, that being said, I looked at my matches and very similar people (if not the same) were showing up, so I don't see the difference.

I found the email incredibly offensive and said repeatedly 'wtf' over and over as I read it. Really, OKC? For being progressive, you're sure fostering stupid stereotypes.

I tend to like geeky, dorky boys, so my idea of 'hot' is not your idea of hot. I'm pretty sure of it. I'm of the opinion that we should be able to pick our own levels of hotness (ie, how much we find someone attractive) of our potential dates ourselves..... but I Guess when advertising dollars are the key driving force, anything made 'easier' is likely a bad thing. I guess we'll see if "different" people contact me than have before.

Guh, just guh!

Really?

Well I do think we need to be careful not to fall into the trap that 'attractive' always pertains to physical beauty. That said, the line "Go ask an ugly friend and see." pretty much shows how OkCupid defines the word.

Interesting...

I think the point several of you have made that this might indeed be a marketing ploy or even just a joke is really interesting–you're probably right! I haven't used OKC in a long time and I forgot about their capabilities as pranksters/social experimenters. Of course, conducting an experiment like this one is still unethical on many levels, but unfortunately I'm not shocked that they're doing it anyway.

That being said, several commenters here have taken issue with my tone (that I'm framing this as "silly" or "bullshit" or that I'm "indignant") and I want to reiterate that this post comes from my opinions about the email send by OkCupid and the way it was worded. (Also that tone arguments are subtle derailers and should be kept out of the conversation whenever possible.) Yes, many of you are correct that attractiveness doesn't just mean physical appearance, but in this case OKC is most definitely using the word to refer to looks. The same goes for the commenters who say that I myself am being "beautyist" by claiming that pretty people are more valuable than ugly people: I am not saying this. OkCupid is saying this in their email (by referring to attractiveness as an "elite" status, saying "suddenly, the world is your oyster," telling you to ask "an ugly friend," etc.). Again, not me, OkCupid.

Just to reiterate, I understand that OKC is a dating site, and that people often behave shallowly on dating sites. However, that shallowness happens organically and, IMHO, doesn't need to be helped along by the organization running the site. Let people see whatever matches they'd normally see and leave the attractiveness-gauging to individuals–I'm sure they can manage it. There's no need to establish an "elite group" (and keep that group somewhat secret from users) to get the job done.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

eHarmony also sexist

Much has already been said, but I'd like to add that apparently eHarmony has its own sexist policy beyond its homophobia: It refuses to match women to younger men, only men the same age or older. So says a friend who dropped out of it in part for this reason (I met my husband on Match.com back in 1998, when internet dating was something you pretended you didn't do).

I can't figure out why eHarmony would do that. Beyond perhaps disapproving of "cougarism" (which is a silly prejudice), it seems to reinforce sex role ideas: in a couple, the man should be older, or at least, not younger. (I don't know their policy on alleged hotness...).

For Friends, Penpals Weird Intrusive Loaded Questions Asked

i was curious enough, after reading this article, to join and check it out for myself. i'm listed as looking for friends and long-distance pen pals. Have you checked out the questions they ask? There's a lot of them ranging from loaded questions with false premises, to I.Q. testing, to the most intrusive questions imaginable. Some of those loaded questions do seem to push a limited range of points of view that certainly don't apply to me. i just skipped them, answered none publicly, but now have enough for a "Quiver", whatever that is. The wording of some of the statements and questions can be a bit bizarre. i wonder how much of this stuff is the site's content is the site's owners exercising "their capabilities as jokesters/pranksters". Humor does seem to be a component. Do you suspect that there is a temptation for profit through datamining involved with the accumulation of this (sometimes bizarre) info? i may check in again after some more research.

Many, if not most, of the

Many, if not most, of the questions are written by members. In fact they encourage you to write your own question when you fill out your profile -- your profile cannot get to 100% complete unless you write a question which is then used, randomly, with those written by others. Some people have "writers block" and can't think of a question so they write something silly; others take it more seriously and try to write something that would be important to them personally. I should add that you can skip any of the questions you like and just answer ones that you think are valid.

Not only can you skip the

Not only can you skip the questions you dislike, you can answer them and then write an explanation underneath for why you dislike it. Read more.

sigh

When users vote, they see the whole profile, so there's nothing suggesting that the ugliness of the bottom 50% is strictly physical. Plenty of people get lowrated because their profile opens with NO FAT CHICKS.

And as a result of their own downrating "fat chicks"...

they get to see more of them. Poetic, innit?

Being a fat guy who met my delightfully curvy girlfriend on okc almost three years ago and received that world-is-my-oyster email, I haven't really noticed that my matches are any different. It does show me more and different (and mostly monogamous, childed or only weakly literate and therefore unsuitable) people in the places such as the "You might like" section, where the site doesn't take much if any obvious account of match quality.

Just to reiterate, I

Just to reiterate, I understand that OKC is a dating site, and that people often behave shallowly on dating sites. However, that shallowness happens organically and, IMHO, doesn't need to be helped along by the organization running the site. Let people see whatever matches they'd normally see and leave the attractiveness-gauging to individuals–I'm sure they can manage it. There's no need to establish an "elite group" (and keep that group somewhat secret from users) to get the job done.

Co-sign. I mean even if it is a joke - one that's not funny - I don't see how it can be dismissed. The whole concept is offensive and given that for some folks, online dating is really their only viable option (esp. for rural living folks. Hi, my state has 600k people, many of whom are partnered, under 18, not seeking partnerships, my doctor/supervisor/pharmacist/therapist or in some other way inappropriate as mates) if they want to find suitable mates, it would be nice if the free sites weren't actively encouraging hateful, sexist behavior they've previous sought to use pie charts to demonstrate doesn't exist.

For those of us who might have to outsource our loving, we ought to be able to do so minus overt fuckery.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

CALM DOWN

Ffs, it's a DATING site. And there ARE ugly people in the world. Physical attractiveness is somewhat subjective, but it's almost NEVER going to be politically correct.

And it's user voted anyway!

This is exactly why I don't subscribe to Bitch. =( Sometimes 2/3 of it is just reactionary crap like this that I can’t STAND and don’t agree with. And I say this NOT as a “not a feminist but” type person, but as someone who reads feminist blogs ALL DAY and identifies strongly as a queer sex radical feminist.

UGGGGGH.

For someone who claims to

For someone who claims to read feminist blogs all day long, you seem rather unfamiliar with the concept of a tone argument.

Uh? I actually am pretty

Uh? I actually am pretty familiar with the concept, but I'm not following your use here.

If you're saying that me calling this "Reactionary crap" is me missing the point of her Infallible Feminist Ire, I find that really idiotic. Sometimes people get angry for stupid reasons; the idea of physical attraction being a dating crtierion is one of them.

Tone argument with a side of

Tone argument with a side of Moff's Law. Wow, you do read feminists blogs all day. You've certainly catered your derailments to ones especially loathed around these parts.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Righteous Indignation FTW

As some other people have mentioned, I don't think the author or a lot of those commenting really understand what OkCupid is all about.

It's one of the most (if not the most) progressive large dating sites in the USA, and I really really really don't think they are as misogynist or piggish as people are suggesting.

Yes, they like to be edgy and are irreverant at times - but actually a lot less than they used to be, IMHO. For example, they used to call the list of people that had viewed your profile "Stalkers" - lots of users (including many women) LOVED that, and bitterly complained when they dumbed-it down and changed the term to "Viewers".

As for the woman who claims she is not very desirable there because she's "chubby, brown and pierced" - I wouldn't be so sure. I'd be willing to bet serious money that you would get a much better reception from OkCupid's userbase than that on eHarmony, match.com, yahoo personals or most of the other major dating sites.

As for the "attractive" email itself - judging from past experience, I think it's probably mostly just a gag. I'll go out on a limb and guess that they hoped it would generate some buzz - and this article seems to be proof enough of that. :P

.

All this e-mail did was

All this e-mail did was remind me to update my four-year-old photo.

It also inspired me to take my new photo with my finger a knuckle deep up into my nose and put Comic Sans text on it thanking OKC users for voting me sexy. And - assuming this isn't just a stunt - since I'm more attractive, my finger-up-nose photo will be on other "attractive" people's matches.

Comic Sans???? TEH

Comic Sans???? TEH GROSS!!!!!!

it's spam

It's spam they sent out to everybody - or will. I just did a quick search on "the top half of OkCupid's most attractive users." at OKCupid and based on the photos of those who received the email, I seriously doubt they were rated as good-looking. By anybody.

Sexism is rampant on OKCupid - but it's the users - all the men who fully expect they're going to hook up with younger women:

http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/page/4/

This is why I usually come away from dating sites with a good strong hatred of men.

This may have already been

This may have already been mentioned, but the obvious discrimination aside, is this attractiveness feature really a measure of anything more than how well a person can take a picture? I admit I'm an OkCupid user and didn't receive the letter, so this may just be a refection of a bit of an ego bruise but a lot of users put up pictures that don't really portray how they actually look. I know if I got the right angle or lighting or whatever I could look much more conventionally attractive than I actually do, and it's pretty obvious that a lot of users do. Personally I want to look good, but I also want to be realistic.

And yeah it killed me when I realized OkCupid would do something like this. But I think it's partly their "anything goes" attitude which also led to their open mindedness that we all seem to appreciate. So while I don't agree with this attractiveness feature and I'm really glad Bitch addressed it, I still plan to use it for the lighthearted dating site it is.

By the way, one other thing that irks me on OkCupid is the questions feature, which I know all are user-submitted, but I hate when I get really hetero-normative ones, like "would you ever date someone who has had homosexual relations in the past?"

I actually like the

I actually like the heteronormative questions, because I can use them to filter out people with views I consider repugnant, and that's valuable. For that question, I'd answer yes, and ratchet the match importance up to mandatory, and voila- never get matched with anyone who answers 'no.'

I can see how it'd be useful

I can see how it'd be useful if you're including members of the opposite sex in your search, but those kind of questions are pretty useless and annoying when you're looking for those of the same sex anyway.

I'm one of the dubious

I'm one of the dubious members of teh hawt brigade, although I've noticed absolutely no change in how the site functions for me or its overall effectiveness at meeting people (I'm male, though, which I hear is a substantial handicap). In fact, given my overall lack of success on the site, I was sort of shocked to have received that email.

I don't know if they think they're helping people by "saving" them the trouble of contacting/being contacted by people outside of their beauty caste.

yes...ok cupid really does suck!!!!!!!

They are a bunch of scumdog yuppie posers in NYC. I live in nyc. I may pay them a visit!!!!

I have noticed a significant

I have noticed a significant drop off in the physical quality of the matches OkCupid suggests for me. And I didn't get this beautiful people email. I guess I lose.