Friday, May 28, 2010

The Threat of Sperm

I recently listened to an episode of Radio Lab, an NPR radio program, about reproductive physiology and how it's evolved in various animal species. It's a fascinating one-hour episode that you can listen to here: If you need convincing, here are some highlights/spoilers:
  • Performing DNA tests on bird eggs from the same nest revealed multiple paternity. As a result, further research into the monogamy of female species was done, and it was found that, in fact, the majority of animals are promiscuous.
  • Not only do male animals have to compete with each other in order to copulate with females, but their sperm within the females also needs to compete with other males' sperm within the females. Thus, many species have evolved in ways to better the chances that their sperm will be the winning sperm in inseminating the females.
  • The penis of a dragonfly is covered in backwards-pointing spires. It brushes and collects remnant sperm within the female during mating. Before ejaculating, the male will pull out, shake off all the other male sperm, then reinsert and ejaculate himself within the female.
  • Mating among ducks occurs as rape. So female ducks have evolved to have very complex vaginas. The longer the male penis in a species of duck, the more complex the female vagina. Their vaginas have off-ramps that lead to dead-ends meant to deflect the males from inseminating them. The main path that leads to the uterine tubes ends in a long, corkscrew-like spiral. Should the male make it through to this main path, the female can contract the spiral to keep the sperm out.
  • Human female bodies store sperm for up to a week until the woman ovulates and can make use of the sperm.
  • There are species in which the males have died out, and the women live on. This episode discusses what it would take for human females to dispense with human males.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Now for Some Good

Following my post on bad messages received on OkCupid, here are examples of good messages, many of which I responded to. Even when the message is good, though, there are plenty of issues that can arise within the men’s profiles. A great profile can counteract a weak message, but that weak message has to be inoffensive enough for me to click through to the profile.

And with that, here is a representative sample of good messages I received, followed by commentary. Note that most end with the person's actual name, which humanizes the online identity behind the message, and all but one reference something I indicate that I like in my profile. The more integrated or indirect the reference, the more successful the message.
subject: Sure.

You're right: the only way to talk is over a drink.

When you say "stinky cheese", are you only thinking of blues? When I was in Amsterdam a few months ago, it was ok that you can walk into a store and buy pot, but what I really liked was that you can walk into a store and buy raw milk Epoisses.

This message grabbed me mainly because of the mention of Epoisses, which is my absolute favorite cheese. Furthermore, it’s an obscure cheese, and he is aware that the sale of raw milk cheeses is heavily restricted in the U.S. These facts tell me that he’s probably somewhat of a foodie, which is a good match for me. He also shows by example, rather than simply stating, that he’s a traveler. This guy turned out to be “The Bone.”
subject: Hello!

Not that I place any real faith in OkCupid's matching system, but finding someone on *any* list here who can carry on an interesting/intelligent conversation has (at least for me) been about as productive as trying to order my lunch by blindly hurling a watermelon at a menu board tacked to the side of a taco truck.
The image conjured of blindly hurling a watermelon at a menu board on a taco truck is too golden to pass up this message.
subject: So, for our fifth date ...

... would you like to join me for a hot chocolate at Bittersweet on Fillmore?

Short and sweet, and it plays on my love for chocolate, which I mention in my OkC profile. (In regards to the subject, my profile states that I hate first dates and that I’d like to pretend that our first date is actually our fifth date.) This gentleman turned out to be “Bitterbore.”
subject: drink me


I moved up to the Mission and there are about a million bars within 5 blocks. Let's go grab a drink some time.

I'll even front you an embarrassing story: when I was 3 I spent all night tying hundreds of ropes all over the kitchen from one side to the other, so no one but little short people like me could weave through the spiderweb. Somehow I flooded the kitchen with two inches of water. My folks found me sitting triumphantly on top of the refrigerator.

Horrible subject line. However, I like that he shares a story up front, which shows a willingness to be open and friendly, and the story is pretty adorable. (My profile also mentions that our "fifth" date should be rife with embarrassing stories.)
subject: 4sq [my name, redacted]

Haha no way, are you the same [my name, redacted] that I keep seeing as mayor of places on 4sq?! Off the top of my head I seem to recall places like Philz and Monks Kettle.

The internets, amazing :)

The internets truly are amazing! It shows some level of insight that he drew a connection between my OkCupid username, my OkC profile, and the places of which I’ve been the FourSquare mayor. All that’s lacking in this message is something actionable, e.g., a question about me or a date request.
subject: Let's insult each other.

PS - Do you respect wood?
The rest of this guy’s message, which I won't waste anyone's time with, is crap. At first glance, the Post Script might also seem crass. However, it is, in fact, a classic Larry David line, and as I mention in my OkC profile, I’m a huge LD fan. It brightened up my day so much just to recollect that episode and to specifically recall LD, in all his glory, asking this question that I overlooked the other crap in this message and clicked through to the guy's profile.

How the Other Half Lives

A lot of men complain that women don’t respond to their messages on OkCupid. I’m going to attempt to explain why that might be the case by showing a representative sample of the messages I received when I was active on the site.

It's important to note that, when I was most active on the site, I was getting an average of seven or more messages a day. (It's hard to be exact because I deleted a lot of messages at the time, so I'm erring on the lower end here.) This doesn't include Instant Messages, Winks, or when people "Favorited" me, which triggers a message. The sheer number of messages I was receiving pushed me to be arbitrarily picky. For example, while in real life, I would date men up to the age of 35, on OkC, my limit was 31 simply in order to pare down the number of men I was talking to. Often, as you'll see, the content of the messages made it easier to filter as well. I tried responding to at least one message every couple of days. During the Arch challenge, I was responding to two or three messages every day.

I’ll limit this post to examples of bad messages that I received, followed by commentary explaining how they went wrong. And remember, while some of these offenses might not seem grave, I was receiving so many messages that even minor issues had to count as dealbreakers as a filtering mechanism. It was a game of numbers. There's a follow-up post to this showing good messages I received.
subject: who killed Gumby

I know you must get a ton of replies so I will keep this brief. I read your profile and I would love to know you better. Please look over my profile and let me know what you think.

A little about me.... I am 40 and I live in San Jose. I am in an open poly marriage. She knows I am writing you. I am 5 ft 9 in, 165 lbs, green eyes, brown hair with some gray on the temples. I have a photo but the site would not let it upload for some reason. I am seeking a lover and friend. I am open to more since I am poly. Please tell me more about you. I am very interested.

"Open poly marriage" was a bit of a shocker given that I didn't mention being open to it in my profile. It's good that he was up front about it, but the specific way in which he brings it up is creepy; specifically, "She knows I'm writing you," the refusal to show a photo, and "I am seeking a lover and friend. I am open to more because I am poly." WHAT MORE?
subject: HI
I am 40 years old but still feel like 30, well most of the time anyway. I like to think that it's because I have always been fit from cycling/racing for the past 25 years and I tend to eat healthy but do enjoy trips to IN&OUT Burger from time to time. If you think that I may be too intense or have a inflated ego because of being a top athlete think again. I have been told by friend and other cyclist some of whom I have coached that they like the way I don't make them feel like less of a rider on or off the bike. I don't have anything to prove, I am just a guy who has been lucky to have faster legs then most at the right time and have a few cool trophies to so for it.
This guy is outside the age preference I expressed by nearly a decade, but don't worry: his feelings-age is within bounds. This message proves that he has the very thing he says he doesn't: an "inflated ego." The entire message is about what an amazing "top athlete" he is. He says he doesn't make his friends and other cyclists feel like "less of a rider on or off the bike" ...because he is a better rider than them, on AND off the bike (what does he mean by riding off the bike??), and he's showing me how humble he is despite his (humbly self-asserted) greatness. Even if I could overlook bad spelling and grammar, given that his whole message is about comparing himself to others, it's a little disappointing that he messed up the word "than." He doesn't mention anything we have in common or why we'd be a good match which makes it seem like a form letter that he sends to all the women he's interested in. In the rest of the message, he doesn't ask me any questions and just says to message him back if I'm interested, as though nothing about me matters. Every last morsel of this is so bad, it leaves me wondering if this guy was trolling me.
subject: Hi There

You seem to be very articulate in expressing yourself.
“Cocky and Funny Comment on your profile”
When complimenting a woman on her personality or intellect, evidence should be supplied. Otherwise, it just sounds like a line, and it makes me think, "You don't even know me!" This could have gone over much better if he had said something like, "I love the way you describe first dates in your profile; very articulate and spot on." Also, I can't tell if he's trying to be clever and funny with this, "Cocky and Funny Comment on your profile" part of his message, or if this is a form letter and he forgot to fill in the part where he's supposed to make a cocky albeit funny observation about my profile. Fail.
subject: hey gurl wanna bone

i luv u porfile so holla at me
This kind of message is very common. I'm neither interested in hooking up with random men from the internet, nor is it at all a turn on to be hit on so crudely. Also, the horrific spelling/grammar/English situation is a dealbreaker on its own.
subject: yes yes

It can be like that. I liked your profile but didn't know what to say right off. I still don't. It can be like that. But I do like stinky cheese -- some of it anyway. I once had this cheese, well, I suppose I can't remember the name due to PTSD. I hope forgetting the name doesn't mean that I'm destined to eat it again unawares. But strong flavors suit me just right.

This guy sounds insecure. He shouldn't be telling me that he doesn't know what to say to me; or perhaps he should tell me why he doesn't know what to say so that I don't immediately jump to the conclusion that he's insecure or intimidated. This comedy act about the cheese is bad on several levels. One, I don't find him funny. Two, his humor was a bait and switch on how we relate. 'We relate on this one thing! Just kidding...we don't.' That seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of how to relate to someone, how to initiate a relationship. If he didn't relate to anything in my profile but still liked it and wanted to chat, he should have expressed why he was drawn in and then shared a little about himself rather than fabricating a connection to the stinky cheese. Three, the cheese story further makes him come off as insecure and weak. He's indirect which makes me wonder if he's confident enough to be direct. He highlights being a little bit forgetful and fretful; even if it is a joke, he's unnecessarily painting a first impression with a flawed brush. At the end, he expands his talk of "stinky cheese" to all "strong" flavors. Since he showed that he doesn't like stinky cheese, is he extending this to say he doesn't like any strong flavors? Is he really alluding to not liking strong personalities? Does he not like strong things because he has a weak constitution? Signing the message "m" also wins him no points. Am I supposed to call him, "m?" He should have either signed the message with his real, full name to humanize himself, or left off a signature altogether. Upon reflection, I wonder if "m" gleaned from my profile that I have a strong personality and messaged me just to let me know that I would give him PTSD.
subject: hi

I am mansour man 37 from Egypt I saw your photo on okcupid and I like you can we talk and chat I am online now my e-mail is


send your e-mail to chat with you please
His grammar is wretched, which is a turn-off for me, though his revelation that he's Egyptian could mean that his proficiency in writing English isn't great. That said, it's easy enough to use an online translator to work around this. Also, revealing his email address right away appears reckless and desperate and escalates the "relationship" far too quickly. Asking for my email address right away shows he isn't thoughtful about my privacy and boundaries.
subject: this american life

Yes, This American Life is pretty awesome!
Yes, This American Life is, indeed, awesome. You know what else is awesome? Examples. Actionable messages. Complexity. He should have mentioned a story he particularly likes from the podcast. He should have also made an actionable comment in his message such as, "Would you like to go out for a drink sometime?" Or, "How did you first get into This American Life?"

Next up, some of the best messages I've received on OkCupid.