Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Men over 35 are social pariahs on Craigslist, Grindr and other sites

Because of a good-natured disagreement with a friend, I've done some research on attitudes about bi and gay guys' age limits when it comes to connecting with other men on-line.  The results are somewhat surprising, as you'll see below.

Middle Man, the author of New Day, New Life, threw the age gauntlet down, so to speak, when he said:
"I've read through enough profiles and CL ads to safely say that in this area [Chicago] men over 35 are considered social pariahs in the online gay dating world. ... I might as well be invisible. Filtered out from their searches, if you will. And I'm not looking at guys under 30 either. ...  Believe me it's not in my head and I'm not seeing things."
This seemed like a silly statement to me so I responded:
"Do some research and get that 35 number out of your head. The real 'age cliffs' are 40, 45 and 50. Go on any gay dating site that shows age limits and tally the cut-off ages that guys list. 40 will top the list for guys between 26 and 40. 45 will top the list for guys between 35 and 48. Being in your thirties is THE prime age because, except for a portion of guys in their 20s, everyone wants you."
Unconvinced, Middle Man replied:
"Your assumptions are based on San Francisco men which I find to be more open than the guys here [Chicago] so you are correct about your cutoffs, but the same is definitely not true here. And for some reason, guys in warmer climates seem to age better even though they are exposed to UV rays more often. It must be the vitamin D, or is it E."
To settle our disagreement, I decided to do some research using Match.com.  Why Match?  Two reasons.  First, unlike hook-up sites Grindr, Manhunt and Adam4Adam, I believe guys on Match are more honest about their real age.  Because I wanted to know what a typical 35 year old's attitude is, I needed some confidence that I was counting the opinions of actual 35 year olds.  Second, Match shows 10 profile summaries per page, with age limits listed in each summary.  That makes it very easy to tabulate results.

Middle Man might argue that 35yo guys on Grindr are more strict about sticking to age limits than guys on Match, but I don't buy that.  If anything, I'd say the opposite.  For hook-ups, what matters most is looks.  Plenty of younger guys are happy to fool around with much older guys, provided their look appeals to them.  But when it comes to a possible relationship, younger guys are not nearly as flexible.  So, if anything, data from Match is biased in favor of Middle Man's opinions and against mine.

My sample size was 800 profiles of guys in the Chicago area.  I scored results by each year of age and then put them together into four groups of 200 profiles each, ages 26 - 29, 30 - 34, 35 - 39 and 40 - 44.  Here's what I found:

Guys 26 - 29
88% would consider dating someone up to 31
74% would consider dating someone up to 35
38% would consider dating someone up to 36 (-36% when turning 36)
25% would consider dating someone up to 40
16% would consider dating someone up to 41 (-9% when turning 41)
13% would consider dating someone up to 45
6% would consider dating someone up to 46 (-7% when turning 46)

Guys 30 - 34
96% would consider dating someone up to 35
65% would consider dating someone up to 36 (-31% when turning 36)
55% would consider dating someone up to 40
32% would consider dating someone up to 41 (-13% when turning 41)
25% would consider dating someone up to 45
11% would consider dating someone to to 46 (-14% when turning 46)
9% would consider dating someone up to 50
2% would consider dating someone 51+

Guys 35 - 39
97% would consider dating someone up to 35
90% would consider dating someone up to 36 (-7% when turning 36)
82% would consider dating someone up to 40
59% would consider dating someone up to 41 (-23% when turning 41)
47% would consider dating someone up to 45
21% would consider dating someone to to 46 (-26% when turning 46)
14% would consider dating someone up to 50
7% would consider dating someone 51+

Guys 40 - 44
99% would consider dating someone up to 35
94% would consider dating someone up to 40
88% would consider dating someone up to 41 (-6% when turning 41)
80% would consider dating someone up to 45
57% would consider dating someone to to 46 (-23% when turning 46)
40% would consider dating someone up to 50
20% would consider dating someone up to 51 (-20% when turning 51)
14% would consider dating someone up to 55
7% would consider dating someone 56+

I told Middle Man that the biggest 'age cliff' for guys 26 - 40 was 40.  I was wrong.  40 is the biggest age cliff for guys 29 - 40.  A majority of guys who are 26-28 draw the line at 35.

Middle Man claimed that men over 35 are considered "social pariahs" by guys 30 - 40.  He was wrong.  Nearly 80% of men in that age range would date someone 36 or older.  But that drops to 45% at 41 and 16% at 46.

Middle Man also claimed that San Francisco was very different from Chicago.  He was mostly wrong, but not entirely.  I checked only one sub-set of data, the 35- 39 age group, and within that group, San Franciscans were 10% more likely to date a 41yo or a 46yo compared to Chicago guys.  That makes a difference, but not a dramatic one.

One thing you should notice about these numbers is how "ageism" increases with, well, age.  88% of the youngest men would date someone 2 - 5 years older, but that number quickly drops to 65% for guys in their early 30s, then 58% for guys in their later 30s and early 40s.  My guess is that the number keeps dropping as men continue to age.  This phenomenon annoys me.  Basically, more and more men become convinced that they're "better" than their near-peers.  If a majority of older guys feel that way, and if very few younger men are interested in older men, what chance for success does a man over 51 have?  Not zero, but the odds are heavily stacked against him.

Finding proof of ageism wasn't a shock, but what was surprising was that turning 40 or 41 is not that big of a deal, relatively speaking.  More guys 34 - 38 chose 45 as their upper age limit than they did 40.  Guys 39 - 43 also chose 45 as their upper age limit (vs 50) by 70% to 30%.

This is great news if you're between the ages of 41 and 45.  If that's you, then I suggest you take advantage of your relative youth while you can, because the bad news is that turning 46 IS a major milestone.  In fact, it's the death drop of gay aging.  Only 16% of guys who are under 40 would consider dating a 46 year old and only 35% of 40 year olds would.  The difference between 45 and 46 is so brutal that a 45yo has a 50/50 chance of a 36 year old being willing to date him, but a 46 doesn't get those same odds until the prospect is 41.  This means that turning 46 ages you 6 years, not the usual one.  It also means that the dating pool of younger men for a 46yo is HALF the size as that for a 45yo.  Wow.  Does is suck to turn 46 or what?

Back to the disagreement between Middle Man and me.  Let me settle it by saying he is 38 and I'm 46.  Which one of us should be bitchin' about being invisible? 


  1. I agree with your anaysis! Statistics don't lie! I just turned 50 so I should just send myself out to the glue factory right now!!

    I have noticed the same thing just with a casual look at pof.com profiles. The majority of guys in their mid-40s, no matter how unappealing (short, overweight, dead end and low-paying job) list "younger" as their requirement. Why would some hot young dude even consider them?

    1. "Why would some hot young dude even consider them? "

      Good question! One thing I noticed in both Chicago and San Francisco was that most of the guys who only wanted to date someone younger were relatively unattractive. At first I thought it was a fluke, but it turned out to be a surprisingly consistent phenomenon. Even the guys in their early 30s were unattractive. I don't know if all these hyper-selective guys are delusional or incredibly charming in person. My guess is that if most of them are going to die alone.

  2. Thanks for the data. Very Interesting and enlightening. As a 47yo, I guess I'm about to be sent to the glue factory along with Buddy Bear. It's either that or lie like a dog or rather most bi/gay men;-)


    1. In SF, I saw a couple of guys on Match who I recognized from Grindr. On Match, they listed an older age, probably the truth. On Grindr they said they were 4 - 8 years younger. So, if you plan to lie like a dog on hook-up sites, you'll have plenty of company.

  3. "Cameron":

    This is your friend from across the bridge. Stop doing the quantitative analysis they tought you in your M.B.A. program and get out there and date!

    1. Ugh, dating...I'll get around to that eventually.

      Quantitative analysis is far less likely to lead to disappointment or heartbreak.

  4. Wow, this is impressive statistical analysis for an English major.

    I agree with your conclusion. It gets more and more difficult as you get older. It's so unfortunate that all these 40 and 50-something guys are all looking for younger, and are not interested in each other.

    1. It is unfortunate, but I've decided they're doing their peers a kindness. Based on appearances, most of these guys have delusions of grandeur. I know I'd rather not date anyone that delusional, how about you?

  5. i'm more in the group where i would only care about looks/physical attraction for a hookup and age doesn't necessarily matter. i've had several regular fuck buddies who have been in their 40s. would i want my "one" to be 20 years older than me? no, i'd rather settle down with someone closer to my age. my age cut off would ideally be 10 years, but you never know when love strikes and i don't actively filter older guys out (but maybe i should).

    while i'm only in my 20s and probably have no business making any comments, i am kinda paranoid that i need to find someone quick because of this 'ageism' in gay dating.

    1. Your thirties are prime. You're still in the warm-up phase. Don't worry, be happy!

  6. You sure do have plenty of time on your hands to be doing all this analysis. Thanks for putting all this together to prove me wrong. In any case, if it's not my age, then it has to be something else that is considered undesirable. And I think I know what that other factor can be, but I'm kinda done talking about it. However, if you can somehow prepare an analysis on that other factor, please be my guest.

    As for me, I am just trying to understand why guys in my age range (33-43 or so) are not interested in guys their own age.

    1. You drive me crazy. Yes, I did hope to prove you wrong, but that wasn't the point. The point is that you should be much more upbeat about your prospects. Negative thinking is unlikely to yield positive results.

      I wish I had the data to calculate how often guys of different ages get ignored. I'm sure the older you are, the more often it happens. That's to be expected. But based on how often a number of 20-something bloggers have said they've been ignored, I suspect that only the hottest guys have a high reply rate. Everyone else, regardless of age, mostly gets ignored.

      Your less-than-prefect experience is far more than rule than the exception.

  7. What this analysis said is that finding a partner tends to be harder as you get older. But statistics are just the numbers.

    All you need is just one guy who loves you - why care about the other 88% who are not interested in you?

    Btw, I just discover your blog. I love reading about your story!

    1. Hey Matt! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I totally agree with you - why care about someone who is not interested in you? The only relationship worth having is the one where you're loved for who you are.

      It appears that MiddleMan is destined to have his heart broken a few times before he understands that.

      Thanks again for saying hello.

  8. I guess I just turned 43.... AGAIN!!!!!! Great discussion.

  9. Nicely done! I'm 49 and recently joined JackD (similar to GrindR) and was delighted to find a feature called 'Insight'. This feature allows you to see statistics on anybody's profile of how often they respond to messages and to who. These stats are broken down by age, body type, and race. Very enlightening thing to see indeed! For instance, I'd come across several familiar profiles of guys my age who I found to be as fit and attractive as I believe I am. Each of these dudes profiles say they are willing to date up to their stated age but the data included in their stats proves otherwise. Nabbing a 20-35 year old for sex is not that hard in middle age..but if you are wanting any serious relationship the pool of available men is very small. This is especially true for forty-somethings seeking forty-somethings. Sad but true. Thanks for doing this analysis.