Dataclysm: Summary & Review

dataclysm cover

Dataclysm (2014) is a data-driven analysis of sexual marketplace dynamics, genders’ sexual market value, and the variance of individuals’ sexual preferences.
Christian Rudder, the author, shares interesting insights that can help readers increase their mating intelligence, and become better and more strategic daters.

About the Author:  

Christian Rudder graduated from Harvard in 1998 with a degree in math. He is the co-founder and former president of the dating site OkCupid, where he authored the OkTrends blog.

1. Women Are More Demanding & Rate Most Men As “Below Average”

It’s fashionable these days to say that men’s expectations are ruined by all the images of models, fake boobs, and photoshopped starlets.

In truth, it’s women who are far more demanding when rating the opposite sex.

A chart should say it all:

perception of male attractiveness vs female attractiveness chart
Women are far pickier than men and assess most men as “below average”

Says Rudder:

Only one guy in six is “above average” in an absolute sense. Sex appeal isn’t something commonly quantified like this, so let me put it in a more familiar context: translate this plot to IQ, and you have a world where the women think 58 percent of men are brain-damaged.

Damn some next-level female hypergamy there :).

And before you think that’s normal because only less good-looking men join OKCupid, that is probably not the case, since the author tested random samples of OKCupid users against random social network users.

2. Men Like Younger Women – Albeit Sometimes They Lie to Themselves

sexual market value by age
That dotted diagonal is the “age parity” line

The author says that a man’s sex appeal progresses and seems to reach the limit at around 40.

The author describes the progression in even better terms for a 20-years old guy who’s starting to date as an adult (redacted for brevity):

If you track the whole lot over time, the main way he’ll lose options from that set is when some of them just stop being single (…) his total “interested’’ pool actually gain women. As he gets older, and presumably richer and more successful, those qualities draw younger women in. His age doesnt hurt him. As he and the women in his pool mature, the ones who are still available will find him as desirable an option as they did when they were all twenty

But for women, age is a much bigger factor.
Women are at their best in their younger twenties, and never budge.
The author says that “women over the age of 35 might as well not exist”.

And describing women’s reality:

If you could do the same thing for a typical woman at twenty, you’d get a different story. Over the years, she, too, would lose men from her pool to things like marriage, but she would also lose options to time itself—as the years passed, fewer and fewer of the remaining single men would find her attractive. Her dating pool is like a can with two holes— it drains on the double.

The author says that dating for older men and women gets more challenging because of their different preferences.
But it’s most challenging for women:

Women want men to age with them. And men always head toward youth. A 32 year-old set her age-preference filters at 28 -35. That thirty-five-year-old set his filters to 24 – 40, and yet rarely contact anyone over twenty-nine. Neither finds what they are looking for. You could say they’re like two ships passing in the night (…) But in my mind, I see the women still on solid ground, ashore, just watching them disappear.

3. Quirks Attract: Be A Polarizer (It Might Be Even Better Than Being a “10”)

This extremely interesting phenomenon in brief:

A woman’s overall sex appeal is enhanced when some men find her ugly.

How do you define the quirk and the “woman whom some other men find ugly”?
By variance.

How do you define the quirk and the “woman whom some other men find ugly”?
By variance.

In OkCupid people don’t just say “yes or no”, but can vote with a number from 1 to 5.
So if a woman is an average of a 3, it’s very different if most men rated her around average, or if most men voted her 1 or 5.

Variance is so powerful that, the author says, “it has almost as much to do with the sexual attention a woman gets as her overall attractiveness”.
Such as, the variance of attractiveness is almost as important as overall attractiveness.

Part of the reason is because variance means that some guys will like you a lot, and those “fanboys” will do most of the messaging and chasing.
But it’s more than simply having more top votes, says the author, and there is something more about variance that attracts more attention. He speculates that it’s because people can feel that not many others might like her, so they write even more frequently because they feel like they have a competitive advantage.

4. How Much People Enjoy the Date Is Independent on People’s Looks

When two people meet for a date:

the two people’s looks had almost no effect on whether they had a good time. No matter which person was better-looking or by how much—even in cases where one blind-dater was a knockout and the other rather homely—the percent of people giving the dates a positive rating was constant. Attractiveness didn’t matter.

This is not how users behave online.
Online people still care about looks. It’s just that looks didn’t seem to affect how much people rated their in-person experience.

The author sums it as such:

In short, people appear to be heavily preselecting online for something that, once they sit down in person, doesn’t seem important to them

Politics also mattered little in compatibility in spite people usually rank it very high.

What instead had a surprising predictive power were questions such as “do you like scary movies” and “have you traveled to another country alone”.

5. Race Matters… Quite A Bit

This chart says it all:

sexual market value of difference racial backgrounds
Good to be an asian woman or white man

The author seems to be surprised that race matters:

When I show here that black women and later, black men, get short shrift, and that adding whiteness to a user’s identity makes him or her more attractive, I’m not describing some Ozark fever dream, I’m describing our world, mine and yours.

Frankly, this makes me wonder whether the author wasn’t being fully forthcoming (to himself), or if he’s been living beneath a rock.

People tend to prefer their own race, and women are slighly more “race loyal” than men, with a preference for white men when dating outside their race.

Culture also plays an important role in racial preferences.

In the UK, the site’s black members get 98.9 percent of the messages white members do. In Japan, 97.8 percent. In Canada, 90 percent.
However, the author is not considering here that blacks in UK and in Japan might get a boost for being less common and, thus, the “exotic boost” might also play a role, and not necessarily a lack of racism or racial preferences.

6. Beauty Operates on Richter Scale

There is little difference between a 1 and a 2.
But at the higher end, the difference is bigger. A 9 is intense, but a 10 can rupture the world.

7. Beauty Matters… But Exponentially More For Men

Men and women also experience beauty very differently, with men generally more “smitten” by female beauty.

the importance of beauty for sexual attractiveness
Women are the red curve, men are the black curve

Female beauty also works more in contexts outside of dating, with attractive women being sought after in the workplace as if they were on a dating platform.

8. Copy-Paste Is Not As Effective, But Overall Works

The copy-paste strategy underperforms by about 25%.
But measuring by replies received per unit effort, it’s many times more efficient.

9. Big Data Beats W.E.I.R.D Academic Research

Rudder says that much of scientific research might be weaker than most people realize because it’s based on small batches of students -that’s why the replication crisis maybe?-.

Weird stands for white, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic.

But I think Rudder took it a bit too far when he said that research is not generalizable because different places have different moral standards.
There is instead a surprising homogeneity of moral standards among people.

Big Data Will Soon Provide Longitudinal Data

Longitudinal data is data based on research that spans many years, and possibly over a lifetime.

Big (digital) data is increasing its reach as the “birthdate” of the Internet and social networks move farther and farther back.


  • Average gay men don’t have more partners

It’s at the extreme that the stereotype is true: promiscuous gay men have lots more partners than promiscuous heterosexual individuals.
The top 2% of gay men have 28% of the sex.

  • Common friends on social networks are a great predictor of relationship longevity

In the very beginning, the best predictor is “how often the partners visit each other’s profiles”.
Later on it’s the overlap of common friends.

  • National lines might not matter much in culture and attitudes

The author says that around certain topics the biggest difference is whether people live in cities or in urban areas.

For example, we can see a strong divide between urban and rural population when answering the question “should burning the flag be illegal”.

  • Predicting power of big data and AI is only growing

Just from people’s like alone a group of researchers could figure out:

  • gay or straight 88%
  • lesbian or straight 75%
  • Caucasian or African American 95%
  • a man or a woman 93%
  • Democrat or Republican 85%
  • a drug user 65%

Thought personally I didn’t find that very surprising.
Give me a certain number of likes, and I could probably tell you the same with a relatively high degree of accuracy.


  • All numbers are averages of dating apps

Never forget that.
The book doesn’t stress it enough.

People behave differently in real life, and you can always be the exception to any “general rule” or to any “averaged-out behavior”.

  • Some analysis needed more depth, and the author jumped to conclusions

The author seems to suggest “beauty doesn’t matter” when it comes to dating.

He cites data based on the rating people assigned to a romantic date, and the fact that the rating was not strongly correlated to people’s attractiveness rating.

BUT… The post-date rating doesn’t say much about people who kept on dating, had sex, and/or entered into a relationship.

How people evaluated the date on OkCupid tells us little and might even be misleading.
There was not enough insight to make the huge leap the author took.

  • Some overly simplistic “predictions”

The author says that a project that analyzes constitutions and government performance can help emerging countries choose better constitutions.

To me, that’s really simplistic.
First of all, there are only 900 constitutions drafted since 1787. Second, the constitution might probably be such a small detail in determining a country’s prospect that, well… That was quite simplistic.

  • Sometimes feels “politically correct”

The author being surprised or half-shocked that race matters felt a bit disingenuous.

  • Some fluff, opinions, and long unneeded lists

The author says that quirks make people more successful and then says it’s also true for supermodels, like Cindy Crawford doing great when she stopped covering her mole, and Linda Evangelist had “severe hair”.
But that felt like random -and not necessarily correct- observation at best, and poor correlation at worst.

The audio version also listed endless table entries, which I felt was unneeded.

  • Slight (unneeded) bashing of normal science in favor of big data?

The author righteously promotes big data and why can lead to more accurate or new insights.

And he’s totally right.

Yet, at times, it feels like there isn’t enough credit given to academic research.
In my opinion, the author went too far.
And you can quickly confirm that by reading this review: much of the insights of “Dataclysm” only confirm what “standard” science already told us -men like women of reproductive age, some men deny that reality to themselves, women are pickier than men, etc. etc.-


  • Some new great insights

Just one single “pro”, but don’t underestimate: there are some new insights here on dating dynamics that make “Dataclysm” a true gem.


Dataclysm has received some mixed reviews, but I disagree: it’s a great book

Yes, there is some fluff here and there and some personal opinions that diverge from the actual data.
But there is plenty of insight, including some new insights you won’t find in any other dating book.

Maybe it’s not as good and comprehensive as the similar “A Billion Wicked Thoughts“, but I learned a lot from both Rudder’s book, and blog. I’m very glad Christian Rudder has shared all this data with us.
It certainly helped me to make the website and products better.

Check out the:

Or get the book on Amazon.

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