Do Men Cheat More? – A Look into Dating Site Demographics

Let me give you some context, first, so you know that I’m a nice young lady who doesn’t regularly go poking about on lewd dating sites at work:

About a week ago, a friend of mine told me about a website, MarriedButLonely.com, whose popularity was on the rise.  He explained that it’s a site where married people go to find partners with whom to cheat on their spouses.  He then wagered a guess that its visitors are almost entirely male.  Naturally I had to go to Compete.com to look it up.

Wouldn’t you know it?  Compete Pro has an industry category for “Dating and Relationship Networking!” The category list includes dozens of dating sites with which I was previously unfamiliar, many of which are key players in the dating industry.   It even includes a few direct competitors to MarriedButLonely.com. Armed with a popularity-ranked list of these sites, and with quick access to demographic information for visitors to each, I ranked the top thirty most popular dating sites by the male share of their visitors.

The first thing to notice in the graph above is that men outnumber women on almost every popular dating site.  The average male share of visitors to these 30 domains, weighted by the number of unique visitors to each, is about 58 percent.  Beyond that, there seems a direct relationship between the male share of a site’s audience and the sexual nature of domain name.  When compared to AffairsClub.com, ChristianMingle.com sounds downright kosher.

To gain a better understanding of the types of dating sites that attract the most men relative to women, I generated word clouds from the about pages on each domain.[1] Below is a word cloud created from the text of the about pages for the bottom ten domains in the graph above (blackpeoplemeet.com à findmelove.com.) I’ll call these “less-male-dominated” sites.  The size of each word reflects the frequency of its usage in the about pages for these sites.  The color has no significance.

[1] Word clouds were produced on wordle.net.  Where an about page wasn’t available, I used the text on the home page.

Next, here is a word cloud generated from the about pages from the top ten domains in the graph above (affairsclub.com à citysex.com.)  I’ll refer to these as “more-male-dominated” sites.

In both word clouds, the word “dating” is prominent, but the less-male-dominated sites mention “singles” and “relationships” more than the sites with larger male shares of their audiences.  “Love” and “community” are also popular words in their descriptions.  Sites in the more-male-dominated group also frequently mention “singles online”, but they also tend to include “adult personals,” “casual sex,” “married,” and “cheating” in their descriptions, as well as adjectives with sexual connotations, like “frisky,” “kinky,” and “saucy.”  Hence, based on a preliminary look at these word clouds, it can be inferred that the more-male-dominated group of sites appeal to those who seek casual sexual encounters and/or want to cheat on their spouses.

Does that mean that men cheat more?  Not necessarily.  Men go on AffairsClub.com, AshleyMadison.com, and MarriedButlLonely.com more than women, even when compared to other dating sites.  This fact should be understood as evidence in line with the theory that men cheat more, but it is not an ironclad case for it.

Perhaps more men visit the sites with explicit sexual messaging because the developers of the sites cater their content to heterosexual men.  As I gathered information from the second group of sites, I observed that nearly all of the images were pictures of women.  But then, where are the equivalent sites that are geared towards heterosexual women?  Certainly, if women were searching for causal sexual encounters online as often as men, the sites would have pictures of men as well, or equivalent sites that only have pictures of men would be just as popular.  Why is sexually-explicit content a man’s world?

What do you think drives these demographic patterns?  Is it human nature, or is it selective marketing?  Please feel free to share your own theories in the comments below!

About Jody Schechter:
As an Analyst for Compete, Jody manipulates data to address the information needs of our Online Media and Search clients. Outside of work, her interests include arts and crafts, developmental economics, Scrabble, and dance. Jody has a Bachelor of Science in Economics, with minors in Mathematics and International Studies, from the University of Michigan.

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  1. Jason

    Perhaps men find it harder to cheat then women and therefore are drawn online?

    Perhaps married women (who, statistically, are still somewhat less likely to be financially independent than married men) are more concerned about the repercussions of being discovered, which may be greater in the more time-continuous environment of online affairs? Or, conversely, gender-behavioral norms may still be adjusting from a time when this was more of a concern for women?

    Another theory, that could perhaps be tested with Compete’s data, would argue that men participating in online affair sites are time limited due to their employment status and therefore more likely to use a time-saving route (online affairs). 30% of married-couple families with children have a working husband but not wife (12.4% for all married-couples). These adjusted demographic ratios make those seen on the affair sites look more in line.

    But, no, I think it’s just that men are more interested in the product offering.

    Reply

  2. Niall Harbison

    NIce analysis on a good topic but I think it is mostly useless because the bottom line is that there are more men on dating sites because they find it harder to get women. Women can mostly sit there and wait to get charmed by guys whereas a guy is most often the one out there looking!

    Reply

  3. Emily

    Well if it was just the case that they are “interested” in the product if there married they shouldn’t need to be involved in a dating site so the chart really shows that men are using dating websites more then women. What it doesn’t really show is whether or not the men are single or not. Since it is the internet anyone can post anything they want and be who ever they want. Its hard to judge exactly who is cheating and who is not. But at the same time the chart gives a good definition that there is a high likely hood that men could be using these type of website to cheat. While it doesn’t mean it’s proven it a major possibility.

    Reply

  4. aivilvin

    Well this is an eternal question -it will live forever.
    You can’t ever generalize this side of human nature. Its meant to be that way!!

    this theory can at most reflect trends and external factors that drive/lead a an/woman to cheating with their partners. Nature didn’t create any different system in man women for these tendencies.

    Reply

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  7. Jared

    Ms. Schechter, I loved your article. If you have geographic data, it would be interesting to see how this usage breaks down. For example, I live in New York and I have heard that among people my age and education level, single women strongly outnumber single men. On some college campuses, the dynamic is similar, while in many smaller cities, from what I’ve heard, there’s a corresponding opposite trend. I’m asking, are these men cruising these websites already participating in offline markets they feel secure in, or are they looking to develop a market advantage because they need all the help they can get?

    Reply

  8. citysunflower

    http://thesocietypages.org/sexuality/

    Nice blog!

    Reply

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