One Social Scientist’s Advice for Black Women Dating Online: Make the First Move.

Author’s Note: What you are about to read may bruise your ego. Hard truths are being told here, and while you might wail that the injustice of what is being suggested, that outrage won’t get you a date Friday night. Read and listen with an open mind.

After the abysmal news about how black women fare dating online, I decided that it was time to put my reporter hat on and get to the reasons why so many academics have jumped on the research-study bandwagon about who’s picking whom on dating sites. I decided to go to the source and got in touch with two social scientists who authored two recent studies: Kevin Lewis, of the University of San Diego and Ken-Hou Lin of the University of Massachusetts. You might recall that Lewis conducted the OKCupid study that showed that people of other races are more likely to connect with someone if that person from another races initiates contact. Lin was the co-author of the study with Jennifer Lundquist regarding who responds to whom on dating sites, and revealed that black women were the least likely to get responses when they reached out.

Contrary to what it might feel like, these research guys are not out to “get” black women, or make us look bad. There is no conspiracy. I asked both Lewis and Lin, and they said that the proliferation of the technology and how people interact with each other eventually trickles down to academia, so it was inevitable that people’s behaviors dating online would be studied. Lewis told me frankly that social science has always focused on race and romance, and traditional questionnaires don’t cut it. “People lie,” says Lewis. People today are trained to say lots of politically correct things, but the truth lies not in what people say, but what they do. Folks can say they are open to all races all they want, but the proof is in the actual interaction, and with access to the backend of the platform, researchers see the truth. “We study predominately by looking at patterns of behavior,” says Lewis.

It’s Not All Gloom and Doom, But…

We have to acknowledge the unfortunate truth that black women get a bad rap in America. That bad reputation is persistent and pervasive in all forms of media communication. Hell, even our own men have gotten on the bandwagon to bash black women, so when those who look like you don’t stand up for you or value you, it sends a very clear message to the rest of the world. Just by accident of being a black woman gets you put into a ditch you as an individual must dig yourself out of. We constantly have to prove that “we’re not like that,” in both word and deed. It’s not fair, it’s extra work, but it is what it is, and the only way to improve our station is to acknowledge it and work to improve it.

Like we’ve been lamenting, “There’s not enough media celebrating the beauty of black women,” says Lin, the co-researcher who was inspired to do the online dating study out of his own online dating woes being an Asian man. “The problem is not black women, but how other groups interact with them.”

What I’ve learned from speaking directly to the researchers is that many men don’t approach or engage with black women because of the stigma associated with it, which germinates from constant and pervasive negative messaging. The research also reveals that most black women do respond to non-blacks when approached, and seem to be open, so the resistance isn’t on our end.


What the Scientists Say…

It’s because of these obstacles and roadblocks that Lin and Lewis give some pretty “anti-Rules” advice to black women. They say we’ll have more luck making the first move than to sit on the sidelines waiting to be picked. Lin said that online, the numbers work to a black woman’s favor because there’s more men signed up for dating services than women. “It’s possible to change the message. I’m hopeful that what we’ve been seeing will change with micro-interactions,” says Lin.

By “micro-interactions” Lin means that black women moving individually, one interaction at a time, will eventually change the tide. Lewis agrees. “Look at it from an inspirational standpoint: Some men might be interested if you make the first move.”  He believes that black women can overcome their obstacles in online dating by not expecting men to initiate interaction. Even if you are disadvantaged, you can probably overcome it just by sheer numbers of interactions with a large number of people. In fact, Lin thinks it’s refreshing for the woman to be the first to reach out. “Because of gender norms, a lot of men are getting tired of being the ones to always have to take the risk of being rejected. You’re breaking racial boundaries and shifting gender norms. That’s the way you take control. You never know what will happen once you extend that message.”

So what now? Should black women start asking for dates and meeting in person and let the guys be all coy and stuff? I don’t think so. I think that regardless of what Lin says, most men don’t value what they don’t conquer. There is a way to make a move with absolutely no risk of rejection. Here’s how: Say you peep a guy’s profile and you notice he’s holding a gigantic bass on a boat in Lake Michigan. You message him and say something smart-assy, like, ” I see you like to fish. But are you man enough to use live bait?”

See what just happened? You simply made a comment on the guy’s profile. You didn’t ask him if he likes black girls, or if he’s ever dated one, or if he wants to get married next week. You said something cute and coy, and that guy just might smile, look at your profile, and respond. The ball is now in his court, and he is free to pursue. You reached out, subtly showed your interest, but didn’t leave yourself open to rejection. No harm, no foul. You play the numbers, message a high volume of men you deem as potential quality, and then see what that reaps you. I also highly recommend you buy Get the Guy, by my friend Matthew Hussey. He has a TON of suggestions on how women can inspire attraction without sacrificing their pride.

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