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Men are facing dating ‘minefield’

October 4th, 2006

Dr Petra

Today a few of the papers ran the story of the new ‘dating minefield’ affecting men.

Apparently if you’re a guy it’s a nightmare out there because if you have stubble women like you but if it approaches a beard you’re dumped. If you wear shoes nobody cares what they look like, but turn up for a date in sandals and you can forget it. And yes, it seems size matters.

This ‘insight into women’s minds’ is helpfully brought to us by FHM magazine, and it will come as no shock to you that they employed a survey to gain an insight into female grey matter. Strangely it’s described as a guide to women by women, which is confusing since there’s no indication of how women elicited these findings from other women – but perhaps the magazine is hoping they can convince you their results are reliable since other women obtained them.

They studied a reported 12000 women to get their answers, which is enough to sound warning bells. For the past few years’ journalists have been told by PR companies that the magic number for survey respondents is 1000 people. In fact many journalists wrongly believe that 1000 participants makes a study ‘significant’ (it doesn’t). More recently, perhaps to compete with the sheer volume of PR ‘surveys’ coming out on a daily basis, many organisations and companies have been inflating their response rates as a bigger study may be more likely to get some column inches. This is really only an indicator of two things – one, those who complete such studies don’t know anything about how surveys work (because the purpose of sampling means you don’t have to include large numbers of participants), and secondly, that they’ve obviously done a very quick and dirty piece of meaningless research.

If you pay a survey company they’ll collect data for you. The quality of the data may be rubbish but who cares if you’re parting with cash? As an example of how long it takes to complete a professional in-depth study of sexual behaviour, it took three colleagues and myself over a year and a half to survey 1500 people. That’s because each questionnaire took time to complete and we had to ensure the data was entered correctly, cleaned, analysed and accurately reported. But if you’ve the money and make up a few questions a team of market researchers ringing up a bank of people over a few days and get your data for you. A large sample collected over time might be worth bragging about, but if you’ve turned that around in a matter of weeks or days (which is typical for these PR surveys), you’ve basically just done a patch up job.

But back to the FHM survey since no doubt you’re dying to know what other tips there are for men managing this ‘dating minefield’. Well, there are many
- Women are apparently happy to pay on a first date, but a guy must offer to pay first.
- They want commitment rather than a one-night stand
- ¾ women like men for their sense of humour more than looks
- 83% respondents like a good scent
- 74% women want men to make the first move
- 94% don’t want you to compliment her bottom, but 38% did want their eyes complimented
- 1:4 like to be chatted up in front of her mates
- 56% felt size matters
- 47% expect a man to bring her to orgasm the first time you sleep together
- 88% women make their man use a condom the first time they have sex.

But 73% still prefer bad boys who don’t stick to the rules, in which case you’re probably best to turn up with a beard, in sandals, refuse to offer to pay for your meal, be good looking but not funny, smell bad, get drunk, go on about her bottom, chat her up in a secluded place away from her mates, have a small penis, don’t bother to make her come, don’t use a condom, and don’t call her the next day.

These findings are interesting simply because they’re based on a sample of women who don’t mind answering questions about their dating likes and dislikes to a perfect stranger who rings them up. And contrary to the way this study has been spun it’s very unlikely that the survey team who completed this survey were all female – so many respondents were telling these answers to guys who ring them out of the blue to ask about dating and sex. Not your average woman for starters.

The ‘size matters’ question isn’t really any great finding, if you ask women ‘do you think size matters?’ and offer answers of yes or no you can be pretty sure some will say yes and some no, which is exactly what this study found. It didn’t find (as has been implied) that size definitely matters, only that when asked half the respondents agreed it did. And it’s curious how many women say they made their man use a condom on the first date when reputable sex surveys and our rising STI rates indicate the complete opposite.

And whilst the statement that 47% of women expect a guy to make her come the first time they have sex may well put fear into the hearts of men, it’s more an indication that magazines don’t know much about sex, or are happy to perpetuate the unhelpful myth that it’s up to a guy to give you an orgasm – rather than you showing what you like and know best.

But that’s not what this survey was about. It was trying to do three things. Firstly, it was trying to show that men who get dates are groomed, urbane and smell good – implying if you want to get like that you must buy FHM. Secondly, it implies dating is a minefield but if you buy FHM they’ll help you out. And thirdly, well the clue is in the obligatory plug found in news reports “The full guide is in the November 2006 edition of FHM on sale from October 5”.

Dating is only a minefield if guys are made to see it as such, and here’s a magazine using some nondescript data that doesn’t really show dating is a problem at all, but desperately trying to get some coverage.

Since FHM are so keen on the female perspective, here’s a tip from a woman to them. Yes some women can be persuaded to say they care about your penis size, sense of humour sandal or scent wearing. But all of us can spot desperation a mile off, and see through lines we’re spun. I’m sure I’m not the only woman who can see that ‘dating is a minefield’ really means ‘we really, really need new male readers as our magazine circulation is in freefall. Please buy our magazine’.

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