On gay dating and the matching hypothesis


The matching hypothesis in a concept in social psychology that states “people are more likely to form and succeed in a committed relationship with someone who is equally socially desirable.” (read more on Wikipedia). This hypothesis implies that people will likely date others who are at similar level of attractiveness/desirability as themselves. 

Here is an excerpt from the documentary Science of Sex Appeal that demonstrates this concept. 

In a previous blog, I argued that men and women tend to look for different traits in the mating process with males focusing more on physical appearance. In the heterosexual dating market, desirability consists of factors that include physical appearance, wealth, personality, social status, etc. However, in the gay dating market, desirability is dominated by physical appearance. This is further exacerbated by the fact that majority of people meet online or via an app, which means the screening process is pretty much restricted to looking at profile pictures and *maybe* read the actual profile if the pictures are attractive enough. 

The implication is that in the gay dating market, people are generally matched by their physical appearances and other factors such as personality or socioeconomic status become insignificant. Responding to this kind of selection pressure, people become more obsessed with appearance and are pressured to always look better – a sentiment perfectly captured by @paupauwrotethis’s post here

I personally believe this obsession with appearance is not healthy for the individual nor the community, but it is an reality we all have to face. Not having the desirable appearance means constant rejections, self-doubt and injured self-esteem. We always have to wonder whether we are good looking enough for the guy we like or whether it could have made a difference in a failed date. We always want to be accepted and loved for the person we are and the things we have accomplished in life, but none of that matters when we become those 3 trophy profile pictures on Jack’d. 

If the matching hypothesis is indeed accurate, this situation will unlikely to change. Undergoing a metamorphosis in the way we look and conforming to the idealized standard of beauty set by the community might just be a necessary rite of passage for coming to terms with our sexuality and entering into the scene. 

But in the end we have all have to ask ourselves – would having someone with the best looks truly makes us happy? 

@alostfish, @ro-mantik, @thoughtsfromthewalkhome, and I had a debate last night on the premise whether conforming to an idealized beauty standard  is a necessary rite of passage in the gay community. At G3S, we have promoted a body-positive message to counter the pervasive obsession with the Adonis figure. And while we seek to create a broader movement towards a less image-focused culture in the gay community, Fish reminds us that G3S does not exist independently of the current reality, where all of us are conditioned to maintain a socially-acceptable image. At the same time, we do not condemn those who view working out as a self-improvement project. The question then becomes a balancing act between internal and external validation. I would argue that prioritization of external validation is short-sighted and ultimately, unfulfilling and unhealthy. Moreover, whether or not other people will see you beyond your new-found “good looks” is also another point of consideration.



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