NEW YORK (MainStreet) For the past four years, the well-known online dating website, Match.com, has been working to perform yearly comprehensive studies on singles, known as Singles in America (SIA). The findings of the 2013 study were released on February 5, 2014 indicating that the 111 million singles in the United States spent a whopping $82 billion last year on dating. MainStreet attended the in-person Match.com discussion panel that took place in Manhattan on February 8 to probe the study and the expensive single life before the arrival of Valentine's Day.
The findings of the 2013 Singles in America study were based on a sample group of 5,329 United States singles between the ages of 18 and 70+. Hosted by Millionaire Matchmaker's Patti Stanger, no subject at this event was taboo. The discussion covered topics related to sex, dating and relationships, and compared male and female preferences on multiple subjects related to these ideas.
Panelists at the event included Perez Hilton, celebrity blogger and online dater; Anna Breslaw, the sex editor for Cosmopolitan magazine; Dr. Emily Morse, leading sex expert and creator of Sex with Emily; and Dr. Helen Fisher, Match's Scientific Advisor and the creator of SIA.
From the immediate start of the discussion, the witty, easygoing demeanors of the host and the panelists engaged the room in such a way that made it comfortable to discuss seemingly awkward topics, like why people (both men and women, surprisingly) feel the need to fake orgasms, or why approximately 20% of people feel the need to lie to their current partners about their "number."
Among the data from this most recent SIA study, it was found that 51% of singles claim to have imagined a future together while on a first date.
"The first three minutes of meeting somebody are powerfully important," explained Fisher. Shockingly, it was further found that the majority of these "future imaginers" are men.
"Men fall in love faster, because they're so visual," Fisher said. "When they meet someone they really love, they want to bring them to home to the family sooner, they want to move in sooner, et cetera." Clearly it's not only the women who are mentally planning their weddings after the first few great dates.
When it comes to meeting people, it was found that 31% of singles meet their dates online, followed up by a mere 8% meeting through work, and an even smaller 6% meeting at a bar or club. Stanger advocated for online matchmaking.
"[Online is] the best way to meet," she said. "It's like shopping at Nieman's." Considering both Nieman's and Match.com contain a variety of options, and both allow clientele to "try these options on for size" before saying yes or no, it's not a far-off idea.
When creating profiles on Match.com, users are prompted with questions that are fairly specific and stray away from the typical "hair color, eye color" questions; instead, zodiac sign, salary range, exercise regimen, preferred charities, and potential travel spots are just a few of these examples.
All questions are optional to answer, but it's clear that Match tries to make it as easy as possible for people to learn as much as they can about one another before they take the plunge with sending a message. It's understandable that more people are finding love on websites such as Match as opposed to public places, because, on the websites, you're actually learning the context a person from the start, rather than just being able to see a person's physical appearance.
When it comes to the first date, the study found that more men than women opine that sexual intercourse on the first date is acceptable; however, Morse advises that both sexes should think twice about giving it up on the first date.
"When you have sex with someone on the first date, you're getting attached to that person without even knowing them," she said.
The bottom line about sex with a new partner is to hold out until at least the first few dates have gone by, and if things are still going well, then it's O.K. to take things to that level of intimacy.
Keeping in tune with the sex theme, most singles find that sex is important to the relationship, but many are also willing to work on sex if it's not great the first few times around. Perez Hilton admitted his feeling that sex is very important in a relationship.
"I don't want to emotionally invest in somebody if we're not going to have good sex," he said. "It doesn't have to be amazing the first time, but there definitely has to be chemistry."
Regarding working on sex in order to make it good, Stanger asked the people in the room to raise their hand if they had ever faked an orgasm. Almost the entire group raised hands. Morse explained that people (mostly women, but some men, also) fake orgasms, because they don't want their partner to feel bad, and they, especially women, want to be "pleasers."
"You have to train him or her," Morse said. "You have to work on it. Sex can get better, it can improve."
So, if the first time wasn't this magical trip through space, don't worry. You just might have to invest some time in a little bit of bedroom homework.
Who's having the most sex? The study found that singles in their 30s had more sex last year in comparison to any other age group. It was also discovered that the following groups of singles have better sex: redheads (60%), computer- and electronics professionals (64%), Android users (55%), and Miami dwellers (60%). A big pat on the back to all of you who fit that profile!
The section that made this study different from the previous ones, however, is that this time the expert examiners at Match reviewed the impact of singles on the economy, including how much money they're spending both in general and on their dating lives. Direct information from the study states: "Singles spend nearly $61.53 per month on dating-related activities, totaling approximately $738.36 each year per individual. With 111 million singles in the United States, this amounts to some $82 billion annually."
The actual cost of dating online through Match.com varies with the number of months to which a person is willing to commit. While the option for a free subscription does exist, it's limited to simple things like being able to create a profile, view other profiles, and offer simpler forms of communication, like "winking." If you're choosing a paid plan, you reap the full benefits of online dating, such as exchanging emails with those who catch your eye, being able to see who has been checking out your profile and having the opportunity to attend Stir events, which are essentially singles mixers. A typical month-to-month fee is approximately $34.99 per month but decreases to $23.99 per month when purchasing three months at once, reducing further to $17.99 for a six-month membership. While some of the Stir events are free, like casual happy hours and other events of that nature, most events are an extra fee, with the majority of prices falling in the $35 or below price range for each event. In addition to the happy hours, Match Stir events also consist of fun group activities such as cooking classes, comedy nights, group runs, and wine tours.
In addition to the membership prices and the event extras, Match also studied the tendencies of how singles spend their disposable income. It was found that single men spend approximately 49% of their disposable income on dining out or going to bars/clubs, while women spent a slightly higher percentage (52%) on those things. By age category, singles in their 20s and 30s spend most of their disposable income on dining and going out, while singles in their 40s spend more money on personal entertainment, such as music and movies. Singles in their 50s also spend the most on dining and going out; while singles ages sixty and over spend most of their disposable income on leisure travel.
With the close of this year's SIA study, it was found overall that there were predictable outcomes as well as not-so-predictable outcomes. The following words from Fisher sum this up rather perfectly: "Someday, we're going to figure out that women are just as sexual as men, and men are just as romantic as women." Happy Matching!
--Written by Ciara Larkin for MainStreet