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Addressing Sex (or Not) in Your Online Dating Profile

If you subscribe to a mainstream online dating site, the site won't ask you overtly sexual questions for your profile, but that doesn't mean you won't have ample opportunity to lace sexual innuendo into your answers. We aren't just talking about essay questions, like "What do you think is sexy?" or "Define sexy," but multiple-choice questions with available answers that run the gamut from sexually neutral to unmistakably sexually provocative.

All sexual info will be scrutinized

You need to realize that some people can take an honest answer involving a sexually provocative question out of context because such an answer is word-searchable on most systems. For an example of the ramifications, consider this Q&A found on one service:

Question: "What is my favorite indoor activity?"
Available answers: Shopping, table tennis, sitting by the fire, reading, watching TV, movies, bowling, sex.

Selecting sex as your answer, when in the context of a thoughtful essay, may not seem particularly provocative. The problem is, a subscriber can easily run a search for all people who are looking for sex. If that's your favorite indoor activity (and we found many people who said so), would you feel okay if it were taken as your primary indoor activity?

In one experiment, a few women who listed sex as their favorite indoor activity removed that tidbit temporarily from their profile. The number of lewd e-mails they received dropped. In short, what you write may not be what people see.

Be careful about tucking sexual answers into otherwise nonsexual questions. Some of these answers are pretty funny in the context they're placed, but remember that some people doing word searches don't necessarily view your answers in the same context.

Don't be discouraged — following are some code words that provide generally acceptable ways to express a healthy sexual interest without being lewd or lascivious:

  • Passion
  • Passionate kisser
  • Hugging
  • Affection
  • Intimacy
  • Kissing
  • Warmth and closeness
  • Physical relationship
  • Physical compatibility

On the other hand, the following terms and discussions often turn off people who are seeking a long-term relationship:

  • Sex
  • Sexual ability
  • Names of body parts (anatomically correct names, including Latin and more earthy terms)
  • Names of specific sexual acts
  • Mention of previous sexual conquests

Every sexual response has at least two interpretations

Internet dating is no more sexually provocative than face-to-face dating. After all, a person's clothes, makeup, and tone of voice can be very sexually engaging in person but completely lost on the Internet. Likewise, although you find a photo provocative, without eye contact, you lose much of the sizzle. In addition, the feedback you get from eye contact gives you an immediate idea of whether your message succeeded or whether you really screwed up. Try that in e-mail!

Internet daters must work with mere words to create the sexual tension that's part of regular dating. And they have to craft those words entirely in the dark. Furthermore, although most people have developed a level of skill at nonverbal sexual communication (body language), most of us still need to discover a comparable skill on e-mail.

Considering those challenges, putting sexual info in your profile can be risky because some people may misconstrue the meaning. Consider the following:

  • Anything that can have a sexual meaning is usually taken as such. Take, for example, the question "How you would end a first date?" Answering "anything goes," is fairly obvious as to what you mean, but what if you answer "light petting" (an actual choice) or "I'll introduce you to my parents"? Do those choices mean sex is part of the night's activities? To some people, the answer is certainly yes. Be sure you're okay with that interpretation.
  • Men are especially eager to assume the most sexually provocative meaning to whatever you write. If you want to make sure that they get the message, don't be confusing in your e-mail.
  • Women, you'll get far more lewd and possibly offensive e-mails from men (and some women) if your Q&A answers include sexually provocative choices.
  • If you want to be even a little bit provocative, switch to a casual-sex site. Your moderately provocative posting will seem tame compared to the competition.
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