Dating profiles for men and women seem to have a big gender divide in how they are used and what people are looking for. Women swipe left on nearly everyone they can’t see themselves dating. Men swipe right on nearly everyone, then go back and delete them out when it actually comes to messaging. Men often think it’s all about a picture, with no write up in the bio – or sometimes not even a face picture, but a car, view of a sunset or a blank avatar. These profiles are your shop window and it’s worth taking a little time to get it right at the start. With this in mind, here is how to up your game, fellas – how to present yourself in all the ways the women are longing to see and bring in the likes and super-likes that have been evading you so far.
A little story….
My lovely male friend (well, FWB, but nonetheless) has been on a quest for several months to find the new love of his life. Rather than doing the things I’ve suggested (joining female-dominated exercise classes like yoga, volunteering for a cause, getting bar work in the evenings) he is set on this happening through a dating app.
Dating apps of any kind, though rather leisurely to scroll through as though shopping on E-Bay, are a pretty hard place to find a good match. All you get is a snapshot, maybe a few sentences, and some vital statistics. Meeting people in person is always so much better, and if you can meet them in a way where you’ll see them regularly without the pressure of a ‘first date’ situation, so much the better. The pressure would be off. Yet society seems to have moved away from this, and we are convinced that out there, somewhere, we will find someone so much better for us by endless scrolling. So be it. If we are going to do this, let’s do this RIGHT.
Firstly, I know what you are probably thinking: aww, friends of different genders. And a ‘makeover’ story- this is going to be rom-com gold. Surely the two of us are destined to end up together?
As well as this not being a movie, even Hollywood doesn’t grant happy endings to stories of lost young men and licentious libertine ladies of a certain age- quite the contrary. We must take the benevolent maternal role, be the fairy godmother, lest we be cast as the wicked witch. So here I am, rather suddenly finding myself as literary matriarch of swing and kink, former professional pick-up tutor, with some skills to impart to my lovely friend. And, simply because I can, also to you lovely bucks in need of a date.
Let’s break down what we did:
Firstly, have some. People are not shallow for wanting to get an idea of who they are going to speak to. Photos don’t just examine the symmetry of your face and physique, they speak a thousand words. It’s your chance to show, in subtle, subliminal ways:
-you have friends
-other women find you trustworthy to be around
-your hobbies and things you love (so they can see things they have in common with you)
-if you have pets (always a heart melting one to see the softer side)
-what you are good at (women are always drawn to men who can excel at something)
Now, what you are good at doesn’t mean you need to have trophies for it. But using one photo to show a skill that women find useful or endearing is always a nice touch. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Playing guitar, painting, or whipping up pancakes in the kitchen will give you a perceived depth that 100 gym-bathroom torso shots will not.
Take at least one, really good photo of your face. Get a friend to help (preferably a woman, as we are, by and large, masters of editing our own selfies to look awesome) and take some interesting, flattering angles that evoke different moods. Pretend you are posing as the star for the latest launch of a new cologne. Dress in ways that evoke different sides of your personality. Rock and roll, edgy, musician type? Hard core biker in leathers? Dressed up and looking spiffing in a nicely tailored suit? Treat your attire like costumes and get a selection of shots to play with later. Take 1000, like the Kardashians do before posting a single thing. Later, you are going to select the best, crop, edit, apply light filters and play with the lighting and tones to give an image that is a natural version of YOU but makes the shot as a whole look artsy. Airbrushing out minor temporary imperfections like acne or a missed bit of stubble is fine, but use it very sparingly. Overdoing it will just make you look weird, fake and ridiculous. There are several free apps that make it really easy to do on your phone.
Remember to clear away clutter from the background of the shot. Women will judge you based on your palace, and they really do notice little details. Anything in shot should be selected for the purpose of making you seem more desirable, or giving someone a talking point to mention when they message you: ‘Oh wow! An old Pixies record! I love them!” etc.
Try to include a shot that has at least your torso in it (not naked, unless you really are all about the 6 pack and showing it off in public), but so they can get a rough idea of your body shape. Some women like guys who are muscular, slender, or have very specific proportions, but most are completely happy with a dad-bod. If you use pictures that make you look substantially different from the way you currently do (in size, hair style or age) when they meet you they will quickly see what you’ve done. You will also be turning off the very women swiping who will find you highly attractive the way you really look right now, not when you were 18.
It’s always easier to get a good shot if someone else is taking the photos for you. Selfie sticks are a bit of an art form in themself, but really restrict angles and distance. How are you going to get a sultry shot of you looking out the window, showing your cute little tush in jeans with a selfie stick? The model for cologne in the magazine sure didn’t take that shot with a selfie stick – you are showing, very subtly, that this is a standard that you could pull off. You are good looking enough, sexy enough, handsome enough, rugged enough, to be one of those guys.
Say cheese? Portraits didn’t always include smiles, although in recent years with snapshots it’s pretty expected. People who smile are also instantly more attractive to others. Trouble is, a lot of people are really bad at smiling for a photo. The jaw freezes up, the eyes look panicked and we find ourselves in a hideous frozen gurn. Rather than force it, try some more subtle smiles. A little upturn of the lip and a puckering of the cheek dimples is enough to melt a heart. If you really can’t get a good smiling or laughing shot you can always style it out in your photos as the moody, edgy bad-boy. But to be able to show both sides or yourself? Always worth its weight in gold.
The groin. I’m no fan of dick pics, even on the most direct and seedy of hook-up sites. If a woman really wants to see it, she will always ask you directly. 99.9% of women want to have sex with a person, not a disembodied penis. That being said, the clothed groin area can be very effective in expressing your status as a desirable male. I’m not talking an underwear-shrouded erection. I’m talking about a shot that includes your groin area as part of the whole picture- the subtle jeans bulge that they won’t consciously notice. Studies with cameras tracking microscopic eye-movements of women in crowds show that even though they are completely unaware they are doing it, they spend a really high percentage of the time scoping out your dick. That’s right. So what is the picture that subtly includes the groin area doing? Telling her subconscious and her animal brain that you have a dick, and that you are a prospective mate. It’s that basic.
Take photos from slightly below you. This gives the impression of height and dominance. Women of any height are usually initially attracted to men who appear to be taller than them. Don’t look down at the camera though, or you’ll get a double chin. Look slightly away and tilt your head back slightly. Face-on photos without any tilt emphasise any facial asymmetry and this makes mates, in both the human and animal kingdom, appear less desirable. A slight angle will disguise this. If you have a beautiful profile, go full profile. If not, don’t. Try to avoid direct overhead or face-on indoor lighting as it will make you squint, shine and cast shadows. Diffuse, outdoor light is the most flattering, if possible.
Make your photo look epic
Need something to lift it from casual snapshot to something more alluring?
–Try some filters that switch the lighting angle or colour tones slightly. Play with the saturation, use a touch of sepia for an indie, vintage vibe or control the highlight and shadows to remove shine and sculpt your face in the most flattering way possible. Not all filters smooth the skin, though many do. Keep a gritty manliness by avoiding these ones unless you can do it imperceptibly.
–Go grey. Monochrome always screams ‘artsy photographer’ and makes ripped jeans and flaking leather jackets look poetic. If you have beautiful eyes (and who doesn’t) you can use an app to give them a pop of their natural colour, for a modern twist on the black and white look, or highlight an item of clothing or one of your carefully selected background objects
-Make-up tools. You don’t need to give yourself a full makeup filter on an app unless you really feel that’s you, but there are a number of tools you might want to use sparingly: acne remover (also for any other lumps and bumps), tooth whitener (if you’ve used a good smiley pic) and eye whitener. A subtle difference, but just helps you look that tiny bit more bursting with vitality.
-Make yourself the focus of the shot. Sometimes it’s hard to get a clear background without bits and pieces. Draw attention away from it by using auto blur to make it fuzzy. You can also use a ‘vignette’ to darken the edges of the picture which makes you stand out more and makes the whole thing seem less flat. Remember, you are the subject of a work of art here!
–Don’t stop with the crop. Roll of belly fat? Hand at a funny angle? Something in the shot that doesn’t add to the look? Crop it out. Some really bad photos have been made really amazing by just focussing in on a single part of it.
–Choose your best photo for the first one. Many apps will later reorganise which photo is shown first based on its popularity, but often the way they the apps display them, people will swipe left based on just the first one they see. If they like the first one, they will look at the others and read the bio before deciding if to swipe right or give you a message or like.
Writing a bio
Don’t lie about your height. Unless you plan to show up in 70’s platform boots, there is no way that your date isn’t going to notice. Women are generally honest about their height (less so their weight) on dating apps, whereas men add 2-6 inches. As a tall woman, I’ve shown up in heels to a date where a guy claimed to be 5’8 and was in fact 5’2. As well as showing you to be a liar, it also makes you look incredibly insecure about it. As with all things, just own it, rock it and fake it till you make it if you have a hang-up about something you can’t change. That will come off a lot better.
If there is a section for body type, pick a flattering answer. It’s rather subjective. But be aware that if you put ‘jacked’ and you are average or slender, women who dislike overly-muscular body types (and I’m one of them) may well have set their filters to exclude you, when a more modest term would have kept you in their discovery pile. Photos that don’t match the body type description (like a thin picture from a few years ago but a description that says ‘a few extra pounds’) makes you look desperately insecure, or worse yet, like you’ve stolen the photo from somewhere online and are just a catfish. I’d avoid putting ‘a few extra pounds’ just because you feel a bit of a paunch coming. This is usually only used by firmly plus-sized men. And if you are a BHM (big handsome man), put it and rock it with pride! It is a body-type that many women really adore and will specifically search for when they adjust their settings. Women of all different looks, ages and body types like men of all different looks, ages and body types. Saying what you really look like won’t restrict the people finding you to those with the same characteristics.
If there is a section for likes and hobbies, put a few things you do now, regularly, that look cool and seem social. For example, ‘I’m learning guitar and I like rock climbing’ will have a lot more impact than a huge list of every song, film and computer game you own. Men are a bit odd for filling this section up to bursting and leaving the rest empty. Its only purpose is to find things you have in common that you can do together and to show that you have a fun life that they might like to join. Less is more.
Content is king. Some apps will give you prompts to help you write things that will be of interest to people and come across in a fun or tantalising way. Others will give you a character-limited space to invent your own. Starting a bio, especially if you are new to dating apps, is incredibly hard. It’s like trying to write an incredibly short CV for yourself as to exactly why someone should meet you, and this is probably the reason that nearly half of men leave it entirely blank. Unfortunately, women are more keen on knowing the backstory to their prospective date instead going on photos alone than men are, and skipping this part is going to really harm your ‘likes’. It implies that you either have nothing to say and talk about, are incredibly lazy or can’t speak the language, or (and this is an increasing phenomenon) that you are on there just to link your instagram and get followers to promote your modelling career/band/business. So, take some time to write a bio. Have someone, who likes you and can put into words what is awesome about you, help you if you are stuck.
So what should you say?
There seems to be a move away from the standard interests on apps (I like nights in and nights out, food and wine) to more specific and personal things that come across as cute and genuine. ‘Cheerios over Weetabix every time – change my mind!’ or ‘my favourite random fact: did you know Tesla was in love with a pigeon?’
These create a sense of greater joviality and intimacy, and add a flavour to bios so that your prospective date can form an idea of a person they’d like to meet and talk to. It’s not all the big tough alpha-male presentation in the art of pick-up. It’s the little charming touches that catch you off-guard too. It’s a chance for you to show you are smart and funny. I can assure you, that’s always a devastating combination.
If you are feeling a bit insecure (and if you are looking for a date this can often be the case) then this may come out in the wording and things you think it’s appropriate to say. Remember though, this is just your shop window! Only talk about yourself in positive phrases. Unemployed? A gentleman of leisure choosing the next big adventure. No fixed abode? Romantic, wandering nomad seeking a forever-home. Remember, you are going to talk about yourself, in whatever it is you need to say, like the romantic lead in a novel. You might feel like you are lost, broken or undateable, but you are going going to reframe that as spiritual, edgy and hard-to-get. Women love that stuff. Oh, yes we do. It explains a lot of our seemingly irrational behaviour. Terms and conditions of dating you, caveats, broken pieces of your soul and sad tales of your ex can wait until at least date four (if ever). You are going to throw in some things you like, in a fun way, some things that sound mysterious/interesting, and some things that sound playfully challenging. It doesn’t have to go on forever. You can bullet-point it if you like, but include at least 3-5 different types of things (sports, foods, travel ideas, a joke, your career, what you do for fun, your pets and…
…what you are looking for. Now I hate this question. ‘Are you looking for fun or a relationship?’ Firstly, I don’t like the idea of shopping for only one or another, the notion that fun couldn’t grow into a relationship or the suggestion that a relationship shouldn’t be fun. To my mind, they are a spectrum and not mutually exclusive. Secondly, it’s a really simple-minded, categorical way to assess people. People are people, they aren’t ‘only good for sex’ or ‘only good as a partner’. Thirdly, how the heck would you know what kind of vibe you are going to have with an individual before you’ve even met them? That’s the kind of thing that’s entirely personal and would need at least a few dates to have the slightest notion about. Someone might have a fun, casual vibe to them, someone else might seem like a more thorough match in other ways as you get to know them. By and large, most first dates don’t turn into either. That’s just how it goes. You really can’t tell online. Even so, if you have an end-goal ‘title’ in mind for your date, it’s fair to say it up front and save everyone some wasted time.
You can also sneak in a hint as to what you find attractive in a woman or your life plans at the same time:
-Looking for a sweet, bubbly princess to cuddle and take to dinner
-Looking for someone wild to have fun with and shut down the club
-Looking to eventually find my forever-partner, to settle down with and run an organic farm in Devon
-Looking for someone to do the dishes and blow me during the match on TV (joke)
Avoid any negative phrases or indication that you are hostile or misogynistic. Statements like ‘message me if you aren’t stuck up’ or ‘Don’t want drama’ or ‘No psychos’ really don’t make you look desirable and choosy- they make you look emotionally unintelligent and like you’ll behave badly to your date and then blame them for it. Equally, a really specific wish list for your prospective match and how she needs to be is going to drop your like rate:
A woman 5’5 -5’6 with big, high boobs, but natural, size 8 and below, under 24, looks good in heels and takes care of herself, but low maintenance, has her own career and life and no kids but can drop everything last minute to do what I want, must be a good cook, have your own real eyebrows, has her own place, no housemates, lives nearby and can drive. Not up herself or clingy and no drama or baggage (Good luck with that combination, my friend).
You can drop a hint as to what you like in a woman, but here’s the thing: the less you mention appearance, especially in ways she cannot change? The better you are going to come off, even to the women who meet your wishlist. ‘I love sparkling eyes and soft skin’? Yes. ‘I like a six-pack and a booty that won’t quit’? Not so good. ‘I love a sexy laugh and a woman I can discuss Neil Gaiman books with’? Great. ‘You should make 40k a year plus and not expect me to be picking up the bill’? You get the picture.
Proof-read your text!
It really makes a difference to the way you are perceived. Nobody will ever think less of you for perfect grammar and spelling in your bio.
Set your own preferences
Your settings won’t be visible to others, but give consideration to whether you are making your choices too narrow. Unless you are in central London, you are probably going to need to choose at least a 50 km radius. Within Central London, people will rarely travel more than 5km, and will likely not match with you if they have to travel more than an hour to see you. Are you really looking to meet women aged 18-99? Or have you set it with your own age as the upper limit? Open your mind a little, people of different ages can have very different lives and still look great. It’s 2019. People in their 50’s and 60’s aren’t just looking for someone to go to the Bingo with. A lot of apps give you a huge number of filters to whittle down your choices with. Level of education, smoking status, what pets you have, political leanings, religion, ethnicity. Are these things really absolute dealbreakers for you one way or the other? I try to view prospective matches not just in terms of whether they look attractive, but whether they are someone who would be interesting to meet and talk to, even once.
Stick with it. The algorithms that determine who you are shown to and when on the apps are complex. Usually they give you the option to pay to have extra boosts and facilities. Let me tell you: I’ve never once paid for these. One thing is always true- if you log in regularly (say once a day, at least once a week) you will be bumped up the pile. You also won’t miss your chance to see those matches and have a chat with them before they have forgotten about you.
How wide to cast the net? There are quite a lot of apps around to choose from, from the very monogamy-normative, to the casual dating, to the hook-up apps, to the niche, to the kink based. Is it worth being on lots of them? Largely, no. You’ll find that by and large they actually have most of the same people on them, albeit promoting different aspects of themselves (the differences in write-ups between guys on their Bumble account and their Fabswingers one is usually hilarious). Choose the apps based on what they are designed to target. Looking for someone to go to fetish events with? Try Fetlife and Whiplr. Looking for a one-off meet? Fabswingers. Looking to go unicorn hunting with your spouse? Feeld or one of the apps/websites that are offshoots of the many, many commercial swinger event parties in London. There are surely hundreds, if not now thousands, of options. Trying to keep them all arranged and log into them regularly to check messages can become a bit of a task. Therefore, pick one or two and see how it goes. Some will work better for you than others, depending on your area, what you are looking for and how you present yourself. If it’s been a week and you have no promising matches, re-examine your profile and settings, and if you still aren’t having any luck consider trying a different app.
The story continues….
I travel back on the train, selecting from the best of many, many photos, of my friend on a love-mission, to touch up and make ‘extra’, having already left a list of little one-liners that highlight everything I find adorable about him and phrasing them in a way that’s cute and flirty, for him to redecorate his dating shop-window with.
I crop and recolour a photo, then go to smooth out tiny imperfections on what is already an incredibly beautiful face, with a naughty suggestion of a shy smile, astounding, bright blue eyes and the kind of flawless skin that I’ve never had, even as a young girl. I run a finger over his cheekbones, jawline, with the lightest of settings. I touch his ever-so-slightly stubbled, slightly dimpled cheeks, before leaving them just as they are. My finger delicately caresses the curves of his face as I subtly, almost imperceptibly gild the lily of his lovely countenance. The act seems strangely intimate; me, alone on the train with the image of my beautiful friend, who cannot see his own loveliness. The image is him. But it is him in a way that captures a tiny part of his essence, in the way photos usually do not. It shows a sliver of soul to me, a hint of the mind and character that lies beneath. I wonder whether others will see it too, or if I’m too close to see him as anything other than beautiful.
I wonder whether he will see it too. To finally see he is beautiful. Will it be an emotional moment, bringing him to tears to suddenly see himself the way others do?
I send the images, varied in look and the emotional aesthetic they project. I say how lovely he is, and how very little I’ve changed to make him look the magazine-worthy sex-god he ought to have always been showing the world, with pride and swagger.
18 hours later, he picks them up from my text. “Cheers matey”.
*Apologies for the heteronormative, conventional flavour of this post. Though dating apps exist for every kind of identity and pairing, this one is specifically based around the heterosexual male dating profile. If you’d like to talk about how to make a great dating profile for other sites, gender identities or kinds of relationships, just drop your link in the comments below.