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April 02, 2011

The United States of Dating

Map of the eastern US showing how often people on dating sites use the word 'kinky'.

It's been 46 years since the Beach Boys published their groundbreaking research into American regional variations in dating predilections. Allow me to cite a brief passage from their thesis...

East coast girls are hip,
I really dig those styles they wear.
And the Southern girls which the way they talk,
They knock me out when I'm down there.
The midwest farmers' daughters
really make you feel alright.
And the northern girls with the way they kiss,
they keep their boyfriends warm at night.

Musician and artist R. Luke DuBois is continuing the investigation via his project called A More Perfect Union. DuBois joined 21 different online dating services, harvested millions of bits of data from the sites, and looked for regional differences in the keywords used in members' profiles. He's generated a cool series of maps showing things like where people are most likely to describe themselves as shy or bored or, as shown in the image here, where people are most likely to use the word kinky in their profiles(*).

He's also made a set of state maps showing where certain words are more likely to be used. Some things are no surprise, such as the fact that the word actor shows up more often in the dating profiles of people from Los Angeles. But how to explain the fact that online daters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, use the word frightening more often than anyone else?

You can see all of the maps, and draw your own conclusions, at DuBois' website.

(*)I gotta say, I have doubts about that particular bit of data. I spent four years in West Virginia and conducted more than my share of "research" and I find it...to say the least... dubious... that the word "kinky" is used there that much more than in the rest of the northeast United States. I wonder if use of the word "kinky" in West Virginia online dating site bios is disproportionally preceded by the phrase "Not interested in anything...".

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at April 2, 2011 10:14 PM

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