Sixty-four percent of single men say they are more productive at work when they are in a relationship, compared with less than half of women, according to a survey conducted by the popular online dating community Zoosk.
Dating and sex and gender are wrapped up in so many myths it's easy to come up with reasons why this could be true:
- Men allegedly think about sex constantly, and probably even more constantly if they're not having it regularly.
- Men are usually the pursuers, the prowlers, the predators, what have you. They send the vast majority of first messages on dating sites, and so probably spend a lot more time on dating sites, browsing the options and composing the perfect missive (the most successful first contacts, as analyzed by dating site OkCupid, have good grammar, avoid physical compliments, begin with a quirky greeting, reference specific interests, are self-deprecating, and mention your religion). All this work may interfere with men's actual work.
- In a relationship, man's provider instinct kicks in. He must be productive with his Excel spreadsheet, just like hunter man had to be productive killing buffalo on the baking savanna.
- Men are supposedly less sensitive to problems in a relationship. So a woman with a partner may spend some of her day being anxious about that partner, meaning not necessarily more productive. Men, so the stereotype goes, are more oblivious to those problems, and are really contented by the regular sex.
None of these reasons, just to be clear, are empirically tested. And, in fact, if Zoosk's 4,500 survey respondents had given the opposite results, equally plausible explanations could be scraped together. For example:
- Women in a relationship are more productive at work because women are desperate to be in relationships all the time, so once they are, their world is complete and they are a fully self-actualized human being.
- When single, women have to devote 80 percent of their mental energy to maintaining, enhancing and doubting their attractiveness. That means many surreptitious hours on the Internet deciding whether a Dior Mitzah Panther Jungle Print Eyeshadow is worth $90.
- When single, men want to be successful and rich so as to attract the best mates. Once they've secured a long-term partner, they lose a lot of that desire to increase their status. Productivity wanes.
It's hard to escape stereotypes when reading a survey about dating and sex. It's hard to escape stereotypes when you're taking a survey about dating and sex. So the fact that this study relied on self-reporting means it should be taken with a fistful of salt. That said, some of the results seem to challenge traditional stereotypes about men and women on the dating market.
If we believe almost every romantic comedy ever made, women want love and men want sex. If women are single, it's just because they're too choosy. While men, according to the standard narrative, are often single because they're afraid of intimacy and of sacrificing their roaming bachelorhood.
Turns out, in Zoosk's survey more men than women said that they feel happier when they are in a relationship (85 percent to 73 percent), more men than women said that they were single because they were "too picky" or that "all the good ones were taken" (65 percent to 59 percent), and more women than men say that they're single because they're "terrified of getting close to someone" (16 percent to 11 percent) or "too independent to be tied down" (10 percent to 7 percent).
You can't even trust stereotypes these days.
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