Sexual selection, as one specific case of natural selection, operates on variance in reproductive success

In detail we hypothesise that female mating preferences will shape the online mating market as follows: (i) a high level of education will be demanded more in men than it is in women; (ii) if there are men of different races, white men will be more eligible than males of colour; (iii) high-status men will look for younger women more than lower status men do; and finally; (iv) men will show in their personal ads more signs of physical strength than women do. Men’s mating preferences for numerous, young and physically attractive women will shape the online mating market as follows; (v) men will use dating platforms, hoping to extend the number of sexual partners, more than women do; and (vi) being of an older age is for women less favourable than for men.

The interaction of male and female sexual strategies will have the following consequences in the online dating market; (vii) women will receive more requests than men do, and (viii) will receive more responses to their own requests than men do; (ix) women will be more self-centred in their profiles and communication than men; (x) highly attractive women will give fewer responses to requests than less attractive women; (xi) compared to men, older women will use dating services more frequently than younger women do.

Therefore, sexual selection operates more on males than on females

With respect to increased sexual wellbeing, we expect that; (xii) couples who meet in online settings will be more satisfied with their relationship than offline couples are (given the higher number of choices). With respect to sexual conflicts and risks to sexual wellbeing, we expect that; (xiii) women to be more frequently subjected to sexual deception because men are expected to display more emotional commitment than they actually feel (and a less possibilities for women to detect deception). We furthermore expect that; (xiv) using digital sexual dating services can be associated with or driven by psychological problems, such as feelings of loneliness or low self-esteem and finally; and (xv) that people who use online dating services show risky sexual behaviour more than others, e.g., unprotected sex.


We first conducted an extensive literature research. We performed the literature research using the PubMed database. Given that online dating services constitute a rapidly changing market, we limited our literature research to studies with a publication year from 2015 to 2021. The search was restricted to publications written either in English or German. We used the following search terms: online dating (525 hits); infidelity, online (24 hits); sexual risk behaviour, online dating (51 hits); dating applications (1,058 hits); relationship, satisfaction, and online (910 hits). Our search string was as follows: Online Dating OR (Infidelity AND online) OR (sexual risk behaviour AND online Dating) OR Dating applications OR (Relationship AND satisfaction AND online). Every string was searched alone, there were 7 duplicates. In total, we found 2,568 publications in this initial step.

If individuals differ in mating success, traits that aid their reproductive success will find their way to subsequent generations more frequently. Hence, adaptions will follow sexual selection. Traits that aid reproductive success differ between the sexes. Given that the more investing sex, i.e., females in mammals, needs more time for any reproductive act (because of gestation and lactation), sexually receptive females become scarce relative to males. Because of female scarcity, males more than females are selected for their ability of effectively compete for mates. In consequence, in males variability in reproductive success is higher than in females, not only in mammals (Brown et al., 2009; Boyd and Silk, 2020, p. 147) but also in insects (Bateman, 1948). As sexual selection pressure operates differently between the sexes, the resulting adaptions – in anatomy and behaviour – are sex dimorphic. Traits that help males to increase the number of mates will be favoured by selection. Females in contrast can easily approach the maximum reproductive capacity of their sex (about 15 children in women and many thousands in men), which leads to a lower variability in the number of offspring within the female sex. However, there is more within-sex variability in how many offspring survive. Females cannot increase their reproductive fitness by increasing the number of mates but by increasing the quality of their mates (either in terms of their “genetic quality” and/or in terms of the resources males are able and willing to invest in their partner and offspring). Sexual selection theory predicts choosiness as a typical sexual strategy of females and strategies to increase the number of mates as a typical sexual heta svenska singlar strategy of males (i.e., stronger competition for mates, monopolisation of females, preference for young and sexually attractive females, interest in casual sex, short-term mating and sex with low investment). Males can increase their reproductive success not only by mating with numerous females but also by mating with females with a high reproductive capacity, namely young and attractive females.

Given the absence of some natural restraints in digital encounters (thereby allowing users to interact simultaneously and anonymously with multiple potential mates) we furthermore expect that using digital dating tools can lead to an amplification of sexual benefits as well as harm. Possible benefits might be an increased probability of finding a good mate in consequence of having access to a wider mating pool. Psychological harm can be the result of sexual conflicts. In evolutionary psychology sexual conflicts refer to those instances in which one individual tries to realise its sexual strategies (i.e., maximise its fitness) at the cost of its partners sexual strategies (respectively the partners fitness) (Buss, 1989a). There are numerous examples of how sexual strategies can interfere when men and women interact: ranging from deception about emotional commitment, deception about sexual fidelity, deception about willingness or ability to provide resources, deception about attractiveness, deception about fatherhood, or strategies to circumvent female choosiness by use of coercion. In natural environments, men and women have evolved contra strategies to protect against the harmful consequences of sexual conflicts. Sometimes women delay first intercourse in order to protect themselves against males that pursue only short-term sex and women developed a commitment scepticism bias. Males developed a sexual over-perception bias in order not to lose any single sexual opportunity. Both sexes have strategies to protect against sexual competition and infidelity (see for references Buss, 2008 p. 322–354). While these strategies often are successful in natural environments, we assume that in anonymous digital contexts deception of a possible mate – wherever in which aspect– is harder to detect given the absence of a common social field (no common friends, sometimes no face-to-face interactions). Digital “beauty-filters” are popular software applications in modern mobiles designed to increase the physical attractiveness in just a few instances. By using these applications, people try to deceive a possible mate about one’s own genetic fitness. Sometimes people even use images of other persons.