The Dating Game

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Subjective assumption? Admittedly, yes. And it’s hardly fair to leap to conclusions about a person based on one date idea—or one mouthful of eggshell. So if we were to look for something more quantitative on preferences and compatibility, what—to play Sigrid for a moment—could we learn from the data?

Dating site OKCupid—“We do math to get you dates”—has a reputation for extracting provocative correlations from the 1.2 billion questionnaire responses it reports receiving from 14 million users. A year ago, a post on OKCupid’s blog went viral with the finding that, among women, answering yes to the question “Do you like the taste of beer?” correlates with a 60 percent greater willingness to have sex on the first date.

OKCupid recently shared an exclusive preview of a titillating new correlation soon to be released: The spicier one likes their food, the likelier they are to have a taste for taking the lead in bedroom bondage. Specifically, OKCupid compared readers’ answers to the questions “How spicy do you like your spicy food?” and “Would you rather be tied up during sex/do the tying/avoid bondage altogether?” Among the people who “like it mild” at mealtime, 26 percent expressed a desire to tie someone up. In the “I like it a little spicy” group, that number rose to 32 percent. In the “I like it hot” group, 39 percent, and in the “I like it extremely hot” group, nearly 43 percent wanted to take charge of the rope.

Yet how does one correct for the possibility that a fondness for hot chili and cold beer may not necessarily signal “eager dominatrix” so much as say “That’s right, I’m from Texas”? And looking back to Stein and Nemeroff’s study, will someone who sprinkles Tabasco on their salad be presumed to be a nicer dominatrix than one who splashes it all over a cheeseburger?

Food has always been a cultural signifier, a reflection of one’s heritage and class. Yet never before in the history of courtship have we been able to seek or exclude a potential mate based on their feelings toward, say, guanciale. And it stands to reason that as our culture becomes ever more food-forward, we will assign more and deeper meaning to the food choices that we and others make.

Today, with the benefit of a decade spent with Sigrid, I understand the eggshell incident for what it is: a reflection of how deeply, wonderfully curious she is. But the question remains: At face value, just how much can eating habits reveal? And now that we have the technology at hand, can we find a mate who’s kind, or kinky, using food as a proxy? Questionnaires and search tools on dating sites are inviting a whole generation to try.

Matthew Kronsberg is a producer and writer in Brooklyn, New York. His features for Gourmet Live include this month’s report on food ventures funded via Kickstarter and a taste of the latest in marijuana cuisine.

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