Joe Twyman: The UK’s Top Pollster Reveals the Secret Sexual Fantasies of The UK Public
Meet Joe Twyman
In this, the third episode of the Love is not a List Podcast with Gillian McCallum, she meets the UK’s premier Pollster, Joe Twyman of DeltaPoll, the man with his finger on the pulse of the UK public.
Renowned for his in demand international political commentary, Joe joins Gillian to discuss perhaps one of his greatest achievements to date. The largest survey of British sexual desires and fantasies ever conducted.
Bringing high level stats, figures and his unique analytic perspective, Joe is a captivating interviewee who doesn’t pull punches, while simultaneously raising eyebrows.
When Gillian McCallum met Joe Twyman
[Gillian McCallum]: Well, hello. This week we’ve got one of Britain’s best known political pollsters, it’s Joe Twyman.
He is the co-founder and director of Deltapoll and he previously worked as head of Political and Social Research at YouGov. He was a director and founder of that company back in 2000.
Prior to leading the political and social research team at YouGov, Joe held a variety of senior positions within the company and was responsible for building the company’s online research operations.
He also spent two and a half fascinating years in Baghdad as a Director of YouGov’s Iraq operation from 2007 to 2010, he’s worked as an affiliated lecturer at the University of Cambridge, a visiting professor at the University of Sheffield, a Visiting Research fellow at the University of Manchester, and a lecturer research methods at the University of Essex Summer School.
Far more importantly, Joe has conducted a number of public opinion studies on sex and relationships, including what he believes to be the largest representative survey of British sexual fantasies in history.
Move over, Shere Hite. Joe Twyman is in town.
Thank you for joining me.
I have to say at the very beginning you don’t know this, but I’m an unofficial pollster too.
If I want to know what is going on in the heart of the nation, I go to the Daily Mail, I go to the comments section and whatever’s been up arrowed the most, whether it’s 3,000 4,000 or 5,000 times tells me what people are thinking.
Is that the proper way to go about working out what’s going on with the British nation and what they’re thinking on all matters?
[Joe Twyman]: If you’re completely crazy and wish to be consistently wrong, that is a very poor way of even assessing what the views are of the people who read the Daily Mail website.
Those types of comments are often and famously subject to huge amounts of manipulation from all sorts of different organisations and have been now for decades.
So I would advise against the Daily Mail, Daily Mail comments page and the voting on the Daily Mail comments page as a way to assess these things.
Polls – The Reliable Truth?
[Gillian McCallum]: So by the sounds of things, what you’re looking for when you’re polling is the heart of the matter. You want to get to the truth, you want to find out exactly what’s going on. And by the sounds of things you think you’ve got a pretty reliable way of finding out.
[Joe Twyman]: Yes, that’s right. I mean, I think I probably won’t talk in full detail about the way we go about these things because it would take an extremely long time and perhaps not be top of mind for everyone listening to this, but the short answer is that we seek to accurately represent the views of the population we’re trying to survey.
And so if that’s the British public that we’re trying to represent their views, we spend a lot of time to make sure that the people we speak to whether it’s 1000, 2000 or 15,000 are a representative sample in terms of age, gender, region, but also many attitudinal things of the country as a whole.
And people may say, oh, well, hang on, how can you only do that with one and a half thousand or 2,000 people? How can that tell you what a population of 60 million people think? And the answer to that is because it’s that appropriate representative sample in the same way that if you have a big bowl of soup, you don’t need to eat all of the soup to know what flavour it is. If it’s mixed properly, you just need one spoonful. And similarly, when you go for a blood test, they don’t need to take all of your blood.
The Biggest Ever UK Survey on Sexual Fantasies?
[Gillian McCallum]: Pleased to hear that. So when it comes to you and your polling, you’ve said there in the introduction you’ve done one of the biggest surveys on sex, sexual fantasies. What are the British public thinking when it comes to sex? Are people more open about talking about what they’re looking for between the sheets?
[Joe Twyman]: Well, more, more open. I would say that. I would say that over the very long term, so we’re talking over decades, people have become more comfortable about talking whether it’s sex generally, whether it’s fancy specifically. People have become more comfortable about this, but that is over the very long term. One of the major impacts on that was the growth of social media, but before that, the growth of the internet.
But having said all of that, it’s not the case that British people, or indeed other people, are often very open about talking about these things. And although progress has been made towards openness, we still tend to be relatively; how would I put it relatively quiet about talking about such things.
And that’s why the work that the work was done on sexual fantasies was so important because a lot of surveys that are conducted on sex tend to be of extremely poor quality, either consciously or subconsciously, by the people conducting those surveys, knowing that really they won’t account for much and it doesn’t really matter.
They’re just there to attract attention for a website or a product or a campaign or a message or something. And so really, if you like, the scientific quality of that doesn’t matter.
And so there’s loads of surveys out there like that on the subject of sex and similarly on relationships. And then you have the very serious health surveys in this country.
For instance, we have the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle, which was first run in 1990. That goes around, out to around 15,000 people every ten years. And that’s a serious health study conducted by the British government.
But it looks at sex, but not, if you like, at the fun bits of sex. It looks at frequency, it looks at issues of coercion and abuse and sexual disease, but it doesn’t look at fantasies and role play and things like different scenarios and things like that.
And so that’s the niche, if you like, that I seek to fill with my work away from political work to get a greater understanding of sex and relationships beyond simply, quite frankly bullshit PR surveys or very dry medical work.
What we learn about sex from those surveys
[Gillian McCallum]: So in order to make sure that we’re looking at the niche that you fill without it being dry can you give us some idea of what was in those surveys and what people were telling you?
[Joe Twyman]: Yes, what we found was that in actual fact the British people have, relatively, with a small c conservative attitudes towards sex and sexual behaviour.
From a number of surveys that we’ve conducted one of the things that comes through consistently is that people believe their sex life is conventional. Nearly half of people when asked unprompted to describe their sexual behaviour and their sex life say conventional.
Only 3% of people say what they do is unusual for instance. In contrast to that and everything else whether it’s whether it’s dominant, submissive and all these kind of ways of approaching things always comes lower than simply conventional.
And that same was true when it came to analysing people’s sexual fantasies. We did a lot of work, a lot of work asking people in their own words to describe their favourite sexual fantasy. And when you’re going to 14,000 people it’s inevitable with such a large number that you will get some wonderful weird and wonderful and certainly wouldn’t seek to kink shame.
I was going to say, I wouldn’t seek to kink shame anyone. That’s not true. There were some, where I had some question marks about their particular kinks but generally speaking wouldn’t seek to kink shame anyone.
But what came through from that was a lot of people were fantasising about things that they perhaps do often and yet they fantasise about them because that’s what they like doing and by most standards they are pretty conventional, pretty normal.
One of the things that came out when we first did that survey back in 2004 was that women’s favourite sexual fancy at that stage was using a vibrator or other sex toy vibrator, dildo or similar.
And people would see that and say well that doesn’t sound particularly, particularly interesting. And of course for a lot of people that may not be particularly unusual but at the time 49% of women had never used a sex toy and so for them they fantasised about it even though they couldn’t actually for whatever reason make that move to actually owning one.
And for other people it was something that they enjoyed doing frequently or enjoyed doing every so often and so they fantasised about it in that respect. It covered a whole host of, whole host of different bases for women and so that’s how it got to the top.
But one of the things that I think was most interesting to me was the focus that some people have particularly though not always men have on aspects of their sexual fantasies and the focusing around specific details.
There’s a scene in the film When Harry Met Sally, which is one of my favourite films, where the two main characters, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, are discussing their favourite sexual fantasies, the ones they’ve had since they were children.
Harry talks about this complicated fantasy around being at the sex Olympics, and I won’t spoil the punchline for it, but it’s very good. Then Sally talks about her sexual fantasy and she says, there’s a man. What kind of man? She’s asked. A faceless man. Okay, there’s a faceless man. He rips off my clothes. And Harry says, well, what else? What’s next? And she said, well, that’s it. And he said, “That’s it?”.
Unusual Sexual Fantasies
That’s the sex fantasy you’ve been having since you were young? And she said, yeah.I mean, I vary it sometimes. And he says, what part? She says what I’m wearing. And actually, though that joke is very good and works very well in the film, it either knowingly or unknowingly is actually pretty closely aligned to many people’s sexual fantasies.
That it’s those small details that they vary. The one that I remember most clearly of all the 14,000 that I had to look through was a male respondent who said, my favourite sexual fantasy is to watch my wife give another man a blowjob.
They’re in a car, and I’m watching from another car, or sometimes a bus. You think, what’s the origin of this? How does that come about? Why is the bus detail important? And I’ve no idea why. I have no idea why we couldn’t follow up on it was anonymous data.
And so who knows?
Who knows why some days this guy would wake up and say, oh, it’s a bus day today. Let’s go for it. I don’t know. But for whatever reason, it was the focus on that specific detail that really, if you like, got him going and things like that came consistently through the data.
[Gillian McCallum]: And I can imagine with the bus it’s an additional perhaps well, the bus is a little bit anonymous, so I was going to say another form of shame. But of course it’s not shame: because he doesn’t know any of the people in the bus.
What he’s also perhaps liking is the voyeurism of the other passengers who presumably, if they casually looked out the window, also saw a lady because they don’t know it’s his wife with a man performing this act. So maybe there’s an extra kick from knowing that other people are also viewing this act, but they don’t know that it’s his wife because they’re strangers..
[Joe Twyman]: There’s all sorts of things we could speculate on this. And yes, the scenario that you’ve described is perfectly plausible. But the point is we don’t know. We don’t know because delving into things in more detail, probing, as we say in the industry, on these things, is not possible in the artificial construction of the survey instruments that we run.
And that’s one of the downsides of these large scale surveys that actually probing more deeply is difficult. And you can talk about correlations, you can say oh well he for instance, well I can’t remember his precise details but let’s say oh, he’s an older person or he’s a person in the north of England or he’s a person that reads this newspaper. You can talk about correlations between that.
But actually pointing to causation is very, very difficult simply through having these texts in front of you. And yes, the kind of analysis that you’ve suggested could perfectly be true but we don’t know. We will have to wonder maybe if he’s listening out there and wants to get in touch and explain things in more detail.
Women’s Sexual Fantasies
[Gillian McCallum]: By all means, by all means. One of the things that you can perhaps debunk for me: I always had a sense or a feeling or an understanding of women’s fantasies that ours were perhaps slightly more complex, perhaps slightly more going on.
I get a feeling from having spoken to friends and having my own imagination that there has to be a little bit more to it. We know the year, we know whether there’s political turmoil going on at that particular time and how that might impact on the person who is our partner at that point.
So for me there seems to be a huge amount that has to go in to keep the cerebral part of our mind turned on, tuned in to climax, which is ultimately what we’re going for with these fantasies.
Did that replicate in the information and the stats that you were getting or does it seem to be a 50 50 in terms of the fantasies and how we might build them in our minds?
[Joe Twyman]: Well this then raises a question about how you define fantasies. In the 2004 survey and subsequent work that I’ve done, we use the framework set out by Nancy Friday, the famous American sexologist, if I may use that term, and she defines fantasies in many different ways.
It can be something that it can be any sort of fleeting daydream that you have, it can be something that you do a lot that you fantasise about, it can be something that you’ve done a few times and would like to do more.
It can be something that you’ve only done once and would like to do again or it can be something you’ve never done and never intend to do but the thought of it still gets you excited. And these are the kind of thoughts that we have during the day while indeed sitting on the bus or sitting recording podcasts, et cetera, et cetera.
And those are separate from the kind of, if you like, active fantasies that you might draw on while actually engaging in sex, for instance. And so there’s an important distinction there, but there are differences between men and women and of course drawing conclusions based on: based on gender is inevitably more complicated than I’m making it sound.
And so when I say men say this or when I say women think this, it doesn’t mean all men, all women. What it means is women are more likely to and in some cases significantly more likely to. And the same for men.
When it comes to fantasies, one of the things that comes out is that women tend to focus more on the feelings and so they will talk about how they felt at the time and men tend to focus more on the mechanics and so what’s being put, where, what’s being done, that sort of thing.
In terms of detail, certainly when we did, for instance, a word count around the number of words that people were using in their fancies, and I should say some people were writing nearly 500 words in terms of their description, there really wasn’t that much difference.
And so the depth that you go in really doesn’t seem to vary between men and women. But as I say, the main difference is to do with feelings versus mechanics.
And there’s a lot of work in psychology that shows that women do need more of that when actually engaging in sex. But as I say, the analysis that we did was more about, if you like, the daydream type fantasies that people have rather than what they go to, to actually get more turned on while doing it.
[Gillian McCallum]: And so do you think by the sense of things, people had a sense of freedom when they were replying, when you said someone wrote 500 words in response, do you think people are maybe not asked this enough or not questioned enough?
And this was an opportunity for people to really share what was going on because by the sounds of things, especially with your guy with the bus, people were very open about what they’re thinking and what’s going on in their internal world.
And presumably that’s part of what you do at Deltapoll is to try and get this information out of people in a way that feels natural to them, in a way that makes them feel like they can be open, they can be honest, they can write a huge amount about the secret fantasy. Does that sound true to you?
Old Style Vs. New Style Sexual Polling
[Joe Twyman]: Yes, absolutely. And that was definitely part of the aim of the project and part of the difficulty that we faced to refer back to NATSAU, the National Survey of Attitudes of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle survey.
As I said, every ten years from 19, 90, 15,000 people are asked that survey. But it’s a face to face survey so that means that it usually will be. A female middle aged interviewer will knock on people’s doors or stop people in the street and ask them to complete the survey. Now nowadays that tends to be done more online, but still in those early days.
And still now, for people who aren’t online, the idea of, let’s say, giving 455 words about your favourite sexual fantasy to a middle aged woman who’s sitting in front of you is going to be, shall we say, difficult for most people. I mean, there will be some people out there for whom it’s actually a plus, but there will be relatively few in number.
So instead, the whole point about an online survey is that it doesn’t have that interviewer effect. It doesn’t make people feel, we hope, uncomfortable. And there’s a lot of evidence to show that people are more upfront, for want of a better expression, when it comes to online surveys.
But even then, simply going straight in and saying, right, what’s your favourite sexual fantasy? It doesn’t work like that. You could do that. There’s nothing technically stopping you to do it, but it doesn’t produce very good data.
And so what we focused on was the whole story of the questionnaire. And the questionnaire took a long time to develop to guide people through the process and to get them to feel at ease.
And so it started off talking about relationships in general, friendships. How do you feel to different people within your life? Is there a special person in your life for whom you’re particularly close to or more than one?
And then delving more and more deeply into that, easing people in, and at each stage saying, if you’re not comfortable with this, you don’t need to proceed.
Asking them about fancies in general, setting out what we meant by fancies, talking about examples of fancies, getting them to answer specific questions earlier on about different types of sexual behaviour, and then at the end, for one of them, expression, hitting them with it.
It wasn’t the final question, but towards the end of the survey asking, please explain in as much detail as possible in the space below your favourite sexual fantasy.And by that stage, people were in most cases, sufficiently warmed up and relaxed to then provide us with the provided us with the information they did.
Secretive Sexual Fantasies
[Gillian McCallum]: And it wouldn’t surprise me from listening to this if the kind of information that people shared with you they possibly hadn’t shared before. They might not even have told their partner. In the case of the chat you mentioned their wife. This might be something that they keep hidden.
Was there any kind of sense of shame, or did you get a sense that people were quite open about discussing their fantasies, that they were willing to do that?
Or is this a part of their life that you think they keep hidden in secret for no good reason, in my opinion. But do you think that’s possible?
[Joe Twyman]: Well, one of the things that we asked was how comfortable people were about their fantasies and how likely they were to tell other people or particularly partners. And it’s a full range of responses.
Some people are very nervous about their fantasies. And in some cases you could argue that the particularly unusual nature of some of those fancies made it a logical behaviour.
But in other cases, people were simply shy about these things, which is a completely natural reaction. To go back to what you were saying about whether people feel how would I put it at ease with these things or whether they feel comfortable now saying these things, it strikes me and I don’t have data on this, but this is just something that I’ve played around with.
It strikes me that if you look at British history, every few decades, something comes along which really catches the imagination.
I think specifically because its entry into the zeitgeist means that people are then given, if you like, permission to talk about their sexual fantasies with their partners in a way that they felt, for whatever reason, they didn’t have before.
And so if you go back and you think to the early 20th century and Lady Chatterley’s Lover and the obscenity trial around that, that became a sensation.
And people were talking about sex in a way that certainly in Britain for many decades, if not hundreds of years, they hadn’t talked about before. They were starting to do it because of that.
Fast forward to the 1970s and you then have the growth of films like Deep Throat, particularly Deep Throat and The Story of O, the Green Door, this gentrification of high quality pornography coming over from the United States that really captures the imagination and again, gives that generation the opportunity to talk about sex and discuss things that previously hadn’t been really discussed in as much detail.
And then fast forward to more recently in 50 Shades of Gray and the publication of that series of books and associated films. And then you have this permission because it’s part of the cultural landscape, because it’s part of the zeitgeist, you have that permission to discuss the kind of things that are explored in 50 Shades of Gray in a way that hadn’t been given before.
And I know that if you’re particularly into the kind of scene that 50 Shades of Gray purports to be talking about, you might say, oh, well, that’s not a fair representation of that.
I completely understand that. My point is it doesn’t need to be. It’s a mechanism for giving permission to people up and down the country to talk about these things because it’s on the TV, it’s on the Internet, it’s in the newspapers.
And so you say, oh, that 50 Shades of Gray book I saw that was trending. That’s quite interesting. What do you think about nipple clamps and so on and so forth.
Are we all being more open about sex?
[Gillian McCallum]: I think that just might be the line of today. So in terms of the research that you’re doing and what you’re discovering and what you’re finding out, how does this translate to single men, single women who are out there dating the openness and the willingness to talk about it. You’ve talked about the 50 Shades of Gray, the fact that we’re far more open, perhaps about sex.
Do you think it translates in the dating world? I mean, my own perspective is that online dating certainly facilitates this belief that there’s an unlimited pool of people for you to date, which means you could carry on going through them till you find someone who maybe finds the same fantasy as you’ve got.
But have you seen that in terms of your polling for men and for women, in terms of their mate selection or their partner, has that been altered by online dating or the more kind of openness around sex and sexuality?
[Joe Twyman]: Well, I think there’s a lot to unpick there. The first thing that I would say is that over the last ten to 15 years, with the growth of social media, but also many other things that have been developed at the same time, I get the sense that we are developing a desire for things to fit exactly as we want them, if you like.
And so because of the near infinite choice and at the same time on demand lifestyle that many people now lead, and indeed are able to lead as a result of developments in technology, there is, shall we say, less of a tolerance to the idea of broad church and compromise.
And you see that in politics very clearly with people quite often refusing to back down, refusing to compromise on specific issues and even when it comes to political parties. And at the same time, I think, as I say, the data for this is a bit: is a bit sketchy.
But my sense is, and I think that you’re seeing that in dating as well, in that people have a desire for what they want in a way that they didn’t have when, for want of a better expression, they simply had the choice of everyone in of all the single women in the village and nothing beyond that.
And so if, for instance, you have a particular kink, a particular fetish, a particular sexual act that you wish to explore, there are dating sites that are out there and will cater for that particular desire in a way that if, 10/15 years ago, you had that desire, it would be far more difficult, far more difficult to find.
And so you can be more specific with your targeting, but at the same time with something like the Large, basically anything associated with Match, which of course owns Tinder and all these other sites, anything like that, where there’s a huge scale that also provides you with opportunities that weren’t there 10/15 years ago.
Because the mechanism for finding people is far easier than it was. And so all of that is changing the way in which we approach dating, in which we approach relationships, and ultimately in which we approach sex. If you were really into something 25 years ago that you were worried was a really niche activity.
Perhaps there were special contact magazines that you could make the most of and clubs and so forth to visit. And yes, in major cities that might have been an option, but if you were out living in the countryside, it probably wasn’t.
Now, the globalised nature of information means that it’s far easier to get in touch with other people who may share those fantasies.
The Statistics around Dating and Choice
[Gillian McCallum]: So what are you seeing around dating men, women, what they’re looking for. Are you seeing significant changes in terms of people wanting to partner up or people delaying partnering up because of that choice that they have?
As you say, we’re not in the village anymore. So are you seeing that in terms of the data that you’re bringing on board at Deltapoll?
[Joe Twyman]: Well, I think the sort of partnering up and tying down and settling down issue is a really complicated one that lots of people within the realm of psychology have attempted to explain it, and so on and so forth.
But from my world, in the world of politics, I think there are some indications for why that might be. And in a lot of cases, it’s that people are simply getting older later. And by that I mean over the last 30 to 40 years, there has been a significant change in the way that people live their lives.
They are, for instance, staying in education longer. That means they’re starting their careers later. My parents generation, many of them would start their careers at the age of 16. That is virtually completely unheard of now. And for nearly half of people in this country, they won’t even graduate until they’re 21.
So a big difference there. And the job market is far more fluid than it once was. And so the idea of settling down in the job market now happens a lot later. People are buying houses a lot later because they need to, or indeed not at all because they need to save a lot more money than they once did, because it costs a lot more than it once did.
So therefore, you can only have access to that in most cases, if you have access at all much later in life. People are also getting married later, they’re having children later, and all that is linked. And so there isn’t really the sense of settling down in any aspects of people’s lives in the way that there once was at younger ages because of all these circumstances.
Then when you throw into that the fact that the fact that meeting new people is extremely straightforward now compared to what it was, you have this if you like, this perfect storm for for promiscuity, I mean, that in the, in the literal sense, moving from one to another to another, you have that possibility of promiscuity, whether it’s in jobs, whether it’s in relationships, whether it’s in housing and so on and so forth. I think what we’re seeing is that: is that change caused, as I say, by these changes in circumstances and then amplified and fueled by the fact that this infinite choice coupled with an on demand world means that things have changed substantially.
You simply don’t get to the stage now where people sit in front of the TV and watch what’s on in the way that they are in anything like the kind of numbers that they used to. You just don’t have that anymore. You don’t see that.
Instead, people are sitting down and watching what they want to watch. And that sort of behaviour, although I’ve just described it in terms of consumption of TV, is true, whether it’s consumption of relationships as well.
The Evolution of Society, Sex and Freedom Today
[Gillian McCallum]: Of course, some people would straightaway say this is a total breakdown of traditional family values, what the country was built on. How would you counter that?
[Joe Twyman]: Well, I would say it’s an evolution. And this is what happens in societies if you go back three, 4500 years, the vast majority of people only knew the people in their immediate locality. That was probably about 20 to 25 people. And the likelihood of travelling the eight to 10 miles to see the people in the next village was extremely small.
And so behaviour was obviously very different then. Since then we have had industrial revolutions, of which the data revolution is the fourth. And each one of those, whether it’s the move from the countryside to the city, whether it’s mass travel around trains and railways and then cars, whether it’s all of these things each stage in our evolution as a species has brought about dramatic revisions and changes to the way that we do approach many different things, of which relationships is just one.
And that has been true over a number of, as I say, centuries that these big changes have happened. And I see this simply as another change in our history and our evolution as a species.
The interesting question, of course, is where things will go next. What will the next stage be? And the answer to that is I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone does. There is no doubt a backlash to some of this in certain quarters.
You only have to look at the you only have to look at the development of what’s called the trad wife trend, which is the idea that women will move back to the traditional sort of 1950s housewife role of looking after the looking after the house and the children while the husband goes out to work.
When I first saw that, I assumed that was a sex role play thing, and indeed it might still be. But that is a very, very small movement, but it’s attracting a lot of attention and is an example of the kind of: kind of movements away and backlashes that we’ve seen towards the general movement.
But I do think that what we’re seeing is just another example of the evolution of the human race.
The Trad Wife Backlash
[Gillian McCallum]: And you’re totally right there. And my next question was going to be, what’s happening next? But when you mentioned there the trad movement, I know you said it’s a very small part of the population and potentially building.
I’ve seen it myself, but in very simple ways. There’s TikToks instagram posts around. The concept of women having been done over. Women have been screwed over, by the way in which society presents us now.
We’re now having to have the job, give birth, and do the extra stuff in the evenings. And really, we’ve got to return to that sense of someone else pulling their weight. And by pulling their weight, the guy has the job while you’re at home with the kids.
But it’s done in a very subtle, maybe we’re going to call it fifth wave feminism. I’m not entirely sure which wave of feminism we’re on right now, but it’s becoming a trend. It’s something out there designed to make us think, maybe I am hard done by, maybe this concept of I can have it all is not what I should be going for.
So I’m really, genuinely not surprised that you said you’re seeing this little trend of the trad wife, and perhaps that’s where we’re going next.
And as you said, it’s all an evolution continually in perpetual motion, moving forwards onto the next thing. And I don’t necessarily think that there’s this huge breakdown in the family structure.
I think a family can be a mother and a child, a father and a child, whatever kind of makeup you want it to be. But are we seeing any stats or any information coming out about family units where perhaps there’s not what we would call a traditional mum, dad and kid or two kids in the family? I think it’s 1.6.
Now, is there a sense that society is suffering as a result of that? Or from what I’m seeing, society is thriving with this acceptance of diversity? What’s your feeling on the stats that you’re getting?
[Joe Twyman]: Well, before I answer that, can I just come back to the point about the trad wife example as an example of the backlash? I mentioned that because it’s a relatively minor and relatively small thing that attracts relatively little attention.
But the flip side of that, one of the other backlashes is, of course, the blue pill, red pill movement, the Manosphere incels, Andrew Tate, all of that sort of all of that sort of thing, because a lot of that movement is a reaction against the kind of evolutions that we’ve seen.
And what they’re reacting against, to answer your question, is a change in the way that families are perceived. And we have seen, for instance, in recent years, a large growth in the number of same sex partners with children, and that becoming an established family unit in many areas of the country where it wasn’t, say, 20 or 30 years ago.
So that’s a big change to the family unit. We’re seeing the birth rate fall, but we’ve been seeing the birth rate fall effectively for 30 or actually, maybe even more than that, more than sort of for decades we’ve been seeing the birth rate fall. Let’s just leave it that.
And actually the level of divorce is starting to fall as well. But it’s slightly more complicated there because people are getting married later. And 30, 40, 50 years ago, when people first started embracing the concept of divorce and the idea that you no longer needed to stay in relationships and marriages that were, for whatever reason, uncomfortable and unhappy and in some cases extremely bad situations, we’re now getting to the stage where people don’t get married in the first place.
There’s not that rush to get married. People are getting married, much as I mentioned, getting married and having children much later. And so as a result, the likelihood of divorce is falling because they will simply have a relationship with someone and whereas previously would have got married, now they just split up with them. And because they’re not married, it doesn’t count towards statistics.
So that’s a bit of a minor bit of a minor point, but it gives you an illustration of how things are changing.
What I think I would characterise all of these changes as though is an example of the complexity of British and also societies in other established democracies where it is simply more complicated now than simply man and woman and 2.4 children.
There are many, many different alternatives to that which have developed for people’s circumstances, which I personally think is an extremely good thing, but not everyone shares that view.
Alleged Rapist Andrew Tate – The Antithesis of Female Sexual Fantasy
[Gillian McCallum]: You mentioned Andrew Tate at the beginning, the man who holds himself aloft as the man that all women want, and yet I’ve not met a woman who wants Andrew Tate yet. Any fantasies? Because, of course, women often fantasise about what they definitely don’t want. Any fantasies about Andrew Tate in your file of 14,000 people? Poll
[Joe Twyman]: Well, we haven’t rerun that particular question since Andrew Tate rose to prominence and indeed: was subsequently arrested and charged.
But in terms of the shall we to massively simplify the situation, there’s no doubt that a certain proportion of people, a certain proportion of women particularly fantasise about a quote unquote bad boy.
And I do not for 1 minute wish to; wish to denigrate the situation that led to Andrew Tate’s arrest, which I do think is I do think is an extremely clear one given that he’s now been charged and it’s an extremely, extremely bad situation.
And so I’m not talking about it. I’m not talking about that, which I do consider as an extremely serious situation.
But putting that to one side, there is a thread that goes through some people’s fancies of an attraction towards a bad boy. But actually, when you explore that, what you see is that some women, and it’s really not that many, do have an attraction towards: towards what I would describe as physical capability.
And so they’re attracted to strong people who in a lot of cases they see as protective, but they’re also attracted to confidence and to competence, which the quote unquote bad boy bit tends to provide for them.
What they’re not attracted to in most cases is the fact that they do bad behaviour. That’s not part of it. And so to go back to the Andrew Tate thing, I think the idea that large numbers of women would be attracted to someone like that is just completely false. That is, of course, the projection that people like Andrew Tate are putting forward to men.
They are saying to other men, this is what women want. Whereas in actual fact, that’s massively detached from reality.
But men buy into it because they see the successful thing in front of them. Now, it’s worth pointing out that there will still be some people, a fractionally small number of people, who are attracted to that in the same way that there are a fractionally small number of people who are attracted to serial killers, for instance, and to famous prisoners.
But we’re talking about the tiniest of proportions of the population that is not representative of women at all. And so, yes, there are some people that are attracted to the quote unquote bad boy, but for different reasons than their bad behaviour. And the number of people who are actually attracted to bad behaviour is minuscule.
Why Women Like Smaller Penises
[Gillian McCallum]: I am thrilled that you drew that comparison. And while we are not saying in any way, shape or form that Andrew Tate is a serial killer, I like that the proportion of women out there who are attracted to him are in small numbers because I do fear for the incel movement.
I fear for the movement where men are being taught that that is what women want. It’s not.
And while we might have a sexual fantasy around this and we might like this little idea we don’t actually want to date these men. And as you said, the types of men that we do want to date have got competencies and various other things that makes us desire them and want them.
So what I’m interested to know: what are women looking for? What do woman want from a man? We know what they don’t want. That’s Andrew Tate. But what do they want?
You’ve talked about the competencies and on top of that, after that, what else are men looking for? What are men looking for in a partner, in a girlfriend and someone that they’d like to date? We’re talking, of course, it’s heteronormative relationships here.
But you can also tell me in general about other relationships too.
[Joe Twyman]: Yeah, I mean, most of the work that’s been done in this area tends to focus on heterosexual relationships. And that is mainly because the sample size available of heterosexual couples is much larger than that of bisexuals or gay people.
And so yes, when we talk about this, when we talk about all of this, we’re generally talking about what straight men and women are interested in. And the answer is: inevitably it is complicated. And what makes it complicated is what people are looking for, for different things.
And so the attraction that someone might have to dating someone, the attraction that someone might have to sleeping with someone is not necessarily the attraction they have for having a long term relationship with someone.
And that’s particularly true for men. One of my favourite examples of attempts to explore this was a study that was conducted in the United States and it was looking at what women want from a sexual partner and what women want from a long term relationship.
And in order to investigate this, they focus just on the area of penis size, penis size, penis shape, the whole package for want of a better expression. And to investigate this, they 3D printed different shaped genitals penis and testicles and varied the size of these 3D printed things. And they varied the width, they varied the length, et cetera, et cetera.
They were all blue in colour so as to remove any possible ethnicity effect. And they asked an admittedly and unfortunately small number of women to rank these different sizes and shapes in terms of their attractiveness for a one night stand and they’re in terms of attractiveness for a long term relationship. And it was different groups for both what the scientists found and this wasn’t a representative sample.
And we can talk all day about how these sort of psychological lab tests are then extrapolated up for the entire population.
But what they found in that particular test, at that particular time, among that particular group of respondents, was that women were more attracted to a larger penis for one night stands and a slightly smaller penis for long term relationships.
That is an example of how people’s priorities differ. There is a big difference in terms of the genders when it comes to this. Men tend to be, in terms of dating people, they tend to be attracted primarily to looks.
So physical attractiveness is very important to men in a way that it isn’t to the same extent for women. Again, most men, most women, for women it tends to be about though that’s not to say that physical attractiveness isn’t important at all, but it tends to be more about things like competence and confidence.
Those sorts of things are more important for women than they are for, than they are for men. Those differences are both there for both genders.
Who Men Are Attracted To
[Gillian McCallum]: And in terms of, I’m sorry, my battery’s just gone in this. Which is why I’ve temporarily lost my attention here. So in terms of what we’re doing with men and women and their dating.
I mean, one of the things as a matchmaker that I hear from men and people always say that they think that men are looking for tall, skinny blondes with big boobs. And purely as a matchmaker, I get told far off things such as I’m looking for someone who’s kind.
And the second most common thing I get asked for is no plastic surgery. Is that anything that you’ve heard of? Does that sound like it fits in with your polling?
[Joe Twyman]: Of course, I’m dealing with hundreds of people over the course of a year rather than thousands of people over the course of a year. But for me, certainly it is not the tall,skinny, bucks and blonde that I’m being requested.
Well, let me check that firstly, physical attractiveness is more important to men and who describes that. But what people want from physical attractiveness certainly does vary.
I think the plastic surgery point is an interesting one because people say no plastic surgery, but what do they actually mean?
What they mean is no visible plastic surgery. Nothing that looks fake, nothing that looks for want of a better expression, unnatural. And so that is a very common theme that comes through.
People want an authentic look. But you see the same with men when they talk about makeup. They say oh, I don’t like women wearing makeup. What they mean is they don’t like women wearing lots of makeup.
They want a natural look. But a natural look for many women is achieved through makeup. And certainly when you ask men to look at examples of different makeup, they say, oh yes, the natural look, where they mean actually natural looking makeup.
And what this touches on is the idea that actually people are pretty poor at explaining their own behaviour. And this is true in political science when it comes to voting intention in the same way that it’s true for dating when people say what it is they look for.
And part of the problem, as I see it, with dating apps and with this explosion in websites and the process that people go through for dating is it gets them to artificially think about things that really, when you examine it, are not particularly important when you’re looking at, to use the example in political science of voting intention.
You look at what drives someone’s voting intention. If you look at this sensibly, you will use what’s called a multivariate model, a regression model to look at lots of different factors to determine which of those drives the dependent variable.
In other words, the actual thing that you’re trying to predict. So in this case, vote. So what determines whether someone votes Labour or votes Conservative? Well, it might be their age, their gender, their education, their attitudes towards immigration, economic competency, et cetera, et cetera.
All of these factors go in and these factors combined within the model explain a certain proportion of a person’s vote preference towards Labour. But then there’s something called the error term in these statistical models, which basically means everything else.
What 6-6-6 (Six-Six-Six) Means in Dating
And that everything else in data is hugely important and particularly important in dating, because you may be asked, as part of the process, what do you think about – what would your ideal height be? Or what would your ideal ideal income be? And we see this in really extreme cases with the 6-6-6 foot dating phenomenon, which I’m, which are you, are you familiar with the six for, for those of you at home not familiar with the 6-6-6 dating phenomenon.
The 6-6-6 dating phenomenon is the idea that women will put on dating profiles or will say in conversations that they’re only interested in 6-6-6 dating. And 6-6-6 dating means men who are at least six foot, have a penis at least six inches in length and earn at least six figures.
That for them is the important thing because they think that’s what’s important. And there are various ways through dating processes that you’re asked questions about income and height and all these other things, but actually, when you look at it statistically, all of those things that people say are important to them actually account for a relatively small proportion of the attractiveness that somebody has for someone.
And the error term is enormous. That other bit, the intangible, is really, really difficult to measure, but that tends to be these sort of softer, hidden attributes such as, yes, kindness, but as I say, competence, and competence and confidence for men, and for women, attractiveness, physical attractiveness, but also various things around compatibility, around confidence as well.
And that all comes together. And it’s really interesting to me that people have moved towards something like tinder, because it is just so often, particularly for men, just an immediate, well, do you like it or not? That’s tapping into the error term through less conscious decisions that people make, which actually in some cases can be more useful and more powerful.
It’s about asking the right questions and really understanding what people want, rather than just having them say that, of course, becomes so important. And you will know that as a matchmaker, these things are important.
What we do know from the data around websites, however, is there are things that people lie about and they lie about because they think that they’re important to people.
And in a lot of cases, people genuinely do think they’re important to them and so make measurements on that and make decisions based on that, even though, as we say, actually, if they examined their own behaviour in more detail, if they were asked the right questions, they would understand that some things are more important.
The things that people lie about change from gender to gender. Men will lie about their height and their income. We know that they will elevate both. And I say that as someone who’s six foot four. And so we’ll regularly have people say, well, how tall are you?
Sort of 6’6 because nobody knows how tall six foot is anymore. No one has an accurate gauge of that. And I will regularly speak to men who will say, I’m six foot, so you must be six six, I say, or I’m six four and you’re 5’10.
But anyway, so men lie about their height and their income, and women lie about their age and their weight because it’s thought that those are the things that the men will be looking on. And so the age and the weight go down, the income and the height go up.
Trying to Find a Unicorn
[Gillian McCallum]: And this thing that I love about what you’ve just talked about, Joe, is what we experience on the ground as Matchmakers, which is people coming to us with this huge shopping list.
As my trademark slogan goes, Love is Not a List, but they come with this huge shopping list of what they’re looking for in a partner. And when it comes down to it, they’re kind of a unicorn that they’re looking for out there. And what I often say to my clients is, imagine you’re at a dinner party and you’re sitting next to this incredible, funny, great company.
It doesn’t matter the gender guest who’s sitting right next to you, and you discover that they’ve recently been set up with a friend of yours. The host has set them up with a friend of yours. They’re in this great relationship, and you corner your host in the kitchen and say, why on earth did you not introduce them to me? They are perfect.
They’re my ideal partner. And they turn around and say, well, I’m sorry they didn’t have a university degree. And you said you could never date someone in banking. You’ve always said you would hate to date a banker. And they say, but not that banker. Not that banker.
And this is the whole thing that we deal with every single day as matchmakers, is trying to take this laundry list that people are looking for and say, none of these things count. None of these things are values. None of these things dictate how someone makes you feel or whether they’ll make you a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.
None of these things control whether or not you should be in a relationship with that person. But they cling to this list. They cling to this list for dear life. And it’s great to hear that you are seeing that, too. You’re seeing this total separation between what someone thinks they want and need and what would actually be brilliant for them.
[Joe Twyman]: And that’s as true in political science with voting intention as it is with dating. People have this idea, and it tends to be very different, which is why you get politicians focusing on the idea that, oh, well, if we only deliver this one policy, then people will vote for us.
No, it’s a lot more complicated than that in politics, and it’s a lot more complicated than in the world of dating. And that’s just thinking about going on a date with someone before you’ve even considered the different or tweaked set of considerations that you have for someone, whether you want to be in a long term relationship with them or not.
Brenda’s Quick Fire Round True or False
[Gillian McCallum]: Now, I have a very naive friend. She’s a total delight. She’s called Brenda. I told her that I was meeting you today, and she came up with a couple of true or false questions that she wanted me to ask you.
She’s a sweet girl, but, you know… here we go:
True or false?
In a survey of social media users, it was found that 66% of people would rather receive 100 retweets than $100.
Does that sound true or false to you?
[Joe Tywman]: Well, I mean, that may be true in the sense that a particular survey produced those results, but does it mean that that’s representative of social media users?
No, it doesn’t. It means that that’s almost certainly a bad survey.
[Gillian McCallum]: True or false? And again, she’s a sweet girl.
According to a survey, 90% of people believe that sharing a pizza is a more intimate act than sharing a kiss or having sex.
[Joe Tywman]: As I say, I would suggest that’s the type of survey that is used to: that was probably a PR survey for a pizza company used to advertise a particular new type of pizza or a new pizza company that they produce that statistic in order to get in newspapers.
And you see the same sort of thing time and again. My favourite statistic along those lines is a survey that was published in the Daily Mail saying that two thirds of women have listened to Adele’s song Hello, many of us will be familiar with that song, so two thirds of all women have listened to Adele’s song hello and then phoned an ex to reconcile.
Two in every three women have done that precise thing. That was the suggestion.
And when you delve into it some more, you find that this was a survey by a website called whatsyourprice.com, which positions itself as a dating website, but one, shall we say, very different from the kind of dating you’re involved with on that website.
You can pay to go out on dates with people or you can be paid to date people. Now, call me old fashioned, but I thought there was a term for that. But apparently this website provides the opportunity to do that. And that survey was designed purely to attract attention for that website, and it worked.
These types of surveys are everywhere, and they have little. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, they have absolutely no value whatsoever.
[Gillian McCallum]: So men don’t need to worry about their partner’s exes quite yet.
Hello is still allowed to be played at home without risk of divorce or breaking up a relationship.
Joe Twyman’s Best Dating Advice
[Gillian McCallum]: Joe, I’ve got one final question for you.
What is the best piece of advice that you would like to share?
[Joe Twyman]: Well, I’ve actually written it down to make sure that I got it right, so excuse me while I just look it up.
But I have a five point plan based on the available decent data that we have, I have five points to think about when thinking about dating.
So if you want to maximise your chances of successful dating, if you want to maximise your chances of finding somebody, if you’re single or even if you’re not, and you wish, you wish to improve your chances, then focus on the next five things.
- Take Risks in Dating
The first thing is to take risks. There’s a lot of evidence in the data to show that taking risks is going to be beneficial. And that doesn’t mean throwing yourself off a building and things like that. It simply means showing a willingness to put yourself out there to be proactive.
If you’re a woman asking a man out on a date, if you’re a man asking a woman out on a date, all of these types of behaviour are really seen as positives in the data. So that’s hugely important. So that’s, number one, taking risks.
- Maximise Physical Attractiveness
Number two, maximise your physical attractiveness.
And by that I mean that we are all given, if you like, a set of attributes when it comes to our physical attractiveness, many of which we cannot change.
But what comes across in the data very clearly is that people who maximise their physical attractiveness are seen as far more attractive than those who do not, regardless of if you like the total level of attractiveness.
And so that means working on personal hygiene, working on nice clothes, clean clothes, clothes that fit, thinking about what you’re wearing, having a haircut that makes you look good, whatever that may be, all of those types of things.
Efforts that you go to to maximise your physical attractiveness will pay dividends to both men and women. So that’s really important. Next one on my list is to demonstrate pro social behaviours. In other words, whether it’s your profile picture on a dating website or whether it’s the discussions you have on a date talk about the fact that you do social activities.
- Show Social Stability
Talk about your friends, what you do with your friends, the group activities that you do, the interaction you have with other members of the human race, particularly those who you’re close to, and demonstrate the fact that you do have friends and you do have this wide network that can be really, really beneficial and is seen as a hugely attractive trait.
- Be Educated
Next, maximise your education. There is no doubt that people who have taken the steps to the most basic level stay in school as long as they can tend to be more attractive to people of the opposite sex. Once you get to higher levels, for instance, the distinction between an MA and a PhD is more fuzzy, but certainly particularly for men educational, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be qualifications, but educational benefits will in turn benefit you in terms of attractiveness to others.
- Increase Your Friendship Group
And then lastly, what’s on my list? Yes, number five is to enlarge your friendship group. Take steps to actively enlarge your friendship groups, whether that means signing up for new classes, going to events with people you don’t know, but taking the opportunity to meet as many people as you can. And that’s linked to the taking risk aspect, but simply enlarging the numbers of people that you meet will pay dividends.
And so to go through those again, number one, take risks. Number two, maximise physical attractiveness. Number three, demonstrate pro social behaviours. Number four, maximise education. And number five, enlarge your friendship groups. Those are my five recommendations that I’ve basically stolen from other people all over the internet and brought together as my top five.
Thank you Joe Tywman of Deltapoll
[Gillian McCallum]: Joe Twyman. I was hoping that the final image that we all had in our minds was of this blue printed phallus in large size form, but unfortunately, it’s not even going to be the nipple clamps.
I think your five points that we have been trying to tell our clients about, sharing with our clients, sharing with as many people as possible, your five points went even further than I think we’ve ever done. Thank you so much.
For those that’s really going to help people who are out there single, looking and determined to find the love of their life, who knew that you would be the font of all things matchmaking and dating, we can add that to your list of credentials.
Thank you so much, Joe. Thank you.
[Joe Twyman]: And I have a whole presentation on the research around sex. If anyone is interested, for weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs and funerals, I’m available for hire. Just find me on all the social media.
[Gillian McCallum]: Wonderful. And I’m going to make sure you’re tagged in everything that comes out.
Thanks again, Joe. Been a pleasure. Thank you.
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