"Suddenly, market forces favour the bloke. And he's resentful that women, who ignored him when they were in their 20s, are suddenly showing interest, says dating coach Bettina Arndt. "Some of those guys are very bitter," she says. "One I spoke to was just determined to play the field. It's almost a vengeance thing, having been dismissed by women for so many years."
On top of this dangerous dating mix comes the most fundamental change to romance in centuries: online dating.
Sociologists have poured a wealth of research funding into investigating this phenomenon and have decided that while internet dating has fundamentally changed romance as we know it, it has not necessarily been for the better.
In some respects, internet dating is a godsend, particularly for those whose friends are married and whose options for meeting people have dried up.
"It has that innate ice-breaking context where everyone has their cards out, saying I'm here to meet someone," said one dater.
But internet dating is also traditional courtship in reverse. Usually two people strike up a conversation, decide whether they feel comfortable, then gradually get to know each other. On the internet, they find out a wealth of information before a face-to-face reality check. It can also lead to a shopping-list mentality.
"The ruthless summation of people into brackets based on career, education and appearance turns relationships into a commodity based on what you think you're entitled to," says one former dater. "More often than not you'll end up with someone pretending to be the person you've fooled yourself into thinking you want - and that's a recipe for disaster."
Lying is also a common hazard (although that happens offline as well), especially as screen names can free people from social norms.
Studies show that about 20 per cent of daters admit to deception but think 90 per cent of other people are lying. Women tend to lie about weight, while men are more likely to fudge education, income, height, age and marital status (one study found 13 per cent of men dating online are married).
Another issue is the sheer range of options. If one date doesn't work out, chances are there's another email waiting in the inbox - a conveyer belt of potential dates encouraging extreme fussiness and a lack of effort.
"(It) can elicit an evaluative, assessment-oriented mindset that leads online daters to objectify potential partners and might even undermine their willingness to commit to one of them," says a US psychological study into online dating. "It can also cause people to make lazy, ill-advised decisions when selecting among the large array of potential partners."
Unlike a meeting set up by a friend, or an old-fashioned matchmaker, there's no accountability on dating websites. "Some of the people on those sites are misleading and deceptive, they're not what they say they are," says one online dater and lawyer.
"If this was a product, you'd have the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission shutting it down for false conduct because what's on there doesn't match what it claims to be."
Many might complain about the lucky dip that's online dating but singles keep coming back to it because it works. There may be tens of thousands of horror stories (See Inside Edition, page 37) but also many weddings.
Then there's the changing sexual mores. For women in their mid-30s, Brazilian waxes, sexting and some more adventurous aspects that have bled into mainstream from the pornified sexual culture of 20-somethings comes as an often unpleasant surprise. But it's a culture that has been embraced by the 30 and 40-something men they're dating.
The ever-changing roles of men and women in our society have collided with online dating without a code of conduct to make it all work properly. There are no longer any accepted rules of behaviour to govern romance.
This affects the big things - if a woman discovers the man she is dating has lied about seeing other women, she can't hold him to account in front of his friends. It also confuses the little things. One man might want a woman to pay her way, while another would be offended at the thought. Is asking for a date the next day too forward? Is texting rather than calling too lazy?
How can daters signal their intentions or interpret the intentions in this age where anything goes? The litany of bad experiences on both sides creates then widens a chasm between men and women in this city. And so the mating ritual becomes a war dance, and the casualties are romance and trust."
Source: Baker, J. (2012, December 29). "It's a jungle out there - Sydney singles in fight of their love lives". The Daily Telegraph.