On January 11, the New York Times published an article by Alex Williams entitled "The end of courtship." The article attempts to examine the new "hookup culture" which Williams claims has replaced traditional dates. According to Williams, men now take women along to less traditional activities like concerts as opposed to taking them out on dates. He adds that technology has reduced the amount of courage needed to begin this courting process.
Williams seems to place the blame for this phenomenon (as he portrays it in a negative light) almost solely on the backs of male twenty-somethings. As someone who is approaching the demographic Williams focuses his ire on, I do not wish to defend myself by claiming that I am an exception to Williams' argument. Instead, I'd like to point out that while the changes Williams notes seem to be very real, the similarities between my generation and the past, which he implicitly upholds, are far more troubling.
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<strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> According to the survey, 63 per cent of women have asked men out on the first date. <br><strong>SHOULD YOU?</strong> <a href="http://www.yourdatecoach.com/" target="_hplink">Dating coach Christine Hart </a>says about 10 years ago, this would never be the case but these days women shouldn't be afraid to make the first move. "We have found a middle ground. If you're asking a man out in a confident and direct way, men are becoming more open to it."
<strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> According to the survey, 85 per cent of women have dated someone outside of their political beliefs.<br><strong>SHOULD YOU?</strong> To keep conversations interesting, why wouldn't you? Hart says if you are dating someone who has different political values, make sure you communicate your values within the first few dates. "If you can focus more on where you agree, you could find yourself having the same moral values and ethics." Also, avoid anyone who doesn't respect your beliefs.
<strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> According to the survey, 70 per cent of Canadians have gone on two or more dates in the last year.<br><strong>SHOULD YOU?</strong> "I think this is a great average," Hart says. If you're looking to get back into the dating scene, Hart says coffee dates are easy ways to get back into the game -- don't wait around for a year for dates to happen.
<strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> According to the survey, 44 per cent of Canadians wait until the second date to lock lips.<br><strong>SHOULD YOU?</strong> "If there is any kissing on the first date, it should be on the cheek," Hart says. Locking lips on the second date is fine -- often couples find themselves short on time during their first date, which leads to awkwardness during a goodbye kiss at the end of the night, Hart says.
<strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> According to the survey, 89 per cent of Canadians admitted to telling someone else about their dates.<br><strong>SHOULD YOU?</strong> Make sure you have a few close friends you're willing to share secrets with -- a best friend or a family member for example. "You don't want to go to work and tell five people about your date, you're going to get a mix of opinions that can confuse you," Hart says.
<strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> According to the survey, 66 per cent of Canadians believe in love at first sight.<br><strong>SHOULD YOU?</strong> Well, this one is tricky. Some people do and some people don't Hart says, but more importantly, never let a bad date get you down. "Don't worry if it isn't love at first sight, sometimes you need at least four dates until you to know someone," she says.
<strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> According to the survey, 31 per cent of Canadians would move in with their partners after less than one year of dating.<br><strong>SHOULD YOU?</strong> "This is a nice low number. I think you need to know somebody through four seasons before you start sharing places," Hart says.
<strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> According to the survey, 12 per cent of Canadian women say they would never pay for the bill.<br><strong>SHOULD YOU?</strong> Never pay? You want to be in a relationship right? Even if you want your partner to pay for the first date, Hart says being in a partnership is communicating to one another -- and offering to pay for a meal or plan a date is always a nice gesture.
Men may take women out on different sorts of dates than they previously did, but the expectation that men be the ones to do this largely remains. Williams illustrates this as he states "Dinner at a romantic new bistro? Forget it. Women in their 20s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along." The idea of men being solely responsible for leading or initiating the dating process renders women as passive spectators whose job it is to merely decide if they like the men who approach them enough to sleep with them. Those who dare initiate the process might be mocked or labelled as sluts. This norm does not deserve to continue to be celebrated.
Additionally, Williams notes that a "changing economic power dynamic between the genders" has "complicated" the old dating world. This dynamic, if it exists at all, should not be over emphasized. Men still earn overwhelmingly more than women, both in general, and for similar jobs. They also still benefit from deeply patriarchal institutions and cultural practices.
Yet if this supposed economic shift does complicate the dating world, it is a much needed complication. Slowly (far too slowly, and in nowhere near enough cases) the socially constructed elements of gender roles, which were once deemed natural, have begun to be peeled away. Yet when it comes to dating, many men are expected to pay for dates, both by some women, and more commonly, by themselves.
Men paying for women on dates because they enjoy their company, and view it as a kind gesture, is not an issue. The issue is that some men still pay for women simply because they are women, and the men would feel emasculated if they did not. If gender roles are to be truly erased, these kind of complications, which Williams notes, should be embraced. Perhaps these complications imply that old roles are being abandoned, while new, more egalitarian ones, are slowly being formed.
Overall, Williams' article fits into a broader narrative which seeks to mourn the supposed death of traditional relationship structures (think marriage, monogamy, etc) in Western society. These fossils of romance do not deserve to be romanticized. Therefore, while all change is not necessarily progress, the shift away from older structures should be happily embraced if it can manage to solve the serious power imbalances of its predecessors.
Follow Davide Mastracci on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavideMastracci