By Amanda Gabriel And Dan Teano
Elm Staff Writer and Lifestyle Editor
American dating culture has changed from a romantic pastime to a few texts and sex, but how did we get from old-fashioned courting to modern day hook ups? When spoken out loud, the word courting feels outdated, and nowadays the act of men and women wooing their significant other with small affectionate gestures can only be found in movies.
Before the 20th century, sex before marriage was scorned. Emphasis was placed on the dating process because getting to know another’s true self was the ultimate goal, not getting to know what is inside another’s pants. Besides getting to know a potential partner over well-planned dates, courting also included the parents. Parents’ approval was something to be cherished. The process of pursuing a man or woman was long and involved many steps; therefore, the number of partners someone might have had during that time period was significantly less than the numbers today.
Public displays of affection and one night stands are two cultural norms that we do not think twice about in today’s society, yet would have been disdained by our ancestors. Gradually our dating culture has transformed into a culture that does not consist of much dating at all. Sex is only a few drinks and a booty call away. Phrases such as “You look beautiful/handsome tonight,” have turned into, “You have a bangin’ body, DTF?” Relationships have lost their enigmatic nature because Americans care more about how many girls or guys one has been with than how deep the connection is with someone.
Not only has this new way of dating become normal in America, but our norms are influencing other countries as well. I spoke with a Washington College student from Thailand, Natcha Pinyotamanotai, in order to understand the depth of our influence. When asked about American culture compared to that found in Thailand, she said, “Every time I think of relationships in America, they [couples] have sex really fast. They do not date for very long beforehand, and they just have sex. In Thailand, the population is split almost 50-50; half of us have the old mindset while the other half have a more modern way of thinking.” Pinyotamanotai then went on to explain the difference between these two ways of thinking. “With the old mindset, parents emphasize to their little girls that sex is something to be cherished and should only be with someone you have been with for a long time. They teach their children to wait. The people with a more modern way of thinking are influenced by America and believe it is okay to have sex in a short period of time. I have seen more girls dressing inappropriately, and the pregnancy rate in Thailand has gone up very high. But when things like this happen, people use the excuse that it is normal in American culture, so why can’t we do it?”
Personally, I wish to go back to the days when giving a girl a bouquet of flowers and taking her out to a nice dinner was the normal thing to do. I find our current state of viewing relationships to be disgraceful, especially because we are now beginning to impact the rest of the world, and not solely in the way we act. If this continues, we will also be impacting the way other cultures think and speak. So next time you pick up the phone and get asked to “Netflix and chill?” have that person take you on a date first. Besides, if they are not good enough to take you on a date, they should not be good enough to get into your bed.
Whether we realize it or not, our lives are dictated by cultural norms. Through television shows, movies, and advertisements, society provides us a list of expectations we ought to follow. Over the years, pop culture has changed its messages, creeping into our subconscious and modifying our moral standards. Perhaps the most drastic change lies in the ways we approach relationships. Nowadays, our dating protocols look very different than what was considered normal back then.
First, the idea of courting is completely irrelevant. Although courting has a rich history, most of us ‘90s kids have only heard of the term through reading. At a time which seems like forever ago, courting was the cultural norm. In courtship, a man would seek a deep friendship with a woman that could lead to marriage. By pursuing a friendship first, the courting couple can get intimately close without being too emotionally involved with each other. Consequently, all courtships abstained from premarital sex. Additionally, a courtship could only be established if both man and woman were given a blessing or permission from their parents.
In several ways, these dating codes differ from what is practiced today. From the rampant overtaking of the hook-up culture, it is no longer seen as necessary to take a partner on a date before taking her to the bedroom. While some men still find value in getting to know their potential partner, they are a rarity and not the rule. Assisted by dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble, most people skip the friendship for the intercourse.
Although the norm today is very different than the past, that does not necessarily make it detestable. Different is neither better or worse, it’s just different. In fact, some people may find value in today’s dating world. Because people are less likely to commit, singles are able to meet numerous people before selecting the most compatible match. Before, because friendship was the emphasis, nearly anyone could become romantically involved with anyone in due time.
Today we enjoy the benefit of choosing to date whoever we please, regardless of our parents’ permission (in fact, most of us never inform our parents about the dates we go on). However, there may be a subtle yet alarming tradeoff between freedom and intimacy. If we are so open and free to intercourse with multiple partners, then how deeply can we connect emotionally with each other? After a one night stand, the heart becomes a little more unreceptive to intimate, romantic feelings. Several of these later, it might become nearly impossible for someone to open up, trust, and engage their innermost feelings.
Whether it be through courtship or a late night hookup, a relationship can start in many different ways. Regardless of the dating norms of the day and age, what matters most is the heart you have for your partner. Although times are ever changing, the intimacy experienced in a relationship should remain the same.