The feminist movement has changed a lot of things, including dating. Relationships used to progress in a way that was expected and defined by society. The guy would ask the girl on a date. He would pick her up, pay the tab, and walk her to her door. End of date.
Obviously, things have changed. A great deal of this change can be attributed to the feminist movement. Early on, the movement targeted suffrage, equal pay, and abortion rights. As it has grown, the women of America have taken on a whole new attitude and the face of dating has changed.
On the relationships front, women desire to be seen as equals. At the end of the night, the girl doesn’t want to owe the guy anything, not even a peck on the cheek. This is evidenced in her willingness to pay for the date, or at least her share. This can get tricky when guys still feel obliged to pay the bill, a feeling due to a “nostalgic hangover,” said journalist Kathleen Kelleher.
“Young women have figured out that if they forgo it, they have a lot more control…” said Joe Austin, assistant professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, who was quoted in Kelleher’s article.
Another way women find equality in relationships is through the “hook up” culture. Guys are no longer required to call or ask a girl out face to face. That’s because group hang outs, especially drunken ones, are becoming increasingly common. When you meet at a party and hook up, it is seen as much more low-key relationship, one that usually ends with the night. As long as the guy didn’t ask and the girl didn’t arrive with him, a date hasn’t really occurred.
The drunken atmosphere also helps to make the hook up a more casual event. In his article Love’s Dying Ritual, William Raspberry said, “Several of them [his students] made it clear that alcohol consumption is a significant part of the hookup experience — as though to give all involved a pretext for saying that what happened last night wasn’t really them.”
This untraditional “new” culture seems to give young people more freedom. That is because it is largely based on partying and it offers a lot more options. When you arrive with a group you aren’t necessarily expected to return with the same group. The entire party becomes your “dating pool” and you have the entire night to make your choice, making “hooking up” an ala-carte style of dating.
But perhaps the greatest amount of freedom is seen in the fact that hook-ups usually aren’t repeated. Sometimes, the two won’t even speak afterwards. One of Raspberry’s students, when writing about a hook-up said, “He and I could have a future together, but we will never know. There will never be a next date. If he were to ask me out next weekend, he would appear weak. I could not ask him out again for fear of appearing obsessed.”
The funny thing is that both men and women find these kinds of relationships awkward and unfulfilling. Many dismiss their disappointment with a shrug, believing it to be a ‘phase.’ This is easy to say because most of those participating are students who are not ready for a serious relationship. The fact that more and more women are attending college is throwing off the usual marrying age by about 10 years. That gives today’s young people 10 extra years to deal with sexual desires and emotional turmoil before marriage. Many are looking to today’s dating culture to fill in the gap.
Many involved aren’t satisfied with today’s new relationship “rules” and don’t even know how they came about. What young people do know is that they would rather take part than sit alone in a dorm room on Friday night. No matter how awkward and shameful the new culture may be, no one has the guts to change it.
Raspberry summed it up well at the end of his article. He said, “What a dysfunctional, ego-destructive and profoundly sad “equality” the young folk have fashioned.” I think he may be right.
Erin Morris is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.