Relationships, Patriarchy and Dating Norms.
I was on the phone with her, lying on my bed as I’ve done time and time again, we were discussing the dating norm of men making the first move. “It puts a lot of unnecessary stress on a young man”, I said in protest of the standard. Her response caught me off guard, “No, you would be against that norm. You have to understand though it’s something that’s also difficult for women as they have to master the skill of communicating interest without being direct”. This was one of the most insightful things I’ve heard on dating and relationships which has lead me (and that conversation) to an interesting train of thought on dating norms.
The basic dynamic of the heterosexual 21st century western dating world is as follows: First, man makes a move. He approaches her at the party, buys her and drink and opens the conversation. Second, the woman must not show too much direct interest or be too aggressive, communication of attraction has to be done with slight hair flips, an inventing smile, a well placed laugh. Any touching or blatant sexual approaches spearheaded by the women can’t be the start of the date but have to be worked into later usually after the man has already done something like place his hand on her knee.
This is bullshit. Hetrosexual dating is bullshit.
The initial assumption that men have to make the first move is a direct result of the conception of male dominance in society. Women, being submissive and secondary, can not be the engager of the date because they are meant to be an object for the man to conquer. Besides perpetuating patriarchy, this also means less awesome dates and sex for everyone. Realistically, women are just as qualified as men to be open and direct in the dating market, but because they assume they are dependent on the man to strike up conversation, they miss out on a higher quality of dating.
Consider a party: Everyone is drinking and having a good time. Joe Talksalot and his close friend Mike Shysome just rolled up and caught the eye of Sarah Basicgirl. Sarah being interested in Mike flashes her signals of attraction to the duo. Joe, being more socially aware and able to confirm to the social norms, walks over to Sarah with Mike. The problem being though, Mike’s inabilty to conform or his lack of knowledge on social cues leads him to either be oblivious of Sarah’s advances, or completely too insecure to follow up in his preferred manner. As the night progresses, Joe’s dominance of the situation leads him to be the only one communicating his interest in Sarah, and Sarah is likely to end up going home with him, instead of her original interest. Clearly if the expectation is that Mike be more aggressive and Mike fails to be aggressive it must mean he’s disinterested.
Think about this, patriarchal social norms are not only harmful to the woman involved who might be objectified like a trophy, but also harmful to the man whose personality and dating skills don’t conform to the expectation. Less good sex, less healthy relationship, and more putting up with aggressive suitors because the dating expectation is in favor of more aggressive men, and less aggressive women.
Male Homosexual dating circles can be an interesting case study on this. Because both daters can come in from an equal playing field (both men) there is more freedom on how to progress the relationship and far more honesty on intentions and attractions. Instead of relying on only one dominant male to make the move, both males are free to act leading, most likely, to have more sex. It would seem gay men have more sex because they are more equal.
Equality and Authenticity should be the goal when approaching a potential romantic interest. If a culture gets stuck in unequal dating norms then participating parties are less likely to reach the desired goals. Instead of relying on the expectation of the dominate male to make the first move, the heterosexual dating scenes that abandon these norms all be having more, and better, sex.