• Tue, Feb 12 2013

“Courtship In A Modern World” Survey Surprisingly Progressive

shutterstock_3203923Here was the email subject line: Courtship in a Modern World–Queendom.com’s New Study Reveals That Chivalry Is Alive and Well. It was almost an immediate delete but curiosity got the better of me: How silly/sexist/stale would the survey results be?

To my delight: Not much at all. They’re actually surprisingly progressive.

Much to the chagrin of Queendom.com, however. Or at least it seems that way — someone was determined to make this a story about who pays on dates and why gender roles are dying. Here’s the opening blurb from Queendom’s press release:

Queendom.com, a pioneer in online personality, IQ, and career tests, has released its newest study on gender roles in courtship behavior. Pulling up on a white horse this Valentine’s Day isn’t necessary, but at least some chivalry is a heart-melting must.

They go on to offer “Valentine’s tips with a twist” such as “place a love note in your partner’s lunch bag” and “slow dance in your living room.” Underneath all that gooey cliched nonsense, however, is some interesting data. Of the 1621 women and 950 men surveyed:

• 70% of women and 77% of men feel a date can be initiated by either gender
• 65% of women and 66% of men think it’s fine for a woman to propose
• The majority of women and men believe in some concept of “chivalry” 

That’s the meat and bones of the survey. The more interesting and telling part comes comparing the answers from men over and under 30. Behold:

• 28% of men under 30 and 22% of men over 30 feel a man should plan most of the dates
• 60% of men under 30 and 76% of men over 30 feel that a woman should be able to propose to a man
• 20% of men under 30 and 13% of men over 30 said that they would feel threatened by a woman who took control of what they did on the first date
• 26% of men under 30 and 14% of men over 30 believe that it should be the man who asks the woman out, not vice versa.
• 51% of men under 30 and 39% of men over 30 believe stated that the man should pay for the first date.

I suppose one way of looking at this is holy shit we’re screwed—Gen Y is getting less progressive in their courtship ideas than Gen X. But that doesn’t jibe with what we know about dating from, oh, anything else. I think the more likely explanation if that with age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes the ability to know when gender normative dating rituals are bullshit.

With age comes experience, too. People have all sorts of fanciful ideas about what they want from a relationship or partner when they’re young. Then you actually date, and date some more, and date some more, and along the way you learn to separate your fictions of how men, women and love should be from what actually makes you happy.

I suspect a lot of the 30-and-up dudes may have once answered these questions differently, but then they were asked on a date by a woman (or paid for by a woman, or proposed to by a woman) and the world didn’t end. And they reconsidered. Or they went out with women who wanted them to initiate, plan and pay for all dates and it was a chore. And they reconsidered. Strict gender roles sure sound fun sometimes, but they can get tedious.

Ilona Jerabek, president of Queendom’s parent company, PsychTests, makes a very good and very often overlooked point about concepts like “chivalry” and romance: They’re not “dead,” they’re just equal-opportunity now.

A more progressive dating landscape “doesn’t mean that men are off the hook and don’t need to put an effort into romance anymore,” said Jerabek. “The modern woman still likes romance, but it’s now a shared endeavor, with both genders putting an effort into the relationship. “

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