History of dating practices in the u s
Some immigrant and religious groups still resisted and were appalled by the freedom that dating permitted between strangers, but most native white young people understood that while dating was not supervised by adults it nevertheless had clearly established boundaries enforced by peers that regulated respectability, eligibility, and the routines of sexual access.
Moreover, the young not only defined what was attractive, permissible, and popular, but continued to maintain clear class, racial, and ethnic boundaries.
Commercial considerations were thus embedded into the very structure of the dating relationship, which required that the male treat the female to a good time.
Women too were required to expend money on their appearance, wearing fashionable clothes and stylish hairdos, and relying on beauty treatments and up-to-date cosmetics.
Some historians have argued that in return for the expenses incurred by the male dating partner some sexual compensation was expected from the female.
Whether the exchange was quite so direct and calculated or evolved from a set of expanded possibilities for intimacy and graduated expectations, dating certainly resulted in mutual sexual experimentation.
Young people developed dating in these new work and educational contexts as a means to order mate selection and to contain the erotic possibilities that the new freedom from adult supervision made possible.These consumer-based standards became crucial to the evaluations that each side made of the prospective date and the subsequent decisions about whether dating would continue.They were the basis for at least initial conclusions before other, more subtle, considerations could intervene.At schools, a complex social system that included extracurricular activities, sports competitions, fraternities and sororities, literary activities, beauty contests, and other means to define identity and popularity regulated dating behavior.But the system was not closed since the young drew on nonschool institutions for inspiration in setting new nonfamily-based fads and fashions.
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These informal controls were able to adapt initially to the emergence in the nineteenth century of the ideal of romantic and to companionship as a replacement for patriarchy in marital values.