Gendered Expectations in Dating

In her last post Unicorn mentioned that she has had very different experiences in dating men and women. She and I come at this process from different perspectives. She has mostly dated women and I have mostly dated men. As we move forward in our bi-poly exploration I’ve been struck by the differences in expectations between men and women in dating. As a sociologist, I’m really interested in how our socialization and conditioning have shaped this. A few things I’ve noticed:

As Unicorn mentioned, relationships move very quickly with women. After just a few dates you get bombarded with text messages, expectations of monogamy, and intense desires to meet up regularly. With men, when you are early in dating its more typical to see one another once a week (maybe twice) and to receive a couple texts a week. (Obviously there are exceptions).

I also learned from a couple of friends who date women that, if it isn’t stated otherwise, it is expected that both parties are monogamous and dating from the first date forward. With men, I think it is assumed everyone is dating someone else unless there is a conversation about monogamy.

Now, I don’t believe that there is something innate that makes women want to settle down and men want to explore. Unicorn and I are clearly two exceptions to that rule… But, my broader point is that I think it is something we are socialized to do. But why?

Unicorn and I have both recently read Sex At Dawn which provides an anthropological look at human sexuality.  It argues that monogamy wasn’t common until human societies transitioned to be agriculturally based – when it mattered if people knew who there kids were and which mouths they had to feed/would help them on the farm.  Why then, centuries later, have we stayed stuck in this pattern?  Why do women fight to hard to claim territory?  (In my experience, men do this later in the relationship and with equal fierceness, but… you get my point).  Thoughts?

In the meantime, read Sex at Dawn.

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