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5
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                              In the News
                                     Arlington,...
Chapter 5 Dating, Coupling, and Mate Selection   127




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128     Chapter 5 Dating, Coupling, and Mate Selection                                                                    ...
Chapter 5 Dating, Coupling, and Mate Selection            131
130     Chapter 5 Dating, Coupling, and Mate Selection



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  1. 1. 5 The Marriage Experience In the News Arlington, Virginia C ollege women looking for Mr. Right might be looking in the wrong place if they expect to find him on campus, so said a 2001 study titled “Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Dating and Mating Today.” The 18-month study of the attitudes and values of today’s college women regarding sexuality, dating, courtship, and marriage, conducted by a research team led by sociologists Norval Glenn and Elizabeth Marquardt, found that college women are confused about the dating–mating game on campus, protesting that they basically have two options: “hooking up” briefly with a guy for casual sex, or being joined at the hip and virtually living together. They feel they either have too little or too much commitment, neither of which contributes much to finding a husband while in college, a goal 63 percent of the women studied at least partly embraced. Since this study, all indications are that students on college campuses either say they have no time for serious dating or they continue to be more likely to go out in groups—the group has replaced the dating couple as a form of dating—than spend time with one signif- icant other. Moreover, according research reported in 2004 (Wolcott, 2004), it appears that the notion of dating continues to be a dated concept as college women and men continue the trend of hooking up for sex. Significant shifts in college life continue to impact dating and intimate relationships among students on today’s campuses. For example, women continue 125
  2. 2. Chapter 5 Dating, Coupling, and Mate Selection 127 5 to outnumber men on college campuses, and coed dorms are still the norm at many univer- sities. Intentional or not, researchers suggest that this phenomenon facilitates hookups and lessens the need for couples to socialize on dates. In addition, they say that marriage is a less immediate goal for students today than in generations past. Indeed, people are marrying at Marriages and later ages than in the past and thus are statistically less likely to have met in college. The increased mobility of students after college further lessens the incentive for developing long- term relationships (Lehman, 2004; Wolcott, 2004). The frame of mind about traditional dat- Families in the ing seems to be “no time,” “no money,” and “no need” (Wolcott, 2004:1). Speaking about “Hook Ups” on college campuses, journalist David Brooks (2002) reports 21st Century: that many young college women have told him that they do not have time for a serious rela- tionship, so they “hook up.” However, they do not simply jump from the group-gathering or dating stage directly to hooking up. Rather, Brooks found that there is an intermediate stage U.S. & called the “Hang Out,” as in, “ Do you want to come hang out in my room?” (Brooks, 2002:1). These Hang Outs begin in the dorm room with conversations ranging in topic, and World Trends may consist of one or more such encounters until the two partners move from the Hang Out to the Hook Up phase by engaging in sexual intercourse. As with Hook Ups, there are many different kinds of Hang Outs with infinite and ill-defined gradations of seriousness. The hookup trend has led some today to call for the return of dating and courtship rules and a renewed role of colleges and universities in regulating sexual behaviors on campus. To counter what the media has described as a “postdating” or “undating” culture, some conser- In the News vative groups such as the Independent Women’s Forum have advertised in college newspa- pers, urging students to “take back the date” by buying someone dinner or flowers (Lehman, Arlington, Virginia 2004:1). It should be noted that dating on college campuses is not entirely obsolete today. African American students at Howard University in Washington, DC, for example, report that hookup has a dual meaning for them, referring either to a sexual encounter or to a roman- C ollege women looking for Mr. Right might be looking in the wrong place if they expect tic dinner date (Lehman, 2004). to find him on campus, so said a 2001 study titled “Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Dating and Mating Today.” The 18-month study of What Would You Do? If you are single and open to dating, would you “hook up” or the attitudes and values of today’s college women regarding sexuality, dating, courtship, and have you ever “hooked up”? If you are married, would you have engaged in this form of marriage, conducted by a research team led by sociologists Norval Glenn and Elizabeth dating when you were single? As a parent, would you encourage or discourage your off- Marquardt, found that college women are confused about the dating–mating game on spring from engaging in such dating practices? Some men blame women for this trend of campus, protesting that they basically have two options: “hooking up” briefly with a guy for hooking up and accuse college women of having destroyed romance by making it transac- casual sex, or being joined at the hip and virtually living together. They feel they either have tional. Although some women might agree that hooking up takes romance out of dating too little or too much commitment, neither of which contributes much to finding a husband and may indeed be considered transactional, they argue that men have been doing this all while in college, a goal 63 percent of the women studied at least partly embraced. along, so why shouldn’t women? What do you think? Which position do you take? Explain. Since this study, all indications are that students on college campuses either say they have no time for serious dating or they continue to be more likely to go out in groups—the group has replaced the dating couple as a form of dating—than spend time with one signif- icant other. Moreover, according research reported in 2004 (Wolcott, 2004), it appears that D young women and men rub elbows, and do you think of cou- ating, coupling, and mating—these concepts call up a the notion of dating continues to be a dated concept as college women and men continue ples “hooking up” and “hanging out?” Many of these are famil- variety of images. Close your eyes. What images come to iar images associated with dating and mate selection in the mind when you think about dating in U.S. society today? Do United States, images that are relentlessly transmitted through you think of youth, “swinging,” sex, “singles,” fun, marriage, the media. Do these things. or love? Do you think of college campuses where hundreds of 126
  3. 3. 128 Chapter 5 Dating, Coupling, and Mate Selection Chapter 5 Dating, Coupling, and Mate Selection 129 D mate selection process with several government-sponsored ating, coupling, and mating—these concepts call up a MATE SELECTION IN CROSS-CULTURAL computer dating and matchmaking services (Murphy, 2002). variety of images. Close your eyes. What images come Not surprising, the majority of those using computer dating AND HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE to mind when you think about dating in U.S. society today? services are males (70 percent). The scarcity of Chinese women Do you think of youth, “swinging,” sex, “singles,” fun, mar- has given them a newly found edge in a mate selection process riage, or love? Do you think of college campuses where hun- that historically treated them as chattel. The down side of Chi- Did you know that dating is not a common practice in most dreds of young women and men rub elbows, and do you nese women’s leverage in mate selection, and a jolting countries? In general, when we speak of dating we are referring think of couples “hooking up” and “hanging out?” Many of reminder of their continued oppression, can be seen in an to a process of pairing off that involves the open choice of these are familiar images associated with dating and mate observation made by Chinese sociologists and journalists: mates and engagement in activities that allow people to get to selection in the United States, images that are relentlessly “With men unable to find wives as sexual partners there could know each other and progress toward coupling and mate selec- transmitted through the media. Do these images match the be an increase in prostitution, rape, and among men, suicide” tion. In places such as China, India, South America, and most reality of your life? Do they match the reality of the lives of (Shenon, 1994:5). In addition, as a result of the shortage of countries in Africa, dating is very rare. In addition, it is forbid- most unmarried people? Do they match the reality of mate Chinese women, there has been a significant rise in the num- den in most Muslim countries, including Iraq, Egypt, Iran, selection for your parents? Your grandparents? bers of bounty hunters, who kidnap city women and deliver and Saudi Arabia. Only in Western countries such as the As this mental exercise might have illustrated, for many peo- them to rural farmers desperate for brides and the increasing United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada is dating a ple the idea of dating and mate selection brings to mind love, reliance of many rural Chinese men on the booming trade in common form of mate selection. In these countries, dating is marriage, and family. Traditionally, we have assumed that kidnapped women in Vietnam and Korea for a source of perhaps the single most important method by which people attraction leads to dating, dating to love, and love to marriage. brides. get acquainted with each other, learn to interact heterosexually, Indeed, we have assumed that the major function of dating is A transformation of the mate selection process as a result of and select a mate. to teach people to form intimate heterosexual relationships Sociologists use the term mate selection1 to refer loosely to the glut of single men is occurring in other nations as well. For and to prepare people for marriage. As the Glenn and Mar- example, based on figures put out by the United Nations, the wide range of behaviors and social relationships individuals quardt research presented in the In the News story opening India, with nearly 900 million people, has a sex ratio among engage in prior to marriage and that lead to long- or short- this chapter suggests, this sequence of attraction, dating, the single population of 133 men to every 100 women. As in term pairing or coupling. An essential element in mate selec- love, marriage, and family is still espoused and held onto by China, Indian custom values males. The custom of arranged tion is courtship, a process of selecting a mate and developing many, particularly college women. And Glenn and Mar- Dating and mate selection rituals vary across cultures. Some marriages in India has survived migration and modernization, an intimate relationship. Dating is simply one stage in the quardt themselves appear to fall into this camp as well, given practices, like those of the Wodaabe of Niger, Africa, where men remaining central to the fabric of Indian society. Although no courtship process, a process that involves an increasing level of that in the study’s recommendations these authors stress that dress as females to attract brides, may seem strange to North exact figures are available, some 95 percent of all marriages in commitment that might culminate with the ultimate commit- Americans. However, the liberal, unchaperoned dating and young people must be guided with sensitivity and support India are arranged, even among those in the educated middle mating practices of North Americans appear strange to those ment, marriage. Whatever its end, mate selection is an institu- toward marriage. They posit that socially defined dating and whose customs include arranged marriages and the absence of class. In cities such as New Delhi, families routinely place ads tionalized feature of social life. According to family sociologist courtship is an important pathway to more successful mar- courting. calling for Indian women who are university graduates, who Ira Reiss (1980), all known societies exhibit some form of riages. However, this is frequently not the viewpoint for are tall, and who have a fair complexion. Thus parents with courtship, marriage, and family that ensures the production many others, as research since 2001 suggests. Indeed, an dark-skinned daughters have a harder task getting their daugh- the bride’s parents received a “bride price,” the mating process and nurturing of young people. The process of mate selection increasing number of people are either delaying marriage or ters married. Although India’s system of mate selection has changed considerably during the 1990s, when there was a dra- ranges from agreements and arrangements among religious or not marrying at all. Some are pursuing alternatives to mar- adjusted somewhat to modernization, especially among the matic decrease in the number of marriageable women. Accord- community leaders or the families of prospective partners to riage (see Chapter 7). Others, as the research indicates, con- middle class, for millions of Indian women arranged marriage ing to Chinese census data, the ratio of single men to women choices made by the partners themselves with only limited tinue to simply “hook up” and/or “hang out” with little hope remains the norm. It is what defines India’s status quo, which was about three to one. Although in the past the majority of consultation with parents or other relatives. that it will lead to marriage, if that is their goal. For still oth- is ultimately male-dominated (Mathur, 2006). Chinese adults were married by age 30, in the mid-1990s more ers, age is an important factor that impacts the dating experi- than 8 million Chinese in their 30s had not yet married, and ence. For many later-life individuals who are dating, for the ratio of men to women in this age group was a staggering Mate Selection Cross-Culturally example, especially older women, love, marriage, and/or a Mate Selection in the United ten to one. Moreover, it is estimated that there will be as many long-term relationship is not necessarily the goal of dating. as 40 million single men in China by 2020 (McCurry and Alli- How do people around the world select a marriage or life part- (See section on “Dating in Later Life” later in this chapter.) States: A Historical Perspective son, 2004). Among other things, this shortage of women in ner? As we have indicated, in Western societies some form of In addition, not all dating is heterosexual. As we discuss more the pool of potential mates has led to a shift from traditional courtship and dating is the major process used to select a mate. fully later in this chapter, lesbian and gay couples, like het- Historically, mate selection in the United States has been means of mate selection to new and unconventional means (by However, most of the world’s societies do not have the “open” erosexual couples, date for recreational and entertainment based on notions of romantic love, a sentiment shared by both Chinese standards) of finding a mate. For example, some Chi- courtship and dating system common in the United States and purposes, but the development of love and long-term rela- women and men. For most contemporary Americans, choos- nese men are placing ads in major newspapers begging women other Western nations. Rather, mate selection varies across a tionships are most often the goal. And finally, many dating ing a mate is the culmination of the process of dating, to respond, with some men indicating in their ads that they continuum of practices around the world. These customs range relationships are based solely on material or sexual interests, although not necessarily its goal. Although dating, by defini- have a “good bathroom”—the way to a modern Chinese from arranged matches by village shamans who match mates not on notions of romantic love. tion, is supposed to be separate from selecting a marriage part- woman’s heart is a spacious apartment and a decent salary according to astrological signs; to contractual arrangements So what does this mean for current relationships among ner, many Americans nonetheless expect that dating will pro- (McCurry and Allison, 2004). In addition, Chinese women between families (usually fathers), in which a mate may be both heterosexual and homosexual couples? Is today’s pattern vide them with valuable experience that will help them make and men increasingly use computer dating services to help required to serve as an indentured servant to the bride’s parents; of mate selection a continuation of trends of the past? Are an informed choice of a marriage partner (“Hooking Up, them find a mate and even major newspapers begging women to the outright purchase of a mate; to the seemingly free choice dating relationships and mate selection really that different Hanging Out,” 2001; Whyte, 2001). However, courtship and to respond, with some the government has gotten into the of individuals based on criteria ranging from notions of love to today than they were 50 years ago? A century ago? Are they dating are about much more than simply leading one to a mar- physical attractiveness to economic considerations. In some cul- the same around the world? Specific courtship procedures, ital partner. They are also about economic relationships, family tures, mate selection begins as early as infancy, in others the like mate selection generally, have varied considerably from control (or the lack thereof ), power dynamics, competition, process begins at 8 or 9 years of age, and in still others it begins 1The one culture to another and from one historical period to term mate selection is used consistently in marriage and family literature popularity, having sex, recreation, and consumption patterns in descriptions of the process of dating and marriage. However, we thought it in late adulthood. another. In the next section we explore some of the histor- (Ferguson, 2001). Dating has been described by some social was worth noting an interesting and somewhat humorous request from a In some societies, a shortage of marriageable women has dures, like mate selection generally, have varied considerably commentators (for example, Waller, 1937) as a “courtship reviewer of this textbook, who asked if we could change our language from significantly changed traditional patterns of mate selection. ical and cross-cultural trends in courtship, dating, and game” that has its own set of rules, strategies, and goals. Over mate selection to partner selection because the term mate selection sounds rather For example, while mate selection customs in traditional Chi- mate selection. tern of mate selection a continuation of time, changing gender norms and power dynamics have con- like “two lions looking for each other out in the Kalahari Desert.” What do nese society consisted of parent-arranged marriages in which trends of the past? you think?
  4. 4. Chapter 5 Dating, Coupling, and Mate Selection 131 130 Chapter 5 Dating, Coupling, and Mate Selection Strengthening Marriages and Families Talks with Family Therapist Joan Zientek that keeps the problem going. The desired Introducing Family Therapy outcome is change rather than insight. In various chapters throughout this text- Who Can Benefit from Family Ther- book we will call on Joan Zientek, a mar- apy? All individuals and families experi- ital and family therapist, to answer ques- ence problems from time to time and, for tions about how families cope with major the most part, many of these can be problems and what they can do to resolved without therapy. However, when strengthen family relationships. Ms. Zien- a couple marries, the intensity of that bond, tek is a graduate of the Family Institute, its reminiscent impact of each person’s fam- Institute of Psychiatry of Northwestern ily of origin experiences, along with the Date rape is commonplace on college campuses Memorial Hospital Medical School. She has demands of negotiating life as a dyad, today. In response to this growing problem, some been in private practice for over 20 years. often cause latent unresolved issues from colleges such as Hobart College in Geneva, New York, In addition, she presents seminars on vari- childhood to emerge. These are acted out offer date-rape awareness workshops in an attempt to ous family and human relations topics to in the marriage relationship and can be dis- alleviate sexual assault in intimate relationships. school faculties, parent groups, and ser- ruptive and confusing to the couple. Also, vice organizations. In addition, she serves as families move from one life stage to as a consultant to many school districts. Ms. another, from the birth of children to the Zientek developed and conducts a pro- retirement years, some individuals and tributed to adjustments, adaptations, and/or modifications in others imported brides from across the Atlantic. Moreover, the gram entitled FOCUS ON E.Q.: A Social families may need special support to make the rules and expectations of mate selection, culminating in the requirement of parental approval of a mate, especially among Skills Training Program for Kids and is the haven of emotional support. Today many the required adaptations in family patterns process we recognize today. Thus, contemporary patterns of the prosperous classes, put further constraints on the mate author of Mrs. Ruby’s Life Lessons for Kids, a of us still want to believe the myth that an and relationships. At other times, situational storybook and workbook on emotional mate selection are linked to our past. selection process for young people. For instance, throughout ideal family life truly does exist. However, difficulties may be caused by divorce, intelligence. those dreams can be shattered in an remarriage, illness, death, unemployment, this period, young people tended to marry in birth order, and instant by news of the high divorce rate, or relocation. The family therapist also marriage to cousins was not uncommon (Ferguson, 2001). What Is Family Therapy? Family ther- the escalation of suicide among teens, of works with individuals and subsystems of Although parents could not legally choose a partner for Early Courtship and Development of Dating As in many apy is a systems approach to helping fami- children being killed by the hands of their the family, treating problems that stem their offspring, they continued to exercise considerable power lies function more effectively. It views the parents, and by the economic struggles of societies around the world, mate selection in the United States has from emotional and biochemical issues, over mate selection well into the eighteenth century. Daugh- family as a web of interlocking relation- a good portion of our country. At the same such as depression, attention deficit disor- always centered on heterosexual pairing or coupling. Because the ters, in particular, were strictly supervised. If a young man ships within which every member is inti- time, we live in a culture of high expecta- der, or addictions. Nonetheless, the family process was meant to lead to legal marriage, historical descriptions wanted to court a young woman, he had to meet her family, mately linked in a powerful way with tions, prosperity, and a cultural mandate to therapist always maintains a systems frame- and early mate selection research focused only on heterosexual cou- get the family’s permission to court her, and be formally intro- every other person in the family. Family have it all: monetary success, a wonderful work, knowing that changes any individ- ples. Thus, the discussion that follows is based on historical and duced to her. In fact, colonial law required a man to secure the therapy starts with the assumption that an family, and above all, great sex. The myth ual(s) make influence and are influenced permission of a woman’s father before he could court her. Even individual’s problems are an overt manifes- that the perfect life is possible for all leads research data for heterosexual mate selection. by the system in which they live. tation of a larger, less obvious family sys- to feelings of dissatisfaction that become In the early history of the United States, mate selection after a man gained permission to court a particular woman and Do Myths about Family Life Have Any tems problem. Thus, problems are seen as intolerable when the standards are sky was characterized by community, family, or parental control the two people were formally introduced, they were often Relationship to How Families Func- existing between people, rather than high. According to Joshua Cole- over the process. It included an array of activities, almost all chaperoned (especially upper-class women) at social events. tion? They can. Family relationships are solely within them. Unlike psychoanalysis, man (2003), author of Imperfect Harmony, of which involved couples keeping company under family or This process of mate selection eventually assumed a formal which delves into the origin of problems, “There is an enormous amount of pressure often portrayed in the sitcoms of the 1950s community supervision. In colonial times marriage was con- pattern referred to as “calling.” In this form of mate selection, ideal.” Ì family therapy focuses on the circular inter- on marriage to live up to an unrealistic and in the love songs that have endured sidered of utmost importance in bringing order and stability the initiative and control were in the hands of women. For action between and among individuals over time as smooth, effortless, and a to daily family living. Thus, there was a stress on coupling example, a male suitor would be invited to call upon a female and mate selection. During this period, couples came at her home. He was expected to come “calling” only if he was together through a variety of means, including matrimonial invited to do so. The invitation usually came from the mother advertisements and third-party go-betweens. Demographic of the woman, but eventually the woman herself extended the Keeping company involved a variety of activities, and tional, and mandatory schooling; and the mass movement of considerations as well as very precise cultural norms often invitation. If a woman had several suitors at one time, a man couples kept company in some unique and interesting ways. women (predominantly working-class women) into the mills dictated the ways in which couples came together (Ramu, might be told that the woman was not at home to receive For example, in colonial New England, unmarried couples and factories, allowing them increased contact with men. 1989). For example, due to a severe shortage of women in the him. In this instance, he was expected to leave his calling card. practiced bundling, in which they spent the night in bed These events helped loosen parents’ hold on their children. American colonies, different patterns of mate selection If this happened many times, it was meant to give the man the together, wrapped in bundling blankets or separated only However, the mass production of the automobile probably had evolved. Some men cohabited with Native American women; message that the woman was no longer interested in him by a long wooden bundling board down the middle of the the most profound impact on the course of mate selection in others imported brides from across the Atlantic. Moreover, (Whyte, 2001). If a serious relationship developed between a bed. Only the outer garments could be removed, and the North America. The automobile increased the mobility of the requirement of parental approval of a mate, especially couple, they advanced from calling to “keeping company.” woman sometimes was placed in a sack sealed at the neck. young people and made a number of activities and places among the prosperous classes, put further constraints on Keeping company was a very formal and upright relation- This arrangement evolved in response to harsh winters and accessible to them. It also gave young people a new and private the mate selection process for young people. For instance, ship that developed only after people had become attracted the difficulty of traveling, both of which made it difficult place for getting together, a pattern of dating that involves throughout this period, young people tended to marry in to or felt romantic about each other. According to Martin for a young man to return home after an evening of court- women and men meeting in groups, playing similar roles in birth order, and marriage to cousins was not uncommon Whyte (2001), keeping company was a precursor of the twen- ing. Although such a practice would seem to discourage sex- initiating dates, and sharing equally in the cost of activities. (Ferguson, 2001). tieth-century custom of “going steady.” Unlike in calling, ual contact, it apparently did not. Researchers on the topic Initiative and control in the mate selection process shifted Dictated the ways in which couples came together (Ramu, couples who kept company were expected to be monoga- estimate that approximately one-third of all eighteenth-cen- from women to men. Men now asked women out, instead of 1989). For example, due to a severe shortage of women in the mous—that is, a woman was expected to keep company with tury brides were pregnant at the time of their wedding. waiting to be invited to call upon women. And courting American colonies, different patterns of mate selection only one man. Keeping company was a very formal and Significant for the evolving pattern of dating in the United moved from the parlor to the front seats and backseats of cars, evolved. Some men cohabited with Native American women; upright relation. States were industrialization; the rise of free, public, coeduca- resulting in the emergence and institutionalization of dating.

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