Courtship scripts and their dating meaning

Think about your daily interaction with people. For example, when you go to a store, you follow a specific script (a series of steps) to interact with the cashier. These types of scripts are usually known to everyone in a culture as a child, and they are designed to make social interaction easier. We don’t need to think about what we should say or do in a particular situation-we already have the script in mind. These scripts are also suitable for courtship and dating.

The courtship script is one of the most stubborn and inflexible scripts we have.

For example, suppose a man proposes to a woman, and when the check comes, the woman pays both of them. Although this is not unheard of, it may sound strange. We all tend to expect that this person will pay, or at least they will split the bill. These self-evident and hypothetical expectations about what is acceptable or “what people do” during dating are courtship scripts.

But courtship scripts are not always suitable for everyone. In a world where gender roles and relationships are changing rapidly, the norms of dating are obviously not changing so quickly. This has a negative effect on everyone, but mainly women. What can history and science tell us about courtship to help us make everyone more enjoyable?

20th century dating

It’s hard to imagine dating and other ways we know it, but in fact many changes have taken place in the way people date in the 20th century. The historian Beth Bailey wrote about the history of date and how it evolved throughout history.

Dating and rating

In the 1920s and 1930s, something called the “dating and rating complex” appeared, which was the framework of the dating experience. People who want to date must appear popular. If a man wants to be famous, he must use beautiful cars and beautiful clothes to show signs of wealth. On the other hand, women must act as if they are at a loss for dating requirements. The busier her social calendar, the more popular she is and the more likely she is to be asked for a date.

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Men must ask women out a few weeks in advance, and women must be shocked by any last-minute date requests. In this system, marriage is not the goal. This eventually changed, but dating is not about helping you find a partner for marriage. It used to be about participating in youth culture.

Steady development

After World War II, the situation changed drastically. For couples, the ideal dating scene is no longer a social butterfly, but becomes “stable”. After World War II, marriage was idealized as the ultimate goal of dating. Teenagers in high school began to develop “stable” symbols, like a girl in a boy’s alphabet sweater. These symbols vary from school to school across the United States.

Dating is seen as a preparation for the marriage of 18-year-old girls and 20-year-old boys. This means encouraging children as young as 8 years old to date. At that time, the idea that men and money are equivalent to women’s attention to sex took root in the dating culture.

However, with the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, the rigid conventions of decades ago began to disintegrate. Although we still oppose the idea of ​​equating money with sex today, compared to before the 1960s, this is no longer the accepted rule.

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Have we reached the courtship script of complete equality? Incomplete.

Changing gender roles

In a book titled Gender Role: Research Journal, Dating is defined as “an act of public expression performed by a romantically interested partner with the purpose of getting to know each other better.” The authors of this study Eaton and Rose aim to assess whether dating has occurred in the past few decades. Become more equal.

In short, dating has not become more equal. At least for heterosexuals, courtship and dating are still strictly based on gender. There are certain things that men and women must (or cannot) do.

Eaton and Rose found that when women date men, there are only subtle changes in the script, but other than that, the gender roles remain the same. It is expected that women will resist sex for at least a few dates. Men should pay for the first few dates and pursue women.


From an egalitarian perspective, the courtship scripts we know today support many sexist beliefs.

Some of these beliefs include the idea that men are “aggressors” and sex-oriented, while women should be “picky” and restrict their activities until they invest in men. It is recommended that women let men make decisions unless they really have to object. If a woman dares to propose to a man, there is a script indicating that she is only looking for sex.

In other words, the traditional gender roles of men as providers and invaders, and the traditional gender roles of women as nurturers and passive recipients are still assumed in dating and courtship scripts. This hurts both men and women.

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For example, a woman who behaves too aggressively can easily be labelled as a “slut”, while a man who lacks aggressiveness will immediately become “not so man” in the eyes of his male peers and the women around him.

More research by Paynter and Leaper has shown that believing that certain dating scripts, especially sexual double standards, are related to the sexist attitudes of men and women. Gender Role: Research Journal.

This means that people who follow these scripts are more likely to believe in ideas such as that women should stay at home with their children, or that men cannot express emotions other than anger.

Change script

Thankfully, when you learn about the script, you can change it. When you start dating someone, it is important to talk about your beliefs and assumptions about what men and women should do or do. If you and your partner have an open discussion about what kind of date you want to have, it is easier to make things work for you than if you just act on self-evident assumptions.

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Scripts are useful for smoothing social interaction, but they can be harmful. When it comes to intimacy, it’s worth taking some time to evaluate your expectations and figure out whether they are sexist. If you really want to respect and treat your partner equally, it is important to get rid of sexist attitudes.