V’K DATING: FUN OR SERIOUS BUSINESS?
We can understand a lot about a society just by examining the customs and rules it sets up for choosing a partner. For example, just from looking at dating patterns, we can learn about: the level of patriarchy (PAY-tree-ark-kee) in a society; its ideals about masculinity and femininity; the roles of women and men; the value placed on conformity; the importance of childbearing; the authority of the family; attitudes toward childhood, pleasure, responsibility; and a host of other traits.
The process of dating—meeting people socially for possible partner selection—may seem like a casual and fun process, but it is, in fact, serious business. Sociologists view dating as a “marriage market,” or a way for prospective mates to compare the assets and liabilities of eligible partners to choose the best available mates (Benokraitis, 1993). Dating serves an important recreational function in that many teens spend a good deal of their free time having fun on dates. For most people, however, this leads to progressively more serious dating and eventually to final partner selection.
Today, it is not uncommon for men and women to date many people prior to settling down into their first serious relationship. This is not to say that a relationship cannot work if the partners have not dated others, but dating helps clarify what we look for in a partner. In fact, many people feel uncomfortable making a lifetime commitment to one person without having spent some time dating others first. If a couple meets each other, and 2 weeks later they decide to get married, do you feel they have dated long enough? Today, probably not. But consider that not too long ago, parents arranged marriages between people who had known each other for only a few hours, days, or weeks.
In Chapter 7, we discussed the physical benefits of love and intimacy. Dating has been found to provide similar benefits. Steady dating in adolescence has also been found to be associated with higher self-esteem and sex-role identity (Samet & Kelly, 1987). Relationships provide companionship, emotional support, and even, at times, economic
support. Of course, the key may be the kind of dating relationships people have. Both the pressure to have sex and engaging in sex before the person is ready may turn a healthy dating experience into a detrimental one.
Young gay and lesbian people have a much harder time finding dates and developing sexually than their heterosexual counterparts because of the stigma of homosexuality and the difficulty in determining who are potential sexual partners. Some communities are tolerant of gay and lesbian teen dating, whereas others still severely stigmatize gay youth and make it difficult for them to admit their sexual orientation. As we discussed in Chapter 8, many gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths feel drawn to the Internet in search of available partners.
Overall, the research has found that commitment in relationships, whether the relationships are between college students in dating relationships or cohabiting or married gay and straight adults, is dependent on how much individual satisfaction there is in the relationship and the cost-benefit ratio of the relationship (Impett et al., 2001). If the benefits of the relationship outweigh the costs, the couple is generally more satisfied.
Question: Is an email or an instant message (IM) an acceptable way to ask someone out?
Today email and instant messaging are common forms of communication, and research supports that they can help promote intimacy (Hu et al., 2004). As long as you understand the risks (we talked about some of these in Chapter 7, page 201), Internet communication can provide a good way to contact someone. It would probably be a good idea, however, to follow up with a phone call just to be sure your message was received.