From Courting to Dating: The Evolution of Dating in the Last Century

Courting has been part of nature long before humans came into the fray. Although not much has changed for the rest of the animal kingdom over the course of history, it’s a different story when it comes to people.

Understanding the trends and fads in this interesting history of courtship is important to get a clearer grasp of how it has evolved into the dating that people know today. Find out how dating has changed in American society in the last 100 years.

1896

According to the New York Post, the word ‘date’ was first used in the context of courtship when Chicago Record published a column about a brokenhearted clerk in 1896. The clerk’s reported girlfriend told him that other men were filling all her ‘dates’ – as in calendar dates. This meant that she was seeing other guys.

Early 20th Century

At the start of the 20th century, calling was still in fashion. This was a courting process that begins with a man ‘calling’ on or visiting a woman in her parental home. They would then share conversation usually with tea and other snacks while they were supervised by the woman’s parents or guardians. This was done as a sort of long, continuous audition for the man.

Unlike earlier styles of calling though, the early 20th century began to lose some value placed on the family exchange of property in favor of more romantic pursuits.

Later on, even the parental supervision lost its favor and those in courtship were allowed their autonomy. This gave love even more weight while social status became less of a matchmaker.

After World War I

In the 1920s, the Prohibition was in full swing. It was also right around the time when American women were granted the right to vote. These two seemingly unconnected things brought forth a new style of courting that coincided with the emerging speakeasy businesses of the time. These hidden bars and nightclubs were no longer dominated by men. This paved the way into courtship within these spaces.

The growing popularity of automobiles also gave the men and women of the time another avenue to continue courtship.

During this time, there were also pubs that served as safe havens for the LGBTQIA+ community.

After World War II

The imbalance of numbers between men and women after the war led to a dating frenzy where there was pressure for women to secure a husband as early as their adolescence. However, they were still expected to wait until a man initiates the relationship.

The 60s and 70s

With the arrival of the birth control pill, premarital sex suddenly rose in popularity. A stark contrast to the marriage-focused decade before. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the gay liberation movement further sparked challenges to the traditional concepts of relationships and dating.

According to Insider, in 1965, the world’s first computer-based dating service, Match, was created by two Harvard undergrads.

The 80s and 90s

The ‘hookup culture’ that started in the 80s became more mainstream with the advent of the internet in the 90s. This didn’t only make it easier, simpler, and faster to meet people, it also provided a way to exercise more agency over people’s dating lives, especially for the LGBTQIA+ community.

21st century So Far

dating in the 21st century

Today’s dating landscape is energized by different apps and websites. The popularity of social media also introduced a new platform for dating. Dating services such as that of professional matchmakers or dating apps have become so prevalent that according to Vanity Fair, the world has entered a ‘Dating Apocalypse.’

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