Some conventions of patriarchal culture are easier to conceptually dismantle than others. Sure, women are still being paid less than men for the same exact work, but most reasonable people (and hopefully this isn’t too optimistic a generalization) who aren’t dripping with troll goo and are too young to have ever attended a USO swing dance would agree that women and men should be accepted as equals in the workplace. When it comes to picking up a dinner tab, however, conventional notions of heteronormative chivalry have proved more resistant to change. Apparently, there are plenty of people — even people raised with more egalitarian gender values — who’d really feel more comfortable if dudes pay for dinner during a date.
At least, such is the suggestion of a new study that Chapman University’s David Frederick will present at the upcoming 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. Frederick’s paper, "Who Pays for Dates? Following versus Challenging Conventional Gender Norms," features survey data from more than 17,000 participants, a quarter of whom provided some more detailed explanations for their beliefs about gender’s role in bankrolling a date. Back before feminism began suggesting that people shouldn’t be forced or expected or pressured into doing things just because of their gender, men would pay for all the things because [some pseudo evolutionary psychology about cavepeople and rudimentary prehistoric barter system]. Using fossilized pieces of tree bark, cavegentlemen would demonstrate to caveladies that, for the price of a hanger steak and some soggy frites, they now had exclusive rights to any future sexual favors. Thus, a human dating ritual was born.
Even though there’s more gender parity now than there’s ever been in Western civilization (most marriages today, for example, share the burden of winning gluten-free bread), some people, according to Frederick’s survey, just can’t get past the patriarchy’s entrenched dinner dating chivalry:
Consistent with conventional norms, most men (84 percent) and women (58 percent) reported that men pay for most expenses, even after dating for a while. Over half (57 percent) of women claim they offer to help pay, but many women (39 percent) confessed they hope men would reject their offers to pay, and 44 percent of women were bothered when men expected women to help pay. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of men believed that women should contribute to dating expenses, and many feel strongly about that: Nearly half of men (44 percent) said they would stop dating a woman who never pays. A large majority of men (76 percent), however, reported feeling guilty accepting women's money.
Times are a-changin’, though — young men and women in their 20s do hold more egalitarian beliefs about dinner date protocol, but the whole “guys should pay for dinner” convention has been more resistant to ideological change than other vestiges of our peculiar form of patriarchal culture.