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Doing gender in everyday situations

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Title:
Doing gender in everyday situations an examination of heterosexual dating
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Brackett, Kimberly Pettigrew, 1968-
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English
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viii, 154 leaves : ; 29 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Courtship ( jstor )
Depth interviews ( jstor )
Gender construction ( jstor )
Gender roles ( jstor )
Intimacy ( jstor )
Marriage ( jstor )
Men ( jstor )
Social interaction ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Womens studies ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- Sociology -- UF
Sociology thesis, Ph. D
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bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1996.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 148-153).
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Kimberly Pettigrew Brackett.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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DOING GENDER IN EVERYDAY SITUATIONS: AN EXAMINATION
OF HETEROSEXUAL DATING



















By

KIMBERLY PETTIGREW BRACKETT

















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

1996




DOING GENDER IN EVERYDAY SITUATIONS: AN EXAMINATION
OF HETEROSEXUAL DATING
By
KIMBERLY PETTIGREW BRACKETT
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1996


Copyright 1996
by
Kimberly Pettigrew Brackett


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
There are many people who have been instrumental in
this project and my graduate school experience who deserve
recognition. Among those worthy of a round of applause are
my friend and committee chair, Connie Shehan. She has been a
source of inspiration and support, and I appreciate her
availability for consultations and her concerns regarding my
professional development. I could not have asked for a more
caring and special person to work with.
Thanks are also directed to my doctoral committee
members who helped my education in many different ways: Jay
Gubrium, Bill Marsiglio, John Scanzoni, and Bob Ziller. An
extra-special thank you goes to these professors for their
many reference letters sent on my behalf.
Additionally, I would like to thank the support
personnel who assisted with this project. Nadine Gillis has
an extensive knowledge of graduate school procedures and I
relied on her quite often. Her assistance was vital in the
preparation of this manuscript. My transcriptionist and
friend Kathleen Conlon devoted numerous hours to an often
tedious task. Her work is much appreciated.
There are 20 university couples very deserving of
thanks. And while their names will remain anonymous, their
iii


insight and comments have added to a better understanding of
the role of dating and gender in 1990s relationships. I wish
to thank these couples for their honesty, openness, and
enjoyable stories.
Acknowledgments would never be complete without
mentioning my most ardent supporters, my mom and dad, Jenny
and Dave Pettigrew, my sister, Amy Pettigrew, and my
wonderful husband, Dave Brackett.
iv


TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii
ABSTRACT V
CHAPTERS
ONE INTRODUCTION 1
The Problem 1
The Purposes 18
Expectations 18
TWO REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE 24
Doing Gender 24
History of Dating 35
The Courtship System 35
Traditional Dating 40
Current Dating 47
Current Dating Behaviors and Attitudes 49
Dating Scripts 49
Female Date Initiation and
Expense Sharing 52
Female Sexual Initiation 57
THREE METHODOLOGY 62
Sample 62
Data Collection 65
Data Analysis 69
FOUR INTERVIEW FINDINGS 71
Doing Gender in the Dating Arena 71
Traditional Gender Roles 73
Negotiated Gender Roles 89
The Definitions and Language of Dating 103
Doing Relationship 116
FIVE DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS 131
Assessing the Doing Gender Idea 131
Social Construction of Dating 136
Future Research Agendas 138
v


APPENDICES
A DOING GENDER JOINT INTERVIEW SCHEDULE 144
B DOING GENDER INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW SCHEDULE... 146
REFERENCES 148
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 154
vi


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
DOING GENDER IN EVERYDAY SITUATIONS: AN EXAMINATION
OF HETEROSEXUAL DATING
By
Kimberly Pettigrew Brackett
May 1996
Chairman: Constance L. Shehan, Ph.D.
Major Department: Sociology
This study uses the concept of doing gender to better
understand the ways in which dating couples draw on and
modify traditional gender role expectations to shape the
parameters of their developing relationships. In-depth
interviews were conducted with 20 undergraduate heterosexual
couples who were involved in new dating relationships.
Partners were interviewed jointly and individually to
examine the gendered components of their relationships.
This study indicates that couples use culturally
prescribed gender behaviors as a model in establishing their
initial relationships. This is particularly true in regard
to financial responsibility and sexual initiation. However,
as the relationship develops, the partners provide each
other with opportunities to negotiate and practice
nontraditional gender behavior. These nontraditional gender
vii


roles become part of the culture of the relationship itself,
thus altering the prescribed roles and allowing additional
variation. The idea of doing gender" suggests that this
link between micro- and macrosociological processes not only
recreates the expected gender displays on the level of the
individual, but helps to create new gender expressions at
the societal level.
viii


CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
The Problem
In many areas of daily life gender roles are changing
to allow for greater flexibility in the lives of men and
women. The portrayal of gender is less rigid than in the
past. One area in which traditional gender roles have
persisted, however, is the arena of heterosexual dating
(Rose and Frieze, 1993) While some recent studies have
suggested that a loosening of gender roles in dating is
taking place insofar as women do seem to be initiating
dates, such studies tend to include couples at all stages of
dating relationships, not just couples in the formation
stage when traditional or expected gender roles are likely
to have their greatest influence (Mongeau et al., 1993).
Research indicates that the [longer the association couples
have with each other, the more comfortable they will feel in
violating traditional gender expectations with regard to
dating script%J First dates or even newly formed couples
would be less likely to deviate from the prescribed dating
behaviors than couples who have a considerable history
together. More liberal attitudes toward dating serve as a
marker for changing gender role expectations.
1


2
The current study focuses on the gender displays,
attitudes, and behaviors that couples exhibit in dating
relationships. Using a theoretical perspective that looks at
gender as a socially constructed task and product of
interaction, rather than as pre-existing characteristics of
the participants in a dating scenario, the goal of the
present study is to understand the strategies that men and
women use to present an image of themselves that is
appropriate and believable in a dating situation (Berger and
Luchman, 1966; Heritage, 1984; Gubrium, Holstein and
Buckholdt, 1994).
Goffman (1976, p. 77) suggests any scene, it appears,
can be defined as an occasion for the depiction of gender
differences, and in any scene a resource can be found for
effecting the display (emphasis in original). The scene for
the current study is dating. Interviews with currently
dating couples provide a social framework in which to
observe the production and reproduction of gender. They
afford an opportunity to examine the gender displays that
characterize individuals as belonging to a particular sex-
class (Goffman, 1976). While dating is a crucial element in
this study and provides the social situation and context for
the research, the relationship between dating and gender
expression or display is what is empirically problematic.
The focus of the analysis is on the interactions that
occur between dating partners. ¡ By its nature interaction is


3
reflexive, negotiable, and changeable. This interactional
approach to the study of dating and gender is different than
other approaches that suggest a unidirectional mechanism of
process. Socialization, adaptation, and oppression as
explanations for the presence of gender in social situations
would suggest that once gender is learned, adjusted to, or
acted out in opposition to a dominant force, gender has been
established (Gerson and Peiss, 1985). The current approach
suggests that gender is a constantly changing, but
omnipresent factor in social interactions. There is not a
point at which the work of gender is complete. There is,
however, a schedule for the portrayal of gender" (Goffman,
1976, p. 76) and this recurs throughout interactions.
The sociological literature on contemporary dating in
general is fairly limited and no studies take the doing
gender" approach. Few studies have been conducted since the
early 1980's when Knox and Wilson (1981) reported on the
dating behaviors of students at East Carolina University and
Korman (1980) studied the impact of feminist identity on
dating at the University of Florida. Of the more recent
studies of dating, few look specifically at women's
initiation of dating and sexual relationships, areas in
which the negotiation and work of gender are likely to be
critical due to traditional expectations. When these
questions about nontraditional behaviors are asked, it is
usually among only established dating couples, not those


persons just forming or considering a relationship (Lottes,
1993). A popular way for information about dating to be
presented is in advice format where the expert tries to
answer questions and advise the dater (e.g. Laner, 1992) In
general there are little or no current data about dating.
One explanation for the dearth of dating studies is
that researchers in the 1970's proposed that dating was
becoming obsolete (Murstein, 1980) or was being replaced by
a new way of dating called getting together (Libby, 1976).
These researchers felt that dating was declining, moving
away from preparation for marriage toward recreation, and
was no longer an essential research topic. There was an
assumption among these researchers that dating proceeds in a
very orderly and gender specific way and that little or no
deviation occurs. This may have been the case in the 1960s
and 1970s. However, one need only look at the|Jidvice columns
in teenage girls' magazines to see that the kinds of dating
advice currently being given do not reflect one single
gender role for women in relationships.! Women and men are
defining their dating behaviors in many different ways, e.g.
talking, going out, hanging out, etc., and the literature
has failed to pursue the different ways in which dating
couples see, describe, create and utilize their dating
relationships. Some of these gaps in the sociological
literature may be filled by research from the standpoint of
doing gender and gender display. The current study


5
argues that one of the essential tasks of dating is the
creation, expression, negotiation, and maintenance of
gender. By understanding more about how couples in newly
forming relationships negotiate gender, the salience of
gender in dating and the dynamics of dating in modern
society are made clearer.
This research focuses on a commonplace situation in
which gender is a key factor, where a gender display is work
being done. In heterosexual dating, the production of and
accountability for gendered behavior, language, attitudes,
etc. is of central importance. Because of the nature of
heterosexual dating, interactions between male and female
participants have been governed by expected gender
behaviors. Rose and Frieze (1993) found this to be true when
they asked students about a recent first date. In an
intimate relationship in its early stages, displays of
gender reinforce the societal expectations about appropriate
male and female behaviors. Regardless of their prior
friendship, acquaintanceship, or association, when a couple
enters that point in their relationship where a romantic
interest is perceived as a possibility by both partners,
their association is now of a different type and is likely
to be perceived as different by the participants.
This status change from friend" to potential partner"
may be quite difficult because different expectations are
included when the relationship between the actors changes.


6
The gender rules that govern dating then come into play.
Couples may alter traditional dating gender prescriptions,
but still are constrained by the bounds of tradition and
societal sanction. Any changes that the couple enact will
still be evaluated by conventional and societal norms.
In some instances dating has been characterized as a
game, with participants making carefully planned and
researched strategical moves (Ehrmann, 1964). The male works
to impress the woman and gain sexual favor while the woman
works to limit her sexual favors and maintain her social
position. Using this approach one might take a cynical view
of the participants, try to anticipate the next move, or
focus on the societal norms regarding dating behavior. The
current study approaches dating as a socially constructed
venue in which to study people at work on the production of
gender. Dating is embedded in the framework of partner
selection and teenage ritual, both having gender
imperatives, but it is also a social situation of an
individual nature in which gender may be examined. Dating
is, at once, a personal and societal phenomenon. For the
current study, persons in newly forming dating relationships
will be examined to see how gender is constructed on a
microsocial level, between the partners.
If, as Ehrmann (1964) suggested, dating has a
ritualized game quality, one could consider the changes in
the game on the societal level over time. If the


7
negotiations of daters in the past were predicated on sexual
favors in exchange for love or marriage, partners today may
still desire these outcomes or may express interest in
different results. Gender displays have always been a key
component in the interactions between dating couples, with
one's gender determining the outcomes of a date that one was
supposed to desire. The process of reaching the desired
outcomes has likely changed as standards regarding
premarital sex and marriage have changed.
Within dating relationships, particularly based on
historical patterns, certain behaviors have typically been
delegated to one sex or the other. These gendered behaviors
become almost ritualized and certainly are common knowledge
among daters. The continual acting out and recreating of
gender differences constitutes doing gender" and, more
specifically, are a gender display." Because of their
historical gender limitations, these areas provide key
points to examine in the current research on the production,
maintenance, and accountability of gender in newly
established dating couples. Three key areas in gender
display are date initiation, expense paying, and sexual
initiation.
Utilizing data from student respondents, the Korman
(1980) and Knox and Wilson (1981) studies provide a
background and impetus for the current study. The concerns
raised by these researchers are still important for


8
examining the behaviors of today's daters. Knox and Wilson
(1981) administered a questionnaire consisting of 21 closed-
ended questions to 227 female and 107 male undergraduates in
randomly selected classes at a state university in the
Southeast. The response rate was 60%. They asked questions
about how respondents met partners, what activities they
participated in on dates, what they talked about on dates,
what sexual behaviors they engaged in, what values they
endorsed, and the role of parents in dating.
The most frequently cited way to meet dating partners
was through a friend, with one-third of the respondents
selecting this answer. At a party, at work, in class, and
other, representing unique ways to meet a partner, were also
chosen but not as frequently as through a friend. The most
frequent dating activity for the respondents was going out
to eat and going back to one person's residence. Most often
the daters reported that the topic of conversation was their
relationship. Approximately one-third talked about this.
Other conversation topics included school and friends, but
sex was discussed less than 5% of the time. All of these
common dating events provide a ready location in which the
participants do gender.
In the areas of sexual behaviors there were noticeable
gender differences. Most respondents indicated that kissing
was appropriate within a short time of knowing the partner;
70% of the men compared to 50% of the women felt this was


9
appropriate on the first date. By the fourth date, all of
the men and all but 3% of the women felt kissing was
appropriate. Petting, which the researchers defined as
hands anywhere,' showed quite a gender difference. Only
one-third of the men, compared to over three-fourths of the
women felt petting should be postponed until after the
fourth date. One-half of the men and 25% of the women felt
that intercourse was appropriate by the fifth date. These
data lend support to the notion that a relationship context
is important for women's expression of their sexuality.
Additionally, they indicate the traditional notions of
masculine and feminine behaviors were being reinforced in
the sexual aspects of the couple's relationship.
Knox and Wilson (1981) also asked about encouraging and
discouraging sexual intimacy. One-fourth of the men and one-
third of the women encouraged intimacy by being open about
sex desires and expectations.' Other techniques used by
respondents included setting the mood, moving toward the
partner, hinting about interest, and expressing love. When
it came time to discourage intimacy, one-half of the women
and one-third of the men told the partner to stop. Other
techniques included ignoring sexual advances and keeping
one's distance.
The doing gender' idea argues that different
techniques for encouraging or discouraging intimacy should
be expected. While women and men are involved in the


10
production of gender, they are also accountable to society
for the gender that they do. Some actions are within the
behavioral repertoire of men, others in the repertoire of
women. When an unexpected strategy is used, there may be a
question about the masculinity or femininity of the actor.
While focusing on gender in dating, the current study
suggests differing expectations and influences for women and
men in the dating arena. This accountability limits or
expands the gendered behaviors that can be expected of
dating persons in interaction by making their behavior
available for societal scrutiny.
The Korman study (1980; 1983) was grounded in an
exchange perspective suggesting that feminists engage in
nontraditional behaviors more than nonfeminists in order to
equalize the bargaining element in dating relations." Her
respondents, 400 unmarried, undergraduate women at another
state university in the Southeast, were asked to complete
questionnaires about their dating behaviors, attitudes
toward feminism, and experiences with date rape. She then
compared the responses of feminist and nonfeminist women to
ascertain the impact of a feminist orientation on dating. To
more sharply contrast feminist and nonfeminist women,
respondents in the middle range were dropped from further
analysis, yielding a total of 258 respondents. Respondents
classified as feminist were far more likely to initiate and
pay for dates than the nonfeminist women. Seventy percent of


11
feminist women had paid for dates compared to 40% of the
nonfeminists. Feminists had initiated an average of 5.3
dates and shared expenses on these female initiated dates
71% of the time. Nonfeminists had initiated 2.2 dates, on
average, and shared expenses for the female initiated dates
only 46% of the time. An interesting finding of this study
was that both groups of women reported that they believed
men wanted more sexual activity on the dates than they did
when the men paid. The traditional notion of exchanging
money for sex was evident in this study.
In the Korman (1983) study even traditional women were
asking men out and participating in nontraditional
behaviors. Traditional dates are what the public most often
pictures a date to be. Gender roles form the basis of
interaction for the couple. These behaviors are presented
through cultural scripts, societal guidelines for how
interaction between actors should appropriately proceed. In
terms of dating, these scripts have gender as a central
component. Gender divides the duties of a date into his
and hers. In traditional dating the roles of men and women
are separate and clearly defined.
For men, the traditional date involves asking the woman
out, planning the activities for the date, driving, and
paying. In some scripts it may be appropriate for the man to
make sexual advances (LaManna and Riedmann, 1994) For a
woman, the traditional date situation reguires that she


12
accept or decline (by letting him down easy), look nice, be
typically feminine, and rebuff, at least in a token way, the
sexual advances of her partner (Allgeier and McCormick,
1982) Women are to be demure and passive in a dating
situation by allowing men to ask, plan, drive, and pay.
Additional helpless behaviors, (e.g. waiting for him to
open doors, having him order food for her) help to secure
her position in the dating scenario (Larkin, 1979) .
Nontraditional dating, in contrast, puts less pressure
on either partner to play a specified role. Ideally the
situation involves relaxed attitudes about appropriate male
and female behavior and a more androgynous set of
expectations. This script is characterized by egalitarian
gender roles, mutuality, and sharing. The research on dating
most often characterizes nontraditional dating as getting
together". Getting together (Libby, 1976) involves group
dating, less formal activities, either partner paying,
meeting the partner at a convenient location, and less
emphasis on marriage. For the purposes of the current study,
nontraditional dating refers to any situation, behavior, or
activity that is contrary to the standardized norms of
traditional dating. While getting together has
traditionally meant a group focus in dating, the present
study deals with persons in one-on-one interactions with
their dating partners.


13
An understanding of gender displays and actions in
dating behaviors has practical significance as well. One
area of the dating literature that has proliferated over the
last decade pertains to date rape. The expectations that
both men and women have regarding dates and their respective
roles on those dates has been found to be an essential
variable in the explanation of date rape prevalence
(Muehlenhard and Linton, 1987; Stets and Pirog-Good, 1989).
Historically, there has been an expectation that women will
be passive, particularly in the area of sexuality and will
provide token resistance. These are gender displays that
women have been expected to present to appear womanly.
When the displays are not made, they may receive a sanction,
such as the label of tramp. Even when the resistance is not
a token men may interpret this behavior as no means yes.
When women and men do not agree on the roles, research
indicates that men may use sexual force to gain the upper
hand in the relationship. If gender roles in the area of
dating are indeed changing, the more active role that women
today may be permitted to take could lessen their chances of
becoming the victims of unwanted sexual advances by a dating
partner. By asserting themselves through asking for the date
or displaying gender that may not fit the societal norm,
women may be indicating to their partners that they expect
treatment as equals and will share the power in the
relationship with men, even in the sexual arena.


14
Another area of practical significance in dating
pertains to the use of contraception. When a woman initiates
a date, she may be more likely to plan for any sexual
activity that may occur and would, therefore, be prepared
when it does occur. If she initiated the date, she may have
more power in decisions regarding contraception.
Negotiations about contraception indicate an aspect of
dating in which the production of gender will occur. Based
on biology and the possibility of pregnancy, women should
have more concerns than men about the choice of
contraception. Gerrard et al. (1990) found that women,
regardless of their dominance or submission had a fair
amount of influence in decisions about contraception because
they generally knew more about contraception than their male
partners and had a greater interest in preventing pregnancy.
The authors suggested that since this was a task that could
be considered feminine", the female had more influence. The
study did not distinguish between different methods of
contraception, however. The researchers were more concerned
with the bargaining process of the couple and whose opinion
had more influence. It may be the case that with condoms, a
male method, the male has more influence in the use of the
contraception. Doing gender would suggest that the couple
has negotiated condoms to be in the domain of men and
therefore, a manly contraceptive. For a woman to use or
suggest this method, she will act in a male" manner. For


15
women in a dating relationship this may be extremely
important because condoms are the best protection against
sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. A woman who
initiates the date, already contradicting expected gender
roles, may be more likely to influence her partner to wear a
condom.
If, as many researchers have proposed, dating is seen
as a rehearsal for marriage, date initiation and other
decisions made frequently among dating couples are
important. A relationship in which the woman has the freedom
to initiate dating and sexual contact may indicate that the
partners expect to have a more egalitarian orientation
toward gender in a subsequent marriage. One could argue that
the gender roles and skills negotiated during a dating
relationship provide the foundation for the roles and skills
that will be employed in the marriage. Cate and Lloyd (1985)
have argued that the first stage in the family life cycle is
courtship. Consequently one's dating behaviors and attitudes
are important for one's future marital relationship.
For teachers of family sociology, the information
available about dating is either historical or out-of-date,
representing the traditional patterns of the 1950's and
1960's. When an instructor talks to students about dating,
those students are interested in data on what their peers
are doing, as well as what their parents did. Unfortunately,
the studies of dating that are being presented in textbooks


16
still adhere to a fairly traditional orientation. Those
nontraditional studies that are presented focus on the new
technologies" in dating such as singles' advertisements,
video dating, and computer matching services (Ahuvia and
Adelman, 1992). New information on the behaviors of dating
couples, particularly their negotiation of gender and
subsequent display, would help family sociologists in the
classroom as well as in their own research.
Most studies of dating have utilized an exchange
perspective arguing that equity in relationships and a
perceived fairness of exchange predict a successful coupling
that results in marriage. Other approaches, however, might
also provide insight into changing gender roles and the
acceptability of these changes. In an effort to examine the
challenges of dating from a gender perspective, this study
examines the expression and accountability of gender as it
is displayed in a dating situation. Rooted in ethno-
methodology, this study utilizes the concept of doing
gender* (West and Zimmerman, 1991) which conceives of gender
as an emergent feature of social situations (p.14). In
this approach gender is the way in which one portrays the
normative attitudes and activities dictated by one's sex
category, male or female. Actors are held accountable for
how successful they are in doing gender to present the
appropriate qualities for their assigned sex category.


17
The current study focuses on heterosexual dating, but
in a different way than have prior dating studies. Utilizing
the theoretical concept of "doing gender (West and
Zimmerman, 1991), dating is seen as one venue in which to
study the work of maintaining, creating, and expressing
gender. Dating is an arena for gender display. Taking this
approach, then, makes gender, rather than dating, the key
research element. Questions revolve around the expression
and creation of gender rather than what dating is, who is
dating, how often, etc. A specific definition of dating is
not important for answering these research guestions. A
socially known and constructed everyday use of the term
dating that has a common sense understanding by both
researcher and participant is sufficient to ensure that they
are communicating about a particular social situation. For
those persons concerned with partner selection and social
activities, date is a widely accepted term to indicate the
social association between potential partners. As a social
situation for studying gender, dating provides much
information about one's gender role orientation and
attitudes. Additionally, dating provides a unique
opportunity in which couples can negotiate gender. It is a
romantic context, unlike the peer group, and in the initial
stages of dating, issues of permanence and commitment may
not have arisen.


18
The Purposes
The global purpose of this study is to explore dating
as an example of the theoretical concept doing gender.
The focus is on gender role-related behaviors in dating.
The display of these gender images occurs in everyday
situations. By examining how persons make claims regarding
gender, the researcher will be able to examine the creation
and maintenance of gender on a microsocial level. While
gender is done on multiple social levels, both micro and
macro, this initial analysis will form the foundation for an
actual and theoretically driven link between the expression
of gender on a micro level and the expression of gender on
an institutional level. This research project will look at a
familiar social situation, dating, in a new light and will
illustrate the concepts of doing gender and gender display.
In the research literature, the notion of doing gender" has
only been applied to the arena of employment. Primarily the
focus has been on how women create male or female roles and
actions in the work sphere (e.g. Fenstermaker, 1991; Hall,
1993; Hochschild, 1983). The present study extends doing
gender into another arena where gender is an essential
task, personal relationships.
Expectations
Based on the literature and applying the concept of
doing gender, which draws from ethonomethodological and


19
constructionist perspectives (West and Zimmerman, 1991) ,
several expectations have arisen. As a social situation,
dating provides a useful arena in which to examine people at
work in the production of gender because one of the goals of
dating is interaction with a partner. In the early stages of
dating, one makes claims about masculinity and femininity.
Early dating relationships are likely characterized by high
gender role adherence and partner expectation. In this
manner, the behaviors that couples exhibit with each other
are likely to follow traditional gender expectations so that
claims of masculinity and femininity are supported easily.
The areas of female date initiation, female expense
sharing, and female sexual initiation will most likely
require more negotiation and different strategies than when
these acts are initiated by men. Since gender displays are
held accountable, when one violates that expected gender
display, such as a woman asking to pay for date expenses,
accountability issues become important. It is expected that
women use different strategies in asking so that these
traditionally male tasks are not necessarily interpreted by
either the man or woman as a violation of womanly
behavior. Mongeau and colleagues suggest that the female
initiation of a date is a relatively common experience
(1991, p. 52) Given the likelihood that women will ask men
out, exploring the strategies that women use to maintain
their impression of femaleness is a useful endeavor.


20
Since this study focuses on newly established dating
relationships, the expense sharing behaviors are expected to
be a prominent part of dating experiences. Lottes (1993) has
suggested that women contribute more financially when they
are in a steady relationship with only one partner than when
they are dating several men at once. Doing gender would
suggest that in the early stages of a relationship the
gender displays that the partners present would be very
important. Following traditional gender roles makes it easy
to relate to the partner and present the socially expected
image. When there are questions over the behavior that
should be exhibited, there is a tendency to follow the
normative standards of the society. When women pay for dates
there is a risk that they will be perceived as less feminine
and the partner, as well as friends, may question the
authenticity of their gender display. To maintain an
authentic and believable gender display, a woman will have
to approach the issue of her financial contribution in a
different way than her male partner. He does not have to
negotiate the right or opportunity to pay; it is expected
that he will do so. She, however, may have to negotiate the
conditions under which her paying is permissible and does
not challenge either his or her gender presentation.
Because first dates tend to be far more scripted than
interactions that occur once a relationship has been
established (Rose and Frieze, 1993), and this study deals


21
with newly formed relationships, it is expected that the
participants in this study will cite traditional activities
as part of their dating experiences. This is again a way in
which the partners are displaying gender. In traditional
settings it is likely that traditional gender roles are
expected and expressed. After a few dates, however, these
daters may introduce their partners into the activities of
their group of associates. At this point accountability is
on a wider range. More persons are involved in evaluating
one's gender performance and work.
Given the traditional gender role perception regarding
sexuality with which all daters are familiar, the
expectation is that men initiate all sexual contact. It is a
manly activity. Women risk the appearance of forwardness or
promiscuity when they initiate sexual contact, not the kind
of gender display that is the norm of female behavior.
Initiating a dating relationship does not automatically
suggest, however, that a woman will initiate sexual contact
in that relationship. While studies have indicated that
women may be viewed as more willing to have sex when they
initiate the date (Muehlenhard and Scardino, 1985), there
are no data to suggest that these women actually initiate
sexual contact as well, nor how they are likely to go about
the initiation. In a study of nontraditional gender roles
among college students, Lottes (1993) reported that while
74% of the 237 women in her sample had asked a man on a


22
date, only 38% of the sample had initiated that first sexual
involvement with a new partner. While 78% of these women
felt that men and women equally should be able to initiate a
sexual relationship, their reported behaviors indicated that
men were more likely to be the sexual initiators. One factor
that may influence women to initiate sexual relationships is
having asked a number of men out on dates. If women are
willing to repeatedly violate the cultural script of dating
initiation, they may be more willing to violate the cultural
expectations of male initiation of sexual contact.
In addition, those women who are more sexually
experienced may be more confident of and comfortable with
their sexuality and may be more willing to assert themselves
in a new sexual situation (Macklin, 1983). A key issue to
keep in mind is the way in which women are initiating the
sexual contact. It is expected, based on traditional dating
scripts, that women will demonstrate more hinting behaviors
than open requests for sex from their male partners. Hinting
is doing female, thus her claims to the sex category
female will usually not be questioned. Females likely
maintain their "female status by staying away from
aggressive means to achieve sexual intimacy and utilizing
more subtle hinting behaviors.
The link between date initiation, date expense sharing,
and sexual initiation is no doubt a complex one. A key
element, however, is that these behaviors and the attitudes


23
surrounding them are mediated by gender. The creation and
maintenance of gender goes on in these key parts of the
dating experience. Observations of and interviews with
dating couples will likely demonstrate that gender
construction is a large part of the work that couples do in
interaction, particularly in a relationship context.
The expression of gender between partners has always
been an element of key importance in dating. Today, from
casual observation, it may appear that partners behave in
less gendered ways. This change suggests an interesting
point of sociological significance. For persons interested
in understanding dating a key question may be to ask if
there has been a real change in the expression of gender,
and does this indicate a change in how dates proceed, the
expected outcomes for daters, and possibly a change in what
constitutes a date.


CHAPTER TWO
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
This chapter will review the literature in the major
areas relevant to this study. There are three main areas of
concern. The first section discusses the theoretical
orientations of the study. In this section the concepts of
gender display and doing gender are presented. Since the
social situation in which the production of gender will be
examined is dating, a history of dating, focusing on gender,
is discussed. Finally, because there are areas in dating
that have recently become gender battlegrounds," research
that considers violations of traditionally expected gender
behaviors will also be considered. This last section is
called current dating behaviors and attitudes.
Doing Gender
The theoretical standpoint that underlies this research
is rooted in ethnomethodology and makes use of the concept
of doing gender" (West and Zimmerman, 1991). In this
approach, which seeks to demonstrate the omnipresence of
gender in the lives of men and women, different levels of
society can be examined and found to be involved in the work
of gender. From the sociological standpoint of doing
24


25
gender" then, gender is a routine, methodical, and
recurring accomplishment (West and Zimmerman, 1991, p.13);
it is achieved rather than ascribed. This accomplishment,
occurring through interaction, is on both the
microsociological and macrosociological levels. For example,
women's inequality is not only perpetuated by the system of
employment that separates men and women into different jobs,
but is also recreated within individual companies, offices,
and interactions that employees experience on a daily basis
(Fenstermaker et al., 1991).
Prior to a discussion of the literature about doing
gender, a discussion of gender display (Goffman, 1976)
provides an informing perspective. Gender display refers to
conventionalized portrayals of these [culturally
established] correlates of sex that are by definition
gender (p.69). The expression of gender displays varies by
the situation and the actor's role within that situation.
Displays are almost ritual-like in that they tend to follow
rules of presentation regardless of the social situation in
which they are appropriate. Displays (1) contain a
statement-reply interaction such that a display from one
elicits a display from another; (2) are most prominent at
beginnings and endings of activities, but also continue
throughout an activity without altering that activity; (3)
need identification of the social position of the person
performing the display to be successful; (4) may contain


26
multiple pieces of social information; (5) vary greatly in
their formality; (6) are optional; (7) provide broad
information about social relationships, but generally are
not about one specific social relationship (Goffman provides
the example of social relationships that involve kissing and
the different meanings of the kiss.); (8) are always
within human awareness with regard to when it is safe to
perform a certain display. Thus they choose when, where, and
in whose company, to enact a particular display.
When gender displays are being considered, the
expression of one's gender based on biological criteria is
important. Society suggests it is a moral imperative to act
as one's biological sex dictates. As Goffman (1976, p.75)
indicates, one of the most deeply seated traits of man, it
is felt, is gender; femininity and masculinity are in a
sense the prototypes of essential expression-something that
can be conveyed fleetingly in any social situation and yet
something that strikes at the most basic characterization of
the individual. The display of these taken-as-essential
expressions is scheduled such that the appropriate gender
display is presented. The content or nature of the display,
i.e. what behaviors are presented, varies for men and women,
but that is the only distinction. Goffman focuses on the
willingness of actors to follow a schedule for the portrayal
of gender. This provides continuity in one's behavior. As a
result, the competence and willingness of persons to present


27
the appropriate gender displays links them to the particular
sex-class for which the displays are appropriate. Goffman
concludes that while gender expressions and displays are in
essence a show, a considerable amount of the substance of
society is enrolled in the staging of it (1976, p.76).
For couples in the social situation of dating, where
Goffman would suggest mutual monitoring is occurring, there
are expected displays that reinforce the gender alliances of
the participants. Following the notion of display, one could
argue that the tendency for women to be late for a date,
while real or mythical, is a display that links her with the
sex-class of female. It is like a woman to be late for a
date. This tardiness also occurs at the beginning of the
activity, a time when Goffman suggests ritual gender
displays would be most prominent.
Like Goffman's conception of gender display as
expression and his discussion of the arrangement between the
sexes (1976, 1977), the doing gender approach uses the term
gender in a unique way. Gender is the activity of managing
situated conduct in light of normative conceptions of
attitudes and activities appropriate for one's sex category"
(West and Zimmerman, 1991, p. 14). As Gerson and Peiss
(1985) suggest, gender is defined by socially constructed
relationships between women and men, among women, and among
men in social groups.


28
The current study focuses on the gender work between
women and men in the context of dating. In our culture,
biology has been given an important role in the expression
of gender. Being male or female is largely defined by
biological criteria, one's genitalia. For the most part,
persons born biologically male are male" in that they can
be categorized as such. In our culture biological sex and
category status are linked. It is taken for granted that one
who acts like a woman is a female and that she has the
biology to prove it. According to West and Zimmerman (1991)
this sex category is what is displayed in physical
appearance and we act as if that is always correct. Gender,
then, is being the social category. This is adhering to
and recreating the normative societal attributions for one
who has been placed in your sex category. This link between
physical appearance and adherence to socially prescribed
behaviors presents a gender management crisis for those
whose biology and social expression are incongruent
(Garfinkel, 1967).
Doing gender represents that situation in which
gender is not simply a property or characteristic that an
actor has it is something that an actor does. For example,
in Garfinkel's report on Agnes, female was not a biological
property of Agnes, but was a social conception of herself
that she cultivated by displaying and doing female" (1967).
Doing gender is accomplished in interaction with others when


29
the expected role, attitude or behavior is demonstrated.
Everyone is accountable to society for the gender that is
accomplished. If the gender one does is appropriate, falling
within manly behavior for males and womanly behavior for
females, that interaction is successful in the sense that
gender has been done and one's behavior was not even
considered, much less guestioned. Competent members of
society act within the bounds of gender and also reproduce
it. This production and reproduction of gender results in
its use and recognition as a category and fundamental
division of society.
Gender is at the same time an outcome of social
arrangements and a rationale for them (West and Zimmerman,
1991). The emergence of gender in social situations has
meaning within the specific social contexts in which it
occurs and is work being done. Through the perpetuation of
stereotypical dating roles, dating couples provide support
for their own gender distinct behaviors. The social
arrangement that puts men in the position to initiate dates
and women in the position to wait for the invitation
reinforces the passivity and inferiority of women in society
in general and the dating relationship in particular.
In terms of doing gender, outcomes are important
because the goal is to maintain membership in the sex
category. This is dictated by the situation but involves
acting in either a gender-appropriate way or a purposefully


30
gender-inappropriate way. Regardless, one is still
accountable. Inappropriate behavior has to have a purpose,
or situational context that makes it accountable.
Consequently, the situation in which the doing of gender is
embedded gives clues to the actors about what is tolerated,
expected, demanded, ignored, etc.
The work of gender, maintaining one's place as a man or
woman, often goes unnoticed. Fenstermaker et al. (1991)
argue that gender is a natural, normal, and often unnoticed
part of interactions. Gender production occurs in all
situations regardless of the intent of the actors.
Fenstermaker et al. (1991) are not saying that people
consciously do the work of gender, rather this work is a
feature of social structure, social situations, and social
interactions; for the most part actors are unaware of gender
production. The situational importance of gender may vary in
that accomplishing gender successfully may be the whole goal
of the interaction. The arena in which the gender work
occurs has an impact on the salience of the work that is
done. In the area of dating, doing gender is very important.
Embedded in a system that expects different abilities,
intelligences, and personality traits based on one's
biological sex and social expression of that sex, dating
demands that the gender one does is highly authentic and the
claims one makes to a gender category must be supported.
Because of the rules of gender that apply in dating, that


31
manly and womanly behaviors demand different actions or
reactions of men and women, there is a lot for which dating
couples are held accountable.
Gender, as work to be done in interaction, has been
examined by researchers in the area of discourse analysis.
Cahill (1986) was concerned with the acquisition of gender
identity in children and hypothesized that language use
helps very young children identify self and others as
belonging to particular gender categories. The social
validation by others, particularly other children, of the
child's adherence to a certain gender identity is an
important reinforcer of that identity. Cahill argues that
children acquire a behavioral commitment to their socially
bestowed sex identity in the course of exploring the
vocabulary of social identification (1986, p. 303) In
essence children are doing gender, but as Cahill's study
demonstrates, at very early ages much of their interaction
work is sex segregated.
Fishman (1978) also considered interaction to be work
and noted that the maintenance of interaction through
conversation is largely the work of women. Not only is there
an expectation that women keep the conversation going, but
their concern over talk is what makes them women. In this
regard, the women do gender when they use strategies to keep
conversations going between their partners and themselves.
These strategies used by partners to enhance or hinder


32
interaction include making statements, minimal response,
attention beginnings, asking d'ya know, and asking
questions. More recent studies (e.g. Tannen, 1990) also
support these conclusions.
Fishman also pointed to power as a key factor in
constructing and enforcing a definition of reality in
interactions, particularly between male-female dyads. Due to
the natural" quality of women's interaction skills, the
notion that interaction is work is often obscured. Fishman
suggested that because the work of interaction is related
to what constitutes being a woman (1978, p. 405), it is
seldom seen as work. Orienting to the idea that gender and
interaction involve work enables us to see the hierarchy
present in our daily lives. For couples in dating
relationships the work that goes into gender likely goes
unnoticed and the focus is on developing the relationship
and behaving in the right" way.
Hall (1993) examined doing gender in an occupational
context. After examining restaurants with mixed gender
staffs she concluded that to give good service is to do
gender' by performing gendered scripts" (p. 452). The
scripts differed by gender and work role. The scripts
involved friendliness, deference, and flirting, depending on
the type of restaurant. Hall's assumption of a gendered
organization perspective assumes gender is embedded in the


33
organizational logic of job evaluation, promotion,
procedures, and job specifications" (1993, p. 453).
The current study assumes that gender is an essential
element in dating relationships, is the primary work being
done, and that how well the partners do gender has
consequences for their future. Just as the nature of the
service occupation and social expectations accompanying it
lead to the production of a particular gender role in the
restaurants Hall studied, the social situation of dating
provides participants with expected gender roles, behaviors,
and attitudes and provides a social context in which
accountability and appropriateness are monitored. Thus,
mate/partner selection and activities are part of a gendered
relationship structure.
Focusing on the work of gender in dating relationships
will likely demonstrate not only the different culturally
assigned tasks, but also point toward the arrangement
between the partners of any heterosexual couple. Among the
situations in which gender is seen most clearly are those in
which a breech of expected gender roles has occurred. Those
nontraditional gender behaviors such as female date
initiation, expense sharing, and sexual advance may
constitute a breech in the societally imposed norms of
dating. It is through these changes at the microsocial
level, however, that social institutions and macrosocial
change are originated.


34
When a woman does a man's task by initiating a date,
her action results in gender assessment. On the level of the
interaction response may be positive (e.g. he accepts), but
also might be negative (e.g. she is seen as desperate and
bold). There may be positive and negative assessments at the
structural level as well. One of the ways a woman may be
able to fulfill this male task and still maintain her status
as a member of the female sex category is to ask in a
different way than a man, under different conditions, or use
any strategy that will keep her display of gender from being
doubted. Doing gender provides a useful way to conceptualize
dating because of the element of situation. In
nontraditional dating, violations of the normative
expectations for women are a common occurrence. These women
are, however, still considered women and are, according to
the literature, overwhelmingly successful in acquiring the
first dates that they seek (e.g. Lottes, 1993; Mongeau, et
al., 1993). Subsequent dates initiated by the woman are,
however, met with some resistance (Kelley et al., 1981).
Through work in the expression of gender in dating, people
produce their relationship to one another, their
relationship to the world, and those patterns normally
referred to as social structure (Fishman, 1978, p. 398).
This study will use the concept of doing gender to
understand how gender is perpetuated in the realm of dating.


35
History of Patina
The Courtship System
According to some experts there have been several
changes in American mate selection processes since this
nation's birth, not just the more commonly discussed
transition from a courtship system to formal dating that
occurred in the early 1900's. The first transition was from
fairly autonomous mate selection in the colonial era to a
more restrictive and formal system commonly referred to as
courtship. The second and most widely known transition
occurred with industrialization; a move from the courtship
system to what will be called traditional dating. One of the
cornerstones of modern dating, traditional or
nontraditional, is that it occurs only in those places where
mate selection is predominantly, if not completely, under
the control of young people rather than parents. The shifts
in locus of control helped to change the activities and
expectations of dating partners. Evolutions in dating are
continuing with current discussions of getting together or
hanging out becoming possible replacements for dating.
The earliest method of mate selection employed in the
United States is controversial. Some sources (e.g., Rice,
1993) suggest that parental control was very strong with
only formal supervised visits permitted between the woman
and her suitor. During this time, courtship revolved less


36
around the couple and more around the family. This was a
more permissive system, however, than that employed in
Europe at the same time, which focused on arranged marriages
for the merger of capital, social status, prestige, etc.
Supervised courtship in the US would continue until the
early 20th century.
In another discussion of courtship (Rothman, 1984 cited
in Cate and Lloyd, 1992), the importance of the participants
in determining the nature of courtship was noted. From this
account, the idea that mate selection in the colonial era
was highly formal is somewhat inaccurate. Among those
families of great wealth or strong European ties, courtship
was likely formal, but among the majority of average
Americans", it was under the control of young people.
The nature of colonial life meant hard work, long
hours, and little leisure (the opposites of which were later
credited with the rise of modern dating). For young men the
choice of a life mate was more closely tied to her ability
to help out, run the household efficiently, and be a good
wife, than to his love for her. This does not, however,
suggest that love was lacking in these unions. It was
expected to come after marriage, but it rarely formed their
basis. According to Coontz (1988) the arrival of single
persons in America, as well as nuclear families who had left
behind kin in Europe, made a formal system unwieldy because
there might be no one to perform introductions, act as


37
chaperon, etc. The frequently erotic messages of letters
between couples demonstrate their openness about sexual and
relationship issues (Benokraitis, 1993). In the 1770's the
premarital conception rate was 30% (Rothman 1984, in Cate
and Lloyd, 1992) suggesting that many couples spent private
time together and were granted the opportunity to know each
other well. Coontz (1988) concludes that the colonies were
fairly open regarding sexual matters and there were few
sanctions if the couple who conceived premaritally were soon
wed.
Following the colonial era and through the 1800's, what
is commonly considered formal courtship was the norm,
particularly among the middle class. Rothman (1984, cited in
Cate and Lloyd, 1992) credits the doctrine of separate
spheres for the seriousness of courtship at this time. It
was widely thought that men and women were completely
differentin nature, spirituality, morality, temperament,
etc. The cult of domesticity was instrumental in
maintaining the belief in differences between men and women.
The separation of males and females meant that their chances
for interaction were lower, unlike in the colonial era when
they worked side by side. This necessitated formal
introductions of the couple by a third party who was
acquainted with both of them.
Whereas compatibility and mutual respect had been
important for marital partners in the colonial era, during


38
the 1800's it was increasingly expected that the romantic
love component enter the relationship prior to marriage
(Coontz, 1988). While emotional love, but not sexual
expression of that love, was an essential element, the
process of procuring a suitable spouse was quite formal.
Murstein (1974) says that this was a reflection of a formal
trend in society as well. For relationships this meant
engagement announcements, formal exchanges of engagement
tokens, and formalized wedding ceremonies (Rothman, 1984,
cited in Cate and Lloyd, 1992). In addition, it was during
the 1800's that the white wedding gown first appeared in a
popular women's magazine (Special Reports, 1991).
The expected behaviors of young people followed this
formality as well. As already noted, one had to be
introduced; pick ups" did not occur. The accepting of a
young man's attentions was seen as serious because it was
expected to ultimately lead to marriage. As a result, a
female had to believe she liked the male, or could at least
learn to like him, before accepting their first date".
Their dates" centered around family and it is likely that
the gentleman pled his case to the family as well as the
woman. Parents played an important role in planning
activities and encouraging the couple. From the sheer number
of people involved, it goes without saying that intimacies
were not permitted.


39
During this period of courtship, women had a great deal
of power in mate selection processes. A woman had to give
some indication that she was willing to have the man call on
her before he would ask for permission. Mothers and
daughters would make themselves available at social
functions and would decide from which gentlemen calls would
be accepted (Bailey, 1988). Many women announced the days on
which they would be home to receive visitors", both male
and female, and a formal system for announcing one's
presence, the use of calling cards, was followed closely.
This system of offering permission to visit, both by the
mother and the daughter, granted women a great deal of
influence in mate selection. There was a lot of control of
courtship by women partly because of the permission a woman
could grant a suitor but also because of the location of
courtship activities in the woman's sphere, home. The parlor
and front porch were popular places for young couples to
share food and conversation. They were sanctioned by the
parents because they were not particularly private places
and parents could usually remain inconspicuously nearby to
monitor the couple's behavior and conversations (Bailey,
1988).
Once the couple was engaged, they were given
considerably more privacy. It was during the engagement
period, typically lasting two years, that couples began to
get to know each other well (Benokraitis, 1993). While this


40
system of visiting and courtship was quite common for middle
class young people, it presented problems for less wealthy
families who did not have the extra room to allow a couple
to get to know each other in semi-privacy. As a result,
courting began to occur in public places. For young people
who worked in cities this public courting became commonplace
because it would have been scandalous for a young woman to
entertain a man in her private quarters, whether dorm,
apartment, or boarding house (Coontz, 1988).
Traditional Patino
Dating began about the time of World War I and by 1920,
became the way to court. The reasons for the shift to dating
from courtship are diverse with each seeming to explain
different aspects of the transition. Accompanying increasing
industrialization was increasing urbanization. People moved
to the cities in large part because this was where the
better jobs could be found. This urbanization brought young
men and women in closer proximity because of residence and
the likelihood that both would hold jobs. This propinquity
expanded the field of eligibles for many young people. For
the most part, these city jobs, mostly factory or skilled
labor or service positions, compensated the workers well in
terms of money and leisure time. The result of these better
paying positions and limited work days was the opportunity
to meet and spend time with potential partners. Also young


41
people now had money to spend on each other. The importance
and frequency of dating on college campuses led Waller
(1937) to talk about the rating and dating complex among
college daters. Highly critical of dating behavior, this
study focused on the notion that men who had money to date
well were the most desirable as a date. For a woman,
desirability as a date included being attractive, a good
dancer, a good conversant, and perceived as being popular
because she dated frequently. Following the conceptual
approach of this paper, one could think of this as daters
doing gender. Their expression of maleness and femaleness
was prescribed by the society and to play the game of the
dater, one had to successfully present the image.
Industrialization also took the locus of work from the
home. For many women this provided an incentive to work
outside the home at tasks they had formerly performed for no
pay. It was quite common for immigrant and less affluent
women to work before they married (Degler, 1980). This work
away from home took women out of the direct control of their
parents and enabled them to interact with a wide variety of
individuals (Knox and Schacht, 1994). Women working, coupled
with an increase in the women's equality movement in the
1920's, have been proposed as reasons for women's more brash
behavior and greater acceptance of dates. Many of these
women felt they should be equal to men in all aspects of
life, including politically, socially, and sexually," thus


42
representing a loosening of the acceptable behavior of women
(Rice, 1993). Just as there were more women working, there
were more women being educated. The advent of free access,
public coed high schools also gave dating a push. Males and
females had daily contact with each other and participated
in activities together. Another intriguing possible reason
for the emergence of dating is the creation of adolescence
and the lengthening of childhood, giving young people an
excuse to have fun and put off responsibility.
The new technology of the industrial revolution spawned
the widespread availability of two key inventions for
daters: the telephone and the automobile. The telephone was
a way for a man to ask a woman on a date, have her accept,
and arrange the details of the meeting. Certainly this would
make a shy gentleman bolder and make asking a woman out less
intimidating. The telephone could also allow couples an
opportunity to communicate even when they might not be
currently in the same locale or able to spend time together.
In Waller's (1937) study of dating behavior the telephone
was important because the woman might keep her caller
waiting longer than necessary or wait to be paged several
times before coming to the phone to receive the call, all in
hopes of appearing more popular.
The importance of the automobile should not be
understated. It provided a means of transportation to dating
events (e.g., dances, movies, parties, etc.), thus enabling


43
the couple to vary their activities. They could travel
farther away from home and participate in a wide variety of
activities. One of the other key contributions of the car
was that it afforded couples privacy for not only
conversation but sexual intimacies. The car provided couples
the opportunity to spark spoon woo" canoodle or
firkytoodle, whatever their choice might be (Middleton,
1976).
While courtship was coming to resemble what we now call
dating, a change was occurring in the roles that men and
women were expected to play. While under the courtship
system, women had a lot of control of the initiation,
activities, and intimacies of getting to know a partner.
This was due in large part to the place in which courting
most often occurred, the woman's home. In the system of
dating that emerged in the 1920's, the power and influence
of women had declined in the arena of mate selection. A
woman had to wait to be asked out by a man. She might give
subtle hints of her interest but could never appear forward
and seldom had anyone spreading the word that she was ready
to receive callers (Bailey, 1988). Men became the dominant
partners in a dating relationship because they had control
over which women dated and which sat at home. In addition,
dating now took place in the world of men, away from the
home. Men were responsible for asking for the date, planning
the activities for the date, paying any dating expenses, and


44
choosing the most popular partner that they could. An
important resource for daters was money. In most scenarios
men had more and consequently controlled what the couple did
together. A man with money could date frequently and expect
to have the best dates" accept his invitations. This
pattern of men's finances dictating dating behavior has been
a prominent theme in dating. Bailey (1988) points to a
1960's advice column for young women that suggested if a
woman knew her date was short of cash, she may offer to give
him some money but that must be done privately and before
the activity of the date so that he appears to be paying
for everything.
When thinking of the dating couples in the first half
of the twentieth century, characterizing their associations
as the dating game" may be useful. This analogy applies
nicely to the gender roles and expressions that partners
displayed as they attempted to achieve a desired outcome.
Ehrmann (1964) in a discussion of sexuality and dating after
World War I, indicates the new-found freedom of male-female
association became both the basis for boisterous and
rollicking equalitarianism and an arena for the heightened
battle of the sexes" (p. 594).
This battle Ehrmann refers to was based on a situation
where the participating men and women wanted different
things from the dates. Men desired sexual or erotic favors
from their partners; women wanted marriage, social prestige,


45
or romance.This created tension and the likelihood of
exploitation between the partners. The male wanted to get
as far as possible" before having to commit to marriage.
The female wanted to grant as few sexual favors as possible
to get her desired outcome, a marital promise. In this game,
one partner wins at the expense of the other.
Whyte (1990) suggests that these different expectations
for dating lead young people to put on false fronts so that
current and potential dates will be impressed. The use of
the term dating game", then, highlights the series of
strategical moves that a dater would employ to reach his or
her desired outcome. This process found each individual
manufacturing artificiality in order to impress the date"
(Whyte, 1990, p. 21). The structure of dating ensured that
both male and female agendas were being debated. Men and
women displayed the gender roles that would most likely
assist them in achieving their desired outcomes.
While dating in the early 1900's through 1960's was
fairly structured and followed traditional gender roles,
more contemporary dating can be quite spontaneous, something
that would be considered improper under the courtship
system. Traditional dating was less formal than courtship in
that there were no formal introductions necessary and no
required progression of events to go through. Today's dating
is even more informal than that.


46
It has been suggested that the focus of dating, as
opposed to courtship, was quite different. Waller (1951)
suggested that courtship had an endmarriage. The purpose
of traditional courtship was to find a mate. Dating, on the
other hand, was not always about mate selection,
particularly for men. In his account it was conspicuous
consumption. While Waller's view may have been cynical, it
is true that the outcomes of dating and courtship may be
different. For the young woman who accepts a call from a
suitor, there is an implicit agreement that she will
continue to see him in the future. In dating, especially in
modern dating, it is just a date" with no commitment past
that one shared experience.
One of the largest differences between courtship and
dating is the prohibition of intimacies in courtship, their
acceptance in traditional dating (usually under certain
conditions), and their expectancy in current dating. When
considering a shift in sexual intimacy levels on dates, a
look at changes in virginity at marriage is instructive.
Examining three cohorts of women, those marrying in 1925-
1944, those marrying in 1945-1964, and those marrying in
1965-1984, Whyte (1990) found large differences in virginity
at marriage. The percentage of non-virgins at the time of
marriage were 24%, 51%, and 72%, respectively, for these
cohorts. For many women who were non-virgins at the time of
marriage, particularly in the first two cohorts, their


47
sexual experiences had been with their betrothed and usually
occurred only after becoming engaged. For the last cohort
over 40% lost their virginity to someone other than the
future marital partner.
Current Patina
Throughout this century dating has continued to evolve
and change. During the 1950's dating was very traditional
and appropriate gender roles were followed. Couples were,
however, permitted privacy and 'going steady" was an
indicator of one's commitment. A popular activity was
cruising," again demonstrating the importance of the car
for dating. In the 60's and 70's dating became less formal.
Mixers and informal gatherings were common places to meet
and mingle (Benokraitis, 1993). Based on earlier dating
criteria, contemporary dating is very relaxed with few, if
any, prohibitions. Either partner may ask and pay, and
intimacies are permitted, if not expected. Dating occurs for
a longer period in one's life now than in the past as people
are waiting later to marry or choosing to remain single. In
addition many daters are divorced or widowed and may bring
new criteria, goals, norms, and expectations to the dating
scene. Throughout this century a few trends have emerged in
dating. Dating begins at younger ages today, 13, compared
with 16 in 1920. People have progressively had more dating
partners throughout this century, have gotten into steady


48
relationships sooner, and have experimented with sexual
intercourse in dating relationships sooner (Whyte, 1990). It
has been suggested that the focus of dating is moving away
from marriage (Libby, 1976).
As a result of changing attitudes toward or perhaps
visibility of dating, some family scholars have suggested
that dating has been replaced by getting together" (Libby,
1976). While this phenomenon likely provides participants
with a variety of experiences that differ from traditional
dating, dating remains an essential part of partner
selection. I propose getting together" is a stage in
courtship, like has been suggested of cohabitation. This is
the period in which one is not yet serious about finding a
partner. This is play time or oat sowing time. With the
trend toward postponing marriage, people may not be looking
for commitments or dating" relationships until they are
ready to marry. I do not believe dating is being replaced,
perhaps just postponed until a more appropriate or
convenient time. It is also reasonable to expect that how
people conduct dates has changed over time. The purpose of
dating for a given individual is important to consider.
Because dating has, since the turn of the century, been
regarded as a way to find a mate, getting together might
be intended just for fun, not mate searches. Finding out the
meaning of getting together dating for the persons involved


49
(e.g., how they view their behavior) might be a useful place
to start.
The history of courtship and dating in America is
intriguing because of the central role it has played in our
culture and the changes that have occurred. The importance
of dating, as the recognized manner in which mates are
chosen, has made it an intriguing topic for family
researchers. As the trends in dating continue to change,
particularly as a result of divorce and lengthening periods
of singlehood, family sociologists have many intriguing
questions to explore.
Current Dating Behaviors and Attitudes
Patina Scripts
The rules that govern the interactions of dating
partners are socially scripted. That is, there is a set of
guidelines determined by the culture that dictate the roles
each partner is to play in the dating relationship. These
scripts are thought to be particularly important early in
relationships when couples rely on them as guides for
appropriate behavior (Rose and Frieze, 1993). These
heterosexual dating scripts are mediated by gender. Men and
women are given different tasks, which each learns early and
often through the repetition and sanction of socialization.
Simon and Gagnon (1986) distinguish between cultural and
interpersonal scripts; the former representative of a


50
hypothetical situation and the latter indicative of beliefs
to which persons actually adhere. Research by Rose and
Frieze (1989; 1993) describes the roles expected of and
actually adhered to by men and women in a dating situation.
Their results indicate that the attitudes of men and women
continue to be rather traditional in regards to courtship
and emphasize a strong degree of gender typing. DeLucia
(1987) argued that the gender specific behaviors that occur
on dates could be linked to gender role identity. Utilizing
the Bern Sex Role Inventory, DeLucia determined that there
was a significant relationship between gender role identity
and gender-specific behavior, with the masculine men and the
feminine women adhering most closely to stereotypical dating
behaviors.
Like earlier researchers (e.g. McCormick and Jesser,
1983; McCabe and Collins, 1984) Rose and Frieze (1989) found
that there were gender differences in scripted behaviors for
a first date. Early dating seems to contain stricter gender
scripts than those found for established couples. If that is
the case, it would seem less likely that the scripts would
be violated early in a dating relationship. The current
study seeks to understand the situations where violations of
these scripts might occur and the gender work that
accompanies this.
The traditional male cultural script for a date could
be considered proactive (Rose and Frieze, 1989). The actions


51
described for men were self-directed and included such
actions as asking for and planning the date, driving,
initiating and paying for date activities, and initiating
physical contact." Rose and Frieze (1989) indicated that the
expected roles of women on a date, involved waiting to be
asked, being concerned about looks and appearance, keeping
the conversation flowing, and rejecting the physical
advances of the partner, and are reactive roles. The
researchers concluded that male dominance and control of
dating are expected by young adults on a first date (Rose
and Frieze, 1989). This study represented cultural scripts
in dating.
In an effort to understand how closely daters'
interpersonal scripts would adhere to the cultural scripts,
Rose and Frieze (1993) asked 135 respondents to list the
actions that men and women would do to prepare for a
hypothetical first date and their actions while on the date.
These same respondents were then asked to describe their
most recent first date by telling what their role was in
preparation and on the date. If 25% or more of the
respondents mentioned a particular action, it was included
in the script. There were some actions listed for both men
and women. These included grooming before the date,
interacting on the date, and saying good-bye. As in the
cultural scripts, on an actual date women were playing more
passive, reactive roles than men. Of the twenty actions that


52
defined a woman's script, six were directly part of the
man's script or were initiated by him (e.g. picked up date).
None of the men's fifteen actions were initiated by their
partners. Overall this study confirmed the different roles
of men and women in dating and the persistent influence of
cultural scripts in socio-sexual behavior.
Female Date Initiation and Expense Sharing
Researchers have been concerned with the effects of
women violating the cultural scripts and assuming a
traditionally male task, initiating a dating relationship.
Hypotheses have revolved around men's impressions of date
initiation by women (Muehlenhard and Scardino, 1985), men's
perceptions of greater sex willingness and risk of date rape
when the woman initiates the date (Bostwick and DeLucia,
1992), changes in the length of dating experiences with a
partner when the woman initiates (Mongeau et al., 1993),
perceptions of sexuality and likability (Harnish et al.,
1990), and anxiety differences between men and women when
initiating dates (McNamara and Grossman, 1991). Each of
these studies approached female date initiation from the
standpoint of it being an unusual occurrence, one that would
be expected to alter other aspects of the dating
relationship.
Using a sample of 309 male undergraduates, Muehlenhard
and Scardino (1985) manipulated female date initiation and


53
apparent intelligence of the woman through four videotaped
representations of interactions between a male and female
student. The results of this study indicated that females
who initiate dates are seen as more sexually active, more
casual daters, and are more flexible and agreeable than
females who do not. The more intelligent woman was rated
more likable, truthful, interesting, flexible, tactful and
less sexually active or a casual dater than her non-
intelligent counterpart. The woman who was perceived as
intelligent and asked for a date was rated as most likable
of all the women and the most feminist. This study suggests
that men are not disturbed by women who initiate dates and
may even find these women more likable. As the authors
suggest, however, this may be due to the male's false
perception that this woman wants to have sex with him.
Harrington (USA Today, 1992) found that men liked women to
initiate dates and hypothesized that this was because it
took some of the pressure off them.
Likability and perceptions of sexual willingness
informed a recent study about initial interactions. Harnish
et al. (1990) focused on the impacts of gender and self
monitoring on perceptions of sexuality and likability. One
hundred ninety unacquainted undergraduates were recruited to
participate in mixed gender pairs. After a five minute
discussion of their likes and dislikes about college life,
participants completed questionnaires in private. These


54
included a self-monitoring scale and a list of qualities on
which the discussion partner, as well as the respondent,
were to be rated using a likert scale. The results of this
study support the findings of Muehlenhard and Scardino
(1985) in that men perceived their female partners and
themselves as more seductive, sexy, and promiscuous than
women perceived their male partners or themselves. Men were
also more likely than women to report that they were
sexually attracted to the partner. While men felt mostly
sexual attraction after the brief encounter, women reported
they felt mostly friendship.
This tendency of men to interpret the actions of women
in more sexual ways has been linked to studies of date rape.
Women's dating behaviors may be interpreted by their
partners as indicators of sexual willingness. For example,
Muehlenhard, et al. (1985) found that a woman was perceived
to be more interested in sex if she asked for the date and
if she let the man pay for the expenses of the date.
Building on this idea, Bostwick and DeLucia (1992) evaluated
how men and women viewed the dating behaviors of asking and
paying and how these were related to sexual willingness and
date rape. Four hundred fifty-eight respondents were given
scenarios that varied who asked and who paid in a dating
situation. They were then to evaluate the degree to which
the man and woman in each scenario wanted sex and how


55
justified the man in the scenario might be in committing
date rape.
Results indicated that men consistently rated the
sexual willingness of both males and females higher than did
the women. Women who asked for dates were perceived by men
and women as more willing to participate in intercourse than
women who did not ask men out. However, when the woman asked
and paid, perception of men's sexual willingness went down
and men in particular reported a greater decrease in male
sexual willingness (Bostwick and DeLucia, 1992). For none
of the scenarios presented was rape reported to be
justified. This may, however, be due to the awareness
students have of the right answer regarding date rape. The
researchers concluded that indeed female date initiation and
paying behaviors were important. Women may be perceived to
be most sex willing when they pay for all the date expenses,
moderately sex willing when the man pays, and least sex
willing if each person in the couple pays his or her own
expenses (p. 22). If this conclusion is accurate, women
should offer to pay their own dating expenses if they wish
to avoid sexual intercourse.
In the most comprehensive study of female date
initiation to date, Mongeau, et al. (1993) examined the
proportion of persons who have been involved in a female
initiated date, the length of female initiated
relationships, the techniques used to initiate, and


56
evaluations of the female initiators. Four hundred forty-
four male and female undergraduates participated in this
study in two waves. The first wave (N=172) was asked about
ever having experienced female initiated dating. The second
wave (N=272) was asked about their experiences with a female
initiated first date. This division is important because
there are different issues when a woman initiates a date in
the context of an ongoing relationship compared to
initiation of a first date.
The data for female initiation were as follows. In wave
one 84% of the women had initiated a date, 92% of the dates
were accepted, but only 65% of the women asked the same man
on a subsequent date. In wave two (first dates) 63% of the
women had initiated, with 88% of the dates accepted.
However, only 44% of the women reported asking the same man
out again. A significant percentage of the women not asking
the man out the second time had, however, gone out with him
more than once. This could indicate a return to traditional
gender roles where the man asks or a mutual agreement to see
each other again. On average, female initiated relationships
lasted 27.2 dates, but the median number of dates was 5.
Forty-one percent of the respondents indicated the
relationship ended by the third date, but 7.5% had dated
more than 100 times.
Three factors were cited by Mongeau et al. (1993) as
significant predictors of attitudes toward female initiation


57
of dating. Positive attitudes toward feminism were
correlated with positive attitudes toward female date
initiation. Males held more positive attitudes toward female
initiation than females did. Those males who had accepted a
female invitation were more positive in their assessment of
female initiation of dating. Contrary to earlier studies
(e.g. Muehlenhard and Scardino, 1985) Mongeau et al. (1993)
did not find that the men in their study equated a direct
female initiation of dating with a direct sexual invitation.
In a very recent study of dating (Lottes, 1993), date
initiation rates for women were 74%. In addition 92% of
women had shared dating expenses and 76% had paid all of the
expenses for a date. When these data are contrasted with
those of Korman (1980), it is clear that some changes have
occurred in women's dating behavior over time. From this
comparison one would conclude that women's dating behavior
with regard to initiation and expense sharing has become
more liberal over time. As the summarized studies suggest,
attitudes and behaviors have become more liberal over time
and the current study can anticipate similar results.
Female Sexual Initiation
Beyond female initiation of dates and expense sharing,
there are other violations of the traditional dating scripts
which may have a direct impact on the relationship. These
studies focused on female sexual initiation. For most early


58
studies of female sexual initiation, only atypical couples
reported that the woman actively initiated initial
lovemaking (Macklin, 1983). More recent studies of female
sexual initiation also indicate that men and women feel more
comfortable with their traditional sexual roles, initiator
and refuter respectively (Grauerholz and Serpe, 1985).
It has also been suggested that women may exert
control over sexuality in covert ways (Perper and Weis,
1987) In a study of college students in 1985, Lottes
reported that 34% of college females very often initiate
sexual intimacy with men. There was, however, no distinction
about the stage of the relationship; and female initiation
rates for first intercourse with a new partner may be lower.
In a 1993 study Lottes reported that 38% of college females
said they had initiated the first sexual encounter with a
new partner. This study, however, did not talk about how the
initiation proceeded. Seventy-eight percent of females and
76% of males in the same study reported that both sexes
should be equal initiators of sexual relations.
Factors that have been linked to women's initiations of
sexual activity include relationship context, sexual
satisfaction, and sexual experience (Lottes, 1993). Those
women who are involved in a long-term serious relationship,
feel sexually satisfied and loved, and have a fair amount of
sexual experience are more likely to feel comfortable
initiating sexual activity. The data of O'Sullivan and Byers


59
(1992) supported the presence of a steady dating
relationship in the likelihood of sexual contact being
initiated by the woman.
Just as studies of unwanted sexual advance by men
against women have been presented, studies of unwanted
female sexual advance on men are also being reported.
Anderson and Aymami (1993) reported that 93% of the females
in their study had initiated sexual contact with a partner
but there was no control for length of relationship in this
study. There were gender differences reported in the study,
In all initiation situations men reported receiving more
female initiation than women reported initiating.
Other studies exploring female sexual initiation focus
on strategies and techniques women employ to convince their
partners to participate in sexual relations. O'Sullivan and
Byers (1993) reported that women had very little success in
initiating sexual relations with a partner. In a study of
201 unmarried, heterosexual students, the researchers
focused on female sexual initiation by type of influence and
receptivity of the partner. Over half of the respondents
reported having been in a situation during the prior year in
which the female partner desired more sexual activity than
the male. Most disagreements occurred in the context of
steady dating relationships. Ninety-six percent of the
participants who experienced a disagreement reported that
the woman used a sexual influence strategy. These strategies


60
were classified as positive (e.g. used humor; danced or
moved seductively), negative (e.g. cried; moved away from
partner), or neutral (e.g. bargained; stopped sexual
activity), with the positive strategies most often employed
by women. The authors concluded that context was a critical
consideration in the sexual encounter.
Christopher and Frandsen (1990) also considered
influence strategies to engage in or limit sexual activity.
After presenting a questionnaire to 411 undergraduates, they
concluded that four categories of strategies were used:
antisocial acts, emotional and physical closeness, logic and
reason, and pressure and manipulation. The latter was found
to be used more by men than women and by persons who wanted
sex more. Emotional and physical closeness was found to be
the most successful strategy but those who wanted sex less
used logic and reason. The researchers caution that it is
not known how the use of these strategies impacts
relationship development or progression.
While female sexual initiation is still being explored,
preliminary data indicate that this behavior is definitely a
part of dating relationships. There is some discrepancy as
to the frequency of female initiation but most data indicate
the context of a relationship is an important variable.
Consequently in the current study, one would anticipate
fairly low sexual initiation rates for women because they
are being asked about first and early dates with a partner.


61
At this point in a relationship the freedom to violate
gender scripts in multiple ways is likely constrained,
whereas in an established or steady relationship violations
are not viewed as harshly or inappropriately.


CHAPTER THREE
METHODOLOGY
Sample
Twenty heterosexual couples who have never been
married, have dated a relatively short time, and are not
currently cohabiting or engaged were asked to participate in
an interview regarding their dating behaviors and attitudes.
At least one partner from each pair was a student enrolled
in undergraduate courses at University of Florida during
Fall 1995 or Spring 1996. These participants were asked to
participate in two interviews, the first as a couple and the
second individually.
The study involves couples who have dated a relatively
short time. The determination of an arbitrary measure for
short time is not necessary in a study of this type.
Because the focus is on the production of gender among new
relationship partners, their attitudes and actions, they
should demonstrate consistent gender for new relationships
regardless of where they draw the line between new and
established relationships. Variation is expected, because
just like the expression and awareness of gender, what one
considers a lengthy or short relationship is a matter of
perception. If all participants answer questions while they
62


63
are under the assumption that theirs is a relatively new
relationship, then the conditions for data collection are
adequate. The feminist goal of truth in research, to
represent the voice of the participants as accurately as
possible (Thompson, 1992), is reinforced when the
participants set the standards for length of association.
While failing to specify a particular time period for
couple's associations may be interpreted as a lack of
measurement precision, it is more valid to allow those
persons involved in the relationship to use their own
determinations of the length of relationship that qualifies
as "relatively new." Thus an arbitrary time is not placed on
the relationship.
The sample involves couples who do not have a lengthy
association because the study focuses on gender in early
date initiation and in the formation of the relationship
rather than after a relationship has been established. As
Mongeau and associates (1993) discovered, the behaviors of
women may be different in regard to dating initiation if
they are involved in a serious relationship with the dating
partner. It is likely that the relationship provides a
safety net so that violations of traditional gender roles
are not seen in a negative way. There is more risk and
accountability when there is no firmly established and
negotiated relationship; violations of expected gender roles
are more accountable in this context.


64
From the standpoint of doing gender, asking for dates
is an activity not widely associated with the female sex
category. Consequently, there may be adjustments in the
asking that allow women to maintain their appropriate gender
and fall within the acceptable bounds. Because women are
accountable for their portrayal of gender, asking in an
open, non-relationship context, has more risk. Additionally,
women involved in a relationship over a sustained period of
time would likely differ in degree of adherence to
stereotypical gender role scripts and be more likely to
adhere to an interpersonal script that was different from
the cultural script, thus allowing women more freedom to do
typically male activities (Rickard, 1989) and a
justification for their unexpected gender expression (West
and Zimmerman, 1991).
The sample was taken from students enrolled in
undergraduate classes in sociology during the Fall 1995 or
Spring 1996 semesters. Students enrolled in sociology
courses were selected for ease of data collection and
access. In addition, sociology courses are in high demand to
satisfy many of the university general education
requirements. The sample is not intended to be
representative, but should provide a cross-section of
student attitudes and behaviors. Students are also a
population heavily involved in social, recreational
activities and partner selection. Consequently, students


65
would be expected to have multiple opinions and ideas about
partner selection to share with the researcher. The nature
of a co-educational campus is such that women and men have
lots of contact and daily interaction. They attend classes
together, participate in social and professional activities,
live in diverse housing, dine with opposite sex colleagues,
etc., all making friendship and partner choice facets of
daily life.
Data Collection
The study is composed of interviews with participants
who are willing to discuss their feelings about dating in
some detail. The interview method allows for fairly quick
collection of data at a reasonable cost of both time and
money. The quick response time with a personally
administered interview allows for additional time to be
spent in data analysis and still keeps the study on
schedule. Interviews also permit the researcher to probe for
detailed information that a more closed-ended questionnaire
may miss.
Relatively unstructured interviews were selected as the
methodology for this research question for epistemological
reasons as well. Primarily, face to face interviews allow
for more understanding of the respondent and a means to put
the respondent's voice" into the research conclusions
(Thompson, 1992). Feminist researchers have touted the


66
interview as not only a useful feminist research method, but
as a way to make sure all parties, interviewer and
interviewee, have a place in the data collection and
subsequent report. Participants not only present verbal
data, but indicate through body language and other visual
cues additional importance and meaning in their statements
and interactions. Because the first interview is with both
partners, this joint interview provides a unique opportunity
to witness the couple in interaction, a situation that one
might only get to witness by accompanying the partners on a
date. In keeping with the active interview approach
(Holstein and Gubrium, 1995), the researcher was aware of
the impact of the respondents on the interview focus,
selection, pace, content, etc. Therefore the voices" of the
respondents have become the primary data collected.
The interview format was chosen because it can give
voice to the men and women involved in the dating
relationships and doing the work of gender. Rubin (1990)
uses this technique to allow her participants to tell the
story" of the sexual revolution. This is a narrative of
personal experience applied to the process of social change.
The current study seeks to use the narratives of dating
partners to understand how men and women go about the
primary work of any interaction, the production and
sustenance of gender. Interviews not only provide the
researcher data for analysis, and sometimes the analysis


67
itself (DeVault, 1990), but present an opportunity for the
participants to clarify their own feelings, opinions, and
beliefs about the research topic (Thompson, 1992).
The interview schedule for both interviews was
developed by the researcher to illicit data to support or
refute the theoretical position of doing gender." The first
interview (Appendix A) was with the couple together and
focused on issues about the relationship, such as, length of
association, how they met, how they got together, what
they typically do on a date, what they converse about, the
conceptions of dating that they share, and the kind of
gender roles that they expect from the partner.
The second part of the research involved the individual
interviews (Appendix B). Because the interview is with the
researcher and only one of the partners, these questions
focus on the individual in the relationship. This portion of
the study is much less structured than the initial interview
and will provide the participants the opportunity to
consider the role that they play in the relationship, the
role the partner plays, how these roles developed, etc. This
portion of the study revolves around how partners ask for
dates, perceive the response, negotiate payment, initiate
sexual contact, etc. In the separate interviews with the
partners, the focus was on the roles, behaviors, and
attitudes that a particular partner demonstrates. These
participants were asked about what they do to attract the


68
partner, how they want the partner to see them, and if they
believe their behavior is appropriate with regard to gender.
The responses of the participants provide descriptive
accounts of the their dating experiences and gender
expression with the current partner. One of the main
objectives is to determine how men and women view their
position in the relationship and, more importantly, how they
display gender to themselves, the partner, and the societal
observers through the claims that they make and for which
they are accountable.
Following a technique used by Blaisure and Allen
(1995), the couples were interviewed together and
individually. First partners were interviewed as a couple
about their dating experiences and how decisions are made
about their dating activities and behaviors. Each partner
was then interviewed separately and asked about what they do
specifically in the relationship with regard to the
expression of gender. As permitted by the participants, all
interviews were audio recorded and video recorded. The use
of both recording devices provides a back-up in case of a
technical malfunction. Additionally, the use of video
recording is useful when watching couples interact. Not only
does this provide a means to record the conversations and
responses that the participant provides, but the researcher
is better able to note the nonverbal negotiations and
expressions of gender that are being displayed. The video


69
record presents a unique opportunity to capture physical
movements and body language that would be overlooked and
lost as data in an interview that was only recorded as an
audio tape.
Recording the data as closely as possible was one of
the researcher's primary goals. The importance of
representing the exact words and meaning of the participant
is crucial. For too long researchers have interpreted the
meaning of what their respondents said, rather than letting
the words and actions of the participants speak for
themselves (Reinharz, 1992). In an attempt to better
represent the voice of the respondents, a method that allows
for accurate recording of the interview proceedings was
necessary.
Data Analysis
It is important to recognize that because the interview
is a method of research shared between all participants,
including the interviewer and respondent, there is input
from all sources, thus it is important to consider the
presence of the interviewer. While primarily removed from
the data the interviewer's presence may have an impact on
the participants' display of gender. Once the participants
are aware the interviewer is a woman, her gender may be an
important variable. While on the surface this seems to make
data analysis challenging, the presence of anyone, male or


70
female, would impact what happens and perhaps what the
respondents say. The issue is to take the data at face
value. If the partners say a certain thing, the researcher
must trust that it is what the respondents mean. Therefore,
in the analysis, the researcher points out the links between
the interviews and the strategies being employed, but trusts
the knowledge and experience of the respondents.
Data analysis proceeded by categorizing responses into
themes. Often couples dealt with multiple themes in an
interview and this was noted. Particular attention was paid
to definitions that couples applied to relationship aspects
such as date, first date, boyfriend or girlfriend, and
commitment. Finally, the language and terminology that
couples used to explain the status of their association was
highlighted.


CHAPTER FOUR
INTERVIEW FINDINGS
This chapter presents the findings from video taped
interviews conducted with currently dating couples. The data
are from interviews conducted with the couple together and
interviews with each partner individually. A total of 60
interviews, three for each couple, were transcribed and
analyzed to provide insight into the production of gender in
dating relationships. The main areas indicated by the
research data are the production of gender in a relationship
setting, the language couples use to categorize and theorize
about their relationships, and one of the main outcomes of
the interviews, the production of a believable relationship.
Doing Gender in the Dating Arena
Five areas have historically been gender prescribed in
dating encounters and have suggested that males play a more
active role than females. Date initiation, planning,
providing transportation, and paying have been linked to the
traditional male gender role. These areas were explored in
the current research in the interviews with the partners
together and individually. Sexual initiation also has gender
expectations, with the male partner expected to be the
71


72
aggressor. The respondents were asked about this issue in
their individual interviews to decrease any embarrassment
and permit them to answer as honestly as possible about the
sexual aspects of their relationship.
The dating couples in this study were well aware of the
societal expectations of daters, but were quick to point out
in many cases that they had a variation on the traditional
expectation. The doing gender approach may help to account
for the acceptability of doing something different. With the
doing gender concept, West and Zimmerman (1991) argue that
inappropriate or unexpected gender behaviors may be
presented to make a point or influence interaction. Among
the dating couples in the present study, the areas of
nontraditional gender roles were most often linked to paying
for and planning dating activities. The respondents cited
various reasons for doing other than the expected in their
relationships. Among them were the female partner having a
higher income, the male being miserly, or the partners
perceiving a shared arrangement as more equitable than when
one partner was financially responsible. These claims may
serve as justifications for the violation of traditional
gender expectations for the couple and for the larger
society.


73
Traditional Gender Roles
Traditional gender roles are easy for couples to
follow; however, many couples follow only part of the gender
prescriptions. They may see traditional roles as too
limiting or old-fashioned, or simply may not find them
acceptable. In the current study partners who focused on
traditional and nontraditional gender divisions in dating
provided justifications for their ideas often citing
socialization and comfort level as their reasons for their
particular behaviors. One important factor in couples
portraying less traditional gender roles was the length of
the relationship and whether they had known each other prior
to a dating association.
When asked what she saw as the role of the woman on a
date, 20 year old Dana said,
I don't know. Probably I think I still have a very
traditional opinion about it, like as being the
one who is going to be more...the guy is taking
the girl out. It's not like a date together. So,
maybe that is because I have never been on that
many official dates (uses her fingers to make
quote symbols). So, I think I'd like it to be that
sometimes, where it is just two people and the guy
comes to pick up the girl, and go out to dinner or
a movie...something like that.
While the literature might suggest an increasing number
of women are asking men out on an initial date, the women in
the current study revealed that asking is still very much a
male activity. Some females provide suggestions that their
male partners then act upon, but the risk in initiating a


74
planned date was carefully considered by the women. In
keeping with the concept of doing gender, a woman must use a
different asking strategy than a man because of different
gender expectations. In this study that meant the woman
often asked as friends" or for a group activity rather than
as a one-on-one traditional first date.
At the time of the interview, Rosie, 20, had been
involved with Marco just less than one year. She considered
him to be her first real relationship and felt that they had
long term possibilities. Like many women, Rosie feels that
knowing the partner as a friend before initiating a dating
relationship is very important. Kim is the interviewer.
Kim: How do you feel about women asking men on dates?
Rosie: I don't...I think it would depend on the
situation. If they were...if it were like a
friend, then it wouldn't be anything because even
if the other person, if the woman was interested
in the man, she would at least have that
friendship as a barrier. But, I don't know. I've
never asked any guys that I have known on dates. I
don't think it's wrong, but... I don't know. I
guess I'm kind of traditional in that sense.
Kim: So you don't think you would ask someone out?
Rosie: Probably not, no. I would ask somebody to go out
for coffee or something like that. I don't...I


75
guess that would be considered a date, but nothing
too big.
The same question asked to Rosie's partner, Marco, 21,
elicited a more upbeat response. Marco also helps Rosie
maintain her gender display by talking about why she would
never ask a man out.
Kim:
How do you feel about women asking men on dates?
Marco:
I think it's wonderful, and just shows a lot of
confidence. It shows that they are not into the
traditional...or old type of traditions where the
man is the one who asks them out. I don't have a
problem. She didn't ask me out this time, but
before this relationship I had people that did.
And I think it's great.
Kim:
Would your partner ever ask a man out?
Marco:
Never, never.
Kim:
Why is that?
Marco:
She's very reserved, quiet. She wouldn't even show
it. She's the kind of person...it has taken me a
long, long time to actually get to know her
without, just by observing. I don't think so.
Personally I don't think so. I may be wrong.
Hannah and Jesse, both 21, had been dating just over
five months at the time of the interview. When they
considered the issue of female date initiation, they
demonstrated the differences between attitude and behavior


76
that characterize many relationship issues. The first
segment is from Hannah's individual interview and the second
is from Jesse's. Jesse recognizes how hard the gender
violation is for Hannah, even though like most respondents
he welcomes a woman's initiation.
Kim:
How do you feel about women asking men on dates?
Hannah:
I think that it is a good thing. I don't think I
could ever do it, but anyone who canI think they
should go for it! (laughs) But it's just not
something I could do.
Kim:
Why not?
Hannah:
Rejection. I don't like rejection at all. Just,
I'm not a real forward person and it would just be
totally uncharacteristic of me so...
Kim:
How do you feel about women planning the dating
activities?
Hannah:
Oh, I think it's fine. Like I guess that kind of
contradicts what I just said, but, like I don't
have any problem once I'm in a relationship
saying, Why don't we do this on a certain night."
So, I guess in a way that's asking him out, but I
know he's usually not going to say, No, I don't
want to go out with you." He might say I don't
want to do that, let's do this, but that's fine.
As far as I'm concerned, that's fine. And if the
guy says, You want to go out?, Yeah, I guess.


77
Whatever you want to do" you know. But I just
don't think I could ask someone out.
Kim:
How do you feel about women asking men on dates?
Has this ever happened to you?
Jesse:
Yes, actually the first time it happened was when
I was in high school. And it was, I don't know if
it was because the way the girl was or if, maybe
because I had some weird idea about it initially,
it kind ofI remember when she asked me it was
like Well, okay, you know. Well all righty, I
guess you know what you want, right?" But I think
it was just because she was a real strong
personality. But now I don't have a problem with
girls, and I think, for the most part now, girls
are fairly forward, I think. A lot are and it
doesn't bother me. They have every right to ask
guys out, just as guys can ask them out.
Kim:
Would your partner ever ask someone?
Jesse:
No.
Kim:
Why not?
Jesse:
Probably because I had to make the first move, and
just the way she acts around other people
sometimes, like strangers and stuff. I, you know,
observe her when she's around strangers. She gets
quiet, I think a little bit at first. So as far as
making initial moves, and striking up, I guess


78
even conversations. She's not against society, or
something, but you know what I'm saying. I think
she is more on the shy side than I am.
Planning is an area of dating that has traditional
expectations as well. Cookie and Rocky, 22 and 20
respectively, had been dating approximately four months at
the time of the interview. They preferred to say they were
seeing each other, rather than dating, because their
association was real casual. In their joint interview they
talked about how the bulk of their activities took place
with their friends. As a consequence they rarely had to plan
activities for the two of them alone. In the individual
interview Cookie suggests that there are some positive
aspects to adhering to traditional gender roles in dating.
Kim: How do you feel about women planning dating
activities?
Cookie: I think it's fine.
Kim: Do you enjoy it more when he plans or when you
plan?
Cookie: Usually I plan everything outside of the
relationship with him, so it's kind of nice when
he plans things because I don't have to make the
decisions. I'm usually the decision maker with all
my friends, so actually I like it when he does.
How do you feel about women driving?
Kim:


79
Cookie:
That's fine. I like it when he does. Again, same
thingI drive with all my other friends, but when
I am with him, I like it. It is a good break.
Kim:
Tell me how the issue of paying fits into your
relationship.
Cookie:
Well, it's, I don't know. It's kind of.. It's not
one-sided, I guess. He paid in the beginning, he
paid for a lot more I would say than...And I'm
just not used to it, actually, because a lot of
the guys that I have dated before just expect me
to pay, for whatever. So it was kind of nice, but
I don't mind paying for things.
In his three to four months of experiences with Tracy
18, Rick, 20, had very definite ideas about the roles of
women and men in the dating scenario.
Kim:
How do you feel about women asking men on dates?
Rick:
I think it's OK, cause a lot of girls ask me out.
I feel flattered. It makes me feel good. I feel
good. I think, I think they are making a wise
choice.
Kim:
How do you feel about women planning dating
activities and driving?
Rick:
I don't think they should do that, cause they're
women. I'm not saying, I just think that men
should have that kind of role to say something in
that kind of decision there. Cause he's the


80
provider and he should, he should have the say-so
in what goes on.
Kim: How do you feel about women paying?
Rick: Paying for stuff? I think that should be his.
Because I buy something, I'm not saying if I buy
something she should buy something for me, but I
pay mostly, I pay 60, she pay 40, 55, 45,
something like that, but I think the man should
pay more than she does, but I guess she should pay
something herself too.
His very traditional ideas were sometimes in contrast
to his partner who had made the first move to establish a
dating association, as she says, because his fraternity
brothers told [her] to" and had loaned him money to buy a
car. Tracy longs for a traditional type of relationship
where she is acknowledged as his partner and Rick wants to
be free to play the field. Her discussion of how she wants
her partner to see her gives a good indication of the kinds
of differences this couple experiences in the dating arena.
Kim: Describe how you want to be seen by your partner.
Tracy: Basically that we go together, that we're boy
friend... if we do everything that boyfriend-
girlfriends do, and all his friends think we go
together and all my friends think we go together,
we might as well say we are boyfriend and
girlfriend. It's just the matter that I think he


81
just wants, at this point too since he doesn't
want to be labeled as boyfriend and girlfriend,
he'll get upset about things and say, "I'm not
your boyfriend but in every other aspect we go
together. So I would like him to say we go
together and mean it.
In the joint interview couples were asked about who
generally drives and pays when they go on dates. There was a
tendency for the couples to skip the driving part of the
question, or dismiss it, and focus on the paying aspect.
Things like who had a nicer car, who knew the way around
town better, or simply who enjoyed driving more were often
cited for why one partner was more likely to drive than the
other.
When asked who usually drives and pays on their dates,
Charles, 21, and Vanessa, 20, focused most of their
attention on the issue of paying. These partners had known
each other and been dating only a short time, two months,
but shared the unique situation of residing in neighboring
apartments where the roommates were all good friends and the
two apartments participated in many activities together.
Kim: Who generally drives and pays when you are
together?
Especially when we first started dating he paid a
lot, like, you know, offered. And now...
Vanessa:


82
Charles:
And now cause...well what happened was I worked
over the summer and I only had one class so I
worked a lot so I had extra money. And of course
in the beginning of a relationship, you know..
Vanessa:
You know, you're trying to
Charles:
Well I guess you're trying to do a little
impressive thing with the money. So, I had money
and I didn't mind spending it cause I was having a
good time and I still do, you know. But I started
running out of money because I started having to
pay for lots of food because I wasn't home as much
and so I started having to watch my money. And I
drove a lot, she drove a couple of times like when
we went out, if we went to a bar scene or
something because I like to have a drink or two. I
don't drive at all so she offered to drive for us.
I guess the answer to your question I, maybe I do
[pay more].
Vanessa:
You do a little more than I do.
Regina, 19, and Owen, 22, had been dating for
approximately 13 months when they participated in the study
When asked who usually drives and pays on their dates, they
offered the following explanation.
Regina:
At first I didn't have a car up here, so that
pretty much took care of the car part.


83
Owen:
Regina:
Owen:
Regina:
Owen:
For
The first semester I pretty much drove, but now we
both have cars so it kind of varies.
Yeah, off and on. I mean, if my car's working or
if it's parked too far away or something, then
we'll just take his.
Whatever is more convenient. As far as paying...
I try and pay and he won't let me half the time.
And ah, you know, it's just a simple matter of
like, right now, at this point, I have more money
than she does. I mean, I worked down at IBM this
summer and I'm about to graduate and I'm getting a
real job, you know, in a couple of months. So
engineers make way too much money, more than they
deserve. So you know, I mean someday she's going
to be a $100,000 paid violin teacher andin her
dreamsthen she can support me. But for now, I
pay. I pay for a lot of things, but she still pays
now and then. But it's not like I, I like don't
go, You're the woman and I will always pay cause
that's the way it is. So you know, sometimes we
just go out to dinner and she'll be like, Put
your money away, I'm paying tonight."
Veronica and Paul the issues of traditional versus
nontraditional dates were a constant theme. In the joint and
individual interviews they talked about how they worked out
paying issues in a fairly traditional manner, offering


84
various justifications for their traditional and
nontraditional attitudes. Veronica, an 18 year old freshman,
had known Paul, a 22 year old senior, for three years. They
had been close friends and decided to start dating eight
months prior to the interview. Both come from financially
stable, Catholic families. The first excerpt is from the
interview with the couple together.
Kim: Who generally drives and pays when you go out?
Veronica: He does.
Paul: That would be me.
Kim:(to Paul) How do you feel about that?
Paul: I like it. I'm the only, I don't know if this has
anything to do with it, I'm an only child and I
was taught that's what you're supposed to do. At
this point I think we've been dating and friends
long enough that it's getting to the point where,
I don't know if we have mutual funding of the
relationship but I would say it's pretty much to
the point where it's not as much of a big deal if
she pays for something. Whereas in the beginning,
you know, that would never have been the case. I
don't think I would have felt comfortable letting
her pay for something. And I know eight months
isn't really long, but I think, you know, when you
look at the length of the relationship, the
friendship, I mean, it is.


85
Veronica: Yeah, it made it easy cause it could be one of
those awkward transitions, but you already knew, I
already knew so much about him that it wasn't a
matter of my firing a bunch of questions.
Paul: But she does.
In the individual interviews, Paul again mentions that
it is not comfortable for him to have a woman pay; he should
be taking care of things like that. He is not uncomfortable
with being asked out or driven by a woman, but paying is a
big deal.
Kim: How do you feel about women paying?
Paul: Paying is something more. I'm not necessarily sure
why. Our relationship especially has never been
focused on money. I've never been in a
relationship where I felt comfortable with the
girl paying. I've never been in a friendship where
I felt comfortable with the girl paying. If I went
out to lunch with somebody who was my friend, I
would never even fathom her paying, and if she did
I would feel uncomfortable about it. Probably
archaic but just the way..
Kim: Why uncomfortable?
Paul: Uncomfortable is a good way to put it. I just
think that there are some things that, I don't
want to sound incredibly chauvinistic here, but
there are some things that a man is responsible


86
for. And I know that sounds just as chauvinistic
as...but, and you now, not in the fact that I
think I'm superior or any other, you know. I just
think that she shouldn't, you know. I'm taking her
on a date, I'm taking. That answer doesn't
surprise me as much as I want it to, but...I
couldn't tell you. I think it is just one of those
things that was really drilled into me as a kid,
and is one of those things that has stayed there
and has gone unguestioned. So I know that's a
really round about answer, but...
Veronica's interview follows. She seems to be
establishing equality in their relationship for herself by
noting that she gives financial input but not all of her
financial contributions to the relationship are directly in
the form of paying on dates.
Kim: How do you feel about women paying on dates?
Veronica: It's gotten different now. I mean, I remember in
the beginning I used to feel bad and like maybe I
should pay for more stuff and he'd be like You're
not paying. And now it's kind of like, I, he, he
obviously does pay for more. I mean that's a
given. But like if we'll go over and like grab
lunch on campus and he doesn't have any money,
I'll be like I have money. I'm paying for it.
Cause sometimes I feel, you know it's like I feel


87
bad because he's always paying. And like my dad
sent up steaks. I have them in my freezer, and
like we'll, you know, whenever, cause I don't know
how to cook them, so I'm like OK, let's have
filet tonight." So I'll take out two. Or my dad or
his parents will send up like gift certificates to
Outback [Steakhouse], and you know that's just
considered, guess where we're going tonight, you
know. So that's how I think it's like mutual, but
he does pay more.
Kim: And that's OK with you?
Veronica: Yeah, very traditional, I know that's probably
horrible and just not at all like the 90's thing,
but it's definitely a reason I'm glad I'm a girl.
Couples were asked about their sexual relationship in
the individual interviews to decrease tension and the
likelihood of embarrassment. If participants were asked
questions about sexuality when they were in the joint
interview, they may be embarrassed to answer them in front
of a new partner.
Dana gives a good example of how to appear feminine and
play the accepted female role, women must reserve their
sexual appetites.
Kim: Tell me about your first sexual experience with
this partner.


88
Dana: The first experience...it was weird. It was a
little bit awkward. It was like...it wasn't that
far along into the relationship and it was at my
sister's house. And it was kind of shaky, but
after that I think we got closer.
Kim: Who initiated the first sexual contact?
Dana: Kim.
Kim: How did he initiate?
Dana: I think he was the first one who brought it up to
talk about, because we talk about everything
before we do it. I think he probably brought it
up. I'm sure it was on my mind, but I was keeping
my mouth closed, (laughs)
All areas of gender specific behavior are likely
influenced by the closeness of the couple and length of
their association. It seems reasonable that the introduction
of more egalitarian gender roles occurs after the couple is
comfortable playing the traditional roles. In the case of
dating and relationships, the paying issue has most clearly
indicated the change from traditional to nontraditional
gender roles. A woman's accepted levels of financial
contribution increase the longer time she is in the
relationship. In discussing the roles that paying takes in
her relationship with Gregg, 22, Michelle, 22, suggests:
I think women should pay some of the time. I mean
I like it when, you know, men take me out, you
know, treat me like that. But I think that's more
of an in the beginning thing. Once you get into a


89
serious relationship it just seems like that
burden shouldn't, shouldn't all be on them.
Besides, like it there's things I want to do, I
don't want to have to depend, you know, if they
can't afford something necessarily, I will end up
paying and do that.
Suggestions like these may provide insight into how the
established gender roles change.
The next section provides some examples of the way in
which couples were negotiating their relationships, often
after being together for a while, to do things in a way
other than the gender prescribed means.
Negotiated Gender Roles
The traditional expectations provide a jumping off
point for partners to illustrate how they are different from
the expectations. They are able to then show their
individual selves and the unique qualities of their
relationships. The couples in this study often gave
conflicting ideas about dating. In some areas there seemed
to be few gender constraints. Driving wasn't an issue for
any couple. As is often the case with changing social ideas,
behavior and attitude are not evenly matched. Overwhelmingly
the respondents supported the idea of interchangeable
roles but many women in the study said they could not bring
themselves to initiate dates and many men did not want to
relinquish the paying responsibilities. Even within couples
this division is important. While in their joint interview
couples may talk about how they divide things equally, the


90
individual interviews showed some gender differences in
attitude toward this. The interviews with the females were
more likely to favor the ideas proposed in the couple
interview. Many males held a more traditional opinion of
dating and gender appropriate behaviors than did their
partners.
Hazel, 19, had been dating Joe, 18, for seven months at
the time of the interview. In her discussion of women's
initiation activities, Hazel indicates that women may do
more asking than they think, but it is less formal and more
suggestive than the asking done by males in a dating
situation.
Kim: How do you feel about women asking men on dates?
Hazel: I think there is no problem with that.
Kim: Have you done that?
Hazel: Not...I wouldn't say out on a date, but I've
always been let's go out", let's do this. I
guess that is another way of asking.
The doing gender approach would suggest that in order to
maintain her female status it is necessary for Hazel to ask
in a way that is different than her male counterparts.
Tracy asked her current partner out on their first
date, but points out that she was pressured to do so by the
fraternity brothers of her partner. After meeting her
partner in the hallway during a fire drill, where he
initiated their initial conversation and gave her his phone


91
number, she called him. She hints that if his friends had
not suggested it, she may not have made the nontraditional
gender move. Additionally, since he gave her his number,
rather than her having to find it on her own, he may be
giving her more permission to violate the expected gender
role.
Kim: How do you feel about women asking men on dates?
Is that what happened in your case?
Tracy: Well, yeah, I called him first, but that's, I
called him because his frat brothers told me to.
They were like Yeah, yeah, don't be mean to our
boy. Be nice to our brother. I was like All
right, I'll call," you know what I mean. It wasn't
meant to like boost up his ego or anything. I
don't know. It wasn't meant to be, to make me seem
like, 0h, I'm just too bored and desperate so let
me call Rick." It's just his brothers told me to,
so I thought, well they want me to call their
friend. So basically, I did. Women can, women can
ask out men; it's no big deal.
Some women recognize positive consequences to planning
dates, as well as initiating them. Susan, 19, and Jim, 22,
had been dating for two months at the time of the interview.
When asked, in the individual interview, how she felt about
women planning dates Susan replied, That's fine. I enjoy
doing it myself and you kind of get to be more in control


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