Monday, April 26, 2010

Gender Roles and Dating Rules

I know I've touched on this in multiple posts previously, but I wanted to clarify based on some of the comments from my last one and consolidate here.

One of the hardest things for me to get used to in Atlanta is that gender-based dating rules are largely followed.  For someone uncomfortable with the idea of boxing anyone in based on their sex chromosomes, the fact that I've caved and have come to accept to many of these rules seems rather hypocritical.  Lest you get the wrong idea, here's why:

Dating is complicated.  Everyone is trying to one-up those they date, get inside their head, and hopefully be on the same page emotionally.  Gender rules give a clear cut answer to a lot of what the other is thinking, albeit rather arbitrarily.  Assume for the rest of this that I'm talking the first few dates, because things do tend to change when it comes to long term.  For example, Jack and Jill go grab dinner.  Jack tries to pick up the tab, Jill knows Jack sees it as a date.  Jill lets Jack pick up the bill, Jack knows Jill too wants this to be a date. Both know where the other stands and can respond accordingly.

Take something a little less defined.  If it is the guy's responsibility to be the initiator (of planning a date, a kiss, etc), it is the girl's responsibility to make sure the guy knows she's interested.  Even in strictly defined gender boxes, both must be active participants.  The big problem with leaving it up to the individuals to decide who plays what role, is the uncertainty that follows.  If Jack is not initiating, does that mean he's not interested, or desiring Jill to initiate?  And if the latter, does he know how to make Jill know he's interested, i.e. how to play the active "female" role?  Now Jack and Jill are back to the game of trying to interpret each others actions without knowing the context, making the whole dating game that much more complicated.

Now, I'm not saying that we always need to follow the archaically defined gender roles in dating.  However, perhaps we need to learn a little something from the homosexual dating culture (at least how I understand it to be, please correct me if you know this to be wrong).  You don't always have to play the stereotypical "male" or "female" roles in dating, and can swap periodically.  However, make sure if you're not doing one, you're doing the other, actively, and hopefully the other will catch on at some point.


lightgetsin said...

very good explanation. I think that's fair. No one -- male or female -- should expect that by being passive they will get what they want.

OJ said...

I always offered to pay two times (for the sake of the convention), and if the girl insisted a third time on paying her share, I'd let her (why fight on an early date?)

I tend to think of roles as helpful whether we define them by gender or ad hoc.

But I get the point, that in a very gender partitioned framework, you don't have to worry about as much because a lot of the extra details are just there and you know what to expect.