Most people now would be familiar with the term 'hook-up culture'. In the not too distant past there was a more developed 'dating culture', but in many places that has largely disappeared.
Dating? What's that?
Many people now have no experience of dating as such because the 'hook-up culture' has become the norm in many places. So how do you get started? What do you do? Individuals might feel frustrated and disappointed at the situation but feel they can't do anything to change it.
What is needed is the restoration of a 'culture of dating'.
There need to be enough young men and women who have similar expectations about how to meet and get to know each other. You could almost say that what's needed at the moment is a course in 'remedial dating'!
How is a date different from a 'hook up'?
A 'hook-up' is a very loose, informal thing. It is ambiguous, and hard even to define. This makes it hard to clarify expectations. It is low on accountability.
The hook up culture confuses the relations between the sexes.
By contrast a date has a more definite form. It provides a structure and a set of mutual expectations. It doesn't leave people all at sea trying to figure everything out from scratch.
Dating Increases Accountability
Hook-ups occur in a vague, open-ended way that makes it easier for people to avoid responsibility for their actions.
Dating helps make people more accountable for their actions.
A date should occur in a public setting. This adds a degree of accountability because you have to take into account other people's expectations. It makes it harder to avoid responsibility and is conducive to a safer and more honest encounter.
Dating Clarifies Intentions
Hook-ups leave some of the most important things unclarified. Why am I even here with this person? Do I even like him/her? What are the other person's intentions? Have I even clarified my own boundaries? What effect will my behaviour have on the other person? What am I even doing?
Dating helps to clarify responsibility in relationship.
A man has to come to a decision: "Am I going to clearly ask this woman to go out with me to a public place where we can spend some time getting to know each other better?" A woman has to decide: "Am I going to accept this invitation from this man?" Both have to decide: "Would I like to spend more time with this person or not?"
Dating Is Respectful
Dating aims to treat the other person as having personal dignity. It involves conventions of behaviour that signify respect.
- Firstly, if possible a man should invite the woman on a date face to face, or at least with a phone call. This shows that you are not taking the easy way or looking for a face-saving way of avoiding rejection.
- Secondly, by having a formal, public encounter you signify that this person is important to you. You are happy for other people to know that you are spending time with this person.
- Thirdly, by trying to plan an interesting and enjoyable date a man shows that he thinks this woman is worthy of his best efforts.
- Fourthly, the date is for a limited time, not being presumptuous but showing that you consider the date a privileged time, not a merely casual encounter.
A Beginning, a Middle, and an End
On a first date they might meet at a mutually agreed place.
- More normally, a date begins when a man comes to escort a woman to the place where they will spend time together.
- Then they engage in some enjoyable activity and conversation together for a limited time.
- The man then escorts the woman home where they say goodbye.
It is best not to go on from a date to private time alone together.
A Distinction between the Sexes
Formal conventions of dating help to clarify and value the differences between the sexes. For example, it is the convention that the man will take the initiative in asking the woman out. There can be exceptions, but the conventional way of doing it is not arbitrary. Both sexes prefer it if the man takes the initiative in this way.
Hook-up Culture Dumbs Down Relations between the Sexes
Somehow the idea has taken hold in our culture that 'informal is always better'. People have somehow got the idea that formality is old-fashioned and inhibits freedom. This is quite false. We need a balance between formality and informality. 'Formal' means 'giving form to' relationships. A suitable degree of formality aids learning and growth in relating to other people.
Formality puts some of the structure and the substance of relating 'out into the public space' and makes it accessible to everyone. It gives people simpler ways of relating.
Informal relating is more complex and difficult to master.
That is why it only develops slowly and among people who have got to know each other well.
Hook-up culture creates a veneer of friendship by making everything informal. But it actually inhibits people from learning relationship skills. It dumbs down the kind of relating people do, because it doesn't give 'permission' to establish a suitable distance. It is presumptuous of friendships that don't really exist.
Dating gives everyone permission to be a beginner in relating to the opposite sex.
Much else could be said about this. You might like to read these articles:
- Whatever Happened to Dating?
- When Socialising Is Like Maths
- Do we make too much of friendship?
- Dating and Community
- The School of Life
- Informality Is Not Enough
- The Original 'Speed Dating'