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The History of Dating and Romantic Relationships Essay

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Updated: Feb 5th, 2022


The dating scene has evolved significantly since the emergence of this practice in the early decades of the 20th century. In its formative years, dating was characterized by face-to-face meetings whereby the involved parties would meet for a night out to have fun and catch up. However, the entry of the Internet in the 21st century has changed the way people interact. Dating has a rather interesting history as mapped out in this paper by discussing how it has changed from the early 1900s to modern times where online dating has taken the center stage.

Evolution of Dating

According to the reading SOC213week5June1, dating evolved from a 20th-century practice called calling. In this case, a young man would be invited to “call” on a woman in her home and visit with both the involved young woman and her mother. As such, the mother would be available during the date. This calling practice was popular among the upper class because other people did not own houses where such an event would take place. However, with time, people had to find a way of meeting their potential suitors and thus calling moved from home set-ups to the public sphere, which heralded dating. Therefore, it suffices to argue that, in its formative stages, dating, in the form of calling, was a domestic sphere affair meaning that women in the household determined “if” and “when” it would take place.

However, as dating transitioned from the house to the public sphere, it shifted the dynamics, and men dominated the space. Men would pick the location of the meeting, the involved activities, and pay for it. Young upper-class people were the epitome of how dating should occur because they embodied freedom coupled with having disposable income. According to the reading SOC213week5June1, dating became a popularity contest being measured by the number and variety of dates that an individual had within a given period. Among men, popularity was measured by the level of material possessions. Therefore, those with lots of money were popular because they could use the same to date various women. On the other hand, the most popular women were those who were in a position to date several popular men. Consequently, “men cultivated the appearance of affluence, and women cultivated the appearance of having a busy schedule of dates to increase their popularity relative to their peers” (SOC213week5June1). By the mid-20th century, dating was an extremely popular social activity among North American youth.

Back then, young men would contact young women of choice, through either letters or phone calls, to arrange for an evening out in various places. The activities during such dates included watching movies at the theaters, dancing, playing games, such as darts, visiting fortunetellers, and sharing refreshments among other related activities (from the video). The objective was to have fun and get to know one another better. Men were expected to be nice and gentle, and thus during the first date, issues to deal with intimacy would not arise. Ultimately, urbanization changed the way young people interacted with one another. For instance, urban life created anonymity and freedom that allowed young people to communicate without being pried by their parents, other adults, and authorities. Additionally, the rise of dancehalls, movie theaters, clubs, and other forms of amusement created the perfect environment for dating to thrive. At the same time, middle-class teens and young adults had some disposable income to facilitate dating.

However, in the 1970s, the “hook up” culture slowly started to replace dating. According to the reading SOC213week5June1, hookups were defined by a more casual setting characterized by informal romantic and sexual escapades. Hookups emerged in high schools as young people responded to parent-imposed limitations on dating. The process of hooking up was simple – a person will introduce his or her male friend to a female friend and the two new parties would take it up from there. In 2016, “almost half of sexually active high school teens have hooked up with a friend, and 14% with an ex” (SOC213week5June1). Only less than 30 percent hooked up with a stranger. This hookup culture is mainly meant for men’s sexual pleasure as they seek to have sex with females or what is commonly known as a “one-night-stands”.

In the 21st century, dating has continued to evolve, especially with the emergence of the Internet. Technology has revolutionized the way people know each other, communicate, and interact on various matters. Various online platforms are now available for hookups. For instance, through social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter among others, individuals could become friends and start dating even without meeting face-to-face. Various platforms allow face-timing whereby people video call each other and have a conversation akin to a face-to-face meeting. Additionally, some applications have been created specifically to facilitate dating. The most popular dating app in modern times is Tinder whereby individuals are given the opportunity to view the profile of a potential partner and swipe right or left based on the decision made. Such apps employ technology to look for compatible people and match them based on the personal information provided when signing up, which makes dating unique in contemporary times. As such, it suffices to argue that dating has gone a full circle from the house to the public sphere and back to the house, but this time, on mobile gadgets.


Dating has changed unprecedentedly since it evolved from the practice of calling in the early 1900s. Initially, it was driven by the female gender with young girls allowed to call on a man to visit her at her home in the presence of her mother. However, urbanization redefined dating and with young people moving out of their parents’ homes to live on their own in town coupled with the availability of disposable income and rising number of entertainment joints, men took over the dating scene. In modern times, the Internet has changed the way people meet and interact. Applications, such as Tinder are specifically meant to facilitate dating.

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"The History of Dating and Romantic Relationships." IvyPanda, 5 Feb. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-dating-and-romantic-relationships/.

1. IvyPanda. "The History of Dating and Romantic Relationships." February 5, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-dating-and-romantic-relationships/.


IvyPanda. "The History of Dating and Romantic Relationships." February 5, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-dating-and-romantic-relationships/.


IvyPanda. 2022. "The History of Dating and Romantic Relationships." February 5, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-dating-and-romantic-relationships/.


IvyPanda. (2022) 'The History of Dating and Romantic Relationships'. 5 February.

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