Gender roles are changing, but who benefits from the changes when it comes to dating?
We as a society are becoming more progressive, and since the start of the feminist movement in the 1960’s and 70s we have come a long way when it comes to gender roles and gender stereotypes.
We are making progress towards gender equality and we have moved away from the old beliefs such as “women belong in the kitchen” and “men are the primary house earners.” But in certain types of social situations we do have gender-based social conventions that are still widely accepted culturally. Dating for example, still has what psychologists call behavioural scripts, which are behaviours that we typically expect to happen in social situations.
Let’s try this example—imagine a man and a women in a bar or nightclub on separate sides of the room. They are both single and both catch a glimpse of each other before giving off a flirty smile. One of them decides to approach the other from across the room. In your mind, did you imagine the man walking up to the woman or the woman walking up to the man? A majority of you would have imagined the man walking up to the woman.
In most cultures, the expectation of a man approaching a woman has been so ingrained that we have events or special days when those behavioural scripts are flipped. Sadie Hawkins Day is a special day, the same Sadie Hawkins Events are considered special events where women break the social conventions of dating. On these days or events women approach the guys.
Researchers have used this unique idea through the use of speed dating. Speed dating is structured in a way for daters to meet a lot of single people quickly—usually eight to 12 single men or women participate. In a typical event, women will remain seated a table whilst the men rotate in a round robin fashion from table to table every few minutes, the process repeats until everyone has met each other.
This form of speed dating event relies on the “male approach female” social convention. Research suggests that women are pickier when it comes to potential partners in a speed dating event, with men indicating interest with half the women participating and women only indicating interest in roughly one third of them who participate.
Researchers were curious to see whether this would change if they implemented the Sadie Hawkins effect on speed dating, where the men would remain seated and the women would move around from table to table.
They found the exact opposite pattern—men would become pickier whilst women would become less picky. This has been confirmed by Simply Speed Dating who also tested this research with their own speed events. What this suggests is that selective behavior may not have as much to do with gender as it has to do with social situations.
So what about the virtual world of online dating, who can afford to be pickier, men or women? In an experiment performed by Jon Millward, the answer seems to suggest it’s women. In his experiment, Jon created 10 fake okcupid profiles (five men and five women). They all had similar sounding usernames, the same answers to 25 questions, the same written profile and personal stats. The only difference between the profiles were the pictures, all with varying degrees of attractiveness.
His experiment shows that the total messages received by the five women in the group was more than 15 times the messages received by the group’s five men. This poses unique challenges to both genders when it comes to online dating.
Women are plagued with the “Paradox of Choice” or “Choice Overload” where they have so many messages and men to pick from that it makes it incredibly difficult for to pick the right guy. Although men are not having to deal with this problem, they are having to compete with a larger group of men online as opposed to a smaller group of men offline. According to data collected from Business Insider, men would need to send an average of 25 messages to receive a response whilst women would only need to send an average of five.
Realistically both genders have their own unique challenges when it comes to dating in general and it is difficult to say whether one has it worse than the other as the issues may not just rely on gender but also situations and circuimstances.
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