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Courtship is the traditional dating period before engagement and marriage. During a courtship, a couple dates to get to know each other and decide if there will be an engagement. Usually courtship is a public affair, done in public and with family approval.

It includes activities such as dating where couples go out together for a meal, a movie, dance parties, a picnic, shopping or general "hanging out", along with other forms of activity. Acts such as meeting on the Internet or virtual dating, chatting on-line via instant messaging or e-mail, sending text messages, conversing over the telephone, writing each other letters, and sending each other flowers, songs, and gifts constitute wooing.

Contents

Duration

The average duration of courtship varies considerably throughout the world. Furthermore, there is vast individual variation between couples. Courtship may be completely left out, as in cases of arranged marriages where the couple doesn't meet before the wedding.

In the United Kingdom, a poll of 3,000[1] engaged or married couples resulted in an average duration between first meeting and accepted proposal of marriage of 2 years and 11 months,[1][2] but yet with the women feeling ready to accept at an average of 2 years and 7 months.[1] Regarding duration between proposal and wedding, the UK poll above gave an average of 2 years and 3 months.[2]

Courtship traditions

Youth conversing with suitors
from the Haft Awrang of Jami, in the story A Father Advises his Son About Love.
Courting, Tacuinum Sanitatis (XIV century)

While the date is fairly casual in most European-influenced cultures, in some traditional societies, courtship is a highly structured activity, with very specific formal rules.

In some societies, the parents or community propose potential partners, and then allow limited dating to determine whether the parties are suited. In Japan, there is a such type of courtship called Omiai, with similar practices called "Xiangqin" (相親) in the Greater China Area.

Parents will hire a matchmaker to provide pictures and résumés of potential mates, and if the couple agrees, there will be a formal meeting with the matchmaker and often parents in attendance. The matchmaker and parents will often exert pressure on the couple to decide whether they want to marry or not after a few dates.

Courtship in the Philippines is one known complex form of courtship. Unlike what is regularly seen in other societies, courtship in the Philippines is seen as a "far more subdued and indirect" approach. Courtship in the Philippines is complex in a way that it involves stages, and it is considered normal for courtship to last a year or longer. In Philippine courtship, it is common to see the male showing off by sending love letters and love poems, singing romantic songs and buying gifts for the female. The parents are also seen as part of the courtship practice, as their approval is commonly needed before courtship may begin, or before the female gives the male an answer to his advances.

In more closed societies, courtship is virtually eliminated altogether by the practice of arranged marriages, where partners are chosen for young people, typically by their parents. Forbidding experimental and serial courtship and sanctioning only arranged matches is partly a means of guarding the chastity of young people and partly a matter of furthering family interests, which in such cultures may be considered more important than individual romantic preferences.

Over recent decades though, the concept of arranged marriage has changed or simply been mixed with other forms of dating, including Eastern and Indian ones; potential couples have the opportunity to meet and date each other before one decides on whether to continue the relationship or not.

Modern dating

In earlier centuries, young adults were expected to court with the intention of finding a marriage partner, rather than for social reasons. However, by the Jazz Age of the 1920s, dating for fun was becoming an expectation, and by the 1930s, it was assumed that any popular young person would have lots of dates. This form of dating, though, was usually more chaste than is seen today, since pre-marital sex was not considered the norm.

After the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, this "old-fashioned" form of dating waned in popularity. Couples became more likely to "hook up" or "hang out" with large groups than to go on an old-fashioned date, and frequently went from "hanging out" to an exclusive relationship without engaging in what their parents or grandparents might have called dating.

In recent years, a number of college newspapers have featured editorials where students decry the lack of "dating" on their campuses. This may be a result of a highly-publicized 2001 study and campaign sponsored by the conservative American women's group Independent Women's Forum, which promotes "traditional" dating.[3]

Also, in recent years traditional dating has evolved and taken on the metamorphic properties necessary to sustain itself in today's world. This can be seen in the rise in internet dating, speed dating or gradual exclusivity dating (a.k.a. slow dating). Some theorize that courtship as it was known to prior generations has seen its last days and the next closest thing is gradual exclusivity, where the partners respect and value each others individual lives but still maintain the ultimate goal of being together even if time or space does not permit it now.

Those who find their dating skills lacking may hire dating coaches. While traditional dating advice was given from ancient times on, the Internet made it possible for individuals (mostly men, as their social role in Western cultures requires more proactivity) to share their experience worldwide and form the seduction community.

Courtship as a social theory

Courtship is used by a number of theorists to explain gendering processes and sexual identity. Scientific research into courtship began in the 1980s after which time academic researchers started to generate theories about modern dating practices and norms. Both Moore and Perper found that, contrary to popular beliefs, courtship is normally triggered and controlled by women[4][5], driven mainly by non-verbal behaviours to which men respond. This is generally supported by other theorists who specialise in the study of body language[6]. Feminist scholars, however, continue to regard courtship as a socially constructed (and male-led) process organised to subjugate women[7][8]. The main weakness in this argument, however, lies in the continuing empirical evidence that the institutions of courtship are more strongly supported by women than men. Farrell reports, for example, that magazines about marriage and romantic fiction continue to attract a 98% female readership[9]. Systematic research into courtship processes inside the workplace[10][11] as well two 10-year studies examining norms in different international settings[12][13] continue to support a view that courtship is a social process that socialises both sexes into accepting forms of relationship that maximise the chances of successfully raising children. Whilst this may negatively impact women, particularly those seeking independence and equality at work[14][15], it is argued that the majority of negative impacts accrue to men in the form of shorter life-expectancy, higher rates of suicide, alcoholism, homelessness and imprisonment[16][17].

Commercial dating services

Though most people meet their dates at social organizations, in their daily life, or are introduced through friends or relatives, commercial dating agencies emerged strongly, but discreetly, in the Western world after World War II, mostly catering for the 25–44 age group. Newspaper and magazine personal ads also became common.

In the last five years, mate-finding and courtship have seen changes due to online dating services. Telecommunications and computer technologies have developed rapidly since around 1995, allowing daters the use of home telephones with answering machines, mobile phones, and web-based systems to find prospective partners.

"Pre-dates" can take place by telephone or online via instant messaging, e-mail, or even video communication. A disadvantage is that, with no initial personal interview by a traditional dating agency head, Internet daters are free to exaggerate or lie about their characteristics.

While the growing popularity of the Internet took some time, now one in five singles is said to look for love on the Web, which has led to a dramatic shift in dating patterns. Research in the United Kingdom suggests that as of 2004 there were around 150 agencies there, and the market was growing at around 20 percent a year due to, first, the very low entry barriers to setting up a dating site, and secondly, the rising number of single people. citation needed

However, even academic researchers find it impossible to find precise figures about crucial statistics, such as the ratio of active daters to the large number of inactive members whom the agency will often wrongly claim as potential partners, and the overall ratio of men to women in an agency's membership. Academic research on traditional pre-Internet agencies suggests that most agencies have far more men than women in their membership.[citation needed]

Traditionally, in many societies (including Western societies), men are expected to fill the role of the pursuer. However, the anonymity of the Internet (as well as other factors) has allowed women to take on that role online. A recent study indicated that "women pay to contact men as often as the reverse, which is quite different from behavior in telephone-based dating system[s]" (from Wired magazine).[citation needed]

The trend of singles making a Web connection continues to increase, as the percentage of North American singles who have tried Internet dating has grown from two percent in 1999 to over ten percent today (from Canadian Business, February 2002). More than half of online consumers (53%) know someone who has started a friendship or relationship online, and three-quarters of 18-to-24-year-old online consumers (74%) say they do.

There is also some academic evidence that the 18–25 age group has significantly taken up online dating. This growing trend is reflected in the surging popularity of online communities such as Faceparty, Friendster, Facebook, MySpace, and Nexopia sites which are not directly geared toward dating, but many users nonetheless use to find potential dates or research a new acquaintance to check for availability and compatibility.

Mobile dating websites, too, are gaining popularity.

Courtship in the animal kingdom

Courtship of green turtles

Many non-human animal species have mate-selection rituals also referred to as "courtship" in an anthropomorphic (and somewhat misleading) manner. Animal courtship may involve complicated dances or touching; vocalizations; or displays of beauty or fighting prowess. Most animal courtship occurs out of sight of humans, so it is often the least documented of animal behaviors. One animal whose courtship rituals are well studied is the bowerbird, whose male builds a "bower" of collected objects.

From the scientific point of view, courtship in the animal kingdom is the process in which the different species select their partners for reproduction purposes. Generally speaking, the male initiates the courtship and the female chooses to either mate or reject the male based on his "performance".

One sociobiological model that sheds some light on courtship behavior is The Selfish Gene model proposed by Richard Dawkins which states that an individual of a particular species will mate with individuals from the same species that display "good genes".

In this case, courtship is a display of "genes" carried by a particular organism looking forward to mix with the genes of another organism in order to preserve themselves onto the next generation, thereby ensuring the survival of the genes themselves.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c marieclaire.co.uk > News > World News > Average man proposes after three years Monday 18 February 2008
  2. ^ a b Average man takes 3 years to propose Metrosexual, Sunday, February 17, 2008
  3. ^ Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Dating and Mating Today (Retrieved 18:35, 12 January 2007)
  4. ^ Perper, T. (1985) Sex Signals: The Biology Of Love, Philadelphia, ISI Press.
  5. ^ Moore, N. (1985) “Nonverbal courtship patterns in women: contact and consequences”, Ethology and Sociobiology, 6: 237-247.
  6. ^ Pease, A. and Pease, B. (2004) The Definitive Book Of Body Language, London: Orion Books.
  7. ^ Hearn, J. & Parkin, W. (1987) Sex at work: The power and paradox of organisation sexuality, Brighton: Wheatsheaf.
  8. ^ Connell, R. W (1995) Gender and Power, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  9. ^ Farrell, W. (2000) Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say, New York: Tarcher/Putnam.
  10. ^ Williams, C. L., Guiffre, P. A. & Dellinger, K. (1999) "Sexuality in the Workplace: Organizational Control, Sexual Harassment and the Pursuit of Pleasure", Annual Sociology Review, 25: 73-93.
  11. ^ Ridley-Duff, R. J. (2007) Emotion, Seduction and Intimacy: Alternative Perspectives on Organisation Behaviour, Bracknell: Men's Hour Books, ISBN 978-0975430019
  12. ^ Molloy, J. (2003) Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others, London: Element.
  13. ^ Buss, D.M., Abbott, M., Angleitner, A., Biaggio, A., Blanco-Villasenor, A., BruchonSchweittzer, M. [& 45 additional authors] (1990). “International preferences in selecting mates: A study of 37 societies”. Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, 21: 5-47.
  14. ^ ITUC (2008) The Global Gender Pay Gap, Brussels: International Trades Union Congress.
  15. ^ Hakim, C. (2006) “Women, Careers and Work-Life Preferences”, British Journal of Marriage and Counselling, 34(3): 279-294.
  16. ^ Farrell, W. (1994) The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex, New York: Berkley Books.
  17. ^ Goldberg, H. (2000) The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege, Wellness Institute.







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