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On the sociogenesis of US dating regime and its present-day social legacy

Die Soziogenese des Verabredens in den USA und sein heutiges soziales Erbe
[conference paper]

Wouters, Cas

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Further Details
Corporate Editor Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie (DGS)
Abstract "Part of the study of twentieth-century changes in German, American, English and Dutch manners books focuses on developments in courting and dating. It shows that in all these countries, around the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century, young people started to 'date', that is, to go out together, both with and without a chaperone. From the 1920s onward, however, advice on dating, necking and petting, the 'line', the stag line, cutting in, and getting stuck appears in American manners books only. The US dating regime that emerged signified the escape of young people from under parental wings and the formation of a relatively autonomous courting regime of their own, leading to a head start in the emancipation of sexuality and to the rise of the first western youth culture, which was restricted to the USA. This emancipation of young people in the USA made young women less dependent upon their parents, but in regard to their relationship to young men, the dating regime kept women rather dependent upon men and their 'treats'. The then prevalent uneven balance of power between the sexes was institutionalized in an attitude that linked 'petting and paying'. Necking and petting as inherent possibilities made dating highly sexually oriented, but also sexually restrained, as the sexual exploration was to remain without sexual consummation. In that sense, the youth-culture dating code was oriented toward sex and marriage, maintaining the adult-code of abstinence of sex before and outside marriage. The responsibility for sufficiently restrained sexual emotion management was put in the hands of women. This double standard demanded that women developed increasing subtlety in the art of being both naughty and nice, of steering between yielding and rigidity, prudery and coquetry: a highly controlled indulgence of sexual impulses and emotions. This paper focuses on the present-daysocial legacy of the dating regime, which seems to consist of such characteristics as a highly commercialized sex, a fascination with breasts and blow jobs, and two pronounced double standards, one being the continued co-existence of a youth code allowing for sex and an adult code tending to demand abstinence of sex before and outside marriage, with the construction of 'technical virginity' as a bridge between the two. The other double standard consists of dating manners and office manners, the latter tending to demand abstinence of sexual references and allusions in the domain of work. This paper argues that the formalization of male dominance in the dating regimehelps explain why the female emancipation movements that followed the youth culture of the 1960s - a western international one - met with tougher resistance in the USA than in Europe: the reputedly advanced greater freedom of women in America seems to have turned into a deficit." (author's abstract)
Keywords United States of America; adolescent; young adult; emancipation; sexuality; sex behavior; social behavior; social change; social control; parent-child relationship; youth culture; gender role; equality of rights; emotionality; wedding; social norm; woman; man; North America
Classification Family Sociology, Sociology of Sexual Behavior; Sociology of the Youth, Sociology of Childhood; Women's Studies, Feminist Studies, Gender Studies
Method descriptive study; historical
Collection Title Soziale Ungleichheit, kulturelle Unterschiede: Verhandlungen des 32. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie in München. Teilbd. 1 und 2
Editor Rehberg, Karl-Siegbert
Conference 32. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie "Soziale Ungleichheit - kulturelle Unterschiede". München, 2004
Document language English
Publication Year 2006
Publisher Campus Verl.
City Frankfurt am Main
Page/Pages p. 4614-4623
ISBN 3-593-37887-6
Status Published Version; reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications