When women debrief each other about their recent dates, one of the first questions that comes up is, “Did he pay?” Well, most men are still paying for dates, but wish women would pay sometimes too, according to a paper presented over the weekend at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in New York City.
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The ritual of men taking out women dates back to the time when men earned more because most jobs were not accessible to women. By treating women, men were also showing their ability to provide for them in the future. But now that the percentage of men and women in the paid labor force is about equal — and 28% of women are making more money than men in households where both partners work — the study’s authors wanted to know if that shift in gender roles has contributed to women’s expectations about who pays the tab.
The study, which surveyed 17,607 unmarried, heterosexual men and women using a questionnaire posted on NBCNews.com, found:
- 84% of men and 58% of women said that men paid for most dating expenses.
- 39% of women hoped men would not ask them to contribute.
- 44% of women were annoyed when men “expected” women to pay.
- 44% of men said they would stop seeing women who never pay for dates.
- 64% of men believed women should pick up from time to time, though 76% said they felt “guilty” saying so.
- 4 in 10 men and women said that dating expenses were usually shared within the first month, and nearly three-fourths (74%) of men and 83% of women said they’re shared by the sixth-month mark.
The survey, which also included a narrative component, showed younger, college-educated men and women were more likely to offer to share the costs of dating. “We usually split the cost or pay every other time,” a 24-year-old female participant wrote. “It is a shared experience so it should be entirely shared, unless one partner is treating the other for a special occasion.”
The paper’s authors wrote women should take note of the 44% of men who said they would break it off with women who don’t offer to help pick up the tab, as it may help explain why their suitors have suddenly dropped off the radar. As one 25-year-old male participant put it: “I’m fine with paying for the first few dates. However, if the relationships are supposed to be 50/50 then each partner is expected to invest in the partnership financially.”
But while women may be paying more of their share, most men still want, and are expected to, pick up the bill in the beginning. According to the paper, “Many men’s willingness to absorb the price of early dates and more than half the costs later on keeps chivalry alive, gender roles distinct, and some privileges for both sexes intact.”