Romantic dates are moving away from traditional courtship, study says

Death of the ‘traditional’ date? Only a THIRD of dates now involve the man asking the woman out, paying, and initiating sex, study reveals

  • Academics surveyed over 20,000 college students about their most recent date
  • Only 36 per cent involved a man asking a woman out, paying, and initiating sex
  • This ‘traditional’ dating model may be getting replaced by a more equal model 

Traditionally, men have dictated proceedings during a romantic encounter, but a new study suggests this could finally be changing. 

Researchers in Kansas have analysed data from a survey of more than 20,000 heterosexual college students describing their most recent date. 

They found that only around a third of dates (36 per cent) now involve the man asking the woman out, paying, and then initiating sex. 

This is something of a ‘traditional’ model of dating, but it may be getting replaced by a more equal model between the sexes, where the woman is initiating sex and even paying for dinner. 

The academics also found that women are more likely to have sex on the first date if they were the one who initiated the date.  

Only 36 per cent of dates now involve the man asking the woman out, paying, and initiating sex, says a new study from the University of Kansas (file photo)


Hook-up culture is a relatively recent cultural development where people engage in sex without traditional courtship first.

Traditionally, men would have initiated a date – also usually paid for by the man – before any sexual intercourse would take place.

This classic idea of dating as part of courtship was born in the 1920s, researchers say. 

It’s thought that modern-day ‘hook-up culture’ – where people engage in sex without traditional courtship first – has broken down dating norms that have existed since the 1920s, according to the experts. 

‘Hookup culture is a culture where casual sex encounters function as part of the courtship process,’ said study author Sam Kendrick at the University of Kansas.

‘In hookup culture, you don’t have to go on a date or enter a relationship to have sex. The order has essentially flipped around.’ 

The classic idea of dating as part of courtship – where a dating activity such as going to the movies before any sex takes place – was born in the 1920s. 

Most scholarly research on young adult sexuality in the last 20 years has focused on hookups – casual sexual encounters not associated with a traditional date.

‘I feel like if sexual norms have changed that drastically, and they have, then the way sex is initiated on dates has probably changed as well,’ said Kendrick.

‘People who study dating, however, often focus on what hasn’t changed.’ 

For the study, Kendrick and a colleague analysed data from the Online College Social Life Survey, collected between 2005 and 2011 from a sample of 24,131 students across 21 higher education institutions in the US.  

It’s already known that men climax more than women in heterosexual relationships – a phenomenon know as the ‘orgasm gap’. 

Now, researchers in New Jersey have found that the phenomenon affects a woman’s desire to even have an orgasm in the bedroom. 

The experts surveyed men and women in straight relationships about sexual satisfaction, how often they orgasm and how often they’d like to orgasm.

They not only found that the orgasm gap exists, but that women who climax less during sex have less desire for an orgasm, and less expectation of having one too. 

Read more: Women who climax less in bed expect less pleasure, study finds 

Respondents described their most recent dates with someone they were not in an exclusive relationship with, including who initiated it, if the man or woman paid, if both paid, if no money was spent, who initiated sexual contact, what levels of sexual contact happened and other information. 

The researchers term a particular course of action that took place during a date as a ‘dating script’. 

Among those dates following a male-initiated script, men paid and initiated most of the sexual activity on approximately 36 per cent of dates, the authors found. 

In other words, more than 60 per cent of dates violate the traditional script – defined as men asking, paying and initiating sexual activity – some way. 

While traditional dating script says that a man asks a woman on a date and is expected to pay, 88 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that it is OK for a woman to ask a man on a date. 

However, of the dates described in the study, 89.1 per cent were initiated by men. 

So this suggests that there is a discrepancy between what college students are saying and what they are doing when it comes to sexual activity on dates.

Researchers also found that when men initiated dates, sexual activity was more ‘restricted’ than when women asked the man for a date – likely because the woman wants the sexual encounter less. 

Meanwhile, in an ‘alternate dating script’, such as women initiating the date, sexual activity was found to be more common. 

‘Genital contact’ took place on 63 per cent of female-initiated dates, compared to 56 per cent of male-initiated dates. 

Of all dates with sexual activity, genital contact – a term that includes but is not limited to sexual intercourse – occurred on 56 per cent.

Although men paid for the majority of male-initiated dates (68 per cent), women contributed at least part of the payment on 17 per cent of dates, and no money was spent on 15 per cent of dates.

Overall, the study shows men still initiate and pay for most dates, but the likelihood of genital contact increases whenever this traditional script is ‘violated’. 

One limitation of the study is that the data only goes up to 2011, more than a decade ago, so behaviours could now be very different.  

A second wave of the Online College Social Life Survey is currently ongoing, which could provide a more up-to-date snapshot.

The authors also point out that the data only included information on heterosexual dates, and much more research could be done on sex and dating in LGBTQ relationships.

The study has been published in the journal Sexuality & Culture. 


Psychologists have found women who make more money than their male partner are twice as likely to fake an orgasm in the bedroom.  

Men who earn less than their partner may have a ‘fragile sense of masculinity’, due to the long-held stereotype that men are the primary breadwinners. 

As a result, it’s thought women kindly try to alleviate the man’s financial insecurity and boost their ego by faking orgasms during sex.

However, protecting their partner’s sense of masculinity may come ‘perhaps at their own expense’, as it stifles sexual satisfaction and honest communication, the psychologists said.

‘Women are prioritising what they think their partners need over their own sexual needs and satisfaction,’ said study author Professor Jessica Jordan, a psychologist at the University of South Florida. 

‘When society creates an impossible standard of masculinity to maintain, nobody wins.’ 

Read more: Women who make more money than partner TWICE as likely to fake orgasms 

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