Trends in Dating
Probably we should not go back to cavemen, and there is no data there anyway. But we do need to look at trends.
Dating in the 1900s
At the turn of the last century dating was very much restricted, generally worldwide. In part this was a practical necessity. Contraception was not available and fear of pregnancy was immense. So dating was supervised, chaperoned and restricted.
Formal situations were there for all classes. Look at "Pride and Prejudice" to give a taster of what it had been like previously, for example. Formal, stiff, and very unromantic by today's view. And yet I'm sure all that repression led to some stupendous sex later. In those days people also met by letter. And long distance courtships between continents were carried on by letters carried by steamship. Many weeks, sometimes months, elapsed between messages.
Dating During the Great War
More urgency came into dating in this awful period of history. Letters were used of course, but there was no guarantee that the men would be alive when their young ladies received their letters, nor that they would be alive to receive replies. And home leave, on the rare occasions when either side could allow it, meant that the moral rectitude of the times was sorely tested by the urgent need to be human and have fun. Dating became more urgent. Passions were heated. After all, can you imagine dying without ever having made love?
Dating Between the Wars
A crazy period for dating. The telephone was no longer in its infancy, but operators did listen on the lines. No call could be considered private. But the "Roaring Twenties" and "flappers" came in with a bang. And yet these were only for the privileged few. Ordinary people, people like you and me, we had the Victorian morality thrust on us still. Chaperoned dating. Careful and tedious and artificial meetings in the front parlour. We would have seen the bright young things in their Fraser Nash cars resplendent in finery as we walked our date home in company from the cinema, and we'd have been envious. Dating carried on very much on two levels, and Marie Stopes had started giving contraceptive advice. Back Street abortions were still a flourishing cottage industry, but the use of condoms had started.
Dating had started to become daring and sexual. And the telephone was being used more and more. Letters still worked, of course. But we were carefree. The War to End All Wars had been won and lost. We had peace.
Dating During the Second World War
Not a good period. More effective weapons brought the fight into the homes of ordinary people. Communications were often disrupted, but letters somehow found their target. And the telephone was more and more common. It hadn't reached the large areas of the poorer people, and guess what? Yes Victorian Morality still reigned supreme. At least at the start of the war.
As life expectancy became briefer the morality was thrust aside and sex and dating were often synonymous. Soldiers, sailors and airmen cold be posted anywhere at the drop of a hat, and they and their girls took brief pleasures. And, pretty much for the first time, women joined the forces. Not in front line roles, but freeing up the fighting men from clerical tasks to go and kill the enemy.
Dating had entered the road that leads to today.
Dating After 1945
If you look back to the immediate post WW2 period nothing seems familiar today. And yet dating had moved on. Introduction agencies had existed before, of course, but now were marketing to the masses, or at least to the masses who had money. And money existed. In all the war ravaged nations the money existed in greater or lesser measure to employ the soldiers who were being demobilised, and nations started to prosper again.
And dating and relationships started to flourish.
Alongside this we were at last rid of the Victorians. We had increasingly reliable contraception. Divorce was no longer unthinkable. Relationships flourished. And, as the 1950s ended and the "Swinging Sixties" began we entered a period leading to the allegedly free love of the 1970s.
In the UK even homosexuality was made legal, in December 1967, and, while not actively encouraged by the authorities, the brave new era of homosexual dating began. It was not yet "gay", for Gay Lib - The Gay Liberation Front - was in its infancy, but it was there. Some will argue vehemently against it, others vehemently for it. We simply note it as a trend and pass on.
The phone played, now, a huge role in dating. The widespread acceptance of phones in quite ordinary households meant that you could always call your intended date and ask them out. Dating by letter almost vanished entirely.
And nothing much changed until the dawn of the world wide web and affordability of personal computers in people's homes to access it. Even then the internet did not deliver much worth having until the mid 1990s. A few pioneers started sites that did a bit here and there, but they mostly required huge IT departments to run and were uneconomic as dating engines. Relational database technology was useful but costly. We wonder if Ted Codd and Chris Date ever envisaged dating websites using their theories?
And then people realised the power of the internet for dating and matching services. The true barrier to the rise of the dating web site was cost. Not the cost of provision, but the cost of access. And as internet access became more affordable then dating websites started to arrive.
And so it is today. Dating has actually come full circle. We are now initiating dates by private message on a dating site, by email, by instant messenger program, in short by the written word. The difference between now and the 1900s? Simply the speed of response and the much less hidebound morality that goes with the twenty first century.