Public Square Magazine Primary White, Gold & Black Logo | PublicSquareMag | What is Public Square | Politics, Faith & Family | Home | Public Square Magazine
Couple Dancing Classic Ballroom | Celebrating Gender Difference in Courtship | Public Square Magazine | What is Traditional Courtship | Traditional Dating vs Modern Dating

More than a Door: Celebrating Gender Difference in Courtship

Is traditional courtship outdated? Modern views that erase these customs lose the gender-specific rituals that enhance heterosexual relationships. We should celebrate and preserve these gendered differences.

To my progressive friends, men and women are practically the same, the only difference worth mentioning being that men are more privileged. They mock traditional courtship rituals such as the man asking the woman out on the first date, paying for it, holding the door open for her, walking her to her door at the end of the date, and generally being the pursuer in the relationship.

Once after a breakup, I reminisced to a friend about how I missed my ex-boyfriend, remembering how I appreciated him trying to take care of me and demonstrating he would be a good protector and provider. My friend lectured me, telling me I was being sexist for my comments and that I should be a strong, independent woman who didn’t “need” a relationship. According to her, nothing about dating or relationships should reflect a difference in gender. Specifically, she said that men opening doors for women is backward, and there shouldn’t be any regard for gender in offering such gestures. Her comments seemed to reflect the attitude of many in today’s culture.

Despite modern society’s insistence, the idea that men and women aren’t inherently different and any gesture implying that they are is wrong goes against our nature. When a man walks a woman to her door after a date, he is reflecting his responsibility to protect, and the woman is likely going to appreciate it. That is the way we inherently are, and there is nothing wrong with that. Trying to deny that is denying our nature. 

Our culture used to have rules to help navigate courtship.

At times it can be good to question customs, for sometimes it is beneficial to abandon or alter previous generations’ ways of doing things. But to me, getting rid of constructive customs like men holding the door open for women takes some of the flavor and meaning out of our interactions, especially in courtship. As a single woman, I am more attracted to men when they act like men, and that means acting differently than women in some ways. As articulated by Brett McKay in The Illustrated Art of Manliness, “Rules and traditions give life texture and meaning. Sameness is boring. Difference creates attraction.”

Dating rituals such as men holding the door open or walking the girl to her door make a date different than hanging out. I agree with Brett McKay; if men and women act the same way on a date as they would getting tacos with friends, then dates lose some of what makes them interesting, fun, and special.

As I thought about it, stigmatizing the celebration of gender differences in courtship privileges homosexual relationship ideals over heterosexual ones. Erasing gender differences might work if one is pursuing a same-sex relationship, but it’s straight-phobic to expect heterosexuals to have the same ideals. As a heterosexual woman, I don’t want a relationship with a guy who acts just like a woman. I want a man. And the men I know generally appreciate women who are not only intelligent and capable but who embrace their femininity. Heterosexuals aren’t interested in the opposite gender just because of physical attraction but because they are different. Celebrating these differences makes relationships, especially romantic ones, not only more meaningful but interesting.

Couple Hand-in-Hand in a Garden, Symbolizing Romantic & Gentlemanly Conduct | Celebrating Gender Difference in Courtship | What is Traditional Courtship | Public Square Magazine
A courting couple walking through a garden reflecting the simplicity of how courtship used to be.

Progressives are offended by the notion that the genders are different and that women should strive for femininity while men strive for masculinity. But this is them placing their post-gender values on heterosexual, cis-gender people. It’s like a new form of imperialism.

When I express the importance of men embracing masculinity, many of my progressive friends think I expect men to be toxic, emotionless brutes. But for the most part, traditional masculinity has offered more range for masculine expression than many modern thinkers give it credit for. In “The Necessity of Chivalry,” C. S. Lewis explains that chivalry encourages men to be brave and gentle, explaining that they need to encourage their protective instincts when necessary while also being sensitive enough to express tender feelings when appropriate. I’ve known men who enjoy choir and other stereotypically “soft” interests, but I still consider them to be masculine if they willingly embrace their responsibilities as protectors and providers. Masculine ideals have more often been like how C. S. Lewis describes Lancelot as both fighting courageously in battle and being meek in court rather than being Gaston from Beauty and the Beast.

Unfortunately, we often aren’t teaching young men how to express chivalry. Our culture used to have rules to help navigate courtship. Now young adults are entering the dating world with little idea of what “rules” to follow. This creates problems because many women want men to act like gentlemen, but many young men don’t know how. I’ve been surprised how many guys I’ve been on dates with seem oblivious to gestures such as walking me to my door afterward, but I can’t blame them because they likely weren’t taught to.

As Brett McKay expressed, “Rules and traditions give life texture and meaning.” For too long, our society has attempted to erase rules and tradition, and as a result, many young people are confused and wandering. It’s time to recommit to celebrating our differences and the rituals that make courtship different than hanging out.

About the author

Meg Marie Johnson

Meg Marie Johnson recently graduated with her master’s in English at BYU. She writes adaptations of classics for children and young adult social satire. Her interests include philosophy, foreign languages, art history, and the gospel. You can often find her in the dry regions of Washington state with her parents, seven siblings, and two sheep.
On Key

You Might Also Like

A Look at Pastoral Burnout

Most American faiths are facing a shortage of pastors due to burnout and the avoidance of ministry among young people. Are there lessons from the Latter-day Saint experience that can help our fellow Christian brothers and sisters?

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

Stay up to date on the intersection of faith in the public square.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This