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During the courtship process, it was typical for the intended couples to divulge their perceived character flaws to ensure that a long-term commitment would be logical and feasible.This ritual may seem overly cautious, but in a society in which the Catholic Church was an incredibly powerful institution that prescribed marriage as an integral part of God’s plan, this was not a decision that could be made lightly.In the early days of dating, many century America was all social capital, decorum, and familial oversight.Dating did not yet exist in the modern sense; society instead favored a courtship model which almost entirely consisted of one long, parentally-controlled audition for marriage.A woman suspected of dabbling with too many suitors was in danger of becoming publicly regarded as a “coquette,” which essentially socially branded her as a flirt, a disparaging designation in a society that so highly esteemed chastity.A marriage built solely on the forces of emotion and mutual affection was scorned and perceived as irresponsible.
Reputation was also an essential form of social currency that required intimate guarding.Men in the relationship would make their arrangement visible to outsiders by gifting his date a letterman jacket or a class ring, and the girl expected to be called and taken out on dates a certain number of times each week.Consequently, a new concern arose for parents: as young people grew more secure in their committed dating relationships, they became more likely to engage in premarital sexual behaviors. This movement ushered in another paradigm shift; youth rejected the prescribed dating model in favor of a more liberal approach to love and sexuality, and “hookup culture” was born, a shift that emphasizes physical pleasure rather than emotional intimacy.The Women’s Movement led to more women obtaining higher education and becoming integrated into the workforce, and more women began delaying marriage to first establish their careers.This, combined with the increasing availability of birth control, led to a relaxation in attitudes toward premarital sex.
In this system, dating and marriage were viewed as two very separate entities, with marriage marking the graduation from youth into adulthood.