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As the American conception of intimacy evolves, so does society’s approach to dating.

A society’s prescribed method of courtship is incredibly illuminating: As we trace the timeline of dating rituals, we can get a better sense of how Americans throughout time understood love and, by extension, the world.

Women became less concerned with a man's status and more interested in his likelihood of survival.

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No longer was quantity emphasized, but rather the stress fell on finding a loyal partner.

This change was partially catalyzed by the scarcity of young males in the United States, as nearly all able-bodied men between 18 and 26 were engaged in the war effort across seas.

With the advent of new technologies (cell phones, social media, Tinder, etc.) and the changing definitions of traditional dating and families, modern dating is a more fluid and self-interpreted concept, very different from the relational context of the past.

It is important to note that historically many of these mainstream rituals were strictly confined to heterosexual dating.

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.

This new romantic character of courtship plainly took form in the forsaking of traditional highly formalized love letters in favor of letters with a more endearing and poetic tone.

But despite this move towards emotionally based relationships, the compatibility of matches was still strongly emphasized.

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.

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