Prior to the Sexual Revolution, sex roles were clearly defined and accepted. We all knew who we were and how to behave. It was commonly accepted, for example, that a man asked a woman out, a man paid for dinner, he opened the door and pulled out her seat. He felt naturally compelled to act this way and she expected it. And loved it.
Women were relatively passive in the dating world, waiting by the phone for him to call and responding to his overtures with polite acceptance.
Then along came Feminism (thank goodness!). As women started to discover our rights and appreciate our strengths, our expectations of men changed. We no longer wanted to be treated as a delicate flower, but as an equal. The 70s saw a strong swing in this direction, then as the 80s, 90s and beyond unfolded, the sexual pendulum swung back to a more moderate place.
And here we are. In a confusing, fuzzy place that offers endless possibilities (as long as you know how to play the game).
I really feel for blokes. They no longer have a rule book on how to play the dating game. Women are no longer a homogenous group with similar expectations and preferences. Women are as complex and idiosyncratic as a fine wine. Or cheese.
Men enter into a gender role predicament each time they get to know a new woman:
- Will she want me to initiate?
- Shall I offer to pick her up on the way to dinner?
- Who should pay?
- Will she be offended if I open the door for her?
- Should I let her choose the restaurant?
One week he may date a woman with one set of responses and the next week, the complete opposite. He can no longer predict how she will respond to chivalry.
Is chivalry, as a behavioural pattern, dead?
The short answer is NO.
As a dating coach, I work with women from all different backgrounds, various age groups and socio-economic sectors. I can honestly say that the vast majority of women DO want a man to be chivalrous.
However, she may not openly admit to this. And herein lies the problem.
Many women are themselves confused about what they should expect of a man, since the liberation of our bras and minds. I see a real conflict between women’s’ heads and hearts. Her head sternly states that she is an independent woman and let no man order her meal, and her heart wishes and hopes that he will open her door and pull out her chair.
So, what are men to do?
My advice to men would be to demonstrate all your wonderful chivalrous behaviours as a starting point. Watch the woman, observe how she responds, and adapt your approach accordingly.
Start with the assumption that she will be open to chivalry.
If you notice that she bristles when you open her door or starts to avoid eye contact when you pull out her chair, pull back. If she warms to you, leans toward you and engages in animated conversation in response to your chivalry – keep it up.
And what can women do?
Ladies, you can pave the way for a more comfortable interaction by making your preferences clear to the man. He can’t read your mind so make it easy for him. Praise him and respond with warmth when he demonstrates the type of behaviour you appreciate – whatever that may be for you.
Chivalry is not dead, and nor should it be. Good manners, respect and mutual admiration are never out of fashion. We just need to be perceptive and use our emotional intelligence to communicate the way we want our chivalry to be delivered and received.