A look at the cultural history of dating

By Jens Haberlein
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
A look at the cultural history of dating
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Finding a partner has never been so easy and yet so difficult

Dating in the offline and online world can have its pitfalls

Dating has changed over time. It is not necessary to go far back into the past. 20 years ago you met at the disco, today on Tinder or Facebook. The cultural history of dating examines the changes over time. Anyone who looks into it a little makes an amazing realization: while the possibilities of finding a partner may have changed, the basic feeling remains the same.

Ein Blick in die Kulturgeschichte der PartnersucheFrom the ad to Tinder

The idea of romantic love is an invention of modern times. Before that, love marriage was rare, as you can easily read in a cultural history of dating. A relationship was a community of convenience. The husband provided for the wife, who in turn took care of the household and the children. Especially for women, marriage was a matter of survival. Emotions had no place here. The cultural history of dating teaches that those days are gone. Today, both partners are allowed to have feelings.

If you weren’t lucky enough to have a nice man in the neighborhood, you tried a marriage announcement. Space was unfortunately limited and there was little opportunity for accurate introductions. Dating here was a matter of luck and often the desire arose in one or both partners to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

Hier lieber nicht klicken...

Today, the search for a partner takes place on the Internet. At first glance this seems to be a great advance, but in the culture of dating it is not. Basically, the partner seeker on Tinder or Facebook just spreads a relationship ad. The superficiality has increased. In the cultural history of dating, external characteristics have always dominated over internal values. This has reached a new dimension with portals like Tinder. It’s all about looks now. Those who do not like are simply wiped away. The next potential partner is already waiting.

Ein Blick in die Kulturgeschichte der PartnersucheDating is uncertainty

The cultural history of dating reveals a fundamental commonality between the past and the present. Dating is an eroticism of insecurity. Often the meetings take place and took place in cheap pubs, cafes or hour hotels. This brings them almost to the proximity of prostitution. In the US, that’s illegal in most states. Whether couples had sex in the car after a date or a woman got paid for it is not for an outsider to judge.

Both found themselves at the police station. It was not much different in Germany after the war. A woman who stayed over at a man’s house quickly got a reputation for being a lightweight. Many aspects in the cultural history of dating originated in the USA, but can easily be transferred to the conditions in Germany.

If you date men or women with the intention of entering into a relationship or a one-night stand, you have to expect to go to bed alone. Despite extensive profiles and longer chats, you don’t really get to know a partner. Going on a date is comparable to an adventure where the outcome is more than uncertain.

If you take a look at the statistics instead of the cultural history of dating, you’ll find that most couples met not on Tinder, but in the workplace. There you learn much more about your partner than on Facebook. The first date is a success and soon the wedding bells are ringing.

In the search for a partner, the human being becomes a commodity

In the cultural history of dating, there is one aspect that is not very pleasant, yet it must come up. Dating is self-exploitation. This means that the partner seeker must market himself if he wants to be successful on the dating market. It starts with the trendy jeans, the trendy hairstyle and the fanciest pair of shoes. Anyone who refuses to take part in this self-optimization is immediately dealt a bad hand. Man not only experiences himself as a commodity, he becomes a commodity. The social philosopher Erich Fromm expressed this in his book “To Have or To Be” more than 40 years ago.

Generation Kontaktabbruch: Wisch und weg?

There is no inner development, because that is no longer necessary. It’s what’s on the outside that counts, that’s how people are judged. Whoever wears the latest Armani watch must be a good, kind and soulful person. That this statement is not true is impressively proven by the divorce figures.

This marriage of love and commerce is taken to the extreme with some platforms that are all about pictures. The question “Do you want to get to know me?” must be answered by the partner seeker based on the picture alone. In the cultural history of dating, this is the preliminary culmination of a development, which, however, has not yet been completed.

In the waiting room of the relationship

Throughout the cultural history of dating, models have been discussed that emphasized only one aspect of the relationship. For example, in “The Last Tango in Paris,” Marlon Brando met with a young French woman for noncommittal sex. While this was enough to cause a scandal in the 70’s, it is very common practice in the present. Expressions such as “friend with special privileges” or “friendship plus” make the change in behaviour clear. If you are not looking for friendship or a relationship, you will find many partners in the various forums who are happy to get involved.

Hier lieber nicht klicken...

But you don’t have to go that far. Those who would like to be in a relationship, but for some reason don’t feel ready for it, can spend a lot of time dating without having to get into a relationship. He’s always making moves that he doesn’t make. Five minutes on Tinder on your phone in a doctor’s waiting room then replaces a functioning relationship. There are also examples of this in the cultural history of dating. Shared housing is considered by many to be a precursor to a real relationship. You live close together, but you don’t have a real relationship.

Ein Blick in die Kulturgeschichte der PartnersuchePartner search – Quo vadis?

The cultural history of dating is far from complete and the question arises as to where the development is going. The longing for real, deep feelings is there. If you study the television program, you will find many television series and movies that satisfy this longing. The development that the cultural history of dating is taking at the moment is unfortunately leading in the opposite direction. Love and commerce have always formed a pair, but now the interlocking seems to have become tighter.

Further up is the sentence, dating is self-exploitation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s up to each individual to stand up to it and show some humanity when dating. Getting blocked or getting a basket both hurt. Everyone should be aware that on the other side is a person who has feelings. In the cultural history of dating, dating always began with the visual. However, one should not stop there.

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