Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Report From the Dating Front: Who's Your Sugar Daddy?

I am shocked to the degree that dating rituals still assume that the man pays for everything and the woman... doesn't. I don't mind this arrangement for the first two or three dates (and if personal financial considerations make it possible, for the course of the relationship, possibly.) I see good reasons for women to be seeking assurance of mens' financial security, given that in order to have children, women have to more or less put on hold jobs and careers, which they may or may not get back later. In fact, I'm often delighted to be able to treat a date to a night out. But, when it's no longer a treat--and instead becomes an obligation--the hair on my neck stands up. As long as I'm treating, there's no implicit EXCHANGE between a couple. It's a treat. A gift. A lovely evening out. When it becomes an obligation for me to pay, though, what do we assume then is required of the woman for whom I'm paying? Hunh? Yeah, that's what I'm saying. We're a hair's breath from prostitution.

Or not even that far. I've had a couple of experiences with dates who seemed to be 'withholding' sex to (I suspect) convince themselves that they're NOT bartering sex in exchange for a fancy dinner (or, actually, a whole damn series of fancy dinners). When a forty-something woman says she's testing the authenticity of my interest in her 'as a person' by not going to bed with me too soon, I smell a rat. If she can't tell the authenticity of my interest without dating for weeks--as I pay for every drink, dinner, movie ticket, and ice cream cone along the way--then she's got Asperger's Syndrome, for God's sake, or stuck in never-ending adolescene, and way past child-bearing years, to boot.

Why do some women--or at least, the professional women I've been dating who are often more financially secure than myself--feel entitled to me paying for every meal? Every vacation? I thought my generation had resolved this in an earlier stage of feminist activism and awareness-raising. In my twenties, men were discouraged from continuing the seemingly atavistic dating rituals of our parents and grandparents, as they were deemed patronizing (though there has always been leeway to recognize that men were still making a third-to-double the salaries of women for doing the same jobs.) From the guy's perspective, men are being asked to do two things, which my generation considered contradictory: patronize our dates by assuming the financial burden of courtship, while not patronizing them in attitude, respecting their fully adult autonomy. Can both, in fact, be done at the same time, without sacrificing the sense of equal partnership? Without a sense of quid pro quo building up, unspoken but insistent (the quid pro quo may not be money-for-sex, but something else, e.g., money-for-appearance-of-male-control?) I think some of this blog's readers will say yes--and if they do, I hope they tell me why, in comments on this post--but I don't think so, at least not at the dating stage. If, later, the quid pro quo is money-for-child rearing, I get it, though I see that as deeply problematic, too.

If I had more money--as I once did; and as I would if I were not pursuing the acting thing--I'd feel less sore about all this. I might squirm less at being asked to be Sugar Daddy. But, do women really want a daddy, rather than a boyfriend?

Do you?


SamA said...

Maybe, after weeks of dating, a discussion concerning the financial side of dating should be undertaken? I know in some ways it's trickier than talking about sex, but if your uncomfortable asking if she is ever going to pay her own way, maybe there is some concern about her intentions? Nobody feels good about the role of Sugar Daddy if they think that is the only reason they are going out with you. Your right that Women needs to know that a man can take care of his financial responsibilities to his wife and family, but hey, that seems to be jumping the gun a bit. Have a couple of dates where you go dutch (for want of a better term) before you start proving what a great provider you would be. Of course I haven't been on a date for 15 years and would probably pass out if I went on as many dates as you do.
Yes, lets all go back on the stage, it's much safer, or at leats you know what's coming next.
Good luck,

Trish Egan & Harold Phillips said...

The "dating as a metaphor for prostitution" comes up again and again in the modern dating scene (thought I, like Sam, haven't been out on a proper date with someone other than my wife in years). Many women I talk to struggle with the same things you do - they want to be autonomous, but they feel like they're expected to to let the man pay for everything so he feels more manly. It's a recurring stress in a lot of my single friends' lives.

I know that when I was dating, before I married Trish, I always thought found it a mark of quality when a woman offered to pay for the dinner/ movie/ whatever. I still felt honor-bound as a manly-man to pull out my wallet, but I considered the woman that much higher in my own hierarchy of dating prospects because of the offer. If she's financially secure and still wants you to pony up the cash... hm. Not as high on my list :)

David Loftus said...

Yes, it does say a lot (at least to me), if the woman doesn't appear to notice the issue and just lets you keep paying.

Just finished a fascinating book yesterday that addresses this -- and many other gender issues -- from a fairly unique perspective: _Self-Made Man: one woman's journey into manhood and back again_ by Norah Vincent. She's a tall, tomboyish lesbian who dressed as a man for 18 months and entered a variety of male-only venues and activities, from a men's blue-collar bowling league to a men's group and a monastery. She thought the hardest thing would be passing, but that was easy; what was hard was dating women, which, she writes, was "a lesson in female power" and caused her to become "a momentary misogynist." Highly, highly recommended.

Sokrates said...

From the guy's perspective, men are being asked to do two things, which my generation considered contradictory: patronize our dates by assuming the financial burden of courtship, while not patronizing them in attitude, respecting their fully adult autonomy.

I can certainly relate to this dilemma. The dating game can be very confusing to my generation of men (I'm 32), having been raised by women who came of age during the women's-rights era. My mother paid lip service to women's lib (and rightly so, I suppose) but also sought out men who would take care of her. Confusing indeed!

Another facet of this is, "Who asks out whom?" Admittedly, Internet dating has made this easier. But in other situations, should it always be the man who asks for the date? I've heard a lot of women say that it should. What really kills me is when women complain that men don't ask them out more. I mean, is it really that hard for them to pick up the phone (or send off an e-mail)?

But perhaps this simply isn't relevant to Portland. Unlike NYC, it seems that everyone here is married already. (Ha!)

Sokrates said...

Also worth mentioning: Women's-lib icon Gloria Steinem was famous for saying, "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." Yet she was known for dating any number of rich and powerful men.

David said...

Sokrates - please don't confuse my comments with an antifeminist screed. There's nothing antifeminist about my observations and inquiries.

Sokrates said...

Sokrates - please don't confuse my comments with an antifeminist screed. There's nothing antifeminist about my observations and inquiries.


Not my observation at all! I wasn't so much commenting on your observations as sharing some of my own. I'm sorry if anything I wrote was misinterpreted. One danger of blogs and e-mail is that the intention behind one's words can easily be misinterpreted my others.

Anyhow -- break a leg tonight!

jason said...

I think it becomes a problem as soon as you start thinking about it, which for most people is immediately. Somehow "dating" is different than meeting or socializing with anyone else, and I'm not sure it should be. If your intent is romantic involvement, why should sitting down to dinner be some complicated thing? Any more complicated than dinner or drinks with a new friend at the office or some such?
And as far as a "woman's role" or "man's role" goes - I think it's good to remember: EVERYONE is full of shit one way or another. Just because a woman lays claim to being a feminist, that doesn't mean she's RIGHT about everything. I've met plenty of feminists who were selfish and self-absorbed snots like anyone else can be, and who used "feminism" as an excuse for just pissing all over everyone's corn flakes. She wants equal pay in the workplace but she wants YOU to pay for everything? Fuck you, lady, find another chump. You wanna be considered an equal you're gonna hafta act like one.
(remember,kids: I'm a trained professional. Don't try this at home.)