Part II: Dating, Mating and Relating

This topic submitted by Kristen, Amy, Kristie, Richelle ( ) at 12:58 pm on 4/29/99. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

In our sample lab we asked the following questions: list the top five characteristic that attract others to yourself, list the top five characteristics that you look for in an ideal mate, why do you date, where do you meet people, and what do you expect on a first date. From these we found similarities between males and females that followed a general trend. The most common characteristic one looks for in an ideal mate, for males and females was personality followed by physical and emotional traits (graph 2a and 3). This was identical to the traits that people said attracts others to one-self (graph 1a and b). The people we studied when asked, "why do you date?", two thirds responded either for fun or companionship and only roughly 10 percent said they were looking for lifetime partners (graph 4). When questioned "where do you meet people?", the three most common responses were parties, extra curricular, dance club, and classes (graph 5). Finally when asked, "what students expect from their first date?", about 35 percent said they would share personal stories, and about 20 percent said they expected other things (graph 6).
We found that women were more descriptive when describing personality traits and men were more descriptive about physical traits. For example, men would say, "tall, thin, blonde" compared to women who would say, "attractive mate". Females on the other hand said they wanted a "friendly, humorous, and respectful mate" while men would only list "nice mate". When listing what attracts others to them, four women responded with, "breast size" while no men responded that this was a characteristic that they looked for.

Discussion and Conclusion:
There are many contributing factors that could explain why we got the results that we did. First of all, we targeted a certain age group, the youngest person surveyed was 18 and the oldest 24. These are all college students living in dorms on Western campus. We predicted that fun and companionship would be the two highest reasons people date. However, if we surveyed an older group of people, we might expect social advantage and other like categories to score higher. People meet possible mates where they go.
Wilson and Nias point out that people are attracted to others with similar traits as themselves. The students surveyed listed classes, parties, extra curricular activities, and dance clubs as the places they most often meet mates. This is because these are the places they have easy access to and would go to anyway (with or without intentions of meeting someone.) Thus, we would predict that an older age group of people might list bars and work more often. A younger group of students might list movies, school, and shopping malls more often because these are places they have access to.
Although about twenty five percent of the students interviewed date for sex, only two percent expect it on a first date. A possible explanation for this is that people want to get to know their partner before engaging in sexual activity. This is supported by our survey in the fact that the majority of the students expected to share personal stories suggesting that they want to get to know each other first. There are many possible explanations for this. First and foremost, we are socialized to believe that sex is something special to be shared with one we love and trust. People are generally not comfortable having sex with someone they don't know very well. There is also the factor of sexually transmitted disease, which is accented by the trust issue. The fact that twenty five percent of the students date to have sex can also be partly contributed to age. College is a time to be free and do what your parents would forbid, therefore, more people may have checked sex as a reason just because they could. From an older crowd we would expect more people to check dress up as an expectation on a first date because sophistication seems to come with age (and a career). Older people tend to be slightly more traditional and are probably dating for reasons other than fun and companionship, as mentioned above. We aren't quite sure if older people would be more likely to expect sex from a first date or not. Probably not, because of sophistication and traditional values and are they also confronted with sexually transmitted diseases, as is the younger generation. However, they are most likely more sexually experienced and thus may have lower standards and less inhibitions. If looking for social advancement, they may be likely to use sex to their advantage.
The surveys supported our hypothesis that the characteristics that students looked for in others would also be what they thought was attractive about themselves. A possible explanation is that people fear rejection, therefore don't set their standard higher than they believe they can achieve. Wilson and Nias explain that people of the same attractiveness level are often found together.
The most important factor contributing to attractiveness is by far, personality. This fact fits nicely with the fact that people are looking for fun and companionship. The fact that the people surveyed were young may play a role in this, but we predict that older people would list the same characteristics as important. Perhaps the reason personality traits are so important lies in the fact that our society is so socially constructed. We can assume that someone with a good personality can go further in life, having more friends and dates, and higher levels of success, thus remaining happier and healthier. This would in turn allow for evolutionary theories of attractiveness to take effect, to higher levels of reproduction and survival. Personality is obviously being selected for in our society, at least among the college students we surveyed.
Females and males generally rated personality as the most important thing determining attractiveness and physical characteristics as second. While there was no significant difference in the likelihood for this response between males and females, it is interesting to not that females were very specific in there listing of personality characteristics that were important to them, using words such as funny, outgoing, talkative, steady, charming, relaxed, and nice but won't let you walk all over him and very general in there physical descriptions, using words such as good body, godly, cute, appearance. Males on the other hand, were just the opposite, using general words to
describe personality, for example, fun, nice personality, stimulating, and being very specific with their physical descriptions, like, five foot seven, blonde hair, blue eyes, skinny, but not too skinny (about 115 pounds), and short hair. We're not sure why this difference is present, but it seems to say that males are more concerned with the looks of their potential partners than females.
Beyond this project, we would have to wonder what our results would be like if we had more people to survey. If we took this project to the next level and included more diverse groups of people. We would expand on age and location, and hopefully this would provide us with more complex economic classes and ethnic backgrounds. This would allow our results to be more universal and more conclusive. We also are inclined to ask about other cultures, what their courtship practices are, what affects them, and what are similarities and differences to our own?
This topic is broad and can be taken in many directions. For further investigation one can look at gender roles and sexuality. We tried to stay mostly within the boundaries of the United States, but other countries have very interesting habits in courting rituals. We focused on humans but the animal world has numerous, fascinating rituals to learn about. To learn more about the dating habits of modern society one simply has to look around you. We suggest that the students may want to give an interview that has different dating experiences then themselves. Either interview someone from a different culture from themselves, a different religion, a different generation, or sexual orientation to learn more about dating habits of someone different. Another technique that could be used is to go into the field and observe how people interact with each other in order to attract a person. Or one could just observe themselves and their own behavior when performing dating rituals. We suggest that the students be creative and study what they find most interesting about our dating habits, the topic is endless, and has something for almost everyone.
Dating and sex are topics that many people find interesting. One only has to look at the success of figures like Dr. Judy, who did a radio show about sex, or go to the library to see how many books are written on the subject. We directed our curriculum to people in their late teens and early twenties, this is a time of sexual discovery. It is the age in which people are beginning to find their lifetime partners, and are making critical choices about sex. In our generation, it is extremely important to be educated about issues of sex, so one can act responsible, and feel more comfortable about sex, and dating. This curriculum addresses many important issues, and will capture student's attention.


1. Brown, Philip. The Death of Intimacy. Haworth Press, 1995.
The first chapter discusses identity and intimacy and then goes on to explain intimacy in the family. There is a wonderful chapter on dating and courtship, which has a wonderful section on the psychological significance of love. The book also explains divorce, therapy, and sex vs. intimacy. It is great for researching.

2. Cate, Rodney and Lloyd, Sally. Courtship. Sage Publications, 1992.
This book begins with the importance, roles, and personality factors that influence courtship factors. It then goes to an extensive history of courtship, dating back to Colonial times to the present. There is also a huge section on physical violence and sexual aggression later in the book. The book ends with future perspectives on courtship. Overall, this was a wonderful and very insightful book.

3. Levine, Arthur and Jeanette Cureton. When Hope and Fear Collide: A Portrait of Today's College Student. Jossey-Bass Publishers. San Francisco, 1998.
This was a very helpful book in understanding modern dating among college students. It has an entire chapter devoted to how young adults are retreating from two-person intimacy and choosing group dating instead. Since it is such a recent work and provides so much up to date information about college age students and their dating habits, it is an invaluable resource material for this education project.

4. Odzer, Cleo Ph.D. Virtual Places Sex and the Cyber Citizen. The Berkley Publishing Group. New York, NY 1997.
Virtual Places is an ethnography of cyber sexual relations by Dr. Cleo Odzer. Dr Odzer ventured on to the Internet into the underground world of cyber sex. She gives detailed accounts of what happens here in these "virtual places" and how people interact sexually via computer, without physically coming in contact.

5. Ollenburger, Jane and Helen Moore. A Sociology of Women: The Intersection of Patriarchy, Capitalism, and Colonization. Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 1992.
This book is also an invaluable resource for this education project. It explores in depthly how women have been treated in history and are being treated today. It examines how the media and traditional ideas about women's place are still effecting how women behave today. This carries into how men and women date and what each of them expects from dating. This book is a wonderful resource for understanding women, and how men and women relate due to sociological structures.

6. Sarrel, Lorna J. M.S.W. and Philip M. Sarrel, M.D. Sexual Unfolding. Little, Brown and Company Inc, United States of America 1979.
Sexual Unfolding is a project by Lorna and Philip Sarrel. They discuss the adolescent sexual experience, and the transition of youth sexuality through a sexual revolution. The book tells of the early dating experiences, and discovery of the body of college students. This text also recognizes many of the social changes and how they affect the development of sexuality.

7. Tiefer, Leonore. SEX is Not a Natural Act and other essays. Westview Press Boulder, CO 1995.
SEX is Not a Natural Act is a collection of essays that Leonore Tiefer did. She has previously written for newspaper and magazines, but she considers herself a sexologist and has a Ph.D. in psychology. This collection of essays takes a feminist approach to sex and sexuality. Tiefer discusses sexual normality, sexual orientation, and sexual biology among other topics about sex that tries to argue her point that in the human species "sex is not a natural act.

8. Wilson, Glenn and David Nias. Love's Mysteries: The Psychology of Sexual Attraction. Open Books, London. 1976.
Wilson and Nias did an extensive study of the different aspects of love and relationships. There was a lot of good relevant information in this book, however it had to be sorted through. The book is outdated, and "mismeasure" concepts can be applied to it. The authors are biased against women and homosexuals and it is apparent in the research and presentation of information. However, once the reader understands the author's biases, there is still information that appears to be valid and is useful.

9. Wolf, Naomi. Promiscuous. Random House publishers New York, 1997.
Naomi Wolf describes the many struggles a girl must overcome when she becomes a woman. Promiscuous is an account of a young woman growing up during a sexual revolution and how that affected her sexual growth and understanding. It tells of how she was educated about sex and her body, and the affects it had on her life.

10. Do You Know What you're Drinking?
This is an informational flyer that was posted on Miami's campus about Rohypnol, the date rape drug. The intent is to educate students about the use of and effects of the drug to increase awareness and minimize harm.

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