The "traditional" Western method of heterosexual courtship consists of a very specific set of rituals: - boy asks girl out, picks her up, pays for dinner, etc. While I often enjoy symbolism, I find the symbolism of this particular ritual troubling and somewhat insulting. It seems, historically, the male has specific, concrete, active ways to show interest in pursuing a relationship with another person: I will pay for your dinner. I will hold the door for you. However, what is the parallel ritual for the female in this situation? (You shouldn't have to think too hard about that one. Hint: rhymes with "put out.") In sub-cultures which discourage sexual relations outside of marriage, there is less of an answer to that question.
Meanwhile, the "hookup" culture seems to be becoming the norm among our generation. Totally absent are traditional dating behaviors. It seems - at least superficially - to be more egalitarian. However, I also find this replacement to "traditional" courtship troubling as well, for different reasons. It does not seem to be a solid basis for forming a lifelong partnership, which is, purportedly, the goal of courtship. At least as a courtship model, hooking up fails.
This puts young people from more traditional sub-cultures, such as LDS, which strongly discourages sexual activity before marriage, in a somewhat awkward position. There is an amalgamation, an entire spectrum of acceptable courtship behaviors present here: from the people who follow the traditional pattern very strictly, to people who opt for a more egalitarian approach (not to mention people who pick and choose). This can make things messy. Extremely messy. And that messiness sort of helps me to see the benefit of having things clearly defined. When there is no formal framework to distinguish a romantic relationship from a simple friendship, the participating parties can easily end up with differing expectations regarding or understandings of the interactions. Recipe for disaster or heartache or at least confusion. That point has been especially driven home for me recently.
So what are we left with?
The traditionally arbitrary, gendered behaviors? Lack of any sort of framework whatsoever within which to place the relationship? Is there some sort of compromise here - some sort of egalitarian ritual we create - perhaps from the traditional pattern superimposed with our current ideals? Or does it come down to that pesky adult behavior called communication?
I am interested in what other heterosexuals think. Also, I'm interested in how individuals within the gay/lesbian community approach courtship.