A History of Dating (A Blog Series on Dating, 1 of 4)

With my oldest daughter turning 9 this month, which makes me realize she’s halfway to moving out of the home, and also, with the numerical increase of millennials and generation Z’s being led to the church I get to serve, the topic of dating wisely has been on my heart. 

[This blog is the first in a series of four blogs on dating for single people and for parents raising children.] 

To kick off this blog series on dating, it’s probably a healthy first step to understand how fast the dating process has progressed (I should say, how it has regressed). Here’s a history on dating: 

History of Dating

In 1896, the word dating was first used as lower-class slang for prostitution. To date someone meant you were soliciting a prostitute (I see patterns today in culture where modern dating still includes some sort of prostitution).  

The Parlor With Her Mother and Father and His Shotgun

In the early 1900’s if a young couple wanted to get married, here’s how it would go down: Dad and mom would have a front room in their house called a parlor. There would be some nice chairs, maybe a piano, some big paintings on the wall. 

If dad and mom had a lovely daughter who was near the age of marriage, they would make a list of qualified, approved male suitors who earned the right to be interviewed by the girl’s parents. A letter of acceptance would go out to the young men stating something like, Congratulations, you’ve been approved to interview with us to court our daughter.

After receiving this invitation to interview, the young man would clean himself up, put on a suit, comb his hair, get rid of foul body odors and he would go to the girl’s house, sitting in the front parlor. Dad and mom would sit with him, and the girl would sit in the back of the room (this was social distancing before it was a 21st Century trend).  

Dad and mom would then drill the young man with questions, Do you love the Lord? What are your intentions? Do you have a job? Are you ambitious? Are you gracious? Do you have goals? Are you a drunk? Do you own a Bible? Can we see your Bible? 

They would have this conversation to get him thinking seriously, they would feed him some small snacks and tea (not dinner, they don’t want him hanging around too long). Later on, if he was a healthy prospect in the parents eyes, they would notify him again, and through more interviews, if he was deemed worthy, he could talk to their daughter, maybe end up marrying her. 

This was a long process where the young man would have to come onto her family’s property, play by her parent’s rules, and the young man and the young woman weren’t even permitted to be alone together. Dad was always watching. With a shotgun in hand. And a whisky. A loaded shotgun.

Women’s Magazines

But then something happened in the early 1900’s women’s magazines started gaining steam in popularity as they were put in the hands of these young women wanting to marry. The Ladies Home Journal by the year 1910 had over 1 million subscribers. 

Instead of a young lady taking wisdom on what a godly woman is and looks like from their Bible, or their mom or grandma, or their church, now they’re getting advice and looking at pictures from magazines who are saying that this is what a woman should look like, this is fashion and sexuality. These magazines still exist today, they’re very popular and are in every grocery check out line. Have you read through Cosmo or Vogue? There aren’t a lot of Bible verses in them. They teach you how to break all the commandments from God while spewing lies on how to get a good man. 

Women started reading these magazines and they began thinking, Oh, maybe I don’t show enough cleavage. Oh, I need to listen to my desires and my heart over my God. Oh, I need to sleep around to have fun and see what I like. This is what’s called normal. Now I get it.  

Growth of Urban Cities

What happens in the 1920’s is that urbanization became exciting and contagious where everyone is moving to the city and working in the city. Since the city is full of creative and hard-working people who need an outlet, the entertainment industry exploded. There’s restaurants and movie theaters and dance halls.  

What happened is young ladies were being taken away from their home to go eat, drink, dance with boys the parents don’t know. There’s no, dad and mom get to know the boy in the parlor of the girls home anymore. Today if you watch the ABC show The Bachelorette, the girl’s parents aren’t meeting the aspiring boys episode 1. The girl is making out with boys in episode 1.

The Automobile Takes Her Away 

This process of going from the woman’s domain (her parents house) to the man’s domain (wherever he wants to go) picks up fast in the 1930’s with the mass production of the automobile. Young men buy cars, they pull up to the girl’s house beep beep, honk the horn, the girl comes running out of the house and drives away instead of the boy parking his car and visiting with the parents on the front porch or in the front parlor room. 

He takes the girl out on a date where she spent all day trying to look pretty and attractive and her heart is involved with this boy so she’ll go where he takes her.

A little later on, the young man begins to realize, Wow, I are spending a lot of money just to go on a date. I bought a car, a few suits, and I’m picking up the tab at dinner and at the club, and I’m not getting anything in return. 

There became this uncomfortable pressure from the boy onto the girl to neck/make out/go too far/have sex. Because after all this spending of money and time, at the end of the night the girl saying, thank you wasn’t enough for these guys. 

This is where I believe dating became a form of prostitution. The guy pays for the entire evening, and he unfairly expects physical affection in return.

The guy would insinuate that the girl owes him, that there needed to an exchange, money for affection. Some of ladies reading this have felt this pressure so what the women came up with was this term going Dutch, apparently the Dutch are very cheap people, and it’s where both sides of the date split the check. Women everywhere declared, Tonight I will pay for my own steak and he can’t touch me. 

The Feminist Movement

The 1960’s come along and the feminist movement begins to grow and gain an audience. And their cause was this: we want women to be treated like men! The shortcoming with this movement is that men don’t treat other men that well. There was a day where if a woman walked into the room, all the men would stand up out of respect, open the door for her, seat her nicely but feminism said, treat us like men, well, as men, we don’t stand up for you, we don’t compliment you, we use you, rip you off, lie to you, hurt you. 

The Sexual Revolution

Next comes the sexual revolution in the 60’s and 70’s (to be truthful, the first sexual revolution occurred in the 1920s, so don’t let your grandparents tell you it’s the hippies fault on why sex is so casual today).

Another sexual revolution happened in the mid 1960’s where young adults basically spent 7-8 years completely naked. The clothing manufacturers in the 1960’s-70’s declared bankruptcy because no one was wearing clothes.

Sex goes from being a committed intimate act to a hobby with not much emotion involved, there’s an increase in sexual diseases and pregnancy outside of marriage. 

With this revolution came their scripture: The first Playboy magazine was issued with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. With each risqué issue, there’s no dad or mom on the cover with them, no Bible, no clothes and Playboy and Penthouse go from behind the counter to on the shelves and now we’ve got women investing in magazines on how to make your man happy, and we’ve got men addicted to pornography, investing in the lie that this is what all women should look like and what they should do.

With all of this sleeping around we were given birth control pills and condoms and other contraceptives but people were still getting pregnant before marriage and before maturity so in 1973 our country legalized institutional abortion. 

The marriages are falling apart because lusting eyes and flirting tongues and an improper view of each other was the norm but it was still considered just fine. In 1974 the lawmakers in America passed the edict of no fault divorce. It’s not your fault, it’s not my fault, we’ll just say it didn’t work out and go date other people.  

Dating Today

Today it’s been magnified times ten with sleeping around before marriage and divorce after marriage and parents not raising godly children in how they date. Even young adults not being faithful to God in their 20’s.

80% of  Christians ages 18-29 years old are having sex before marriage (Not 80% of young adults, 80% of so-called Jesus-followers).

In just a matter of a few generations, we have this meltdown in culture and very few are saying, Hey, this isn’t working. I’m still broken and lonely and empty. Maybe we should repent? Maybe we should go back 100 years and see what was working then? We just keep trying solve our own mess with protection, abortion, divorce, lazy parenting, avoiding the Bible while all this time we should’ve just brought our mess to Jesus and let Him cleanse it and show us the right way to have an intimate relationship. 

In 1970, 36% of Americans were unmarried. 
In 1980, it went up to 39%. 
In 1990 it went up to 41%. 
In the year 2000, 44% of American adults were unmarried. 
And today it’s at 51%

People aren’t getting married because their parent’s marriage or divorce scared them, and if they can sleep together, live together, play house, and get some of the benefits of marriage without having any of the obligation or commitment that marriage requires, they’ll do it.

Sex used to be just for married people. Then it was, oh, but we’re engaged, we’re gonna for sure get married so let’s have sex. Then it was, we’re dating and we’re serious. And now people just have sex with anyone. The term friends with benefits has come along. Personally, I’m friends with a lot of people, only one of those friends gets benefits from me and that’s my wife. Benefits to me are like medical and dental and retirement and when McDonalds brings the McRib back each year. Not sex.

The average age of a man on his wedding day today is 30.
For females it’s 28. 

In 1960, the average age of a man on his wedding day was 23, and the bride was 20. 

In Europe, they don’t believe in marriage anymore because in some countries you can get married and have a 3-4 year relationship and then the marriage license expires like a driver’s license. 

We need to admit this culture isn’t working. This culture is a lie. People are not complete and happy without Jesus. People are not fixed by doing whatever they want. We need an alternative. We need a different way to live. We need Jesus. We need the Bible. We need to get back in the parlor with the dad and mom (which, dad and mom need a godly, committed marriage to showcase). 

If culture and our natural desires lead to destruction in relationships, how are young adults to be while dating and what wisdom are parents to give to their children when it comes to dating?

This is my attempt in this 4-part, mini-blog series.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 


Published by zachstewart81

Follower of Jesus, daily. Husband of Whitney. Father of Crosbee Lane and Izzy Cate. Lead Servant at Twin Oaks Christian Church (www.twinoakschristian.com). Thankful for God's grace and patience.

3 thoughts on “A History of Dating (A Blog Series on Dating, 1 of 4)

  1. When my wife and I were married, we were both 22 – which was young for our extended families. We waited until we both finished college, married in June, spent time as summer missionaries in Eastern Washington (State), then off we went to the Bay Area to begin seminary. This was 48 years ago. . . .


  2. Another thought: When I was a teen in the mid-1960’s, some well-meaning church member gave me a book about the pitfalls of dating, dancing, touching and the lusts thereof. I didn’t have those thoughts before that book – but I did afterward! I no longer have that book, and no child or grandchild will ever see that book. On the other hand, I may have been peculiar. The few times I danced, I refused to slow-dance (personal choice for obvious reasons), and I didn’t date anyone I wasn’t willing to marry. Yeah, peculiar.


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