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Book review: From Front Porch to Back seat – dating in capitalism

Book review: From Front Porch to Back seat – dating in capitalism

Posted September. 19, 2015 07:03,   


Dating can be defined as ‘an activity for a man and a woman to spend time together out of the home in order to become intimate.’ The keyword in this sentence is ‘out of the home.’

Originally, dating had meant prostitution out of the home until the early 20th century. At that time, the format of dating was for a man to visit a woman’s home and find out how they think about each other with due formality. However, such style of dating was out of reach for women from lower classes who didn’t have much available space at home to receive male guests. In the 1920s, theaters, cafes, and amusement parks started popping up with the advent of capitalism. Naturally, it led men and women to spend time and enjoy entertainment outside the home, which became a modern style of dating. Dating implied active spending of money, not just spending time together.

A male was supposed to pay for the dating. At that time, women didn’t many financial means to support themselves and men wanted to win women’s favor by spending money. This custom still remains even today when women have economic strength on a par with that of men.

The author, Beth. L. Bailey, views that dating, which is basically designed for show-off and luxury, is a product of the exchange economy in capitalism. “When a man pays for the dating, a woman authorizes his power in the relationship,” says the author.

This book is based on research on the dating customs between 1920 and 1965. As many people sleep together on a first date these days, readers may feel a distance about the book’s contents describing some out-of-date customs such as the ‘marriage encouragement campaign’ sought by Americans in the early 20th century. However, this book leads us to have a fresh perspective on the style of dating that we are used to by pointing out the history and customs of dating, power relation between a man and a woman and acts of consumption around the dating. Could it be too heartless to say that dating, that we regarded as the most beautiful way to express love, is actually a form of relationship influenced by old customs and the capitalism?