How The Dating Scene Has Changed Over The Years

Fads | November 10, 2017


In the early part of the 20th Century, when a boy was interested in a young lady, he would approach her parents and ask for their blessing. If he was able to get approval, he would then “call on” the young lady. Now, that didn’t mean calling her on the phone. Many families didn’t even have a phone in the home. Calling on a girl meant that the boy would go to her home and visit with her there. Their visits were chaperoned by the parents and they were not to be left alone. After all, we all know what those boys had on their minds. There was to be no physical contact between the two.

The purpose of boys calling on girls was to determine if the two were compatible and wanted to continue with the courtship. During this time, some families were fortunate enough to have a common living area in their home suitable for a young girl to entertain a caller. Other families, however, were not as fortunate. Families that didn’t have a place for girls to entertain their callers, would allow them to go to public places to visit with each other. Going out in public would ensure that there would be no intimacy. That is how, what we now call, “going out on a date,” came to be. If the couple hit it off, they continued dating for a period of time with the idea of marriage in mind.


After the practice of dating became acceptable, most young people decided that going on a date was preferable to awkwardly sitting under the parents’ noses while trying to get to know each other. Dating especially became more popular when people were starting to drive cars. Transportation made dating more convenient, in more ways than one. A boy could extend his radius when choosing a girl to date and it also allowed the couple a little bit of privacy.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s dating became very competitive. Many young people were going to college, but mostly boys. As you can imagine, the boy to girl ratio in most colleges was way out of kilter. At this time, it became a common practice for boys to compete with each other by offering the girls they fancied gifts and money. Also, it was common for both boys and girls to date multiple people at the same time.


As the practice of dating multiple people at the same time evolved, often couples would “go steady.” Going steady meant that the couple would be exclusive and date only each other. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, couples would publicize their exclusive relationships by the boy giving the girl something of his to wear as a sign that she was off limits. Some of the items exchanged were, jackets, sweaters or school rings. Dating became less and less about the approval of the families. By this time, young people had been experiencing some freedom and looked more to their peers for approval. Without Mom and Dad along for the ride, couples were more likely to engage in physical relationships and premarital sex.

During the time that our men and boys were going to war, women found the dating pool got a little shallow. They couldn’t afford to be as picky as in previous years because now the women outnumbered the men. At this point, girls were not as concerned about a boy’s status and what he had to offer; but more so about whether or not he would return. A boy going to war would almost definitely expect premarital sex before leaving. After all, he might not make it back!


By the time the 1960’s rolled around, the counterculture had begun. Along with it came the Women’s Movement and the sexual revolution. During this time birth control pills were available making it even easier to be wild and sexual. Sex outside of marriage became less taboo and more widespread. Not only were single people sleeping around but also married people were seeking other partners; sometimes even other couples. It was a time where just about “anything goes.” Much to the disappointment of conservative America, we had gone from calling on a girl, to dating, to going steady… to just plain “hooking up.” Sex with no relationship! Of course, drugs and alcohol helped break down inhibitions. It was a free-for-all!

Now here we are in 2017 and looking back, it seems that we have taken a step back and regrouped. We are not as rigid as we once were, nor are we as careless. The invention of modern conveniences like computers, cell phones, texting, video chatting, online dating and social media make it much easier to find a mate. I would be neglectful not to mention that the dating practices mentioned in this article were primarily for heterosexual couples. Other types of relationships followed their own evolution and are still evolving. I can say with some degree of confidence that all those boys who had to “call on” girls with her parents breathing down their necks would have appreciated living in this day and age.

Tags: A Brief History Of... | Dating In The 1960s | Dating In The 1970s

Like it? Share with your friends!

Share On Facebook

Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.