5 Dating Traditions To Update For A Feminist Relationship

By nature, most dating traditions stem from conventional values. Some might prefer to say they're classic, while others may call them outdated, but either way, romantic norms don't always mix well with gender equality. However, that doesn't mean you can't reboot dating traditions for a feminist relationship; although it might take some finangling, the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

There's certainly no shortage of articles about the problematic bits of dating as a feminist in the modern day — spending 15 minutes on any dating app will make it clear that although gender equality has made some headway into mainstream society, there's still a long way to go — but there's far less discussion of what to do about it. Do you pick and choose the customs to which you conform? Do you toss dating traditions out the window entirely? Do you decide it's all far too complicated and move to Antarctica to live among the penguins?

It's all up to you. Feminism means different things to different people, but it often comes down to choice. If you enjoy being courted in all the traditional ways, go for it. If you prefer to make the first move, that's your business. Gender equality is about having the option to do what makes you happy, regardless of whether it's the way things have been done in the past.

So before you throw your hands up in frustration and start planning your new life in the South Pole, remember that there's no "right" way to do things, and dating traditions aren't inherently good or bad — with a little updating, they can be as feminist as you want them to be.

1. Planning Dates

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According to heteronormative traditions, men are supposed to be the aggressors in dating; they make the first move, plan the date, and so on. If you're an unromantic lazy potato such as myself, it's great to have someone take care of all the logistics, but I'm told that some people actually like planning things. If that's your cup of tea, don't let society keep you from doing your thing — get out there and sweep your partner off their feet.

2. The "Three-Date Rule"

Where did the idea that you have to wait three dates to sleep with someone come from? Whether you want to bang your date on the dinner table during the first date (assuming you're in private) or wait until marriage is entirely up to you and your partner, not some outdated dating custom. Furthermore, the three-date rule isn't just arbitrary; it also reinforces rape culture by setting expectations for sex, which can pressure people into sleeping with their date before they're ready.

... OK, perhaps the best way to make this tradition feminist isn't to update it, but to do away with it entirely.

3. Splitting The Bill

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It's been said before, and it will be said again: Gender shouldn't dictate who covers the bill on a date. It's wonderful to treat each other now and then, but the tradition of men paying for dates has some fairly questionable origins — namely, the fact that most women weren't financially independent, so they literally couldn't pay. Why not enjoy the fact that women can pay for themselves and split the bill? If you're in a same-sex couple, it even has the bonus of avoiding the awkward moment when you scrabble for the bill at the same time. Or you can just take turns treating each other — that works, too.

4. Casual Sex

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So far, all these traditions have been fairly, well, traditional, but dating doesn't have to be the precursor to a monogamous relationship. Some people prefer to have a casual partner or see more than one person at a time; it all depends on what you're looking for. Although men are often encouraged to sow their wild oats, women who preferred casual sex were looked down upon in the past, and some of this double standard remains even today. However, relationships (or the lack thereof) are defined by the people in them — don't let society dictate your dating life. If you want monogamy and you and your partner are both on board with it, awesome; the same, however, goes for anything and everything else, too.

5. Marriage Proposals

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Admittedly, this tradition lies at the intersection of dating and wedding traditions, but it's worth noting. If you know you want to marry your partner and they're on the same page, there's no need to wait around for them to propose just because it's tradition.

On the other hand, you can skip the proposal and marriage bit altogether; relationships aren't any less valid when marriage isn't the end goal. Feminism is about giving everyone the opportunity to do their own thing, whatever form that may take.

Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (4); meangirlgifs/Tumblr