Who should pay on a first date? This is a question discussed and heavily debated over by feminists, writers and sociologists. Not surprisingly, much of the research done on and many of the articles written about first dates and dating are heteronormative. Coming at this question from a feminist perspective, I will consider it in terms of both same-sex and opposite-sex dates. When I began dating during my adolescence, I was not a self-identified feminist; when my opposite-sex dates insisted on paying, I let it go, even though I always offered to pay. Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve now experienced dating both women and men and I am adamant about paying for myself. I don’t believe that the person you’re dating should be expected-irrespective of his or her gender- to pick up the tab. But others may disagree depending on the sexual orientation of the two people on a given first date.
I have feminist friends who disagree with my philosophy about the “rules” regarding who pays on a first date. Many of them agree that if you are a woman going out with a man, he should pay. I am definitely the outlier when it comes to these issues and it honestly shocks me that some feminist women expect men to perpetuate this tradition. For me, the
expectation that the man in a couple should pay for the first date upholds traditional gender roles, which I believe are outdated. So why would I adhere to them on a first date? I also believe that the traditional expectation that men ask women out and then pay for their date is unfair. These ritualistic dating expectations can hurt men as well. Some men feel that these traditions are outdated -whether they identify as a feminist or not- but are still held up to society’s idea of the man’s role in a relationship. If a man wants to split the check with his date, he should not be shamed for wanting to do so.
I decided to ask my sister, her boyfriend and a couple of other people in my life who date regularly what they thought. All of them said that the person who asked the other individual on the first date should pay. I understand this thought, but in many instances it is men who ask women out on these dates. Ultimately, if you are a self-identifying feminist and someone who believes in equality, perhaps it is time to challenge these traditional dating rituals that are all governed and interconnected by our definition of male and female roles and status.
My experience with dating other women has proven to be more egalitarian and the act of defining and reinforcing traditional gender roles has mostly been thrown out of the window. Many queer women value the importance of balancing power within their relationship and it’s often a first date that acts as a precedent for this kind of partnership.
Once again, I asked a couple of people about same-sex dating. Someone said to me “the butchier or the “male” in the couple should pay.” This response pissed me off: There is no male in a lesbian couple and it aggravates me that people still look for ways to apply traditional gender roles to same-sex couples (this is something gay men’s relationships are subjected to as well). It is a way for people to legitimize a same-sex relationship through a heteronormative lens. However, it’s not just heterosexual individuals who perpetuate heterosexism, and indirectly, gender inequality, through same-sex relationships – some lesbians do this as well. Nonetheless, one of the differences I have experienced between
same-sex and opposite-sex relationships is the absence of pre-established gender based roles in same-sex relationships. As a woman, dating other women gives you this added opportunity to define your relationship with your partner free of societal norms and perhaps indirectly redefine our understanding of “normal” male and female roles.
A first date acts as a precedent for the rest of your relationship with another person. If you fight traditional gender roles it is important to inform your date beforehand that you would like to split the check or pay for your own items. Dating is a subject that is redefined by many people, but it is important for you to define your own dating life, whether you decide to pay on the first date, split the check or have your date pay the bill. This is up to you and your partner; you should be given the opportunity to decide what is best for you!