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Alright, Let’s Talk About It: Who Should Pay on a Date?

Alright, Let’s Talk About It: Who Should Pay on a Date?:

Last week international “dating expert” Matthew Hussey posted a controversial video in which he asked a roomful of women at a seminar the age-old question: WHO SHOULD PAY ON DATES? The video went viral (at the time of writing this column it has been viewed 16 million times). Almost 40,000 comments later, it’s clear Hussey struck a nerve.

In my opinion, the most remarkable thing about the video–aside from the fact that Hussey looks like he left his 90s boy band behind and I’m not sure if he’s gonna make it solo—is the interaction that follows his lead question, “Who should pay?” The majority of the women responded with a resounding “MAN!”

Hussey retorts:

“He’s supposed to pay. But you’re supposed to have sex with him whenever he says.”

Those are some pretty stunning mental gymnastics. The most disturbing part is that no one at the seminar or from what I read in the comment section appears to take issue with the deeply flawed logic that just because he buys her dinner she somehow owes him sex. That so many people tacitly agree to these terms, whether consciously or not, points to the more important question we should be asking: How the hell did it become DINNER = SEX?


TAKE A HIKE?
Nothing better illustrates this unspoken expectation than a date I had last Friday. I had plans with a man whom I have been seeing on-and-off for years. We usually go for a hike, have a fancy sushi meal and follow it up with hot-tubbing and phenomenal sex. Friday morning, however, I woke up with horrible cramps.

So I texted him:

“Looking forward to later today but just a heads up I have the worst cramps ever and my monthly visitor just decided to come ruin my life so I’m happy to hike and dine but not feeling all that sexy. I just wanted you to have all the information in advance so you aren’t disappointed. If you would like to reschedule to 5 days from now I totally understand. ”

He replied:

“No worries. Appreciate the ‘no sex tonight’ heads-up. Still looking forward to tonight.”

Later on while we were hiking he put it more bluntly. “Do you really think the only reason I take you to dinner is so I can fuck you?” Well, no. I don’t think that’s the only reason, but the fact that I even felt the need to say something points to a deeply-internalized sense of obligation (and probably some unresolved issues around self-worth).

However, I have also been with men who absolutely felt entitled to a piece of ass or at the very least, a kiss, after paying for a single meal. I’m not alone. A good friend of mine recently was out with a guy who went in for a sloppy kiss that was not reciprocated and then proceeded to cop a feel because “he wanted to see what he was working with”—all just because he bought her a drink. Granted, this man is the height of douchebaggery, but unfortunately this story is more common than you might think.

DINNER = SEX
After posing his (borderline rapey) hypothetical (“…you’re supposed to have sex with him whenever he says”), Hussey continued: “But where does this double-standard come from? I’m sorry. It’s the reality. You can moan at it all you want, but the moment you say to a guy, ‘You have to fucking pay for my time,’ you’re saying this relationship isn’t equal. My time is worth more than yours, so you should pay for it. I wonder what paradigm that sets up.”

Whether he realizes it or not, Hussey is implying that it is women who set up the expectation that dinner = sex. Newsflash: Women didn’t exactly invent this little custom. Equality is a pretty fucking recent development. So maybe cut us some slack because this is new territory for everyone. No one really knows how to navigate it perfectly because we are in the midst of a massive shift. For the first time in our history women have unparalleled levels of CHOICE and FREEDOM. Up until about the last century, the only real options we had were to become a wife or a nun. In a recent interview on Real Time with Bill Maher, Rebecca Traister, author of the book All the Single Ladies said:

“The fact that circumstances have changed, and now [women] can be earners, they can participate in public and political life, they can have liberated sex lives, they can have families without being married…it remaps a women’s adulthood in ways that are totally unprecedented. And it is discomfiting to a lot of people.”

After the sexual revolution and women entering the workforce we now have the opportunity to earn (almost) as much money as a man.

(SIDE NOTE: I have heard enough men say this that I feel the need to address it–the fact that you take us out to dinner occasionally does not justify the wage gap. Please stop. This argument bears no weight.)

But I can understand the frustration from men when a woman says she wants gender equality yet expects a man to pay. That absolutely is a double-standard. In fact, it was shocking to see, in the comment section of Hussey’s video, how many women take this stance. It’s 2016, ladies. That we should, at the very least, pay our way or even gasp ask a man out to dinner and pay, should not be viewed as “controversial” or revolutionary. You can’t have your equality and expect dinner, too.

COURTSHIP VS. ENTITLEMENT
Hussey goes on to say, “If you go on a date and you don’t offer to pay your share, you weren’t taught right. If you go on a date, and he doesn’t pay, he wasn’t taught right.”

I don’t think the “who should pay” debate comes down to a simple answer of what’s “right or wrong.” There are too many shades of gray, and interpersonal dynamics are different for every couple in each phase of the relationship.

For me, it’s a matter of etiquette. In the beginning of a new relationship, whoever asks, that’s who should pay. It’s just proper manners. I will always offer to at least get the tip. If I’m dating a man who makes way more than I do—and I can’t afford to pay at the really nice places he loves—on date No. 2 or 3 I usually treat him to what I’ve deemed the Holy Trinity: home-cooked dinner, backrub and a blowjob. If I enjoy his company I’m going to be excited about doing it, not feel obligated.

With my ex-husband, once we evolved past early dating and into “going steady” we went Dutch almost every time thereafter. We both made about the same amount of money, and we had started viewing our life and finances as a partnership.

Some people are more traditional in their ideas of gender roles, and others are more non-traditional. Some men find it emasculating to ever allow a woman to pay. They see it as their role to be the provider, and they are happy to always pick up the tab. Many women view courtship from this traditional ideal and were raised that a lady never pays. They may believe a man invests in what he values, and if he invests in you he’s more likely to value you. They also see his ability to pay for dinner as a signal that he’s a good provider. Again, I don’t think there is a blanket right or wrong in this case. I just think you should partner up with someone who shares the same values.

Many women aren’t looking for a man to provide financial stability anymore. In fact, I’m not looking for a man to fill any need. I’m a liberated woman. I have no problem paying for a broke man’s Uber to my house on a night when I’m horny. (Yes, Uber delivers dick now.) But if I happen to meet someone, and we consistently enjoy one another’s company, I’m not going to rule out having a partner either, because the buddy system (with the right person) makes life a lot easier and enjoyable.

Courting goes both ways. If I’ve learned anything in my years of dating, it’s that obligation and expectation are the mothers of resentment. The anger and frustration on both sides of the “should he pay” argument comes from a sense of entitlement either the man or the woman has about what he or she deserves and the feeling of being taken advantage of when they aren’t getting it.

Relationships that work are the ones where two people come together and care equally about one another’s well-being. If you buy a woman dinner for a reason other than, “This woman is delightful, and I would like to know her better,” you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Because if you’re going into a dinner thinking, “What can I get from this?” don’t be surprised when you attract someone who’s wondering the same thing, too.

Bridget Phetasy is a writer and comic in Los Angeles. Twitter: @BridgetPhetasy.

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