When Yale began admitting women in, ahem, 1969, the romantic scene at Yale underwent a drastic reformation. Yale men, who traditionally maintained an intimate kinship with Vassar women, no longer had to set their sights beyond the Cross Campus lawn for their pursuits. With both sexes living in close quarters, the opportunity for romance and sexual gratification appeared greater, at least in theory.
Now, 33 years later, how far has courtship at Yale come along? In this era of equal rights, “girl power,” and the modern independent woman, it has become increasingly acceptable and commonplace for girls to be the ones asking out the guys. In a sexually enlightened environment such as Yale, how exactly has this dynamic affected the way guys and girls do business?
Anna Peltzer, a sophomore in Silliman, said girls are typically more reluctant to ask out a guy because the emotional stakes are higher. She said she knows many girls who are against the idea of asking a guy out in principle, yet subtly control a situation to win over the objects of their affection.
“Girls won’t usually verbalize recognition, so they will enact means for the guy to verbalize it,” Peltzer said. “They will completely manipulate the situation to make it seem like it was the guy’s idea.”
Laura Finkelstein ’04 said she sees no problem with girls who take the initiative in mapping out their romantic destiny. Having asked out a guy on a romantic date before, she said there was nothing awkward about it.
“I guess there are guys that might feel threatened by a girl asking them out, but generally I think it’s pretty socially acceptable for a girl to ask a guy out,” Finkelstein said.
But if girls are taking the initiative nowadays, what happens to the thrill of the chase? Though some men may feel that it is their duty to do all of the pursuing, most guys are open to the idea of this role reversal in courtship.
“I don’t see why whoever’s interested can’t do the chasing,” said Jason Sclar ’05.
While Peltzer said the all-girls culture of her Catholic schooling emphasized female empowerment, she maintains a traditional approach to dating, which she attributes to her Hungarian cultural upbringing. Peltzer said that she learned in sociology class that the first women who entered Yale as undergraduates came to find suitable husbands.
Back in the day, it seemed as if the rules for courtship were simpler; not only were they clearly marked, they were understood by both sides. It was as if the ritual of courtship was a carefully choreographed dance, with the men and women confidently taking their steps with grace and precision. The man was exclusively responsible for the asking, while the woman ultimately decided where the night would end.
But this patriarchal notion of a chivalrous gentleman courting a virtuous debutante has all but evaporated from gothic Yale.
Margaret Fox ’05 agreed. Because she sees girls regularly ask out guys all the time, she does not even think twice about the trend.
“I think waiting around for him to call and getting all worked up about it is kind of pointless,” Fox said.
The simple formality of ballroom dances, Mory’s dinner dates, and smoking jackets has given way to the colorful hedonism of Screw-Your-Roommate Dances, Saturday nights at Toad’s, and miniskirts. Ask a girl at Yale today if she undertook the effort of getting in just to find her husband, and it would be surprising if she took your question seriously.
With girls and guys alike making moves and acting on their innermost impulses, there is a considerable richness of romantic possibilities today. But this expansion of options comes at a price, leading to mutual confusion and frustration, and could ultimately exert a paralyzing influence on love life altogether. The sheer complexity of courtship, when combined with Yale students’ propensities for self-absorption and intellectualism, may lead some to simply avoid the practice altogether, sending sparks of passion to their premature graveyard. If modern dating is a game, what are the rules?
“Because of this casual dating thing, there’s definitely a lot of people who date more than one person at the same time,” Peltzer said.
She said some people may not want to hitch themselves to just one person since there are so many interesting, amazing students on campus. Peltzer added, “It’s both easy and hard to carry on a relationship at Yale,” because many students prefer to date casually and like to leave all of their options open.