It still seems to be common etiquette, at least in Greece (and probably in other countries as well) for a man to pay for the first date with a woman.

While some women do not accept their bill to be paid, there are other that seem to consider this nice, polite and even romantic. They are also expecting this behavior as it is the norm and the commonsense.

While there are a few men that do not practise this behavior, the majority of those also consider this behavior as something polite, that is their 'duty' and something they ought to do.

This social phenomenon is not as common among school/university students as they are in lack of economic stability and independence.

It's baffling me as to why this phenomenon still exists nowadays, because I think some of the reasons for it existing in the first place have now vanished; e.g. women can now get an education and earn their own money.

Why is this social phenomenon still in practice if the original reasons for its existence no longer apply?

  • 1
    Are you sure you meant to say "polite"? It's polite because, as you said, it's a kind gesture. If you meant "why is this tradition expected", which is what I sense this question implies, then many people (depending on their culture) would say it's not. I'm not entirely sure what sort of answer you're seeking based on current wording.
    – kem
    Jan 26 '18 at 22:27
  • This question is being discussed on meta
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jan 28 '18 at 11:22
  • 4
    This question has been obviously conflicting between the users here. I'm closing it until it's clarified and narrowed. The history of this practice is substantially different than the current implementation and making the assumption that men still pay for first dates requires some evidence of such being true. The question "why is it polite for anyone to pay for a date?" Seems obvious to me... so why do you consider it impolite for a man to offer paying for a date?
    – Catija
    Jan 28 '18 at 14:24
  • 1
    "what is its origin" seems out of scope on this site.
    – AndreiROM
    Jan 29 '18 at 0:29

The book "Is There Anything Good About Men?" By Roy Baumeister is a non-fiction, readable account of his psychological research, which I think will answer your question and provide many other insights.

Essentially, due to the biology of reproduction, males in most species (including ours) have always had to compete with each other for the chance to reproduce, but females almost never have to compete for just the chance. 95% of females reproduce, versus 50% of men (so some men have more reproductive partners than women do).

In such competition among humans, once we advance to the point that women have a choice in their mates, the men must vie for the women's attention, and men pay to prove to the woman they are worthy providers with resources.

Before that point in civilization, men typically had to prove to the man controlling the women they had the resources to support her and a family.

Women do not compete with each other to see which ones of them get to reproduce; instead that is usually a given, they will reproduce if they want that (and often even if they don't), so their competition has been for the best providers; the best warrior, best genes, best provider, most financial resources.

This dynamic is still in our psychology, only slightly changed by modern society and free women. Men still compete to be chosen and free women still feel they can choose from multiple suitors. And when they were not free to choose (as is true in most societies just a few centuries ago), their "guardian" still chose for them the best (in some sense, depending on the times and culture) of multiple suitors.

The answer is, this is a one-sided competition and men are expendable; as Baumeister shows in his book. The next generation can be produced without most of them; by the best of men fathering children with multiple mothers. Men (and males in most species) play on a very tilted playing field and are at a severe disadvantage in reproduction; it is part of their edge to provide more than just a sexual partner, but also be a provider and defender and therefore preferred by a woman over other males.

Clarification and slight Correction:

From the "Is There Anything Good About Men", p63: The author asks the question, "What percentage of your ancestors were women?"

Yes, each baby has one mother and one father, so each baby's parents were 50% male. But some of those parents had multiple children, and not necessarily always with the same partner. Every baby's parents are 50% male, but you cannot extrapolate from that to conclude that today's human population has an ancestry that is 50% male.

The correct answer has recently begun to emerge from DNA studies, notably those by Jason Wilder and his colleagues. they concluded that among the ancestors of today's human population, women outnumbered men about two to one.

Two to one!

In percentage terms, then, humanity's ancestors were about 67% female and 33% male.

[snip ... illustration ... if a man marries two women, and has a child by each, the combined ancestry of those two children is one male, two women: 33% to 67%) ... end of snip]

Most people are surprised to hear that humankind today had twice as many female ancestors as male ones, because they thought it would be closer to 50:50. When experts hear about this, they are surprised too, but for the opposite reason: They thought the imbalance would be even more severe. That is, they thought it would be maybe 75% to 85% female. Probably it was more severe through much of history, and especially prehistory. In many animal species, close to 90% of the females but only 20% of the males reproduce. The way the human population has ballooned in recent centuries means that most people who ever lived are either alive today or were alive recently, and in modern times the rule of monogamy has spread over large parts of the globe. In past eras, when polygamy (one husband, multiple wives) was the norm, the reproductive imbalance would have been even more severe, Hence whatever conclusions we draw about the differences between mend and women based on the two-to-one ancestor difference are probably understatements. If we had done this research even just a few centuries ago, the ratio might have been three female ancestors to every male one, or four to one.

What does it mean that we are descended from twice as many women as men? It can be explained like this. Of all the people who ever reached adulthood, maybe 80% of the women but only 40% of the men reproduced. Or perhaps the numbers were 60% versus 30%. But one way or another, a woman's odds of having a line of descendants down to the present day were double those of a man.

Also, crucially, the majority outcome is different -- The most common outcome of normal life. Most women who ever lived to adulthood probably had at least one baby and in fact have a descendant alive today. Most men did not.

[bolded emphasis mine, italicized emphasis in the original.]

It is the ratio that matters, 2:1, so 40% versus 80%, or 45% versus 90%, is all the same. The argument being made is simple: Men must compete much harder for a mate than women have ever had to compete, and this is reflected STILL in our psychology, our cultural norms and our individual and collective attitudes. For example, in the US Military, only 7.6% of Marines are women, and 20 of the 336 jobs in the Marines are closed to women. The women could join but do not. Most people still think of battle as a man's job, that men take such risks and women should not. The culture and attitude traces back to the simple biological facts of reproduction, and the disparity of how many children a man can possibly father versus how many children a woman can possibly bear.

The upshot is that men must nearly always compete with each other to find sex, and to reproduce. While women, nearly always, do not have to compete with either men or women to find sex and reproduce. In a modern free society, nearly all women could have sex for free whenever they wish with any of several partners, and reproduce whenever they wish. But only a very tiny percentage of men could do the same: Other than a few glib exceptions, such men are entertainment or sports celebrities, the wealthy or powerful: In short, those that seem to have "won" the social competition to become the elites of society.

Men pay for first dates, and most dates, because they are (subconsciously perhaps) competing for their date's attention against other possible suitors (whether they truly exist or not). When other men are present in a group that contains women, men may compete to pay the tab or bill check to subconsciously prove they are the better-off of the men, the most generous, the one with the most resources to ostentatiously expend (even if they are not). Men tip well, more often, and more money, likely for the same reason: To impress.

The idea that (nearly always) men must compete to reproduce and women do not have to, is backed by Baumeister (and others) in scientific studies, by anthropology, by genetics and by history, which all support common sense observations.

  • 4
    I think there's still an issue here, in that this is trying to jump all the way to the deepest underlying causes without looking at more direct causes, e.g. the surprising recency of times when women could not easily get an education, income, and other financial capabilities (e.g. credit cards) in the same way men could. You could improve your answer by addressing this, as it is part of the framing of the question, and perhaps also the assumption in the question that it actually is still considered polite.
    – Cascabel
    Jan 26 '18 at 16:32
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – John
    Jan 27 '18 at 15:45

This is a hard question to answer definitively; why a broad cultural practice started, became common, and endured is fundamentally hard to find evidence for, with conclusive evidence being harder still to come by.

The most plausible and proximate answer I can think of is that, historically in Western cultures, women often didn't really have access to money of their own. This would make it odd for there to be any expectation that she pays for a date, whether it's the first or the fortieth. Indeed, the custom in the U.S. even a few decades ago was for men to always pay for dates.

And for what it's worth I have encountered relatively few women over the last ten years or so that were willing to accept being paid for on the first date, and generally have insisted on splitting the check. So, at least in my experience and that of people I know, the custom is fading.

I don't want to disparage Amadeus' answer too much (though I personally am very skeptical of evolutionary psychology as the explanation for any modern, clutural behavior), but this explanation seems overly contrived and is not Occam's-razor-friendly. The connection between abstracted behaviors in complex social interactions and heritable genetic traits as expressed in number of mates (not even number of offspring!) may not be all that strong.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Catija
    Jan 26 '18 at 21:56
  • @Amadeus please don't use comments to argue. I've already moved it to chat. Either go there or don't comment.
    – Catija
    Jan 29 '18 at 13:08
  • I'd flip it around and say that the likely reason is that women tend to go for money. Money makes an otherwise unattractive male more attractive to women. Well established in literature, although I wouldn't call behavioral psych a science yet: . Thus, one could argue that paying for the first date is a signal that you are wealthy enough to be an attractive mate. Mar 31 '20 at 12:25

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