Single Women and Dating

The dating game has changed. Many singles no longer date–they hook up. A hookup is a casual sexual encounter, usually after a party or night out, with no commitment to future encounters. In contrast, a date is a planned romantic encounter between two people that may or may not involve sex and that usually comes with the expectation that a second date could follow. Some single women complain about this change, and may still desire a life partner mainly because many singles still face social stigmas, researchers say.

Dating Frustrations

Single women are frustrated with today’s dating scene, reports Maryanne Fisher, a psychology professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada. They complain about the quality of available men and men’s new dating attitudes. Many women say the men they meet only want sex, and pretend to want a relationship until they get what they want. Fisher notes that though some single women are just looking for sex, most want to live “the plot of a romantic comedy. They want [the guy] to be clear about his love, not sending some cryptic text that is laden with ambiguity.”

Date vs. Hookup

Empirical studies confirm Fisher’s observations. Psychology professors from James Madison University asked 150 female students and 71 male students whether they would prefer a date or a hook-up in various romantic scenarios, such as when there was relationship potential, when their partner had a great personality and when they had been drinking. The researchers found that unlike men, women had a preference for dating when the possibility of a relationship was not mentioned. The study also showed that more women than men were interested in a relationship, and that the women’s greatest fear was to become emotionally attached to someone who was not interested in them.

Changes in the Dating Game

Studies around the world have shown that women are more selective than men when it comes to choosing sex partners. However, men’s new dating attitudes affect gender differences in selectivity, according to a study from Northwestern University. Northwestern psychologists speculated that physically approaching someone is enough to make him or her more appealing. They tested this in a series of 15 speed-dating events involving 350 participants. In about half of the events, the woman would approach the man. The participants subsequently rated each other for desirability. The result: The gender difference had vanished. This may be a good indicator that men’s new, more passive, dating attitudes eventually will absorb gender differences in selectivity.

Pressure to Date

Despite changing dating attitudes, women feel a greater pressure than men when it comes to dating and marriage. Family studies experts from the University of Missouri and Texas Tech interviewed 32 middle-class, never-married women over 30. They found that the women felt pressure to conform to a conventional lifestyle. They also felt conflicted. Many of them reported being happily single, but they said they felt “singled out” at bouquet tosses at weddings and at social gatherings with married friends. They also felt they needed to justify their singlehood, and that people would naturally assume they were married with children.

Why Single Women Eat Salad

In her observations of single women’s dating attitudes, Dr. Maryanne Fisher noticed that single women often feel exhausted from the efforts of self promotion to make themselves seem desirable to men. Going to the gym, buying fashion clothes, whitening teeth and putting on cosmetics can be exhausting and expensive. Single women also feel unsure what personality traits to display or hide on dates. Meredith Young, a neuroscience doctorate student, found that single women also engage in pathetic eating habits in the company of men. Together with her team, she observed 470 undergraduates eating at the canteens of McMaster University in Ontario. The result: The more men who were eating with a woman, the less she ate. The researchers speculate that women use food as a signal of their desirability. The arugula leaves say “I’m pretty; I’m attractive; I take care of myself,” says Young.


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