By Sophie Robertson Acolet, Second Year History
The Croft // Although for many dating is a casual and fun experience, Sophie examines the way heterosexual norms have subconsciously influenced perceptions of dating and the people we choose to be romantically involved with.
To start, I feel the need to establish myself as someone who has only had heterosexual dating experiences within a society that presents heterosexual dating and relationships as highly valuable, life-enhancing, and heavily romanticised. Undoubtedly, it remains the most visible form of dating seen in literature, film, television, and everyday life.
It’s fair to say I’ve had it easy. My dating experiences have always followed the parameters of normalised heterosexual dating habits and routines. The works that reaffirm our attitudes and expectations surrounding dating are countless and essentially perpetuate the value of heterosexual romance and love over all other types of love. This has damaging and far-reaching implications when they are in turn reflected in society. An understanding of romantic love – one possible desired outcome of dating – as distinctly heterosexual is not only untrue but also exceptionally uncreative.
Navigating dating in a heterosexual society, regardless of whether you are single, or in a polyamorous, heterosexual, or homosexual relationship – to name a few types of dating – involve a lot of the same issues. Power imbalances within relationships are common, as are the particulars of dating in the digital age. It has never been easier to see a constant stream of possible alternatives instead of appreciating what’s right in front of you through various social media outlets or online dating.
Perhaps the question to ask then is what navigating dating looks and feels like in a society still dogged by traditional gendered expectations within dating and relationships. A further factor is considering this at a time when the parameters of dating have shifted significantly – it is at once more accessible and casual than ever before. Yet it is still more accessible for some groups of people.
In Amia Srinivasan’s The Right to Sex, a collection of essays that follow ‘an older feminist tradition that was unafraid to think of sex as a political phenomenon’, she examines the concept of ‘fuckability’ or sexual attraction, which is usually a key driving factor in determining who to date. But more than that, dating is heavily influenced by sexual politics. Therefore, the same warped and outdated models of attractiveness continue to pervade and play a role in all types of dating experiences. If you consider the superficiality necessary for the functioning of online dating apps, the prevailing power of outdated models like proximity to whiteness and thinness is evident. This is seen by who might get the most attention regardless of their sexual preference or orientation. However, Srinivasan makes the important distinction that her theory’s intention is less about judgement and more about reflecting on our desires within a society that places value not only on a particular type of sexual orientation but also other discriminatory patterns.
Reflecting on this allows more open-minded attitudes to come forth regarding dating, which in turn can make the idea of it seem less daunting, and perhaps change the focus to being about authenticity, lack of pressure and fun over nondescript perceived desires and outdated standards of dating.
Featured Image: Unsplash/Mayur Gala
Do you ever feel like your dating life is guided by the concept of heterosexuality? Let us know!