Feminism, gender norms and cellphone etiquette part of this year’s ‘Singles in America’ study

We may not agree on what feminism means; but whatever their definition, singles view feminism and changing gender norms positively, according to this year’s “Singles in America” study.

“Match’s annual ‘Singles in America’ study has once again uncovered some remarkable new trends — including men’s overwhelmingly positive view of feminism and feminists, in the boardroom and the bedroom,” said Helen Fisher, senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and chief scientific advisor to Match. “We’ve captured the great spring forward in gender equality.”

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia, research scientist at the Kinsey Institute at IU

The study, released today, surveyed more than 5,500 singles ages 18 to 70-plus, on topics such as dating rituals, the impact of social media on the dating landscape, and shifting gender roles.

When it comes to feminism, most singles do not have a clear understanding of what the word means; 37 percent of men and 46 percent of women define it as women being equal to men, and 43 percent think it “means different things.”

However, when it comes to men dating a “feminist,” 59 percent think that feminism “has changed the dating rules for the better,” saying dating is now safer, more enjoyable and easier. As for single women, 63 percent say they feel the rise in gender equality has made them “pickier about potential dates,” and 57 percent say it makes them feel more empowered in their dating life.

“It’s all over the map when it comes to how people define the term ‘feminism,’” said Justin Garcia, a Ruth Halls assistant professor of gender studies in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences and scientific advisor to Match. “It’s interesting, because while feminism is a term that has a definition, it is also contextualized to mean different things for different people. For some it’s equal rights, but for others it’s challenging norms about gender and difference, and for others it’s a threat to a traditional way of life. It’s fascinating to see how this plays out in the dating market.”

When it comes to heterosexual gender roles, single men seem to prefer women who are “go-getters” and not afraid to break with traditional gender roles. In fact, the No. 1 turn-on for single men surveyed was female entrepreneurs, and 71 percent of men find it attractive when a woman offers to split the bill.

But when it comes to dating rituals, single men overwhelmingly are in favor of women initiating the first kiss (95 percent), initiating sex for the first time (93 percent), and asking for a man’s phone number (95 percent). However, few women initiate the first kiss (29 percent), initiate sex for the first time (23 percent), or ask for a guy’s number (13 percent).

Dating rituals and the roles gender plays in those rituals are long ingrained in our society, Garcia said, which can make it confusing for both men and women and explains the gap between what men surveyed say they want and what women actually do on dates.

“Attitudes about gender roles have a big impact on people’s dating lives, from what paying for the bill means to who initiates the first or second date,” said Garcia, who is also associate director for research and education at the Kinsey Institute. “Part of what we are seeing here, in the case of heterosexual dating, is men wanting less responsibility to move dates forward and move potential relationships to the next step, but rather have it be a give and take in the modern courting process. But for women this can also be complicated because being assertive, particularly in the realm of love and sex, is not part of people’s gender role expectations for women, and so they can be concerned about how this get interpreted.”

Phones and dates don’t mix

Man on the phone

According to the survey, 75 percent of singles are turned off by a date answering the phone without offering explanation.

There is no question that cellphones are a staple in our everyday lives, and their connection with how we function as a society continues to grow. While cellphones are as common now as breathing, singles prefer their date leave them out of site.

According to those surveyed, 75 percent of singles are turned off by a date answering the phone without offering explanation, and 66 percent are turned off if a date texts someone during a date. Additionally, 58 percent do not want a date to place the phone on the table face up, and 57 percent are upset if a date reads the occasional text during a date.

“I think an interesting piece of what we are seeing here, are two norms clashing,” Garcia said. “One norm is the dating ritual that says stay focused on the person you are with, they want your full attention, show you are attentive and that you care. But another norm is our use of technology. For many Americans, we use our phones all the time. But we’ve found that in the dating context, people want something different. People want to be focused on; they want your full attention.”

While singles may want you to keep the phone out of the picture on a date, the type of phone you use and your social media posts are now viewed critically. A battle is brewing between Android and iPhone users, with Android users being 15 times more likely to judge a date negatively for having an iPhone, and that number is 21 times vice versa.

Women also have strong feelings about the condition of your phone, with 92 percent more likely to judge a date negatively for having an older model phone. Likewise, 14 percent of singles don’t like a cracked phone screen.

As for those social media posts, 42 percent of singles judge a date first by their social media posts, and the same percentage judge a potential date by their photos. Next comes grammar, 32 percent; teeth/smile, 37 percent; and their outfit, 35 percent.

“At any given time, there are over 100 million single adults in the United States today, many of whom are sifting through the complexities of dating. With our Singles in America study we have an opportunity to explore a range of questions, some more serious and some more fun, about how people of all demographics experience dating. And hopefully we can share a few things to make dating better for people along the way.”

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