Dating Vs. Hanging Out: Oaks' Puzzling Points

As I often do once a month, I was recently skimming the table of contents of the Ensign, looking for something interesting. My eye was caught by Oaks’ article “Dating Versus Hanging Out.”

I found the article had some solid and not so solid points. I thought there was some decent advice towards women about not letting men “freeload” off of them by constantly eating their food and lounging in their apartments as groups, rather than dating individually. (I personally don’t have experience with this…do you? And actually, I think hanging out is fine in moderation, so long as the entertaining and food provision is somewhat mutual.) I also liked his advice to women about not sitting around and waiting for marriage and happiness to be thrust upon them, but to instead seek out life in service and learning. This last point seemed particularly worthy to me, though I know this is much easier said than done. Particularly when we are taught by the Church that our identities as women are so closely tied with marriage and motherhood.

One point that I found absolutely baffling was this reason as to why he thought dating was on the decline: “The leveling effect of the women’s movement has contributed to discourage dating. As women’s options have increased and some women have become more aggressive, some men have become reluctant to take traditional male initiatives, such as asking for dates, lest they be thought to qualify for the dreaded label ‘male chauvinist.”

Whoa there! What? I went to a women’s college and was steeped in feminist ideology and surrounded daily by feminists. And I assure you that I and my feminist friends never thought that a man asking a woman out was a chauvinist act. Never. In my opinion, chauvinism occurs when a man talks about and treats women disrespectfully. The act of respectfully and nicely asking someone out was never thought by us to be chauvinistic. Do men really fear that they will be seen as chauvinists by asking a woman out? And to blame this misconception on the women’s movement seems like a stretch. Also, is he implying that it’s not a good thing that the women’s movement has increased women’s options, or just that it’s not a good thing that women have become more aggressive?

This was a very puzzling paragraph for me. Also puzzling was his apparent belief that a man should a) be the one to ask the other out and b) pay for the date. Ideas which were reinforced strongly by the article on dating that followed Oaks’ talk. (Aside: Very bizarre points in that article about women not asking men out, but sending verbal and non-verbal signals to entice men into asking them out. Hmmm….am I in a Mormon minority in thinking that it’s just fine – even advisable – to trade off asking the opposite sex out and paying?)

Anyway, I’d love to hear your reactions to these opinions about and advice on dating.

Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.


  1. “…am I in a Mormon minority in thinking that it’s just fine – even advisable – to trade off asking the opposite sex out and paying?”

    I would say that you are in the minority in general. It has nothing to do with being Mormon. Everyone gives lip service to the fact that “its fine” for women to ask men out, but in reality, it just doesnt happen. In a few cases it works out when a man is too gutless to act on good hints, but for the most part if a man wants to ask a woman out, he will. If she has to ask him, he isnt that interested in dated her.

  2. I must definitely be the exception, then. My husband and I had a very balanced courtship. I invited him miniature golfing with some friends first, he then invited me to a Dodger game. I invited him bowling, he invited me to dinner and a movie. Those were our first four dates, and it worked out really well for us to be showing mutual interest and being mutually proactive in calling and asking each other out.

  3. I live in a stake with three singles wards (and no, we’re not in utah, we’r on the east coast) and I think Elder Oaks could have been writing about us: most of the interaction comes from Friday night movie nights and Sunday night dinners. These are generally hosted by women, although not always. As for the one-on-one stuff, it happens only very rarely. I don’t know why the men aren’t asking the women out, though; our bishop doesn’t know why the men aren’t asking the women out; I don’t think anyone here thinks it’s a chauvinistic activity. I’d be more inclined to think sitting on a female friend’s couch two or three times a week and eating her food without doing anything to reciprocate is chauvinistic.

  4. I can tell you why the men arent asking the women out. They dont have to.

    If women constantly invite men over to “hang out” the men get to have their cake, and eat it too. They get to be in the company of entertaining women, yet still get to be on the lookout in case something better comes along.

    I am willing to also bet big money that in most of these cases these men have at least one – if not several women that they hook up with in order to make out (or more) on a regular basis. The women may also have several different “friends with benefits” on the line.

    If a man can hang out with fun interesting women, and still get some action from time to time he will do so forever. Many women these days fall into the same catagory.

    The reason people dont date is because they have already set up situations to get all their short term needs met. If you want to actually “Date”, then you have to make it clear that you never just “Hang out”.

    It may sound chauvinistic, but the reason men dont date more – in and out of the church – is because in the last 10 years women in general have accepted and in alot of cases embraced the concept of the late night casual “booty call”.

  5. p.s.
    This exact same situation exists where the men invite the women over to just “hang out”.

    Who provides the entertainment and food is irrelivent. I have seen groups of men and groups of women be the “organizers”. It is the casual situation – and the tolerance of the ensuing casual flings – that have killed real dating.

  6. One last comment.
    These casual hook ups I have mentioned are almost always completely down played and secret. It doesnt get talked about much even between girlfriends – which I know is rare, and in the vast majority of cases, is nothing more than just making out.

    No harm, no foul… no dating, no marriage.

  7. I had mixed feelings about this article as well. I thought he had some good points, but others left me scratching my head.

    I had a “hang-out” group for gosh, three or four years or so. We all would get together on Friday and Saturday nights, went on trips together, spent time at each other’s places, went water and snow skiing together – it was constant, fun, supportive – really wonderful. Some of my very best memories are of that time and I still keep in touch with those people – dear, dear friends.

    I guess that sometimes it prevented us from interacting with others, but not much. Honestly, some of the people in our group just didn’t have a lot of dating opportunities. Would it have been better for them to sit home alone?

    Four marriages came out of that group of 17 friends, so it doesn’t seem like an unsuccessful method for forming relationships with the opposite sex to me. It took a while for that to happen, but it did happen. Sometimes people you wouldn’t normally date can turn out to be very attractive once you get to know and love them. It’s getting the opportunity to interact with the opposite sex in a meaningful way that some people don’t seem to have.

    I really disagree with Lewis. There are a lot of shy guys out there. I asked my husband out first. I called him up and asked him to come on a double date and he was thrilled that I did it. Granted, I knew he had a big crush on me when I called him, making it a fairly safe move on my part, but he was too bashful to make the first move, so I did. (And fyi, it doesn’t make him gutless, it makes him shy.) Once he knew I was interested, he took it from there, believe me (typical mormon story – 3 weeks of dating before we were engaged). I have lots of friends who asked their husband’s out first.

  8. “In a few cases it works out when a man is too gutless to act on good hints…”

    I suppose I should have been more clear. I did not mean gutless in general. Just gutless with respect to dating – which equates to shy.

  9. Lewis – I agree that there are lots of guys out there who do exactly what you’ve described in your last couple of posts, but they’re a very specific type of guy. Not ALL guys are players or jerks, and the ones who are aren’t worth the time anyway, seriously.

    Lots of people (myself included) “hooked up” (meaning made out) with someone casually at one point or another, just because – but guys who do it over and over – serially? I could always tell who they were. I felt badly for the women who couldn’t. Ick, I shudder at the thought of marrying someone like that.

    So anyway, my point is that I wouldn’t care if hanging out made me ineligible for dating in their eyes. It would be like, a reward – immunity from creeps.

  10. While serial players do fall into the group I described, they are not who I am talking about.

    I am talking about average Joe and Jane. Some of these casual situations go on for years, and women are getting more and more tolerant of this kind of situation.

    If you believe that this kind of behavior is not a major factor in the decline in real dating I think you need to look more closely into how often it happens.

  11. I read the same article and I couldn’t help but read some of the strange excerpts aloud to my husband.

    My niece who attends BYU Idaho complains of the exact thing laid out in the article though. No dating only “hanging out.” I do think too much “hanging out” does contribute to less dating on some level, but I also don’t think this generation really knows how to date. I think the process of dating takes skills whether you are asker or the askee. I think when the “rules” of dating were more clear, it was easier for both sides to engage in the activity. But now with dating, anything goes really. I think this makes it harder for most people to navigate. Hanging out is just easier–you don’t have to be as vulnerable.

    “…am I in a Mormon minority in thinking that it’s just fine – even advisable – to trade off asking the opposite sex out and paying?”

    I would definitely vote for advisable. I ended up marrying the one I asked.

  12. In my experience, asking out a guy just meant prolonging the inevitable: he didn’t like me at all. Perhaps it’s simply made me gun-shy, but I have a rule of never asking guys out. I’ll express interest, I’ll nurture a friendship, I’ll invite to group activities, but the first date is up to him.

    But I completely disagree with Lewis. In my sixteen or so years of dating, I’ve heard of ONE instance of NCMO. I’ve heard it *joked* about a lot, but no one I know ever engaged in it except that one roommate, who regretted it the next day and never did it again. So no, I don’t think the casual hook-up (i.e., NCMO) is making dating decline. Or if it is, it’s way out of my wide circle of friends.

    Regarding the paragraph Caroline pointed out, I also felt uncomfortable with that. It was like Elder Oaks got onto Linkup’s feminist threads and read the posts of all the idiotic men on them (guys who insisted that we feminist LDS believed a litany of things that we told them we didn’t believe), then used their oft-stated opinion that the blame for all the troubles of the world (especially dating woes) can be place squarely at feminists’ feet.

    Other than that, I don’t really have an issue with the talk, except that there’s a lot of confusion over whether those with no opportunity to date, who would never date the guys in their circle (if they have a circle)–whether that means that they’re supposed to drop their friends for nonexistent dating. Personally, I think that’s silly. But I’m someone who hasn’t even been able to hang out in this new city I moved to, so it’s all moot to me.

  13. This is my theory. It is a little long winded, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    In my experience with LDS men I’ve found that they often ‘sound out’ women who they would be interested in dating. That is to say, when the average, shy, looking-for-an-eternal-companion lds man meets a woman he gauges whether or not she would want to date him. If he gets the impression that she would date him then he might eventually (or immediately) ask her out. If he gets the impression that she wouldn’t want to date him then he will almost never ask her out, because he stops seeing her as a potential girlfriend. Even if they later become good friends his initial impression that she wouldn’t date him remains. The only way that impression will change is if the man’s good friends (ie not the bishop) suggest that he date the woman, “Cause, dude, she’s totally into you.” Or if the woman herself states in a forthright manner that she would like to date him.
    The effective impact of this is that if a man has an incorrect impression of a woman’s interest in him (either because her interest changed, or because he misjudged) the traditional methods of pursuit that women employ will be fruitless. The subtle hints will be missed by him because he is not looking for them from her.
    This is one reason why I think that the reticence LDS women have about asking men out is misguided. It’s the third grade “I didn’t think you liked me” and “I didn’t think you like me” dynamic. Unless someone is willing to come out and say “I like you, let’s go out” it’s never gonna happen. And I think that person often has to be the woman, because the man has just stopped thinking of her in that way.

    The other reason I think LDS women should just ask guys out is because the emotional cost of the traditional methods are just too high. The time and energy women spend thinking of how to drop hints, looking for signals, and hoping that he noticed is draining. The practical outcome of all that hoping, and scheming is that if he isn’t interested in her she will be devastated because she already has months worth of emotion and energy poured into a non-existent potential relationship.

    I first asked out three of the four men I seriously dated including my husband. I also spent quite a bit of time trying hints, and subtle cues. My opinion is that asking the guys out yourself is just so much easier.
    Oh, and in my experience too, the hanging out phenomenon that Elder Oaks describes is very real.

  14. I think one problem that contributes to a lack of dating is the mentality in Mormon single wards that if you go out with someone more than once, you are suddenly considered a couple, and the gossip begins. There is so much pressure in Mormon circles when it comes to dating that it doesn’t give people the opportunity to just go out with lots of people many times and not be considered “fickle” or a “player.” I find that dating non-members is much easier, because there isn’t that immediate pressure, questioning/gossip, or the sense that if you date someone frequently you are “obviously” on the course to marriage. I no longer attend single’s wards– I’m way too old…– ;), but when I did, they were just ripe with gossip about who was dating whom and who had asked out whom. Also, there was always a large group of women who were constantly baking goodies for the men, taking them dinner, organizing events, inviting them over for movies, etc. (And this was in Boston and D.C…not Utah) The men didn’t have to do any work when it came to dating, so they didn’t. Also, seems as if it was usually the same 5-10 women who were asked out by most of the men — inevitably the very pretty and thin ones. Such is life in a dating gene pool with many more women than men…appearance matters a lot because the men have many more choices than the women do (at least outside of the west coast) and they can afford to be extremely picky. I personally don’t mind hanging out with groups, as I am tired of dating. But I can understand the reasons why many women are frustrated with Mormon dating life.

  15. A smattering of thoughts:

    Too much hanging out does seem to appease that hunger to connect with one other person. In that vein, what about super social wards that have a multitude of activities every week? What balance should be struck between providing a space to meet, and becoming a crutch?

    As a sometime-organizer, and roommate of a super-organizer, YES, we do get tired of mooches. I tend to leave off including those who don’t contribute or reciprocate.

    As a girl who’s dated more outside the church than in (first-dates-only don’t really count), non-members of both sexes don’t seem to be weighed down by “Committed for Eternity” baggage. It’s good to have an eternal perspective, but sometimes I think we get too anxious over our future expectations to really appreciate the present, and future possibilities.

    I have a couple friends (men and women) who have engaged in NCMO’s, and it’s caused a lot of heartache. I wouldn’t recommend it.

    I heartily recommend seeking a life of service and learning. Develop a hobby. Get a degree. Learn something good and teach it to someone. Much better than being a lady-in-waiting … I can be a lady-accomlishing.

  16. I want to respond to everyone, but don’t have time! Thanks everyone for your input. I’ll just make a few brief comments.

    So it seems as if there’s a concensus that the “hanging out” phenomenon is really overpowering the dating phenomenon. I never really experienced this, as I went to a women’s college and interacted as friends with basically only women.

    I liked Sue’s comment about her wonderful, supportive hang out group that provided fun and interaction for people who didn’t have many opportunities to date. It really does seem to me that such a group could be a wonderful support system, even if not a lot of marriages come out of it. (Would more marriages really come about if such a group didn’t get together?)

    As for the NCMO issue that Lewis is bringing up – been there, done that, I’m embarrassed to admit. But my few NCMO experiences never came from a hanging out crowd. More from first or second dates.

    Stacer, glad you too found that whole women’s-movement-bringing-on-dating’s-demise-through-men’s-fear of-being-chauvinists paragraph misguided. Maybe he did indeed get this fodder from some crazies over at linkup. Biblio tells me you guys interact with some real winners over there:)

    Starfoxy, I agree. Too much effort wasted in sending signals that men may or may not be understanding. Asking them out is much simpler. If they’re interested, they’ll then reciprocate.

    Sarah and Dora, I agree that it’s the pressure of a singles’ ward that can stop people from dating. That’s why my husband almost never dated in college.

  17. I don’t really date Mormons for a number of reasons, mostly that I don’t really have anything in common with them. One thing that might be a factor is that it’s weird to ask people out that you see all the time. A relationship might slowly develop, but the traditional “ask and answer” first date is awkward as heck when it’s done with people that you see all the time. Not really more awkward at the time, but if a relationship doesn’t happen, I’d just as soon never see the girl again in most cases, presuming we didn’t have any relationship before. I bet this is a lot worse for guys that have been in a ward for a long time and been out with a lot of the girls.

  18. One other thing: all this stuff about feminism, men being the primary seekers in the dating market, and who pays for dates makes it clear that this isn’t really about people getting married: it’s about preserving traditional gender roles. If women are asking people out, OF COURSE there’ll be more marriages! But more marriages isn’t enough; there have to be more marriages where women aren’t really equals. It isn’t necessarily a manifestation of inequality that a man asks a woman out, but it is when there’s this cultural standard that’s reinforced by authority figures. This kind of thing tends to bury the pretty good point that you do need to eventually pair off to get married.

    Honestly, I’d rather just have this rhetoric up front and honestly, rather than as part of this sort of thing.

  19. Single’s ward gossip is unfortunately almost entirely among the women. The only pressure due to it is self-imposed. If you just ignore it, life goes on just fine, and dating is easy.

  20. This is long-winded as well…
    Let me just say, Caroline, that when I read the paragraph that you highlighted I circled it in red and made my husband read it; we both had a good eye-roll. I think we need to define agressive as it pertains to the LDS dating scene: intellectually and politically agressive women (i.e., women who have strong opinions and are not afraid to speak them) probably do have a harder time dating in a typical LDS environment. I’m not sure why this is so, except that many LDS men (in my personal experience- I don’t want to project a blanket stereotype unecessarily) believe the rhetoric that they want submissive wives. I overheard a conversation between some of the Elders on my mission who all agreed that they didn’t want their wives to even have checkbooks so that they (the men) could control all of the finances!

    Those women who are most agressive with their ‘sexual prowress’ have less trouble finding dates, even with all of the ‘hanging out’ that occurs. A certain ‘look’ and a high level of ‘flirtiness’ (for lack of better terms) often translate into dates for women, where the converse (in my nonacademic assessment) is less applicable for men. I could’ve dropped hints all I wanted, but I agree with Starfoxy – I’m one of those women that men had automatically removed from their potential dating pool. My flirting was not agressive – and my (non-Mormon) grandmother let me know this when she bought me ‘101 Ways to Flirt’ when I was a wee lass of 17. (She always thought I’d be an old maid.)

    I’ll admit, I never had much luck with guys that asked me out or guys that I asked out. I ended up marrying the guy that was a good friend for months before we finally admitted that we had a mutual attraction (i.e., we ‘hung out’ and he ate my food), and even after that it took several more months for us to figure things out. I never participated in the group ‘hanging out’ phenomenon, but it is real – annoying roommates that invited over LOUD guys who did T-Rex impersonations in our apartment around midnight vivdly come to mind.
    (I also think of a Sister from my husband’s mission. She was very outspoken and my husband developed a crush on her because she reminded him of me; apparently all of the other Elders despised her. Perhaps missions are a good place to look for LDS young mens’ attitudes towards outspoken women…)

  21. Caroline, I thought our first date (which I paid for) was the dinner and movie, and that those earlier interactions were just hanging out? Funny how what is a date can be different to different people… (Hmm, was I one of your NCMO victims?)

    To others, I’m more than happy to admit that Caroline paid for many of our dates–both before and after we were an exclusive couple. I was a pretty poor grad student, and she had more cash!

  22. I hated dating because I was no good at it. A first date is like a job interview, with romantic/sexual overtones and possibly spaghetti. The question isn’t what could go wrong, but what could go _right_ in such a scenario?

    It’s truly a miracle I got married. I think–know–my husband was on a mission from God.

    Tangent: VirtualM’s mission comments reminded me of the “Sisters’ Stamp of Approval” I and some companions invented. We wished we could send elders home and back into the dating pool with some information tacked onto them for other women, especially young women likely to be wowed by the letters RM. There were some elders who were kind and considerate and generally great to work with, and others who, as VirtualM mentioned, made no bones about their plans to keep their wives under their thumbs, or their tasteless analyses of women’s anatomy conducted in our presence, or their penchants for pornography.

    My brother once mentioned something similar about some of his comps–he wanted to warn their future wives that they were complete slobs.

  23. Good to see Caroline posting again…

    Both dating and hanging out have their place. I engaged in both throughout my teens and twenties (finally settled down when I was 30). I learned important social skills from each. Had I limited myself to one form of opposite sex interaction to the exclusion of the other, I think I would have missed out on some valuable experiences (or life lessons) and relationships (both casual friendships and girlfriends). And it works both ways: I found girlfriends by just hanging out; and I found good casual friends by asking them out on a date. The key is to strike a balance between dating and hanging out.

    As for Lewis’s and anonymous/Stacer’s NCMO concerns… (by the way, it took me a good minute or more to figure out what the acronym meant; I’d heard it before of course, but it was never part of my circle of friends vernacular, like, say, “hooking up”.) I find people’s varied life experiences within Mormon Culture very interesting. Stacer mentioned that she only heard of ONE instance of NCMO during her 16 years of dating. I attended BYU from 87-88, and 90-94 and the so-called NCMO was nearly universal among my circle of friends and acquaintances. (BTW, “universal” not in the sense that it was always happening, but in the sense that I’d be hard pressed to think of a friend/acquaintance of either sex during my tenure at BYU who hadn’t had at least an experience or two with it.)

    Interestingly enough, I had three different non-Mormon friends (all of whom coincidentally went to UCLA) visit me at various times at BYU and they invariably commented on the “highly sexualized” atmosphere/culture at BYU. (Again, a qualifying disclaimer is in order… “sexualized” not in terms of people having sex, but guys and girls being highly focused on each other and all it entails, including dating, hanging out, and yes, “hooking up”… if that makes sense.)

  24. Attaching warning labels to people going back to the dating pool works both ways. I definately know some sisters that needed serious warnings attached to them.

    I wouldnt say that womens opinions have made me avoid dating, but they have made me avoid certain women. I have been rebuked on multiple occasions for opening doors for women while on a date. I have also not asked women out that I was interested in because of overhearing how they essentially mocked men for acting what might be called traditional on a date – opening doors, paying for everything etc. If a woman is going to mock that kind of behavior, she is the ultimate in unattractive to me.

  25. I’m baffled. Why is the formal “going out on a date” considered a necessary step toward love, engagement and marriage? My husand and I never went on a proper date that I can recall(as in – he invites, a time is set, money is spent…)We got to know each other and grew to love each other through casual and organic activities because we were neighbors and part of the same “circle.” I fell in love with him not while standing in line as his date at a movie theater, but by studying together, shopping together, eating together with friends – basically just hanging out.

    It seems to me that criticizing the structure of time spent together is a bit of a red herring. If folks out there are avoiding commitment and marriage, the decline of “dating” is merely a symptom, not the cause.

    Happily hanging with my man for 17 years,


  26. D-Train, I think you bring up an intriguing point. Perhaps this emphasis on men doing the asking out and paying really is part of the huge emphasis on men “presiding” in the home. Whatever that means. Perhaps this is supposed to be training for that?

    Horrifying. Appalling. Disgusting to think that there are Mormon men out there searching for submissive wives who don’t even have access to a checkbook. Glad you found a good man in your best friend, and sorry to hear about what must have been painful evenings listening to moochers making T-Rex sounds. Ugh.

    Mike-husband, Yeah, I think we consider those first few get togethers differently. If it’s two couples doing something, that seems more like a date to me compared to simply hanging out at a house and doing nothing. And technically I suppose you were my NCMO victim since we weren’t committed or anything. 🙂

    Hi again, Matt T. Good point about the importance of both types of interactions with the opposite sex. Like you said, balance seems to be a good thing, though I appreciate BigBrownHouse’s recounting of her experience of no dating and all hanging out leading to marriage. Guess it all goes to show that there’s no correct formula that can be applied to everyone.

    Davis, sad that you know women who have mocked men for trying to be chivalrous. Any type of unkindness is unacceptable, I think. They should have just nicely made it clear that that type of behavior was unnecessary for them, if they had problems with it.

  27. Here’s my observations.

    Everybody hung up about Oaks’ comments about dating, not hanging out, should understand he’s not saying don’t hang out, he’s saying exercise faith and get out there and make something happen. Remember Elder Packer said the GAs focus on the general rule, not the exceptions, although we know there’s plenty of them.

    I have to agree with Eve that getting married right is a miracle. It might not seem like that to the 10-20% of the gene pool. But you have to look at it from the long view. Life, with its share of tribulations and crap that happen to everybody, favors no one. SHTF for everyone. When I was single I gradually came to the view that the Darwinist survival of the fittest is an illusion. The world of the spirit is like ‘The Matrix’, which requires enlightenment to be able to perceive. Anytime anyone marries right in the temple is a miracle.

    We should all understand we’re going to be in a unique situation. When single I was pretty shy, but at the same time could hardly keep from wearing my heart on a sleave. (Men needing to become a DNA distribution center asap I’m sure is probably the knawing reality for most men.) So me having a slow and steady relationship was not easy. I could write better than speak in those awkward situations, so I did a lot of writing. Even thoug I felt like a social retard sometimes, I knew I had to just keep going. Finally my wife and I were married when we were both 27.

    If my wife were to die and I had to start over again, I would try to be more slow and steady, but otherwise I would do it exactly the same: take a deep breath, exercise, and leap into the lion’s den and make something happen. And for me, of more importance than education, working and life experiences, the most important thing for me was getting a powerful relationship with the Lord. That goes beyond Sunday School; when the going gets tough, precious gems of the Spirit come to you as the mysteries of godliness.

  28. I would say the number one reason why LDS men are highly selective in asking women out is the latter take it much too seriously – seriously to the point of ostracizing anyone who will not immediately ask her out on a second date. So first dates with women you do not know well is a losing proposition – my nostrum in the 90s was “dating is the process of changing potential friends into permanent acquaintences”.

    This is particularly serious in singles wards where you will have to face that person for the next several years. Should former dates be treated like ex-husbands? It is ridiculous.

    I can’t recommend my regime as I am still single, but I rarely asked out anyone I had not known socially for at least six months – not hanging out really, but certainly lots of activities, both ward sponsored and otherwise. I almost always belonged to an amorphous group of ten to twenty that did things together. Much harder to find in your mid thirties of course.

  29. Davis said…

    “Attaching warning labels to people going back to the dating pool works both ways. I definately know some sisters that needed serious warnings attached to them.”

    Fair enough. Like everyone else who’s ever served a mission, I had a couple of companions who weren’t my cup of tea, and there were some sisters with problems, just as there were elders. But I must say I never heard sisters planning the submission of their future spouses or crassly analyzing male anatomy right in front of elders. One of my comps told me how she’d looked up to RMs her whole life and always planned on marrying one and how she’d been used (NICMO’d, I believe one might say) by several RMs her freshman year at BYU before she wised up and realized that having served a mission doesn’t necessarily guarantee kindness, consideration, or commitment to the law of chastity. It’s that kind of trading on the social capital of the RM label and the squeaky-clean reputation that accompanies it that concerns me.

  30. Posts like this make me want to write up a manifesto and get all the girls in our YSA group sign it. Something to the effect of:

    “I like men. I would love to go out on a date. A first date isn’t a lifetime committment. I promise to keep speaking like a normal human being to the people I’ve gone on a date with, unless they do something unspeakably gross or evil, and I’ll try my best even then. I’d really prefer to be asked, but hey, consider this manifesto a formal request if you’d like. I don’t mind. Sincerely, etc.”

    Personally, I’m rather pushy and controlling in organizations (if no one else will do a job, I’ll do it… this week I made a few giant posters for the YSA trip to Palmyra, created and implemented a sign-up list for the FHE lessons, introduced the concept of, pushed through the approval process, and signed up the first 5 FHE refreshment slots, started a formal mailing list for all the YSA reps, and began finalizing our first ever YSA email distribution list… none of which is my responsibility, technically, but no one else was doing it, so.)

    Anyway, because of that, I find myself even more reluctant than I’d otherwise be to ask a guy out. I think most would be scared to say “no,” as they seem scared to say “no” to me with anything else. The closest I’ve gotten to a “no” was a “I won’t give you my email, but you have permission to post reminders about my FHE lesson date on my MySpace page.” And I have learned from sad experience how tiresome I find people who won’t take the initiative and/or cave in to me at every turn.

    Honestly, a guy asking me out would be a miracle in any case; the ironic part is that there are perhaps three single men in this entire state I know for sure I’d say “no” to, and I’d say “yes” to almost any guy in our YSA group. Except, perhaps, the ones who turned 18 in the last twelve months. That’d be a little icky, but only because they’re young enough that I could have been their Primary teacher if I’d been called the day I turned 18…

  31. 1) Lewis is pretty spot on. NCMOs are not an urban myth. Most of us happily engaged in them for years.

    2) I believe that the “hangout” men love and adore women, which is the reason they revel in the Sunday night couch sit – they can chill and bask in feminine attention and service. If the shoe were on the other foot, I think I’d be pretty content, too. I’m not sure they are lazy. They are just taking what is offered. What might happen if women stopped doing this?

    3) Wow…I have so much to say on the other points. But, I see that the comments are as varied as each relationship. It reminds me of the uniqueness of each of our needs in feeling security and connection in a relationship.

  32. Mark – I have a question. What is the reason for waiting for 6 months before asking someone out? Is the reason that if it didn’t work out, the social ramifications were too dear?

  33. Well, my version of hell would be going out on blind dates for the rest of eternity. First dates are strictly a necessary evil, and blind dates are torture, especially once the recriminations are accounted for.

    In theory, going out on a date would accelerate a friendship, but in practice it nearly always ends it. In LDS culture (late 90s, Wasatch Front) it doesn’t seem that twenty-thirtyish women have any interest in being friends with someone who is not dead set on pursuing them. So the fastest way to become a nobody among the sisters in a singles ward is to date them.

    Eventually not dating them doesn’t work either of course, but in my experience dating someone you are already friends with is much more enjoyable and worthwhile than dating someone you have just met, and indeed they are considerably less likely to punish you for asking them out.

    I like the bilateral asking out thing by the way, as long as it is reciprocal. I think it should be the new standard – provided of course women can develop a thick enough skin, to handle the pain of first date request rejections. Not that I would ever say no to such, as a rule.

  34. Mark, I have an experience that may highlight for you why women are shy of being close friends with a guy who asks her out. I recently had a relationship with a guy who never actually pursued a real relationship (it was long distance) but who always said we were such good friends and there was such great potential between us and that he intended to marry his best friend, etc. He had me on a string–off and on, because occasionally I had to cut it off because of what it was doing to me emotionally. I got my hopes up and tried to reciprocate as if we were beginning a fledgling relationship, then he’d retreat to the “friendship” cover.

    It’s just dang confusing.

    Now he’s getting married, and I simply don’t think it’s appropriate for our friendship to continue in the closely attracted way we’d been going for the last two years, so I cut off the friendship. I was his backup, not a plain old friend. Had I been a plain old friend, that would have been worlds of different.

    If something changes about your feelings later with a friend, then all bets are off, but it’s cruel to play with emotions like that, intentional or not.

  35. Nobody has ever accused me of being a ‘male chauvinist’ for asking her out, but I have to believe that the improved status of women has changed the dating scene. Women have more opportunities and higher expectations for their lives than in the past. That’s not a bad thing but it does make life more difficult for scrubs like me since our potential dates can afford to be pickier.

  36. I was very troubled when I read Elder Oaks’ statement about the “leveling effect of the women’s movement.” The premise of the whole article is that the decline of dating is a bad thing. It appears to me that Oaks is placing blame on “aggressive women” who will call men names for that bad thing. This is also the same man who called “immodestly” dressed women “walking pornography”. So perhpas I read him less favorably now.

    Maybe I am out of the loop, but I hadn’t even heard the term chauvenist used in a few years . And what does he mean by “aggressive” anyway? From the statement, it seems to mean women who are mean and call people names. I find the whole statement very offensive.

    It’s clear from the comments that people have widely varied experiences in the singles world. Dating and courtship rituals are changing, just like everything else. I am wary of those who would call change bad (or good)simply because it is change. With higher divorce rates and increasing demands of modern society on families and marriages, I personally think it is wise for people to wait longer if they want to.

    Things are changing. They have always changed and always will when it comes to cultural and societal norms. The frequent lament of older generations is that things just aren’t like they used to be. Trying to fight the change won’t really do anything. I think Oaks is trying to bring back a ritual from earlier times that just doesn’t fit in with the times now.

    On a final note, one of my largest impediments to dating and pairing off was having grown up in the church. I felt like I was doing something wrong when I paired off. It was my experience that I got very mixed signals about the dangers of pairing off, then there was a magic birthday where all the sudden it was okay. Boys seem to be taught that girls are dangerous and they won’t be able to control themselves around them. I’ve known more than one person who had a difficult time making this adjustment.

  37. Caroline,

    I think it’s partially about the presiding emphasis. I also think there’s a significant dose of plain old reactionism. Any pattern of dating that involves women choosing empowers them in relation to men, whether this involves hanging out or women asking men out on traditional dates. I think this scares the hell out of people who see the good in the family as inseparable from traditional gender roles, whether these roles are directly connected to anything worth keeping or not.

  38. Stacer, I am not talking about a close or intimate friendship, any guy who feels that strongly about a ‘girl’ should be pursuing a serious relationship, as a rule. It is unfair to do otherwise.

    I am talking about the politeness, civility and good feeling that should prevail no matter who is dating whom. A close friendship is generally incompatible with that, *especially* once one of the parties gets married.

    I am just complaining about the dynamic that prevails in many singles wards, where everything is about marriage politics, where going out on a date and not pursuing a relationship is the practical equivalent of jilting someone at the altar.

    Under a regime like that it is a wonder that anyone gets asked out. Perhaps it is a natural consequence of Austen style morality. Perhaps instead of pursuing the historically unprecedented twentieth century dating thing, we should figure out how to create social activities that lead to sufficient sustained acquaintance / non-committed friendship so that dating isn’t really necessary prior to engagement.

    A singles ward ought to be good for that, but it more often feels the opposite. Dating anybody – even once – is considered the what I call “virtual engagement” – complete with implied vows of loyalty and fidelity, and anyone who dates the field is looked down upon, if not ostracized.

    And indeed it is worse than that – you can hardly say hello to some women unless you are planning on asking them out. Instead you have a practical cold war that breaks out where people on both sides of the aisle have to ignore the other as much as possible, lest they be accused of bad faith.

  39. 1) Mark – it seems that you have been the victim of some women who don’t understand the dating dynamic. I think these experiences have made you gun-shy, and understandably so. However, healthy, mature women understand dating. They understand that sometimes it doesn’t work out, remain civil, and move on emotionally. Rather than changing the entire system of the way singles get to know each other, perhaps you should target women who understand this process.

    2)I am happier in a dating relationship when the man pursues me. However, I am an extremely responsive pursuit. I don’t play games, and I reciprocate quickly. It is important for my emotional growth that men pursue me because I am learning that my simple existence is worth noticing. This lesson is not important for all women to learn – for some, they need to learn assertiveness. If that’s the case, they should ask men out. For me, that’s not what I have to learn here. It has taken me a long time to realize that just because I’m a feminist does not mean I am obligated to ask men out – for me, it’s not appropriate to my growth. But, for others, I believe it is absolutely so.

  40. This is also the same man who called “immodestly” dressed women “walking pornography”.

    I dont get what this comment has to do with anything. Immodestly dressed men or women could well be described as walking pornography.

    With regards to the tensions in a singles ward – I always took good advantage of that situation. Women I dated always knew I dated alot unless we discussed being exclusive. First dates were just that, first dates. No expectations of marriage, engagement or even a second date. The lame entanglements everyone seems to get caught up with in singles wards just left the women free to ask out on dates.

  41. This is off topic, but I heartily agree with Amy that Oaks’ “walking pornagraphy” comment was inappropriate and problematic. I think pornography happens in the mind of the viewer. Are women who wear bathing suits at the beach walking pornography? Surely not. It’s the viewers’ attitude and thoughts that sexualize another human and it’s up to the viewer to control them. Just because someone gets turned on looking at a person does not make that person pornography.

  42. I think you are both taking the quote out of context. Just because someone – man or woman – is wearing a bathing suit doesnt mean they are being immodest. Dressing immodestly was what he was talking about. And both sexes can be guilty of it.

  43. I dont think that guys not asking girls out has to do with feminism. Its numbers. When I was at BYU and Ricks we has two Relief societies and one Preisthood. Ther were literally 2 girls for every guy. Some of the guys would ask girls on dates, but it always seemed that it was one third of my roommates would date and the other two thirs would not. The girls got agressive becasue it is simply a supply and demand matter. If you were a wall flower you were left alone. And of the girls that got asked out they were olways the same ones. And some of the mwere very agressive and others were not

  44. A tangent…
    On AmyB’s ‘pairing off’ note, once a couple is engaged, it’s as if everyone’s on patrol to make sure that they behave themselves…it’s reverting back to the mentality of a sixteen year old couple on a date. Don’t be alone together. Don’t hang out past 10 PM. UGH. I never fought so much with my husband as when we were engaged…the rules that everyone hoisted on us were driving us apart. We were in our mid twenties, still kinda young but over the BYU average, when we got married. We were capable adults and knew our boundaries and such stringent ‘counsel’ did us more harm than good.

    Did anyone else at BYU hear the ‘urban legend’ stat that 80% of the guys date 20% of the girls? Are these 20% more ‘virtuous’ or are they more ‘agressive’? I think it’s the latter…again, it all has to do with how Elder Oaks is defining agressive, and it just can’t be good. I feel as though he wants to lay all of the blame at the feet of the women in (the lack of) dating situations (look at his sub-headings and then read the content, it doesn’t match up under the section to males.)
    Oh – and one last thing on the mission dynamic. I had an AP chastise me for chewing him out in front of a new missionary I was training because he did something that was really sexist. He called me up later and asked “How is your companion going to learn to respect authority if you treat it like that?” I hope he has changed since then…and if not, I feel sorry for his wife. In my experience, Sisters, while some of them are odd, did not get on power trips like that and seek to make men their submissive secondaries. It’s built into the power hierarchy of the church and I do think that some men carry it too far into their personal relationships, or at least to situations that are inappropriate. Luckily this is not true of everyone. (I do think it carries over into the dating dynamic, though, with certain men and women.)

  45. Oh- and this is too good to not mention. I had a good friend at BYU whose singles ward bishop counseled her to look around at what other girls were doing to get dates. He then proceeded to tell her that she needed to highlight her hair. Do what you will with that information.

  46. That is a mixed message since we are also always told not to be worldy.(not that high lightning you hair is worldly) And that repect authority guy. That is unrightous dominion and I would have told him that

  47. “once a couple is engaged, it’s as if everyone’s on patrol to make sure that they behave themselves”

    This was totally my experience as well. My engagement was unequivocally the worst time period of my life so far. I felt very abused by authority figures and like everyone viewed me with an eye of suspiscion.

    I really don’t want to do a threadjack, so I’ll leave the modesty thing alone.

    I just want to say I have empathy for all of you are are still in the dating scene. It’s tough. However, I suspect it was always hard even when there were more clear social boundaries and rules. Maybe even more so, because women had much less power to make anything happen. I think it will probably always have its difficulties. I’m just not convinced that going on more formal dates is the answer.

  48. VirtualM,

    I agree that the pareto principle is a big factor in who gets asked out. The girls that get asked out the most are the pretty ones that flirt a lot. I’m not sure if being pretty and flirty is virtuous or aggressive.

    Elder Oaks said some nasty things about single men in this talk (we’re freeloaders, we’re not taking traditional male initiatives, 36 year olds need to stop acting like 15 year olds). I don’t think he is blaming all the problems of dating on women. In fact, I think he took some fairly cheap shots at single guys.

    The story about your friend and the highlights reminded me of this Simpson’s scene with Comic Book Guy:

    At the Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con
    CBG: Someone has mixed an “Amazing Spiderman” in with the
    “Peter Parker – The Spectacular Spiderman” series. This
    will not stand.
    Woman: Pardon me, but I wish to tender a serious cash offer
    for this stack of water damaged Little Lulus.
    CBG: Huh, “A” that is not water, it is Diet Mr. Pib, and “B”
    I… (CBG turns to look at the woman) Ohh… Err… Tell
    me, how do you feel about 45 year old virgins who still
    live with their parents?
    Woman: Comb the Sweet Tarts out of your beard and you’re on.
    CBG: Don’t try to change me baby.

    It may be unfair, but appearances matter. If this girl wanted to get dates and the bishop honestly thought her appearance was an issue preventing her from getting those dates, what was he supposed to tell her?

  49. “It may be unfair, but appearances matter. If this girl wanted to get dates and the bishop honestly thought her appearance was an issue preventing her from getting those dates, what was he supposed to tell her?”

    She’s a cute girl -I don’t think the highlights (which are expensive to keep up and maintain and can put a strain on a young person’s finances – $100 a month trying to keep up an appearance when you don’t have it is insane; maybe men should pay for dates if women are expected to keep up hundreds of dollars in physical maintenance) made her any more dateable. She also won’t settle, she wants to be happy with the person she dates and she hasn’t found that yet. She’s had boyfriends, etc. I’m not sure what she was asking her bishop about, but she told me the highlights story and I thought it was weird. Seems like very odd dating advice for a middle aged man to give a woman in her early 20s.
    (However, I did have a bishop once tell me that I needed to take some time for myself and get a taco. 🙂 And for the record, I’m not against highlights-I love dyeing my hair and have three colors in it right now.)

  50. Things are changing. They have always changed and always will when it comes to cultural and societal norms. The frequent lament of older generations is that things just aren’t like they used to be. Trying to fight the change won’t really do anything. I think Oaks is trying to bring back a ritual from earlier times that just doesn’t fit in with the times now.

    Trying to fight what our leaders say isn’t the solution, either. This isn’t just about “older generations.” The adversary is working to prevent marriage, to postpone marriage, to break up marriage, to redefine marriage. He will do all he can to undermine marriage and family. Our prophets are not old-fashioned, out-of-touch men. They are trying to keep us from following the zeitgeist of Babylon. We aren’t supposed to look to societal and cultural norms first. That is what Elder Oaks was saying, and I thought his talk was fantastic.

  51. BTW, I don’t think Elder Oaks would be completely opposed to a woman asking out a man or paying for a date. That said, I completely agree with his assertion that it is mostly the responsibility of the men. What I found in my single years (I was single until my late 20s) is that if I was the one pursuing, things went nowhere. I finally decided that I needed someone who thought I was worth pursuing. I didn’t want to have to convince someone of that fact. I certainly showed reciprocal interest, but I let my husband take the most initiative. I suspect most women are that way. I personally think it establishes a better foundation for marriage if the man has done most of the pursuing.

  52. In Journal of Discourses, volume 9, Brigham Young stated this: “Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of Heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire. That empire was founded on the banks of the Tiber by wandering brigands. When these robbers founded the city of Rome, it was evident to them that their success in attaining a balance of power with their neighbours, depended upon introducing females into their body politic, so they stole them from the Sabines, who were near neighbours. The scarcity of women gave existence to laws restricting one wife to one man. Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers.”

    Ideas about marriage have changed within the church and without. Proper marrying age, courting rituals, reasons for marriage, and now the ability to make decisions about children (when and how many) have always been dynamic and will continue to be. This is not good or bad, it just is what it is. Saying it is bad and trying to fight it helps no one.

    I personally don’t think there is any eternal truth in regards to what dating rituals to follow. Oaks is a product of his times giving advice that just does’t make sense to our current status, just like Brigham Young’s ideas make no sense for us now (not sure they did ever . . . but I digress).

    I just can’t do the mental gymnastics any more to make Oaks’ statements seem like they are okay. Sorry to be a bit negative- I just can’t be the smiling, happy, unbothered mormon girl right now.

  53. AmyB,
    I think you made a great point about the fluidity of leaders’ ideas and advice on marriage. And I like your honesty in admitting that sometimes things just bother us and don’t make sense to us and that it’s hard to look the other way and ignore them. So I don’t see any need to remove your last comment.

  54. Oaks is a product of his times giving advice that just does’t make sense to our current status, just like Brigham Young’s ideas make no sense for us now (not sure they did ever . . . but I digress).

    I just can’t do the mental gymnastics any more to make Oaks’ statements seem like they are okay. Sorry to be a bit negative- I just can’t be the smiling, happy, unbothered mormon girl right now.

    I understand that they don’t sit well with you, and I respect that. I guess I’m just seeing his comments as more than just dating advice. I see him addressing a bigger picture (the adversary’s attack on the family), of which dating issues are only a part. I also think there is more to his comments than age and culture; after all, we’ve heard these kinds of comments before. But I realize you don’t feel that way. You see the need to move and change with the culture. I see our prophets still trying to help us see that we aren’t necessarily supposed to just go along with the flow.

    Kiskilili, I suppose this means you wouldn’t really want me to be in your ward, eh? 🙂

  55. Kiskilli- If only you knew how much I have fantasized about being in a ward with the daughters of Zelophehad and the ladies of ExII! 🙂

    m&m, we do have differing viewpoints, but I suspect that if we knew each other in real life we could be friends.

  56. I’m with mullingandmusing when she says, “Our prophets are not old-fashioned, out-of-touch men. They are trying to keep us from following the zeitgeist of Babylon. We aren’t supposed to look to societal and cultural norms first.”

    I agree that the counsel of the Brethren does change from time to time, as it should do, in order to meet particular needs. But we need not think that those whom the Lord has chosen to lead the Church are living in a historical time bubble, and are ignorant of what is going on now all over the world. Over the last few years I have had occasion to hear from Church leaders in several different areas of the world (Latin America, Asia, Australia) that the same kinds of problems Elder Oaks referred to in his fireside talk last year were ones they saw among young people in their countries–delayed marriage in particular.

    Although I often see references on the Bloggernacle to our leaders being “out of touch,” or too immersed in or influenced by Wasatch Front culture, my personal experience living in eleven countries over the last forty years leads me to believe that they are far more knowledgeable about what is happening outside Utah than most of us realize. If apostles talk about a subject in a way that raises some hackles, we can be fairly sure that they know they will not be universally lauded. If their counsel contradicts our particular societal and cultural norms (wherever we may live), those norms may well be part of the “zeitgeist of Babylon;” and the Brethren may be impelled by the Spirit to say not what we want to hear, but what we desperately need to hear.

  57. Well, as a single woman, and one who is directly affected by this talk, I wonder how it will influence men and women to change their behavior. Will single women be influenced to choose to be more proactive in finding hobbies and pursuits other than men. Will we shut our pantry doors? Will men be more proactive in asking women out on dates that are identifiable as such? Will the average age at marriage continue to drift upward, or come back down?

  58. m&m, we do have differing viewpoints, but I suspect that if we knew each other in real life we could be friends.

    AmyB, I would hope we could. 🙂

  59. It has a lot to do with conflicting social rules I think.

    “Don’t Be Alone with members of the opposite sex”

    But if we had to make the effort every time to get enough activity and people together to not be alone, we would be home alone bored more often than not.

    So we are supposed to pair off and date.

    But respectful men are taught not to lead women on. If we are “datingdating” the impression is this is for keeps and then it hurts both when there is a breakup.

    Mormon parents and leaders teach their kids that you date to marry so it puts a huge risk and tension to doing more than hanging out.

    It has been my experience that Mormon women outnumber men about 5 to 1 or more! (CES Community) Men don’t have to commit to one girl because the women are competing so fiercely for the shortage of men that we really don’t have to make the effort.

    Moreover, if we make the effort we are seen as stringing hearts along and breaking them, so we take a back seat in the dating effort.

    Lets face it people, dating is emotionally draining, and we probably wouldn’t make that kind of effort for any other kind of thing in this world, but it is so pleasant to be in the company of someone of the opposite sex.

    The moral expectations of single mormons is rigorous, expectations from parents, leaders, and each other make it near impossible to be anything but complicated.

    Elder Oaks says this is what works, and if we have enough testimony and self control to all subscribe to it then who knows, maybe it would simplify things

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Click to subscribe for new post alerts.

Click to subscribe to our magazine, in circulation since 1974.

Related Posts

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-10-09

"We are asking in good faith to be persuaded on this practice..." great comment by rah on BCC's Let my People Pray # Ada...

Solitary time: flight of ideas on a long drive

Traffic is a reality of everyday life in Los Angeles. Even at bizarrely disparate times of the day, like 2:00pm, when most average people...

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-11-21

RT @janariess: Twilight is bad news for girls & women: Elaine Heath's feminist critique. h/t @HuffingtonPost # Heather says, unless we're at...

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-05-29

RT @nytimes in 1965 a suitor was into her because of the tufts of dark hair that stuck out of the top of her...
submit guest post
Submit a Guest Blog Post
subscribe to our magazine
Subscribe to Our Magazine
Social Media Auto Publish Powered By :