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Courtship is the period in a couple's relationship which precedes their engagement and marriage, or establishment of an agreed relationship of a more enduring kind. During courtship, a couple get to know each other and decide if there will be an engagement or other such agreement. A courtship may be an informal and private matter between two people or may be a public affair, or a formal arrangement with family approval. Traditionally, in the case of a formal engagement, it has been perceived that it is the role of a male to actively "court" or "woo" a female, thus encouraging her to understand him and her receptiveness to a proposal of marriage.
The average duration of courtship varies considerably throughout the world. Furthermore, there is vast individual variation between couples. Courtship may be completely omitted, as in cases of some arranged marriages where the couple do not meet before the wedding.
In the United Kingdom, a poll of 3,000 engaged or married couples resulted in an average duration between first meeting and accepted proposal of marriage of 2 years and 11 months, with the women feeling ready to accept at an average of 2 years and 7 months. Regarding duration between proposal and wedding, the UK poll above gave an average of 2 years and 3 months.
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While the date is fairly casual in most European-influenced cultures, in some traditional societies, courtship is a highly structured activity, with very specific formal rules.
In some societies, the parents or community propose potential partners, and then allow limited dating to determine whether the parties are suited. In Japan, there is a such type of courtship called Omiai, with similar practices called "Xiangqin" (相親) in the Greater China Area.
Parents will hire a matchmaker to provide pictures and résumés of potential mates, and if the couple agrees, there will be a formal meeting with the matchmaker and often parents in attendance. The matchmaker and parents will often exert pressure on the couple to decide whether they want to marry or not after a few dates.
Courtship in the Philippines is one known complex form of courtship. Unlike what is regularly seen in other societies, it takes a far more subdued and indirect approach. It is complex in that it involves stages, and it is considered normal for courtship to last a year or longer. It is common to see the male showing off by sending love letters and love poems, singing romantic songs and buying gifts for the female. The parents are also seen as part of the courtship practice, as their approval is commonly needed before courtship may begin, or before the female gives the male an answer to his advances.
In more closed societies, courtship is virtually eliminated altogether by the practice of arranged marriages, where partners are chosen for young people, typically by their parents. Forbidding experimental and serial courtship and sanctioning only arranged matches is partly a means of guarding the chastity of young people and partly a matter of furthering family interests, which in such cultures may be considered more important than individual romantic preferences.
Over recent decades though, the concept of arranged marriage has changed or simply been mixed with other forms of dating, including Eastern and Indian ones; potential couples have the opportunity to meet and date each other before one decides on whether to continue the relationship or not.
In earlier 1800s, young adults were expected to court with the intention of finding a marriage partner, rather than for social reasons. In more traditional forms of Christianity, this concept of courtship has been retained, with John Piper defining courtship and distinguishing this concept from dating, stating that:
Courtship ordinarily begins when a single man approaches a single woman by going through the woman's father, and then conducts his relationship with the woman under the authority of her faither, family, or church, whichever is most appropriate. Courtship always has marriage as its direct goal...Dating, a more modern approach, begins when either the man or the woman initiates a more-than-friends relationship with the other, and then they conduct that relationship outside of any oversight or authority. Dating may or may not have marriage as its goal.
Christian minister Patricia Bootsma delineates this distinction, writing that in contrast to the modern conception of dating, in "courtship, time together in groups with family or friends is encouraged, and there is oversight by and accountability to parents or mentors". She further states that with courtship, "commitment happens before intimacy".
In America, in the 1820s, the phrase "date" was most closely associated with prostitution. However, by the Jazz Age of the 1920s, dating for fun was becoming a cultural expectation, and by the 1930s, it was assumed that any popular young person would have lots of dates. This form of dating, though, was usually more chaste than is seen today, since premarital sex was not considered the norm.
Courtship is used by a number of theorists to explain gendering processes and sexual identity. Scientific research into courtship began in the 1980s after which time academic researchers started to generate theories about modern dating practices and norms. Both Moore and Perper found that, contrary to popular beliefs, courtship is normally triggered and controlled by women, driven mainly by non-verbal behaviours to which men respond.
This is generally supported by other theorists who specialise in the study of body language. There are some feminist scholars, however, who regard courtship as a socially constructed (and male-led) process organised to subjugate women. Farrell reports, for example, that magazines about marriage and romantic fiction continue to attract a 98% female readership. Systematic research into courtship processes inside the workplace as well two 10-year studies examining norms in different international settings continue to support a view that courtship is a social process that socialises both sexes into accepting forms of relationship that maximise the chances of successfully raising children. Whilst this may negatively impact women, particularly those seeking independence and equality at work, it is argued that the majority of negative impacts accrue to men in the form of shorter life-expectancy, higher rates of suicide, alcoholism, homelessness and imprisonment.
Commercial dating services
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Though most people meet their dates at social organizations, in their daily life, or are introduced through friends or relatives, commercial dating agencies emerged strongly, but discreetly, in the Western world after World War II, mostly catering for the 25–44 age group. Newspaper and magazine personal ads also became common.
From the early 2000s, mate-finding and courtship have seen changes due to online dating services. Telecommunications and computer technologies have developed rapidly since around 2000, allowing daters the use of home telephones with answering machines, mobile phones, and web-based systems to find prospective partners.
"Pre-dates" can take place by telephone or online via instant messaging, e-mail, or even video communication. A disadvantage is that, with no initial personal interview by a traditional dating agency head, Internet daters are free to exaggerate or lie about their characteristics.
While the growing popularity of the Internet took some time, now one in five singles is said to look for love on the Web, which has led to a dramatic shift in dating patterns. Research in the United Kingdom suggests that as of 2004[update] there were around 150 agencies, and the market was growing at around 20 percent a year due to, first, the very low entry barriers to setting up a dating site, and secondly, the rising number of single people.
However, even academic researchers find it impossible to find precise figures about crucial statistics, such as the ratio of active daters to the large number of inactive members whom the agency will often wrongly claim as potential partners, and the overall ratio of men to women in an agency's membership. Academic research on traditional pre-Internet agencies suggests that most agencies have far more men than women in their membership.
Traditionally, in many societies (including Western societies), men are expected to fill the role of the pursuer. However, the anonymity of the Internet (as well as other factors) has allowed women to take on that role online. A recent study indicated that "women pay to contact men as often as the reverse, which is quite different from behavior in telephone-based dating system[s]" (from Wired magazine).
Dating companies teaching men how to pursue women has increased over the years.
The trend of singles making a Web connection continues to increase, as the percentage of North American singles who have tried Internet dating has grown from two percent in 1999 to over ten percent today (from Canadian Business, February 2002). More than half of online consumers (53%) know someone who has started a friendship or relationship online, and three-quarters of 18-to-24-year-old online consumers (74%) say they do.
There is also some academic evidence that the 18–25 age group has significantly taken up online dating. This growing trend is reflected in the surging popularity of online communities such as Faceparty, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Nexopia sites which are not directly geared toward dating, but many users nonetheless use to find potential dates or research a new acquaintance to check for availability and compatibility.
Mobile dating websites, too, are gaining popularity.
Courtship in other animals
Many animal species have mate-selection rituals also referred to as "courtship", anthropomorphically. Animal courtship may involve complicated dances or touching, vocalizations, or displays of beauty or fighting prowess. Most animal courtship occurs out of sight of humans, so it is often the least documented of animal behaviors. One animal whose courtship rituals are well studied is the bower bird, whose male builds a "bower" of collected objects.
From the scientific point of view, courtship in the animal kingdom is the process in which the different species select their partners for reproduction purposes. Generally speaking, the male initiates the courtship and the female chooses to either mate or reject the male based on his "performance".
All animals have different courtship rituals that reflect fitness, compatibility with others and ability to provide. Sea turtles court during a limited receptive time. During the courtship males will either nuzzle the females head to show affection or by gently biting the back of her neck. This may go on for long periods of time depending on if the female responds to the male. If the female does respond, by not fleeing, the male will attach himself onto the back of the female’s shell using his front flippers. He will stretch his long tail under the back of the females shell to begin copulation.
Courting can be competitive among males. The male that has better endurance will win the female. To a female endurance is a great trait to be passed on to their offspring, the higher the endurance in the male the higher the endurance will be in her offspring and the more likely they will be to survive. Female Leatherback sea turtles will also choose many different males to copulate with in order to diversity their offspring since it is known that Leatherback sea turtles have female-biased offspring.
Hippopotamus are commonly misconceived as being aggressive animals, when in actuality the mothers are very nurturing and sensitive. Mating and birth both occur in the water for hippopotamus. This because it gives them privacy when conceiving and it helps conserve energy during birth. The female hippo normally averages around 5–6 years while males are average an age of 7-8. During mating season the male hippopotamus will find a mate out of the herd, showing interest by smelling the female’s dorsal end. As long as the male acts submissive during courting season the adults in the herd will not interfere. Once the male finds the female he wants to mate with, he begins provoking the female. He then will push the female into the water and mounts her. In order to alert the herd or other animals that may be lurking around the male will let a loud wheezing sound. Preceding birth the female exhibits aggressive behavior leaving the herd until after the birth of the calf. Although hippopotamus can mate anytime of the year, the mating season ranges from February to August. Because the energy cost is high, the female generally only has one offspring in a two years span.
The courtship behavior of honey bees follows through two distinct types: Apiary Vicinity Mating and Drone Assembly Mating respectively. Apiary vicinity mating usually takes place in weather that is cool and is more local to the apiary from which the queen resides (Heidinger 527). The drones are in the same apiary too but do not mean that it will lead to inbreeding. Drones assemble in a bulb of warm air close or far from the apiary. They are alert when the queen has flown out of the hive and will follow her route. This is followed by a sort of fast hum or buzz in the general bee population that follows an upward temperature gradient. The male drowns mounts on the virgin queen and inserts his endophallus, ejaculating semen (Robin 13).A male honey bee will pull away from the queen. However his endophallus will be ripped from his body and remain attached to the newly fertilized queen. The next male honey bee will remove the endophallus that was previously left by the other male honey bee and will eventually ejaculate and loose his own. The frequency of mating for the male honey bees is seven to 10 times during a mating flight. Most of the drones die quickly immediately after mating, and their abdomen rips open since the endophallus has been removed. The few that survive are usually ejected from their nests, as they have served their sole purpose by mating (Nassar et al., 533).
They only attend one mating flight and queen stores up to 100 million sperm within her oviducts during this flight, but only five to six million are stored in the spermatheca of the queen. Only a few of this sperm are used by the queen at a time to fertilize the eggs throughout her life. New queen generations will mate and produce their colonies if the queen runs out of sperm in her lifetime. The sex of the offspring is controlled by the honey bee queens as the eggs passing through the oviduct can be determined whether they are fertilized or not by the queen. Fletscher (136) indicates that, eggs that are fertilized develop into female workers and queens while the unfertilized eggs become drone honey bees. Female workers can lay infertile eggs but do not mate. The infertile eggs become male honey bees. The eggs of the queen are laid in oval-shaped structural cells that usually stick to the nest ceiling. Royal jelly is then filled with these cells to prevent larvae from falling (Fletscher 136). Soon-to-be workers are fed royal jelly during the first two days. The future queens are given royal jelly throughout the entire larval period. Each member colony development depends on caste. For proper growth from eggs to adult, the male honey bees need 24 days, 21 for workers and only 16 for the queens.
Specific terms from various cultures
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Courtship.|
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- Average man takes 3 years to propose Metrosexual, Sunday, February 17, 2008
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