Courtship was the ritual that would allow the families to evaluate potential matches and determine if the arrangement would be advantageous.
The courting script was usually contained to “calling,” in which the man was invited into the woman’s parlor for conversations over tea and involved a large degree of supervision.
Since most young adults will marry, the process employed in finding a husband and wife is still considered courtship.
However, an extra layer, what we call "dating," has been added to the process of courting.
They knew what was "normal." Prior to the 20th century, "normal" was determined within families and local communities, but now a "higher authority," with wide-spread circulation and readership, began to form a national consciousness. With the onset of the sexual revolution the question arose, "Why would a man court and woo a woman when he could gain a chief benefit of marriage, namely sexual gratification, for free with no commitment?
Simply put, with the onset of the widespread use of chemical and other means of birth control, the language of procreation — of having children — was separated from the language of marriage. of Chicago ethicist Leon Kass argues in his chapter on courtship in , under the old system of courtship, marriage and bringing a child into the world were inextricably linked. With the ever decreasing risk of pregnancy, having sex and being married were no longer tied together.
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As the American conception of intimacy evolves, so does society’s approach to dating.
Bailey observes that by the 1930s and '40s, with the advent of the "date" (which we will look at more fully in the next installment) courtship increasingly took place in public spaces such as movie theaters and dance halls, removed by distance and by anonymity from the sheltering and controlling contexts of the home and local community.
Keeping company in the family parlor was replaced by dining and dancing, movies, and "parking." A second cultural force that influenced the older courtship system was the rise of "public advice" literature as well as the rise of an "expert" class of advisers — psychologists, sociologists, statisticians, etc.