Dating Has a Gender “Romance Gap” Problem

A recent survey from dating app Bumble reveals daters still feel pressure to conform to certain gendered stereotypes

A couple holding hands while sitting down at a table and drinking red wine in a restaurant for lunch together,
Just a cute couple conforming to heteronormative gender expectations
Tom Werner/Getty

While we may think we’re living in an evolved era of courtship that has long since done away with old-fashioned gender roles dictating who pays for dates, makes the first move, etc., it turns out many of those gender expectations are alive and well. A recent UK-based survey by YouGov and dating app Bumble found evidence of what Bumble is calling a “romance gap,” i.e., the gendered views and societal expectations to which daters of different genders feel beholden. Surprise: it’s not a good thing.

According to the survey, 52 percent of the 2,000 participants said expectations based on their gender identity influence their dating life, leading them to behave in a way that feels inauthentic, and 51 percent said it makes dating more stressful.

For women, those gender norms include a lot of the same archaic nonsense we like to think we’ve evolved beyond as a society, but of course have not. Per the survey, female daters feel pressure to “settle down” before they get “too old,” often compromising their own romantic desires in the interest of locking down a partner before they age out of society’s good graces. Women also reported feeling like they have to downplay their emotions in order to avoid coming off as “clingy” or “desperate,” and they also worry about being judged for their number of past sexual partners. Women also displayed a tendency to help men meet their own set of gendered dating expectations, with one in three women surveyed admitting they alter their behavior on dates to make their male partners feel “more powerful or comfortable.”

Men, meanwhile, don’t necessarily want to feel as powerful as society tells them they should. One in six people in the UK said men are expected to “take the lead” in relationships, while 27 percent of men said they feel pressured to conform to this expectation. Men are also more likely than women to worry about feeling judged for having a lack of sexual experience.

This collection of dated gender norms and double standards is what Bumble is calling the “romance gap.” But while it may be a new term, these pressures to perform, conform and behave in certain ways are certainly nothing new. And according to Bumble, it’s not a good thing. “It’s not just women expected to hide their true feelings and adhere to outdated ideas of gender,” the survey reads. ” It’s confusing and debilitating for everyone and stops both partners from making meaningful connections.”

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