Despite cultural and technological advances, dating in the 21st century sometimes comes with more questions than answers. Who texts who first? Who requests the date? Who should pay for dinner?

We’ve all been there. It’s your first date and the waitress places the bill directly between the two of you. You begin to do the “check dance.” Your date reaches for his wallet; you open your purse. When both hands land on the bill, he insists, “No, I got it.”

It’s the chivalrous thing to do, according to societal norms, but what does this all mean for your relationship?

Chivalry In 21st-Century Dating

The term “chivalry” dates back to the medieval institution of knighthood that developed between 1170 and 1220. Over time, its meaning has been refined to stress social and moral virtues more generally. This is why the phrase “knight in shining armor” is used in society to reference a man who possesses chivalrous traits like opening doors, pulling out chairs, and allowing a woman to order first at a restaurant. These acts of chivalry simply show a sign of respect for a woman.

April Masini, relationship expert and author, believes dating is more competitive than it ever has been because there are so many ways to meet people and so many to choose from due to technology. “That’s why it’s important to play your 'A' game if you want to win someone over,” she said.

This is where chivalry comes into play. In more modern terms, “Chivalry can be seen as picking her up for a date, rather than meeting at an agreed location. Paying for the date is another act of chivalry, and bringing a small token of affection for the date (flowers or a single rose), are all ways to show chivalry in modern dating,” according to Masini.

She stresses very few women will turn down a guy because he opens a door for her — and some will even choose that guy over those who don’t open the door. It seems there’s little downside to practicing chivalry, but there is something to lose by not doing so.

A 2013 study from Chapman University found while egalitarian ideals suggest gender should not determine who pays for entertainment expenses, conventional notions of chivalry are still in effect when it comes to paying on a date. Consistent with conventional norms, 84 percent of men and 58 percent of women reported that men pay for most expenses, even after dating for a while. Although over half of women claim they offer to help pay, many confess they hope men would reject their offers to pay. Meanwhile, 64 percent of men strongly believe that women should contribute to dating expenses, with 44 percent admitting they would stop dating a woman who never pays.

Man and woman holding $50 bill over table. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

This data highlights which people are resisting or conforming to conventional gender roles related to dating. Young men and women in their 20s were the most likely to endorse egalitarian practices related to the deep-rooted courtship ritual of who pays.

Chivalry And Gender Inequality

Typically, warmth and friendliness are not associated with sexism, but a recent study published in the journal Sex Roles suggests it could be masking chauvinistic and patronizing views.

Professor Judith Hall, co-author of the study, believes these gestures may entice women to accept their status quo in society because “sexism literally looks welcoming, appealing, and harmless.” In the study, these “benevolent sexists” were to be perceived as approachable, warmer, friendlier, and more likely to smile. This description implies these men hide behind their gentlemanly and courteous nature like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

However, this doesn’t mean every man who is chivalrous is a benevolent sexist or that chivalry should be done away with altogether. If a man is carrying out these actions because he believes a woman is fragile and therefore requires protection, then he’s being sexist, but if he’s doing it to be kind, then he may be one of the good guys. Who knows?

In The Bedroom: Manipulative Chivalry vs. Genuine Chivalry

Now, before delving deeper into bedroom chivalry, it’s important to distinguish manipulative from genuine.

Some men use chivalry to impress a date and get sex. However, women should not feel obligated to “pay” for the date with sex. David Bennett, a dating and relationship expert working with the largest matchmaking services in central Ohio, Dating Directions and Affinity Matchmaking, says of men: “Chivalry won’t increase his chances of sex, unless there is already a fundamental attraction, and then she may be impressed by it, to a degree, if he isn’t too excessive about it.”

A good rule of thumb to determine if a man is practicing manipulative chivalry or genuine chivalry is observing his attitudes toward sex. “Does he try to force or push sex? When you say not yet, does he say ‘I completely understand’ or respect it, or does he say, ‘Oh, come on, I bought you a fantastic steak dinner,’” Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and expert panelist on WE TV’s Sex Box told Medical Daily.

A man who is genuinely chivalrous in the bedroom is going to make sure you’re comfortable. He will be sensitive to your feelings and needs, but he still knows how to take charge in a sexy way.

Inscription of sex on the mirror with handprint. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

But should he make sure you always come first?

According to Masini, if a man’s generous with his time, manners, and attention outside the bedroom, chances are he will be generous with his attention in the bedroom as well. In comparison, stingy, selfish people are usually bad tippers and bad lovers.

“When he’s done, you’re done” Masini said.

Both men and women deserve to achieve sexual satisfaction, and that doesn’t necessarily have to end in orgasm. Therefore, the order in which orgasm is achieved is irrelevant. Dr. Ben Michaelis, a clinical psychologist, relationship expert, and author, emphasizes the importance of mutuality for all relationships to survive and thrive.

"The sexual component of a relationship is just one of many opportunities to demonstrate this type of egalitarian approach. This, as well as all acts of mutuality tend to help strengthen a a relationship," he said. 

It’s much more about balance and taking turns and evening the scale where it isn’t all one-sided. It’s a process of give and take. In other words, sometimes she’s more important and sometimes he is, but in the end everyone has a turn.

Is Chivalry Really Dead?

Women bemoan chivalry's death, but is it really dead or does it just need to be revived?

Chivalry is not a code for how men should treat women, but rather how people should treat each other — with mutual respect. In a time where our attention span is limited to 140 characters, likes, comments, and emojis, it seems anything that requires more time or effort interferes with our ability to get instant gratification. The notion of having to wait for something (sex) almost becomes unfathomable because of the easy access we have to get anything we want at our fingertips.

Chivalry starts with putting our selfish needs aside and becoming compassionate toward others.

“When you find men and women who practice chivalry, they’re often seen, not so much as cheesy and old school, but as refined,” Masini said. “That’s the clue that chivalry shouldn’t be dead.”