Saturday, January 30, 2021

Ellen Lamont's "The Mating Game"

Ellen Lamont is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Appalachian State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her 2020 book, The Mating Game: How Gender Still Shapes How We Date, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Mating Game: How Gender Still Shapes How We Date drops in on heterosexual men discussing the logistics of the marriage proposal. More specifically, is it okay for women to propose to men and would it bother them if a woman proposed? Most claimed no. They viewed themselves as egalitarian men, open to a relationship with feminist women. As Brad said, "I'd be open to being proposed to. Again, that would just reaffirm the type of woman I'm attracted to - strong, independent - so yeah, I'm open to it." Mostly though, we see that while they may be open to this idea in theory, they still expected to be the ones to propose marriage. They assumed most women were very eager to get married, saw themselves as potentially more reluctant or slower to commit, and so they took on the role of moving the relationship forward.

Page 99 reflects the key argument of the book, but I think readers would have trouble understanding how without more context. The Mating Game is about why, in spite of massive transformations in the gender system and increasing desire for egalitarian relationships, heterosexual young adults continue to date in ways that reinforce gender inequality. One of the key findings is that although young adults claim to want and support gender equality, they still view men and women as fundamentally different. As shown on page 99, most view women as more interested in long term commitment and men as more interested in casual sex. Interestingly, this isn't the case among the people I interviewed. But this narrative is so pervasive - and consistently reinforced through popular media, self-help resources, and even friends - that people buy into it even when it doesn't reflect their own feelings or experiences. Page 99 gets at this tension between stated desires and actual practices as young adults struggle to reconcile egalitarian goals with conventional expectations for dating and relationship building.

But the Page 99 Test does miss another important part of The Mating Game. The book is not only a comparison of how heterosexual women and men navigate dating and courtship, but also compares heterosexual to LGBQ young adults. LGBQ young adults are explicitly challenging gendered dating practices and are forming more equal relationships as a result. This group demonstrates the potential in reimagining romance in ways that do not rely on tired gendered tropes.
Visit Ellen Lamont's website.

--Marshal Zeringue