Why Men Pay for 1st Dates and Other Male Mysteries

Ever wondered why men pay for first dates?

Or why men keep talking to you, even when you’ve made it clear you’re not interested?

Male behavior is full of mysteries.

Like why men message you through an online dating site, when all they have to do is read your profile to see that the two of you have nothing in common.

Luckily, researchers are on the case.

They’ve done study after study to find out why we behave the way we do, and what they discovered might just help you understand men better!

Male Mystery #1.
Why Men Pay for First Dates

Ever got into a debate over who is going to pay the bill on a first date? It’s not very common.

Men have historically paid for first dates because of income disparity. A hundred years ago, when young men and women flooded the cities looking for work and love, women’s wages were less than half of men’s. Women were unable to enjoy simple treats like an ice cream or a trip to the amusement park on their secretarial or shopgirl budgets.

So they accepted a man’s offer of a “treat” in exchange for companionship.

Those early dates set a precedent. A man paid for a date not only to prove that he had financial resources, but also because the woman was financially unable to contribute.

Given that the gender pay gap has shrunk significantly, why do men still pay?

For many men, footing the bill on a first date reinforces masculine ideals. Despite the fact that most households are dual-income, 72% of men believe that a man needs to be able to support his family financially.[1] Paying for a date is proof of his ability to provide.

Other men pay for dates because of a sense of chivalry. They have strong views on what it means to be a gentleman and prefer traditional gender roles.

But those men are in the minority. Sixty-four percent of men expect some financial contribution from their dates. They may be happy to pay for the first few dates, but if the relationship continues they expect to split costs equally.[2]

In fact, 44% of men would stop dating a woman who never offered to pay. They believe that such behavior implies that she’s a “princess” or a “gold-digger.”

So don’t worry about pulling out your wallet on a date. This is one historical precedent that’s on its way out.

Male Mystery #2.
Why Men Can’t See You’re Not Interested

There’s a name for this:

Sexual overperception bias.

And it’s strongly documented in the research.

Simply put, men tend to see sexual interest where there’s none.                   

(Women, on the other hand, tend to miss male signals of interest, even when they’re staring her in the face!)

Men can even perceive general friendliness as a sign of sexual interest.

In one incident, 13 employees of the grocery store chain, Safeway filed grievances about the store’s customer service policy, which penalized employees who weren’t friendly enough. Male customers misinterpreted the female cashiers’ eye contact and smiles as a come-on, leading to harassment.[3]

A man who considers himself a catch or a man looking for a short-term hookup is most likely to make this mistake … possibly because leaping to this conclusion does pay off on occasion.

Male Mystery #3.
Why Incompatible Men Message You Online

You’ve made it clear in your profile what you’re looking for.

So why is this guy—who’s NOTHING like what you described—messaging you?

A large-scale study of a Chinese online dating site found that women are conscientious daters. Before messaging someone, women examine a man’s profile to determine not only if he’s her type, but also if she’s his type.[4]

Men don’t do this (in general). All they’re really interested in is whether they like the look of a particular woman. They’re less likely to consider whether she would be interested in return.

Men also don’t tend to read profiles. One small study found that men spend 65% more time looking at profile pictures than women do, while women spend 50% more time reading through profiles.[5]

Still other men play a numbers game. If a woman looks appealing, they shoot off a canned message to her. If they message enough women, they’re bound to get a response from someone.

So there you have it. Men pay for first dates out of respect for tradition, but that’s changing. Men tend to perceive sexual interest where there’s none, which is why he can’t see you’re not interested. And that guy online doesn’t really care if he’s your type. He’s messaging you because he likes how you look.

What other male mysteries would you like solved? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to answer your questions in a future blog post!


[1] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/20/americans-see-men-as-the-financial-providers-even-as-womens-contributions-grow/

[2] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2158244015613107

[3] https://www.apnews.com/6a186d5d0d7dad4689dc14e30bd6d3bc

[4] https://epjdatascience.springeropen.com/articles/10.1140/epjds/s13688-019-0192-x

[5] https://io9.gizmodo.com/how-much-of-your-online-dating-profile-do-people-actual-5883009

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