Courtly love

It’s come up a few times recently – the onus put upon men to pay to have the company of a lady, I.e. Pay for admissions, dinner, and so forth.

I find this custom obnoxious, and please allow me to explain why before you object. And please don’t object with “I like not having to pay” because of course you don’t, who would? If it’s how you function, that’s your life and your way, but the argument doesn’t have a place in this post, because this post is about the history behind such traditions.

For a very long time, a woman was married off as soon as she could bear children. While there were cultural constraints on this depending upon region and time period, by and large the general rule was that the parents arranged a fitting match, contracted the girl out to the man, and indeed had to pay the man to take her. This payment was called a dowry. It was the legal shifting of responsibility from the father to the son-in-law providing the new husband with a stockpile of financial resources to allow him to care for the extra mouth. But marriage arrangements rose and fell dependent upon how large this dowry was, and men did, for centuries, game for more dowry money.

Then came Chivalry, that idyllic fashion that never actually represented truth or real history. Chivalry was always fiction. It became a popular notion, but hardening back to a time that never was. And in that tradition, a man was expected to do all to earn the love or devotion of a lady.

I think you can see how the two combined, and did so to the detriment of both males and females. Females were bought and paid for beneath the banner of “courtly love” and tricked into believing that they were being cared for when actually they were being trapped. And it was just as bad for the men, who took all financial and legal responsibility on themselves.

Don’t believe me? Allow me to tell you about the laws of inheritance in England during the past. If a man died, his property did not pass to his wife, but to his children, and usually to the first born son. He had to put an allowance within his will to maintain the care of his wife, and she had no rights to anything but that. If he did not, it all went to the son, and if the son chose not to care for the monther…she had no legal recourse. There were countless cases of women suing to be saved from destitution. Even in cases where the child was young, there was an executor to the estate who managed the money, and none of them were required to give any part of it to the woman.

The fact is, that finances were skewed in favor of men.

Now allow me to come to the contemporary. When the medieval period gave way to the early modern, the middle class expanded. Trade expanded to the New World, and then came Colonialism and after that, the Industrial Revolution. The Middle Class expanded again and again, until there was a kind of flux in traditions. People who wouldn’t have obeyed the chivalric code, or the dowry tradition in the past, suddenly began to. In the Victorian, it was very common to see women of modest means taking with them a tiny dowry in a tiny chest.

But then the arranging of marriages became socially unacceptable, and finances changed. Men did not have trade unions. The economy shifted to services and left off the apprenticshinp culture. Men were essentially economically unattached and adrift. And from this emerges the culture of paying for dates.

I am unsure of the mechanism for this, because it happened rather swiftly and I never much cared for dating or romance. Frankly it surprises me that it clung on as long as it did. Individual men have less support or financial security than they did, and women are supposedly more independent, and yet…still…there is a culture of men being financially beholden to the female set.

I do not think this is fair.

If women wish to finally be responsible for themselves, might I suggest removing this culture? If two people wish to enjoy each other, should they not do it on equal footing? Or is there still some perception that men are making up for things done to women? I cannot tell.

I welcome the discussion, because to me, this seems an odd remnant of a dead time.


Personally I’ve never much understood that sort of thing in a modern context. I’ve always lived by if I invite, I pay. Doesn’t matter who’s involved, I invited you out so I’ll pay for the evening or day. Or if that makes folks uncomfortable we can each pay our fair share. But this whole idea that the man pays no matter what and for all things just feels a bit off kilter to me and like I’m then beholden to this other person by virtue of our respective genitalia.

That raises the point hat it also gives the amoral sort a point of leverage to use against their companion, the “you owe me” mentality.

For us the rule has always been ‘who invites pays, unless it is made clear that everyone is paying separately’. The words used are either, ‘Hey babe I am taking you out to dinner, etc’ and then whoever is doing the taking out pays, or, ‘Hey do you want to go to-’ in which it is understood that I’m paying for myself but they’re driving.

I see. I just have heard and seen such odd responses from women toward men who suggest that they go Dutch.

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