Chivalry in the age of equality: Who pays on a date?

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Who pays on a date? A new study says despite the age of equality, 82 percent of men say they pay for most expenses, while 58 percent of women believe that to be the case.Today

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By Martha C. White, NBC News contributor

Never mind this Mars and Venus stuff: If you want to see how men and women think differently, ask them who shells out for dates. While 82 percent of men say they pay for most expenses after they’ve been dating for a while, only 58 percent of women think that’s the case.

And although more than half of women overall — nearly two-thirds of those 35 and younger — say they offer to pay for dates, 39 percent hope the guy will turn down the offer and 44 percent get annoyed if he lets her pay.

“We’ve always had a double standard with men paying,” said Janet Lever, sociology professor at California State University, Los Angeles, lead author of the report, "Who Pays for Dates? Following versus Challenging Conventional Gender Norms.”

Lever said men pick up on the idea that paying for dates is something they’re “supposed” to do, and a fair number of women let them. But this can backfire in a couple of ways. Nearly half of men say they’d dump a woman who never reached for her purse.

Both sexes are to blame for what the paper terms “benevolent sexism:” More than three-quarters of men say they feel guilty taking a woman’s money when she offers to chip in for a date, and although about half of women think the man should pay if his income is higher, only a third think they should pay if their income is higher.

The researchers found that this sexism isn’t always so benevolent. Overall, 16 percent of men say a woman owes him sexual activity in return for paying for dates, but this climbs higher in the case of younger men; 21 percent under the age of 25 believe in this kind of sexual quid pro quo. The less a man earns, the more likely he is to think that sex should be a “payment” for a date.

Roughly one third of women say that chipping in for a date lessens the pressure they feel to have sex with the man, although only 22 percent of women under the age of 25 feel that way.

“[Women] perceive that being treated is a benefit,” Lever said, possibly because they earn less and feel entitled, but she warned, “Chivalry is linked to sexism. If that’s the deal you want to make, go make it, but if you want equality... you shouldn’t make that deal.”