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Dating is a stage of romantic relationships in humans whereby two people meet socially with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a prospective partner in an intimate relationship or marriage.
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A few centuries ago, dating was sometimes described as a "courtship ritual where young women entertained gentleman callers, usually in the home, under the watchful eye of a chaperone," but increasingly, in many Western countries, it became a self-initiated activity with two young people going out as a couple in public together.
Still, dating varies considerably by nation, custom, religious upbringing, technology, and social class, and important exceptions with regards to individual freedoms remain as many countries today still practice arranged marriages, request dowries, and forbid same-sex pairings.
Social rules regarding dating vary considerably according to variables such as country, social class, race, religion, age, sexual orientation and gender.
Communities exerted pressure on people to form pair-bonds in places such as Europe; in China, society "demanded people get married before having a sexual relationship" and many societies found that some formally recognized bond between a man and a woman was the best way of rearing and educating children as well as helping to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings regarding competition for mates.This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement.Dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries.Although in many countries, movies, meals, and meeting in coffeehouses and other places is now popular, as are advice books suggesting various strategies for men and women, in other parts of the world, such as in South Asia and many parts of the Middle East, being alone in public as a couple with another person is not only frowned upon but can even lead to either person being socially ostracized.In the twentieth century, dating was sometimes seen as a precursor to marriage but it could also be considered as an end-in-itself, that is, an informal social activity akin to friendship.Humans have been compared to other species in terms of sexual behavior.Neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky constructed a reproductive spectrum with opposite poles being tournament species, in which males compete fiercely for reproductive privileges with females, and pair bond arrangements, in which a male and female will bond for life.In modern times, emphasis on the institution of marriage, generally described as a male-female bond, has obscured pair bonds formed by same-sex and transsexual couples, and that many heterosexual couples also bond for life without offspring, or that often pairs that do have offspring separate.Thus, the concept of marriage is changing widely in many countries.These species-particular behavior patterns provide a context for aspects of human reproduction, including dating.However, one particularity of the human species is that pair bonds are often formed without necessarily having the intention of reproduction.