"The so-called sexual revolution is not, as advertised, a liberation of sexual behavior but rather its reversal. In former days, even under Victoria, sexual intercourse was the natural end and culmination of heterosexual relations. Now one begins with genital overtures instead of a handshake, then waits to see what will turn up (e.g., might become friends later). Like dogs greeting each other nose to tail and tail to nose."
Walker Percy, The Last Gentleman (1966)
Nineteen sixty-six, the year in which Walker Percy's The Last Gentleman was published, is also the year I entered as a first-yearman at the University of Virginia. We did not stoop to the State U level of referring to ourselves as freshmen, sophomores, and suchnot at "The University." We were all men at U.Va."gentlemen," we were told. Young women visited on weekends from Sweet Briar and Randolph-Macon, Mary Washington, and Hollins College. But they did not stay in the dormitory or the fraternity house. They stayed in college-approved housing, more often than not the home of a widow who had a few rooms to let and happily accepted a delegation from the colleges to assume the responsibilities of in loco parentis.
Parietal rules were enforced even in the fraternity housesself-enforced by those of us who lived in them. Young women were not permitted in the bedrooms and had to be out of the house by a certain hour. We dated, blind-dated often. We did not know what "hooking up" was. We had never heard of date rape either, though some of us may have committed it. It could happen in the back seat of a car, a cheap motel, a cow pasture, or a Civil War battlefield, but not in a college dormitory or fraternity house bedroom, not yet at least; it was not until the end of the decade that all the rules and prohibitions came tumbling down and the brave new world of the contemporary coeducational college commenced.
Back then, and from time immemorial, so far as I knew, there were the "easy" girls. We had a provocative name or two for them, and they were quickly sorted out from the "other" girls. Word got around fast. These were not young women one seriously considered marrying, and most of us expected and hoped to find a mate in college. If, however, a guy got especially "hungry" or "horny," there was no special stigma attached to taking advantage of what the easy girls had to offer.
The gentlemen of the University of Virginia lived by a double standard, but there were standards. There was little doubt about that. The arrangements the colleges provided for the sexes to meet and mix, strict dorm-visitation hours, approved housing, curfews for female visitors, and the like made that abundantly clear. When we set off on a road trip to a girls school, either by hitchhiking or jamming six or eight into a car, and arrived at the dorm, we did not just mosey on up to our dates' rooms and hang out. We waited, garbed in coat and tie, in the big informal parlor until our dates made their entrance.
One could say that in 1966, what men and women called dating was a lateand as I look back on it, probably also tenuousversion of courtship. We understood, at least implicitly, that there was an important difference between going whoring and dating. Treating a young woman like a whore was what a Don Juan would do, but not the mark of a gentleman, especially one looking for a future wife. But today is entirely different. My grown children tell me so, as do my students at Loyola College, and much has been written on the subjects of dating, courtship, and the sexual attitudes of our youth that confirms their testimony. But why is dating, as a form of courtship, an endangered practice?