Is Chivalry Really Dead?

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Gone are the days of yesteryear when the furthest a date went was a goodnight kiss or a courtly bow. In this age of instant information, the Millennial generation has become the one that “Netflix and Chills,” making it difficult to establish dating culture on a college campus.

But have you ever wondered why the way that college students perceive dating changed? How did a date turn into a late night text to come over and Netflix and Chill? Understanding the evolution of dating beings with with the most basic element of courtship: chivalry.

A quick Google search defines chivalry as “the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms.” Chivalry may seem like an ancient approach, but the term has evolved through the centuries. What were once heroic qualities emerged as a method of courtship. On a modern-day college campus, it can be difficult to see this method in action.

Janee Perry, a Penn State senior majoring in biology, understands the difficulty that comes with the lack of “dating” traditions. “People just want to hook up, not commit,” Perry said. For some students, the evolution of dating can be jarring. Simran Pradhan, a Penn State senior majoring in journalism thinks it’s “weird how the physical comes first.”

Desiree Howell, Ph.D., a staff psychologist at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services at Penn State, sees the uncertainty students face when maneuvering the social scene. “It’s less clear when you’re in a relationship with someone. How do you know when you’re committed? How do you know when that person is your person?” Howell said. Howell has found that the concept of exclusivity for these “relationships” has become difficult to characterize.

For some, finding that special someone can be tricky. “Luck and timing are the only ways you get a boyfriend in college,” Penn State junior journalism major Lianne Galante said. Galante feels social media can lead to misconceptions and misperceptions that stem from so much access to information.

Educators like Stacy Silver, associate professor of Sociology and Human Development at Penn State, feel that social media can create a confident facade. Silver taught SOC 30: Sociology of the Family where she delved into concepts like “sexuality and hooking up” with her class. Having access to such technology in the palm of your hand makes casual sex effortless. “Dating apps tinder [and] grinder are designed to facilitate casual sex and a hook up,” Silver said.

Social media has contributed to information spreading. In essence, it’s plausible for gossip spreading faster than ever before. “Before social media, if a woman hooked up with a guy, nobody had to know about it,” Silver said. There is an air of distrust and despair that can come from the advancement of technology. Silver explained how posting leads to limited confidentiality in your personal life. “Word of mouth is a lot less powerful,” Silver said.

What would someone consider chivalrous today? Chivalry doesn’t necessarily take flowers or chocolates, just consistent communication. Galante explained that chivalry to her means “texting during the day, not just booty calls. Not snapchatting other girls.” And if you’re with someone in a fraternity, Galante also said “when he takes you to a dated function, [it’s] a pretty big deal.”

Although this culture can be overwhelming, it’s important not to generalize. Silver and Howell agree that the hook-up culture does not apply all students. “The culture and climate has definitely changed,” Silver said.

When it comes to the lack of rigidity, Howell explained that there could be both benefits and downsides for some college students. “On the plus side… it seems like there’s a lot more freedom. We’re not all under these very strict rules, like ‘this is how you date. This is what you must do; step 1, step 2.’ That’s very restrictive,” Howell said. “I think on the one hand it’s nice that we’re kind of free to do what makes sense for us and what feels good, and not have super strict rules. But then you know the flip side of that is a lot more confusion and not knowing how to take the next step, or even knowing what that next step is.”

Chivalry is a concept of progression. What it meant to the Knights of the Round Table is different from Joe asking Sally on a date in the 1950s. And it’s different from the Netflix and Chill culture of today. But just because the meaning has changed, doesn’t mean it’s disappeared. “I don’t think it’s dead. I believe it’s out there somewhere… you just have to look in the right places,” Perry said.

Rachel is a Penn State University senior studying print journalism. She loves John Hughes movies, Audrey Hepburn and all things travel.

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