“Should I express affection on a date?”
“Must I kiss a boy good night?”
“How far should I go in necking?”
These are some of the questions boys and girls everywhere ask. There are many more, for young people want to know what is acceptable in this delicate area of a relationship. Problems centering around parking and petting are universal now, with so many dates taking place in automobiles. Public opinion is still a matter of concern to young people. Many ask why parents worry about dating behavior, and how other teen-agers feel about a public display of affection.
SHOULD HE OR SHOULDN’T HE?
Many a boy is puzzled about just what a girl expects of him when he takes her out. He brings her home from a date, and she either seems scared about what he will do next, or she hesitates and seems to be waiting for him to “try something.” If he has not been out with her before, or if he has had little experience with girls, he just doesn’t know what is expected of him.
That Good-Night Kiss
Teen-agers tend to agree that a first date is too soon for a good-night kiss. Some sophisticated fellows say, “Sure I try, but I don’t really expect to get a good-night kiss the first date.” If such a fellow does get the kiss, he may wonder about how many other boys have also been so favored. This is exactly the impression a girl wants to avoid. No girl wants to appear “too easy.” She feels it’s better policy to give a boy something to come back for the next time.
Young people of both sexes tend to feel that a kiss should mean something besides just “good night.” College and high school students usually agree that kissing should be postponed by a dating pair until they’re fond enough of each other for the kiss to have special meaning.
Even though the first date is usually too soon for a goodnight kiss, there are important exceptions. If a couple have known each other for a long time before they date, they may feel that a kiss is appropriate. If the two persons have had an especially good time together, a good-night kiss may be the only way in which they can express their satisfaction in being together. If the girl seems to want to be kissed, and the fellow is eager to do so, this too may be an exception.
The Proper Moment
If the first date is generally too soon for a good-night kiss, how well should you know a girl before it is all right? is a question that boys often ask. This is a good question but difficult to answer, because the way two people feel about each other varies so greatly. With some girls a fellow will want to be amorous very soon, while with other girls intimacies don’t seem necessary, or even desirable, even after long acquaintance. It’s not just a matter of how long the two persons have gone together, but rather of what they have to express which can only be communicated through kissing.
Signs and Signals
Boys are often puzzled about how to know just what expressions of affection a girl expects on a date. The girl’s behavior is his best guide. If she leans toward him and looks at him expectantly, most boys assume that she wants to be kissed. Some fellows find that they can’t rely entirely upon such signs of a girl’s readiness, for when they try to kiss her she slaps or acts offended. On the other hand, a shy girl may not indicate her willingness, and yet want to be kissed. Asking a girl if he may kiss her seems to many a boy to be asking for a refusal. Sometimes a girl who would really like to be kissed is afraid the boy will think she’s “fast” if she says “Yes.” So, in general, it’s best for a boy to wait until he knows a girl well enough so that he can interpret her reactions fairly accurately. That way his affectionate gestures will be welcomed rather than rebuffed.
How can a fellow know how far a girl will go in the expression of affection between them? If he respects her wishes, he “reads” her signals and obeys her signs of distress. When she draws back or requests him to stop by gesture or word, he breaks the chain of love-making and gets back on a comfortable basis again.
If he’s a “love-pirate” exploiting girls with little regard for their feelings, he may get away with a few offenses, but sooner or later he will lose the confidence and friendship of nice girls. Sometimes a boy discovers that there are girls who make a game of love; they tease a boy only to laugh at him when he becomes affectionate. Such individuals, male or female, soon come to be recognized for what they are—and little love is lost on them.
No boy wants to be ridiculed for his love-making. Fellows don’t want to be rebuffed by girls they like. Most boys want to show affection to their girls in ways that will be mutually pleasant. Therefore the fellow does well to wait until he is fairly sure his girl shares his feelings before he proceeds with his wooing. Then he paces his expressions of affection to what seems appropriate and satisfying to both him and his date.
MUST YOU NECK TO BE POPULAR?
Necking is light love-making of the kissing, hugging, cuddling variety that stops short of becoming urgently sexually stimulating. Generally a girl who is fond of the boy she’s dating enjoys his light caresses. However, if a fellow has gained the reputation of being too ardent, then, quite likely, he will find himself being avoided by most of the nicer girls and dated only by those girls who “have nothing to lose” in dating a “fast” boy.
A fellow doesn’t have to neck to be popular with the vast majority of girls. In fact, girls generally prefer boys who are interesting persons and popular among the fellows to those who are “ladies’ men.”
The same principle holds for girls—only more so! A girl doesn’t have to neck or pet to be popular. In reality, surveys show that the most popular girls are rarely the ones who have a reputation for being willing to neck and pet on dates. It’s the socially inept girl with few alternatives who most often is involved in necking sessions. The popular girl gets a reputation for being a pleasant companion, a good sport, and an interesting person. Necking is not a necessary part of her dating repertoire.
THE GIRL’S VIEWPOINT
There are all kinds of girls and women, just as there are all kinds of boys and men. Some girls are love-hungry in their search for affection and get the reputation of being “easy” and available. Other girls are too self-conscious, or too absorbed in other things, or too frigid to be at all interested in a boy’s amorous advances. The majority of girls neither are afraid of familiarity, nor openly solicit it, but rather are puzzled about what boys expect and about how to keep their love-making within reasonable bounds.
Saying It Without Kisses
Some girls have scruples against kissing too often or too soon or too promiscuously. They want to get to know and really like a boy before they let him become intimate. They don’t want to get the reputation of being too free with their kisses.
Some health-conscious fellows and girls do not want to risk catching any of the diseases spread by mouth with indiscriminate kissing. Cold sores and other infections can run through a high school or college population, causing a great many sensible young people to realize the risks involved in promiscuous kisses.
How can you prove to a boy that you like him without yielding too soon to familiarities? That is an age-old question. Some boys just won’t take “No” for an answer. Others act offended and hurt when they’re held off. But the boy who likes a girl for herself will respect her wishes and not force himself upon her. So a girl has to run the risk of losing the attention of a few “wolves” in her search for the kind of date who is willing to be a genuine friend.
Letting a boy know what your standards are is one way of helping him accept them. You needn’t do this in a preachy way. You might discuss other people’s behavior or let your boy friend in on your dreams, aspirations, and values. A nice boy respects a girl with high standards and likes her all the more for knowing that she has not given other fellows the favors she refuses him.
Showing a boy you like him without expressing affection physically can be done in innumerable ways. You might express interest in what he is doing and planning; really listen to what he tells you; be sympathetic when he is in trouble; act pleased at his successes. Showing pleasure when you meet him, looking into his face when you speak to him, smiling warmly when he says something you appreciate, making him some simple little gift, inviting him to social affairs—all these are ways a girl tells a fellow she likes him.
When a Fellow Gets Fresh
When a boy goes beyond what pleases a girl in his love-making, she faces a difficult problem. If she allows him to continue, against her wishes, she may be headed for more trouble than she will be able to handle. If she tries to restrain him, she must know how to do it without hurting his feelings or making him feel rejected as a person. This calls for delicate know-how that a girl must learn—in action.
The inexperienced girl may wonder, “If he tries something, shall I slap him and run, or just run?” The more mature girl knows that she doesn’t need to resort to either slapping or running in order to deal with the too amorous boy friend. She wards off unwelcome behavior with a firm refusal to co-operate, accompanied by a knowing smile and a suggestion of some alternative activity. She may say, “Not now, Ambrose—let’s go get a hamburger; I’m hungry.”
Or she may take a tip from Marianne. When her date seems about to do something objectionable, she takes both his hands in both of hers, squeezes them affectionately, grins into his eyes, and says, “You’re quite a guy.” By doing this, Marianne lets her date know that she won’t go along with his intimacy, at the same time that she shows she likes him as a person.
A girl’s best protection is in anticipating a situation and deflecting it. The wise girl who wants to avoid a necking session keeps up an animated conversation about things that interest her date until she is returned to her door, when she bids him a pleasant adieu and goes in. This is easier said than accomplished. But if the girl is sure of her objective, she avoids anything that points in another direction. She keeps to brightly lighted, well-populated places and away from dark lonely corners where the situation may get out of hand.
It is a wise girl who knows the variations on the “Come up and see my etchings” theme well enough to decline an invitation to drive to a lonely Lovers’ Lane “to see the view.” This kind of know-how often comes from talks with other girls. As girls pool their experiences they can share their knowledge of various boys and their approaches. And they learn from each other the skills for dealing with various problem-boy situations,
PARKING AND PETTING PROBLEMS
In the good old days when most couples did their courting on the girl’s front porch or in her back parlor, the question of parking and petting rarely came up. The girl’s parents were usually close at hand, with one ear cocked for what was going on in the courting situation. One woman reports that her parents invariably appeared with a bowl of popcorn or a pitcher of lemonade at the precise moment when her lover became most amorous. Her parents explained that when the springs on the porch swing stopped squeaking, they would know it was time to “take something to the young people.”
Nowadays when dating is often in automobiles, the young people are on their own from the time they leave the girl’s front door. Where they go, and how far, and when they stop, and how long, and whether they keep their love-making within bounds is entirely up to the dating pair. This entails great responsibility requiring considerable know-how as well as know-why.
Sitting together in a parked car gives a dating pair privacy and quiet. In today’s crowded homes, busy dormitories, and with the pressure toward group participation, parking may be the only way a boy and a girl can be alone together to talk. Couples who are genuinely interested in each other, perhaps planning for the future, certainly need such quiet times for developing a sense of unity. Differences come up that have to be ironed out in private. Dreams and ambitions must be shared. Plans must be laid ahead if the relationship is to grow and flourish.
No one objects to dating couples talking together in a parked car. It’s the likelihood of petting that gives parking such a bad name. So many young people use the freedom of the parked automobile for unrestrained, irresponsible sexual activity that anyone who parks is suspect. In some communities police roam darkened areas where cars are parked, beam their flashlights into the cars, and send petting couples on their way. In one instance a man was arrested for kissing his wife in their own car! If petting is this much of a problem, it needs to be understood.
What Is Petting?
Petting is usually defined as anything a man does that is directly sexually stimulating to a female. In marriage, petting is the necessary foreplay that readies the woman to receive her husband. This behavior is complex and varied. It includes the deep and lingering kiss, the “French kiss,” the fondling of the woman’s body—especially those areas that generally are not exposed to view—and pressing all or part of the man’s body close to that of his date or mate. The female may or may not participate actively in the fondling and kissing. She generally is relaxed and receptive, while the male is the more urgent and aggressive sexually.
Petting is distinguished from necking by its intensity and urgency. Young people themselves generally consider the lighter, gentler, tenderer types of love-making as necking. These are many and varied, taking in kissing, cuddling, holding the girl’s head on the boy’s shoulder with his arm around her waist, or cradling a boy’s head in a girl’s lap, sitting cheek to cheek, and as many et ceteras as there are variations on the old, old theme of love.
Young people find that there is a progression from the lighter to the heavier forms of expressing affection. It starts with a good-night kiss, goes on to necking, and may proceed to petting, heavy petting, and intercourse. In marriage this progression is uninterrupted. Among courting pairs most couples stop before the behavior gets too urgent, in conformity to what is expected of them as unmarried persons.
However, not all boys and men are responsible in their love-making. One coed reports that on her campus she is expected to give a good-night kiss on the first date, to neck on the second date, pet on the third, and that she has to fight for her honor the fourth time she’s out with the fellow. This may not be typical. Yet enough problems occur in the park-and-pet situation to demand clarification.
Think Before You Park
A girl need not feel obligated to park with a man she doesn’t care for as a person. Letting a man exploit her as a female is no kindness to him, or to her. When an obviously exploitive male goes into his routine, any sensible girl will take heed and extricate herself as quickly and effectively as possible. In fact, if she’s really smart, she will not be there on a car date with him in the first place. Unless she’s sure that both of them have the same general expectations and plans, she won’t accept a car date.
PARENTS HAVE A RIGHT TO WORRY
As soon as sons and daughters start going out, most parents worry that they will find dating situations too difficult to handle. Some of this concern comes from parents’ own memories of their behavior as young people.
A recent cartoon portrays a mother seated in her bed, while Father paces up and down before the window. Through it we see the silhouetted heads of a couple seated close together in a parked car. (The girl is obviously daughter of the house.) Father is upset, worried about what the young people are doing. The mother is saying, “Come on back to bed, Father. Don’t you remember when we were young?” And Father replies, “You’re quite right, I DO remember—that’s what I’m so worked up about.”
A major concern of parents is that their sons and daughters don’t get caught in some sexual jam that will spoil their future for years to come—perhaps catapulting them into a ruined reputation, or a loveless, unhappy marriage. Parents have invested a great deal in their children by the time the teen years come. They don’t want to see their children hurt by situations and forces whose strength and urgency the young people may not be prepared to handle well. But few parents can discuss questions of love, sex, courtship, and marriage with their children to the point where they are sure that their children know all they need to know.
One recent study on a university campus reported that four out of five of all college freshmen said that they could not talk about love, sex, and courtship problems with their parents. Indeed, these were the most difficult questions of all to discuss at home in the experience of the majority of these college students. This reluctance of the younger generation to talk over with their parents the personal questions that bother them about dating is a cause for concern.
Young people who can and do discuss their problems with adults whom they know and respect are fortunate. And their parents are fortunate, too, in being close enough to their own young people so that they know that they can be trusted.
Teachers Are People Too
Schoolteachers and principals are responsible for the conduct of students at school functions. Just let something happen that the public frowns upon, and it is the principal or the dean who must account for the episode. If couples are seen holding hands as they go from class to class, kissing in front of their lockers, or necking and petting at school parties, some adults feel that something should be done to restrain these demonstrations. In order to protect the reputation of the school, some adult has to see to it that no one couple become obnoxious in their love-making.
Some teachers are more old-fashioned than others. They may have grown up in very formal, moral surroundings. They may be lonely, unhappy people who are peculiarly upset by emotional displays of any kind. They may be concerned that their students keep their minds on their school work and not get sidetracked by love and sex too soon. They may be deeply concerned about the future of certain students in whom they have special interest and faith.
In every school or college there are some adults who believe in young people and inspire their confidence. Such a teacher will “go to bat” for the students when some injustice has been done them by a particularly harsh disciplinarian. Even more important, this understanding teacher can help young people see what issues are involved and what social behavior is expected of them at school.
Reasonable young people do not label all teachers “old bags,” but learn to respond to them as individuals, without being prejudiced against them simply because they’re older people. Teen-agers don’t like to be labeled “delinquents” or “hoodlums” just because some of their generation are. So, too, the younger generation needs to discriminate in their opinions about adults.
THE TEEN-AGERS’ VIEWPOINT
In almost any community or campus there are some couples who are so open in their love-making that other young people feel responsible for correcting the situation. The annoyance of socially sensitive students at the behavior of some couples at dances and social affairs is understandable. They want their affairs to look “nice.” They don’t want to be embarrassed by conduct that is not suitable in a public place. They feelthat it’s unfair to those who don’t date to carry on so obviously.
When young people themselves assume responsibility for their behavior at school and social functions, the adults in charge do not need to interfere. An overly demonstrative girl can be asked by the other girls to be more restrained. If this is done privately, perhaps in the powder room, neither the girl nor her date need be embarrassed. Similarly, a couple of fellows can pull aside an ardent male and suggest a less objectionable way of showing his affection.
DATES IN DORMS
Women’s dormitories face the problem of keeping the conduct of dating pairs within respectable bounds. Girls who live in a college dormitory share the public lounges with several scores or even hundreds of other coeds for the entire college year. Any one girl cannot be as free with her visiting date as she could be in the privacy of her own home. She is expected to meet certain standards of conduct that are acceptable to her dormitory mates.
Just what constitutes socially acceptable dating behavior in a dormitory parlor has been the subject of discussion on many a campus. The girls themselves in dorm meetings tend to agree on the following standards:
Keep the lights on.
Do not close or lock the doors.
Keep feet on the floor.
Show consideration for others.
Acknowledge the dorm mother as the responsible adult at hand. Maintain a pleasant homelike atmosphere.
Such standards assume that dating pairs will enjoy the freedom of the situation by assuming responsibility for it. They acknowledge the rights of the non-dating coeds as well as the privileges of the dating pair. They recognize the problem of the dormitory matron in maintaining decorum acceptable to the larger constituency. They grant that girls should be able to entertain their dates in an atmosphere that is pleasant and homelike within the dormitory parlors. They want dates to be welcome, responsible, and co-operative.
Necking and petting may become rampant where there are few other activities for dating pairs to enjoy together. In the town where there are active youth organizations, on the campus where there is a good social program, too much or too promiscuous love-making is not apt to be a major problem. This is a challenge to the community and the campus to provide a variety of wholesome functions in which both boys and girls can participate either as dates or as unaffiliated individuals. This is a responsibility for any or all of the persons involved. If such programs are lacking, young people should call it to the attention of their adult leaders and request that together some more adequate provisions be made for the social life of the community. Results do not appear overnight. But progress can be made if enough people care about the situation to work toward its improvement.
Love is one of the sweetest experiences known to humankind. In it a man and woman can express the highest and best that they know. It lies at the core of any courtship, and at the heart of the home. The expression of affection is nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. When two people love each other, each is a better person for the expression of their mutual feeling. Such significant sentiments are too sweet to spoil with shoddy makeshifts and promiscuous playing around.
The problem is not whether or not to express affection, but rather with whom, and when, and where, and how and for what purpose, and to what end. The answers to such questions must be discovered by each boy and girl. For in dates and dating, a boy and girl play out the eternal drama of the sexes in whatever roles they believe theirs to be—with each other, and in life.