Should Men Pay for the First Date: The Courtship Ritual of the Satin Bowerbird

By: Judah Stiefel  |  November 14, 2018

By Judah Stiefel

It’s not about how he used his wallet, it’s about why. In today’s modern world, one can easily view a man offering to pay for the first date as an anachronistic act of misogyny. Pioneers of gender equality and social justice sound alarms and tear down the walls of patriarchally attributed gender roles. The very reason that this cultural subjugation is finally being torn down is due to a civilizational shift in professional emphasis from manual brute strength (designated as “male”) to an emphasis on intellectual acumen. Men were able to create sexist, androcentric cultural codes based on their socioeconomic necessity within a nomadic and agricultural society. It’s therefore ironic when a man takes out his wallet to pay. He’s fallen behind in the times.

Consider the courtship ritual of the Satin Bowerbird, native to the continent of Australia. When the male of the species reaches sexual maturity, it builds a bower out of twigs and mud and begins to hoard colorful objects it finds from all around, within. The objective of this odd ritual is to attract the female of the species. In today’s era of cheap, mass, plastic production, most of this species’ treasure trove is now just garbage. To us, the process looks absurd. This bird is flying around filling its home with colorful straws, McDonald’s Happy Meal containers, and candy wrappers, yet somehow this frenzied ritual does, in fact, result in the attraction of female Satin Bowerbirds.

This is absolutely not an implication that women are attracted by materialism. In fact, quite the opposite. It is to say that people often do embarrassing, silly things to prove their worth in the name of love. A man attempting to pay on the first date is likely just like the male Satin Bowerbird, trying to display his worth. He flashes a small, colorful piece of plastic in an attempt to gain approval. (If he’s in college, it’s likely he got it from his parents anyway.) His intentions may be innocent, the alarms going off in your head may be premature. He’s just trying to demonstrate his worth, and he has yet to figure out how. After all, he just met you. If the date went well, don’t condemn him because he tried to pay. Instead, offer to pay for the next one. Give your Satin Bowerbird a second chance. He may be thick in the head, but at least he’s got nice plumage.

The act of a man flashing his wallet at the end of a meal may be off-putting, but this act may not necessarily be a statement of gender suppression. It’s more than likely that this man is not trying to establish himself as the alpha male hunter or the pater familial breadwinner. It’s true his choice of expression may be founded in ancient gender assumptions, but consider his motivations first before condemning him to a second-dateless Saturday night. It’s not about how he used his wallet, it’s about why.