This is my essay about my dating study at BYU for my Anthropology 101 class. Read it and see if you agree. It’s interesting stuff for sure. (Read my interview answers here.)
There is a unique culture on campus at Brigham Young University. Out of nearly 30,000 students, all must sign the Honor Code, committing to sobriety, honesty, and abstinence among other things. Most students are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and have a goal to be married in an LDS temple. Therefore dating is high priority, and it shows in the activities taking place and in the school’s reputation. While most BYU students are looking to get married, marriage rates throughout the world have decreased dramatically within the last decade, and the age of first marriage has risen. In a recent study done by Urban Institute, it was found that if marriage rates continue in their recession, the percent of millennials married by age 40 could decrease as much as 12 percent below the level of 40 year olds married today(Martin 2016). While dating is still very prevalent at BYU, it is not leading to marriage as quickly or often as in the past. Why is this? This is caused by boys being more serious about dating with obedience as their main motivation because of their missions while girls are more focused on school because of the world, more specifically, the emphasis on careers.
To further examine this phenomenon, I studied BYU’s dating culture by interviewing, observing, and participating in the dating scene. I used one date I went on as data, I attended a dating and courtship class at an LDS church, and I interviewed both males and females. I asked a myriad of questions including: Do you want to be married by the time you graduate BYU? Why have you turned boys down? Why have you been turned down? What is the intent of the first date? Why are people getting married at an older age? Why have you broken up with someone? Do girls expect too much? Do you prefer to hang out or date? Have you kissed without commitment? What are your complaints about the opposite sex? Through these methods, I discovered that boys are more serious about dating because obedience is their main motivation because of their missions while girls are more focused on school because of the world’s emphasis on careers.
From my data I continually observed and was surprised by how serious males are about dating. I went on a date and beforehand, the guy texted me asking me to go to Paris with him after I serve my LDS mission. He also talked about owning a dog together. This behavior showed me how serious he wanted to be because he was already thinking about our future. In my church there is a dating and courtship class and when I attended, the teacher asked that everyone who went on a date that week to raise their hands. Most all of the males in attendance raised their hand. This showed that they are actively pursuing a future wife. When I interviewed the males, every one of them wanted to be married by age twenty-three, mid-semester boys had been on an average of ten dates, and all the males preferred dating to hanging out because it is more serious and intentional. Since they are actively pursuing dates and going on a high number of them, this shows the men are more serious about getting married right now. In my interviews I observed how frustrated the males were at dating, much more than the females. What people are frustrated shows what’s on their mind, and for the males this was dating. The guys also had a lot more to say which shows the priority of dating right now. This is because in the LDS church, males are commanded to serve a church mission for two years. During this period, missionaries obey their mission president, listening to everything he says. They become more disciplined as they obey mission rules and their priorities shift and change as they think more long term. At the end of their mission, most missionaries are told by their mission presidents to focus on getting married. For example, my friend was told to be married within a year of returning home from his mission. This shows the extreme pressure men have on them to get married. In the rule system of the LDS culture, one meaning within the culture includes directing members to do certain things(D’Andrade 1984). This includes going on a mission and later getting married. Missionaries know marriage is a commandment, and they are disciplined and ready to obey. This disciplined mission life leads to boys being serious about dating at BYU.
In my interviews, I asked if one preferred dating or hanging out. Girls on average preferred hanging out. This shows they are more interested in friendship while males are more focused on getting in a relationship and finding a spouse. While girls are interested in eventually getting married, it is not a priority to get married right now. According to a study, “women now have higher rates of university attendance than men, and they represent nearly 60% of the U.S. workforce”(Journalist 2016). This shows how prevalent women now are in universities and companies. One interviewee said, “society looks down on women who just want to stay home and be mothers and so women are taking education more seriously which leaves no time to date.” Many males I’ve talked to mentioned girls saying they are too busy with school to worry about dating. There is a push in the world for girls to be bosses, graduates, and to have successful careers. And because “A society’s culture consists of whatever it is one has to know or believe in order to operate in a manner acceptable to its members”(D’Andrade 1984), this puts pressure on women to own up to the call. There is a lot more emphasis on women in the workforce and so girls are more focused on doing well in school.
Overall in my studies, I discovered boys are more serious about dating because of their missions and girls are more focused on school because of the world. This was found in my interviews and experience with the dating culture of BYU. To further research this, a larger sample size and a dating perspective from a male point of view would benefit the study. A larger sample size would make the study better because it would prove my research more accurately. We need to keep this study in mind and conduct more studies about it because it is a warring statistic that marriage rates are declining. As marriage is extremely important in the LDS culture, these changes indicate a change in the society that should be followed closely. These examinations will give greater understanding into the way cultures evolve over time and allow us to see the effects of changes in society.
D’Andrade, Roy (1984). “Cultural Meaning Systems”. In Shweder and LeVine (Eds.), Culture Theory (pp.88-119). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Hickman, Jacob. Lecture. October 27, 2016.
Martin, Steven P., Astone, Nan Marie, and Peters, H Elizabeth 2016 “Fewer Marriages, More Divergence: Marriage Projections for Millennials to Age 40”.
Journalist Resource. “Women, work and work/life balance: Research roundup”. 2016