Should men always pay for a date? Or should women pay?

This Salon article
got me thinking again. In the 1980s I sometimes went with the feminist idea that women should be equal in paying for dates, that men don’t have to dominate financially. It seemed rational. But I once dated a woman who broke up with me because she wanted me to always pay and she didn’t like how I shared expenses equally with her. And she was a feminist! She just thought it was the woman’s prerogative to never have to pay.

Now there are women who are offended if you pay for them, and other women who are offended if you don’t pay for them. How is a rational man to make the right choice at the right time? Negotiating money arrangements like this before you even start dating seems kind of crass, a mood killer. But if you don’t ask first, how are you going to get it right?

(Having been married for 16 years, this obviously isn’t an issue with me any more; Mrs. Mojo and I always fight for the check and it’s a contest of wits to see who can grab it quicker. But I still wonder about what people who date are supposed to do.)

I always ask my hubby “Are you paying or am I?” before we go out. Or we figure the person who did the inviting pays. I have always thought it unfair to make the man pay for everything all the time. However I have never dated anyone who made as much money as me… not intentionally, it just seems to happen that way.

Seems to me that for an equal relationship one needs to pay their half of the way. We can’t be letting men get high and mighty by controlling the purse strings!


I used to be of the same mindset, Jomo. I used to tell guys, “If you’re paying for my time and company, what does that make me?”

Now, I’m bit more open about it. I try to enjoy the perks of being a woman, and take the compliments as they come. If a man wants to pay for my dinner, I’m flattered. I try not to see it as a ritual or as obligatory. I figure if he doesn’t want to pay, he’ll say, “Hm, Shrew, looks like your share comes to $13.95 plus tip.”

I do always reach for my wallet. If he stops me, fine. If not, fine. But I’m never foolish enough to go empty-handed. Am I offended if he doesn’t offer? Maybe. Depends on the guy, his job and financial situation, and how much I’ve enjoyed the date. If he’s a starving artist or a grad student, then I’m much more lenient.

Not that I’ve been on many dates lately…God, I make it sound like I’m an expert. :rolleyes:

First, I think it is important that the man let a woman pay her share if she wants to, and if he has paid for the whole meal in the past, he should allow her to pay for the full meal if she offers. It feels good to pay: to give the person you like/admire/love a gift, and what I have a problem with are people who would deny the other person the chance to have that experience. Whenever a man is adamant about always paying, it seems to me that it is manipulitive: either it is an attempt to keep the other person in a state of constant emotional debt, or it is an atempt to narrow the methods avalible for discharging that debt.

Both giving and recieving are perks and pleasures in a healthy relationship, and neither partner should deny either pleasure to the other.

If she can’t pay, then I say I pay. If she wants to pay, fine with me, but I just let her know
next time I get to pay. Which means, for those who don’t have a clue, I get to see her

None of the women I take out lately feel obligated to give sex in return, which is pretty cool.

Interesting question. I’ve always paid if I invited a woman out. If she invited me out she usually wanted to pay (and did). If we both sort of mutually decide to go out I usually paid or we split it somehow. The more clever (and sexier) women I’ve known would generally make it seem like my idea even if they orchestrated the entire evening’s agenda. :wink:

In my experience, in real world terms, women who insisted on going halfsies even if invited out usually had power and territory “issues” they were working out, and lacked a sense of humor and proportion about the nature of life and male/female relationships, but other’s experiences may be different.

I can’t wrap my head around the notion of a man wanting or expecting a woman to pay unless the woman has expressly stated this is her preference. If a man is a gentleman the assumption should always be he is going to pay unless other arrangements have been made.

Amen! Additional: If one party of the courtship insists on the Scripted Traditional Courting Protocol (man pays, flowers offered at appropriate intervals, Valentine’s gift of whatever the mall jewler deems worthy), they’re probably wanting a traditional marriage too-man earns, woman obeys.

So no bitching if Mr Harlequin Romance turns into Mr Household Chores is Wimmins Work after the wedding, 'kay?

I’m a 21 year old female…

On normal occasions, we almost always pay for ourselves. It just seems wierd to do otherwise on an every day basis. It’d make me really uncomfortable to have someone else pay for me. It just seems unnatural. I work. I have money in my wallet. Why should I take care of anything less than my fair share? Feels kind of slimy.

Of course there are special occasions when one of us treats the other. Usually these are phrased “I want to take you out…” as opposed to “let’s go out…”. These things happen when one person is broke, or one person doesn’t really want to do the thing in question enough to pay for it, or on occasions like birthdays. It’s fun to treat your special person to a fun night out. It’s wierd to expect someone to pay for you on a regular basis.

I’ve never had any problems with this kind of setup. I think it is pretty much the norm for people my age in this area. I really couldn’t imagine it any other way. Communicating this arrangement has never been an issue. It’s what is expected around here.

Well, since I’m the one who always likes to eat out, I usually do the paying. She’ll buy dinner every once in a while, especially if it’s a place I’m not that fond of. I don’t consider it any kind of emotional debt or anything, and we’re not planning to get married, so it’s not that. I just happen to make more money, I like to eat out, so I pay. No big thing.

My SO and I take turns treating each other. It’s nice to be treated, but it’s nice to treat your sweetie, too. If a guy wants to treat on the first date that’s lovely, but I have absolutely no problems with splitting the bill. I certainly wouldn’t expect a man to pay for me all the time, nor I am interested in being someone’s sugar-mama.

Jomo Mojo, I read the Salon article, too, and didn’t get much out of it. My worth and status as a strong, independent woman are in no way affected by letting someone else pick up the tab once in a while. My thinking is that anyone who is very vehement about it one way or the other probably wouldn’t be much fun to date anyway.

I pay for about 99%the dates that my girlfriend and I go on. Its not because I want to keep her in emotional bondage or perceive her an inferior in any way, but it is instead due to a perception of my self. I was raised be polite and a gentleman and to fulfill the obligations that being one entails. Therefore I pay for our dates, hold doors, open the car door so that she can enter, give flowers, etc. I also make it a point to hold doors for random women out of the same sense of duty and I certainly cannot reasonably expect things out of them. Yes, some men might pay for things to instill a sense of obligation in a woman, but don’t forget to consider that you might have encountered a person just being polite for its own sake.

I second what Burundi said (except for the part about a man paying for me not affecting my status as a strong, independent woman).

I briefly dated a woman in college who suddenly and without explanation stood me up for a date and stopped returning my phone calls. I’ve always wondered whether it was partly because on our one dinner date, I figured out how to split the check as soon as it arrived.

Here’s what I suggest as protocol for men who are dating:
-When the check comes on that first date, pick it up.
-If your date says, “No, let me pay for my share,” smile and say, “How about you get me dinner next time?”
-If she insists on splitting the check then, do so with no further fuss. She may be insisting because she doesn’t want a second date.
-Hopefully she’ll smile back and say, “Sounds like a deal,” or something. This means you’ve got tentative second-date plans in the air, and you’re also getting close to the alternating-treating-each-other approach, which is, I think, the funnest way to handle it.
-If you don’t want a second date, natch, split away.

I think that this approach lets you negotiate payment without being awkward or explicit about it. The one potential pitfall is that if your date doesn’t object to your picking up the tab, you may be stuck picking it up on all your future dates.

By your future dates, though, hopefully it’ll be less awkward to talk money. And you can always say, “What if we go down to the Botanical gardens for a picnic today? I’m feeling poor.”

Not that I’m any Lothario, mind you, but after the college-dating incident, I thought a lot about this question.


Whar are the obligations of being a lady, then? Whether or not you mean for there to be any obligation dosen’t matter. It’s as if a woman you just started dating insisted on always cleaning up after you, making and serving you dinner, and doing your laundry. Even if she is only doing all these things because it brings her pleasure to take care of you, you are still likely to feel like shit as you sit there in your own house watching a woman you just met fold your clothes and wash your dishes. In this case, the woman isn’t being nice, no matter how pure her motives. Insisting on always payiong for everything, even if the woman claims it makes her feel uncomfortable, is the same thing. Being nice is a pleasure as well as an obligation, and it isn’t “gentlemanly” to hog all that pleasure for yourself.

I am also more likely to keep seeing a guy I feel ambigiously about if I am allowed to pay half the time. I don’t feel like you should let a man pay for repeated dinners if you are pretty sure that he is romanticaly interested in you and that you are never going to be romantically interested in him. If you are there more for the food than for the company, you must pay your own way. If I am uncertain about my feelings for a guy, I am uncertain about whether or not I am letting the prospect of free food (and a nice night out in general) cloud my judgement. In that case, I am apt to find the moral ambiguity unacceptable, and end the relationship. On the other hand, if I am paying half the time, I can take my time and discover how I feel, because I trust my own judgement more.

First off I never stated that I forced women to let me pay for them. If it really bothered her that much that it actually made her uncomfortable she could pay all she wanted. I just consider that paying for a date defaults to the man.

Secondly, concerning the hypothetical women, if she really took pleasure from cleaning up the messes that I made I would let her for a couple of reasons. First off I would take pleasure from the fact that she was enjoying what she was doing and secondly if I wanted to please her and, thus gain some direct pleasure for myself I would take her out to dinner or buy her some flowers. You seem to presume that there are a very limited number of ways that you can be nice to a person when in fact there are many.

I agree with you there. If a man or women knows thier compainion feels away about them that they don’t return they should not take advantage of that, but tell the other of their feelings.

If your there for the food rather then the company and the foods not free why would a person be there at all?

I just can’t wrap my mind around the idea that this is really a big deal to some people. If I went on a date with a girl who actually cared a great deal about this matter one way or the other, I’d make sure there wasn’t a second date.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes paying for a meal is just paying for a meal. We don’t need to construct elaborate psycho-social dramas for a simple and straightforward event that shouldn’t have much signifigance.

If I ask a woman out, I’m prepared to pay unless she insists on paying, in which case I’ll agree. I have had situations where the woman offered to pay half and when I accepted I was branded as cheap! Obviously there’s some mental head game going on there. This kind of behavior makes it tough to figure out what the right thing to do is, especially on a date, though a guy should offer to pay on a first date.


Would you argue with a woman? This is the conversation that bugs me:

Man starts to pick up check
Woman: Let me get it this time
Man: Oh, no, I’ll pay. It’s my pleasure
Woman: But I want to.
Man: No, no, I got it.

The woman ought not have to make a big deal out of it.

It wouldn’t make you uncomfortable if a woman took over 100% of all your household chores? If everytime you got up for a glass of water it was “oh, no, honey, sit down, I’ll get that for you?” I guess we just think totally different then. Ok, Look at it this way: If it made you uncomfortable, then would it be right for the woman to insist on doing so? I think it would be selfish.

Yes, there are many ways to be nice, but I think that each person in a relationship should have equal access to all of them: no one should be denied any way of being nice, especially because of a tradition that has it’s roots in a very different social structure. I think that the man should also be free to cook dinner for his sweetie, or do her laundry. Or pay her back with wild sex.

I agree with you there. If a man or women knows thier compainion feels away about them that they don’t return they should not take advantage of that, but tell the other of their feelings.[/qoute]

But do you see my point that if a woman isn’t sure of her feelings-she might be romanitcally interested, she might not–then she might want to pay her own way just in case she decides later she dosen’t like him? As a way to avoid even the appearence of golddigging?


Blackknight, see my analogy above about having a woman you just met taking over all your chores. Do you see how that might make you feel uncomfortable? To a woman on a tight budget, dinner twice a week is a great deal of money, and so a great deal to accept. Now, I agree that it’s an odd thing to make a big, big deal about on the first date, but it only becomes a big deal if you argue back when a woman offers to pay. Would you do that? If you would, I would suggest that it is at least a little bit of a “big deal” to you.


Obviously, you are well served to filter out people like this as soon as possible. Can oyu imagene a life with someone like that?

Most certainly not!

[slight hijack]

I went with a female friend of mine to a restaurant, we ordered, we ate, the check came and I said let’s split it. She decided she wanted to itemize the check because in her mind I had ordered more stuff than her. The check was for about $25. The became a major discussion at the table, I was embarrased! Needless to say, me and that person no longer go to restaurants together.

[/ slight hijack]

My feeling is the basic “Whoever does the asking pays” Gender is irrelevant.

Ever since my first date, my current GF and I always argue about who will pay. And I find it odd that I am arguing…I mean, I’m broke! I should like it when she always wants to pay! But then again, I know that if she pays everytime, she will catch on and make me pay. And I feel bad everytime she pays, casue I know she’s broke too.

It’s about 60/40 with me paying a little more of the time. I’m sure she wishes is was more 50/50, or Hell even 60/40 in her favor, but I ain’t gonna let that happen!

(to quote one of my friends:
“Every man pays for sex…most just don’t realize it.”)