Why Do Feminists Still Want Guys To Pay On The First Date?

Generation Z is the most progressive generation yet, and Gen Z women are even further to the left than men. So why do they still prefer for the man to pay on the first date?

By Ella Carroll-Smith3 min read
Pexels/cottonbro studio

“Who should pay on the first date?” is a question that’s often up for debate in the world of dating. While there’s technically no right or wrong answer, even in 2024, most people agree that the man should pay on the first date. One of the most common reasons people seem to cite is that since men are typically the pursuers and initiate the date, they should pay. Beyond any logistical rationale, however, there’s also the simple fact that paying on the first date is a traditional act of chivalry that most women find attractive. 

Interestingly, men are even more likely than women to believe that a man should pay on a first date. This likely has something to do with the fact that women are now more capable of providing for themselves than ever before. It’s not that women need a man to pay on a first date, but it’s nice when he offers because it shows that he respects us and values our time. 

The desire to have a man provide and protect is deeply rooted in our biology. We might not need a man to fulfill that traditional role anymore, especially not in the early stages of dating, but the desire is still there no matter how much of a #Girlboss you might be. 

“Tradition” is a word that comes up a lot when discussing this subject. In a world where casual dating is more normalized than ever before and dating traditions are getting thrown out the window by younger generations, you might think that Generation Z, as the most progressive generation yet, would be eager to turn this tradition of a man paying for the first date on its head, but you’d be wrong. A study published in 2021 about dating trends among Generation Z found that even they prefer for a man to pay on the first date. 

Gen Z’s Political Divide

Recent surveys have revealed a great political divide among Generation Z. While Gen Z is more progressive than previous generations, women are the ones who heavily sway their generation’s move left. Gen Z men actually tend to lean more conservative, while the women are starkly more liberal. Interestingly, this trend can be found across multiple countries.

A recent Gallup survey found that while LGBTQ+ identification in the U.S. is at its highest rate ever at 7.6%, a whopping 28.5% of Gen Z women identify as LGBTQ+ compared with 10.6% of Gen Z men. In contrast, only 12.4% of millennial women and 5.4% of millennial men identify as LGBTQ+.

There are many contributing factors to Gen Z women becoming more progressive. Gen Z grew up in the wake of the #MeToo and GirlBoss movements in which women were put on a (sometimes undeserved) pedestal and told they could do no wrong. Remember the “Believe all women” motto that many were parroting during the #MeToo era? This was always a patently ridiculous notion.

Women are just as capable of lying as men are. Of course, true victims of abuse deserve justice but to believe every woman simply based on her sex is a recipe for disaster, which is why the #MeToo movement devolved into more of a circus than anything else. But Gen Z women came of age in this era, and many of them took this message to heart. 

Gen Z is also the most online generation, spending vast swaths of time on social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. 31% of Gen Z girls reported that they spend as much as five hours per day on social media, compared with 22% for conservative girls, 18% for liberal boys, and 13% for conservative boys.

When you look around at the state of our culture, it’s not a huge shock that Gen Z women are moving further and further to the left. And, as the more “conservative” gender, it's easy to understand why the men of Gen Z want to continue the trend of men paying for dates. But if so many Gen Z women are progressives who believe men and women are exactly the same, then why do they still want men to pay on the first date? 

Some researchers, such as Shanhong Luo, a Fayetteville State University professor studying gender roles, chalk it up to norms, telling the New York Times that, “Regardless of what you believe in, you’ll do what the norm says to do.” Gen Z doesn’t seem reluctant to buck the norms in other areas of life though, so is that really what’s going on here? 

Gen Z Craves Tradition

There’s a popular “feminism leaving my body” trend among women on TikTok where they talk about how even though they’re progressive, they still prefer it when a man does something traditionally masculine, such as doing manual labor, putting furniture together, or paying on a date. 

Of course, many of these TikToks are in jest, but there’s a seed of truth at the core of this trend. As it turns out, women, no matter which generation they grew up in, prefer for men to act like men. Shocking, I know. This is why even self-proclaimed feminists like films and shows with buff action heroes who run toward danger and will do anything to save the girl they love. Those traditionally masculine archetypes are attractive for a reason, and even super-progressive Hollywood knows it.

The desire for men to fulfill these traditionally masculine roles boils down to simple biology. Men have filled the role of provider and protector since the dawn of time, and even as times change and humans evolve, that basic biological desire remains even in the bossiest of Girlbosses. 

Suzanne Venker, an author and relationship expert, often says, “Men and women are equal in value but wildly different in nature.” This is true, of course, and Gen Z is living proof of that even if they don’t realize it. Gen Z women can wax poetic all they want about equality, but when that bill hits the table at the end of a date, they want the same thing all women want: for the man to pick up the check.

No matter how far left Gen Z women might be politically, it’s difficult to fight the innate desire to be provided for and protected by a man – and that desire starts as early as the first date. Sure, women are perfectly capable of providing for themselves nowadays, but it’s nice to have a man step up and take that role sometimes, even if it’s only for one date. 

Closing Thoughts

It's difficult to deny that men and women are inherently different, which is further evidenced by the fact that (as we discussed earlier) men prefer to pay on the first date. This biological desire exists on both sides and it appears that, at least in this one area of life, Generation Z is deciding to go with the grain of nature instead of against it. 

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