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Women eventually won the right to vote in many countries and own property and receive equal treatment by the law, and these changes had profound impacts on the relationships between men and women. In many societies, individuals could decide—on their own—whether they should marry, whom they should marry, and when they should marry.A few centuries ago, dating was sometimes described as a "courtship ritual where young women entertained gentleman callers, usually in the home, under the watchful eye of a chaperone," but increasingly, in many Western countries, it became a self-initiated activity with two young people going out as a couple in public together.Social rules regarding dating vary considerably according to variables such as country, social class, race, religion, age, sexual orientation and gender.Behavior patterns are generally unwritten and constantly changing.

While the term has several meanings, the most frequent usage refers to two people exploring whether they are romantically or sexually compatible by participating in dates with the other.Today, the institution of dating continues to evolve at a rapid rate with new possibilities and choices opening up particularly through online dating.The word "dating" entered the American language during the Roaring Twenties.Neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky constructed a reproductive spectrum with opposite poles being tournament species, in which males compete fiercely for reproductive privileges with females, and pair bond arrangements, in which a male and female will bond for life.These species-particular behavior patterns provide a context for aspects of human reproduction, including dating.

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