The first date: Are men still taking the lead?

A survey of 622 EliteSingles members has revealed attitudes to dating in the UK that are still somewhat ‘traditional’, with 76% of men assuming that their role is to take the initiative and ask for the first date, and 83% answering that they should pay. But does this tell the whole story?

Attitudes shown in our poll hint that women should perhaps take the lead more. With almost a quarter of men saying they wait to be asked out, but almost 95% of women waiting for the man, are many potential dating opportunities being missed?

Before the date

The results of our survey suggest that women approach a first date more casually than men. For 36% of the men asked, the first date is essential for defining the path of a potential relationship. By contrast, 67% of women said that it does not guarantee anything. There is a noticeable gap in expectations, with less than half of women (46%) expressing excitement compared to almost two thirds (65%) of men. Perhaps explained by having had a number of bad dates before, the survey revealed a gender disparity in the anticipation of an enjoyable night, with many more women answering “it depends on the person I’m meeting”.

Meanwhile, our survey indicates that men are more willing to invest money and time for a first date. 44% of those asked would opt for a dinner date (compared to just 29% of the women, with 60% preferring coffee) whereas only 6% of men seem imaginative enough to offer an outdoor activity and just 3% opt for the cinema. The difference in preferred date venue is possibly connected with the cautious optimism suggested by the female respondents in the survey, with meeting for a coffee an easier option than a long evening meal.

During the date

Men and women have clearly different expectations for their first date. For instance, 35% of men want to be seduced, while the most popular response among women (66%) was to meet somebody who makes them laugh. In contrast, regarding conversation topics, the two genders are luckily more aligned. Both men and women are evidently more comfortable discussing their passions and common interests than about conflictual topics such as politics, economics or religion. According to Sabrina Philippe, a psychologist speaking to Elite Singles: ‘there are two keywords for a first date: casualness and simplicity. It is better to be yourself, to be spontaneous and casual rather than to play a role, which will make everybody feel uncomfortable’.

After the date

Importantly, this survey reveals that if men have enjoyed their first date and see the potential, there is a high chance they will call back.  41% of male respondents told us that they would call to invite her out for a second date. Women are less proactive, with just 2% saying they would call and ask for a second date. 30% of the female respondents said they would wait for the man to call them, compared to just 5% of men.

These results suggest that in the UK, first dates are still perceived in quite traditional terms. Compared to respondents from Sweden, for example, where just 46% of men answered “I should ask for the date”, singles in the UK seem to expect dating to be male-led. In many respects, particularly in regard to who pays, men can even be seen as more traditional than women. What is interesting, however, is that while the vast majority of women expect to be asked out, almost a quarter of men feel the same. Does this mean there are potential dates and relationships that are yet to happen, because of shyness or a lack of willingness to ask? With our survey also revealing more muted confidence for the first date among women, who are perhaps unsure of how good a fit their partner will be, it makes sense for women to take the initiative, choose someone they really like, and start asking more!