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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.

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.

Dating is a stage of romantic relationships in humans whereby two people meet socially with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a prospective partner in an intimate relationship.

It is a form of courtship, consisting of social activities done by the couple, either alone or with others.

With the use of modern technology, people can date via telephone or computer or meet in person.

Dating may also involve two or more people who have already decided that they share romantic or sexual feelings toward each other.

This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement.

The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country and over time.

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.

Communities exerted pressure on people to form pair-bonds in places such as Europe; in China, society "demanded people get married before having a sexual relationship" and many societies found that some formally recognized bond between a man and a woman was the best way of rearing and educating children as well as helping to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings regarding competition for mates.

Generally, during much of recorded history of humans in civilization, and into the Middle Ages in Europe, weddings were seen as business arrangements between families, while romance was something that happened outside of marriage discreetly, such as covert meetings.

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