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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.
Prior to that, courtship was a matter of family and community interest.
Starting around the time of the Civil War, courtship became a private matter for couples.
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.
This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement.
Accordingly, there was little need for a temporary trial period such as dating before a permanent community-recognized union was formed between a man and a woman.
While pair-bonds of varying forms were recognized by most societies as acceptable social arrangements, marriage was reserved for heterosexual pairings and had a transactional nature, where wives were in many cases a form of property being exchanged between father and husband, and who would have to serve the function of reproduction.
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.