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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.
These species-particular behavior patterns provide a context for aspects of human reproduction, including dating.
From the standpoint of anthropology and sociology, dating is linked with other institutions such as marriage and the family which have also been changing rapidly and which have been subject to many forces, including advances in technology and medicine.
As humans societies have evolved from hunter-gatherers into civilized societies, there have been substantial changes in relations between men and women, with perhaps one of a few remaining biological constants being that both adult women and men must have sexual intercourse for human procreation to happen.
Information about human sexuality grew, and with it an acceptance of all types of sexual orientations is becoming more common.
Today, the institution of dating continues to evolve at a rapid rate with new possibilities and choices opening up particularly through online dating.
It generally happened in that portion of a person's life before the age of marriage, enabled dates to be arranged without face-to-face contact.
Cars extended the range of dating as well as enabled back-seat sexual exploration.
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.
Still, dating varies considerably by nation, custom, religious upbringing, technology, and social class, and important exceptions with regards to individual freedoms remain as many countries today still practice arranged marriages, request dowries, and forbid same-sex pairings.
It is a form of courtship, consisting of social activities done by the couple, either alone or with others.
The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country and over time.
In the mid-twentieth century, the advent of birth control as well as safer procedures for abortion changed the equation considerably, and there was less pressure to marry as a means for satisfying sexual urges.