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Why It’s So Ugly When Guys Get Weird About Paying for Dates

Him reaching for the check is still the norm — but when men push to change things up, it’s rarely a good look

As Beyonce famously said in “Formation,” “When he fuck me good, I take his ass to Red Lobster.” Unfortunately, a lot of guys take this advice to heart, but most of them forget the part about fucking. For instance, back in January, a Twitter post by a woman named Teonna went viral after she posted some texts from a self-described “king” demanding that she treat him to a meal at Red Lobster. Why do I get the feeling this guy had never eaten her pussy like it was a Cheddar Bay Biscuit?

Men paying on dates still seems to be the norm, but some are really pushing to change things, and it’s not pretty. Women have reported being surprised when they’ve gotten a request for half the bill from a date via Venmo, long after the fact, and sometimes for as little as $3. In their opinion, the request was made only after the guys figured out they weren’t getting anything for their “generosity.” In fact, one redditor willingly admitted that he Venmo-ed his date for 20 bucks and then badgered her until she paid. (After the way he acted, ghosting him seemed like the wise choice.)

Perhaps the height of lunacy is the story of Brandon Veznar, who sued his date for $17.31, the price of her movie ticket, after she texted during Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 3-D. It’s definitely one of those stories where no one comes out looking great, but my god, dude, do you really want to be known as the nerd who took a date to small-claims court to get back 17 bucks? You can’t fuck a principled stance.

In any event, a study done by Tara Emmers-Sommer, associate dean for research and graduate education at UNLV, found that both men and women continue to have traditional views regarding who should pay for a first date — and it’s the man. Women went on to say that when a man paid, it made them feel that he was attracted to her. On the flip side, however, when the men paid, it tended to heighten their sexual expectations. 

Ward, a 53-year-old from the Bronx, takes it one step further: He thinks if you aren’t ready to pay, you aren’t ready for much of anything in life. “It’s pretty good form for the man to pay on the first date,” he says. “If you can’t afford to pick up a check at dinner, you probably have other things in your life that you need to get straightened out before you start dating with reckless abandon.”

And while some women might feel more comfortable splitting the bill, this introduces other complications.

“I only had one woman suggest I not pay, and that we split it. I suggested splitting the bill down the middle, not realizing this meant my date would be charged for more than she ordered,” says Sam, a 40-year-old in Minnesota. In his opinion, this made things awkward. “That quickly put an end to any chance of a second date. I think if the bill is split, it should be between each person’s items, not down the middle equally.”

“Splitting is okay, but it feels petty to me, especially if it’s a single meal or just a bar tab being split between two people,” adds Justin, a 44-year-old in the Bay Area. And so, he suggests a more appealing alternative: “On several occasions after I’ve paid for the main activity/purpose of the date, I’ve appreciated the other person paying for some other part of the date, like ice cream after dinner or a round of drinks at a concert.” This has an added benefit of sending a “signal that they’re interested.”

Either way, anything that makes the date seem transactional is bound to fail and make everyone involved feel bad. For men, it might be that they feel they spent money for “no reason” or were just being used for a free meal. But for women, it’s more than that. James, a 33-year-old from Washington, has had several of his female friends express the pressure they feel at the end of a date. “I’ve known women who have felt a strong vibe from the guy at the end of a date along the lines of ‘I fed you, now fuck me,’” he says. 

As such, a woman’s request to split the check can be more than just about financial fairness, it’s often about eliminating expectations. Jefferson, a 60-year-old from Orlando, definitely gets where women are coming from, even though, in his mind, “our possible romantic chances were never contingent on a quid pro quo involving a plate of grilled salmon.”

Justin thinks a good approach is to eschew dinner for something more low-key like coffee. “I’ve had friends get pissed when they’ve spent a lot of money on a first date and then are ghosted or turned down for a second date,” he says. “In my opinion, they were nuts to go so extra on a first date with someone they haven’t even met.”

A lot of guys in a Reddit thread devoted to this topic think the practice of a man paying isn’t only outdated, but not in line with feminist ideals — some even called women who expect it entitled. But my guys were more diplomatic about it. (Some even brought up that picking up a dinner check was a small way in which they could make up for the gender pay gap. Bless their hearts.) “The entire convention of the man paying on the first date goes back to a time when women lacked real financial independence,” James says. “While I don’t think ‘going splitsies on first dates’ is ever going to be the top of the priorities list for feminist groups, I do think they’re all working to help women overcome the obstacles and cultural forces that made men paying on dates the widely accepted social norm to begin with.”

Moreover, most of them seem to genuinely enjoy treating a woman to a meal, just as they would any friend. “As long as it remains a friendly and consensual act,” Jefferson says, “and isn’t perverted into some unspoken social contract that guarantees reciprocity, and until a matriarchy replaces our current global society, then I don’t think it will ever be outdated.”

He goes on to add, “Thanks for allowing me to participate in your article! I owe you dinner, I guess… :)”

Sure! Venmo 50 percent of what you would have spent on our dinner at Del Taco. Lucky for you, I’m a cheap date.