January 11, 2021

LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR, 21st CENTURY STYLE:  How do couples meet these days?  Everyone knows that meeting online is much more common now than it was … well … before there was an online.  But I did not realize until I saw this chart that there had been such a sharp uptick since 2000 in meeting in a bar or a restaurant.

One possible contributing factor to all this is the rise of sexual harassment lawsuits under Title VII and Title IX.  Note from the chart that the decrease in “meeting through or as coworkers” seems to roughly track the 1986 Supreme Court case that recognized sexual harassment lawsuits against employers under Title VII and (more importantly) the 1991 amendments to the law that made general money damages available for the first time.  That’s when employers started strongly discouraging amorous co-workers.

There was a bit of a time lag with Title IX (which covers colleges and universities).  It wasn’t until 1999 that the Supreme Court held that a school district could be held liable under Title IX for failing to control a student who is sexually harassing another student.  The students in that case happened to be 5th graders, but colleges and universities knew they were the ones most at risk for a lawsuit.  They stepped up their game at discouraging what they (often overzealously) considered “sexual harassment.”  Right on schedule, the line for “met in college” starts to decline.

Since 2000 or so, the number of couples who met in a bar or restaurant increased by about 50%.  It’s hard to know whether this is a real uptick in “cruising the bars” or something else.  But it makes me wonder whether all this concern over women’s safety at school and work has made them safer.

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