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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.

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

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.

From about 1700 a worldwide movement perhaps described as the "empowerment of the individual" took hold, leading towards greater emancipation of women and equality of individuals.

Men and women became more equal politically, financially, and socially in many nations.

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.

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

Today, the institution of dating continues to evolve at a rapid rate with new possibilities and choices opening up particularly through online 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.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.

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