In the twentieth century, dating was sometimes seen as a precursor to marriage but it could also be considered as an end-in-itself, that is, an informal social activity akin to friendship.

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As humans have evolved from hunter-gatherers into civilized societies and more recently into modern societies, there have been substantial changes in the relationship 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.

Humans have been compared to other species in terms of sexual behavior.

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.

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

Social rules regarding dating vary considerably according to variables such as country, social class, religion, age, sexual orientation and gender.Dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries.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.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.These species-particular behavior patterns provide a context for aspects of human reproduction, including dating.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.