Magazines #32: Going Steady - When Is It Immoral
An article in the August 1957 issue of People Today caught my eye, and I just had to share. 'Going Steady' When Is It Immoral? is a real eye opener as to how far we've come (either backward or forward, depending on your perspective) as far as what's acceptable and unacceptable in teenage relationships. I think you'll find it both amusing and horrifying. Enjoy.
'GOING STEADY' WHEN IS IT IMMORAL?
People Today (August 1957)
"Each time we start to neck it gets harder to stop." This dilemma of teenage "steadies" has caused many parents, psychiatrists and clergymen to regard the practice of going steady as an open invitation to immorality.
If a boy and girl see each other constantly, they are likely to become more physically involved than either of them bargained for-which may be one reason why the median age of brides and grooms has dropped
nearly two years in only a decade (to 20 and 23), and why the mothers of 30 per cent of the current crop
of first babies are girls who average approximately nineteen years of age.
Going steady is simply a verbal agreement between a boy and girl that they will date only each other. So long as they do, they're going steady. Then where does the danger lie? When it comes to sex, one thing leads to another and going steady becomes immoral. Catholic theologians regard the practice as an almost inevitable cause of sin. They contend that a boy and girl who are going steady (without planning to marry within a few months) can be compared to a would-be-reformed alcoholic who gets a job as a bartender. In Lynn, Mass., the Right Rev. Monsignor Joseph McGlinchey banned going steady for students of coed St. Mary's Parochial High school with this comment: "Going steady is a menace to the purity of our youth."
Another Roman Catholic clergyman, the Right- Rev. Irving A. De Blanc, Director of the Family Life Bureau of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, contended: "The habit of going steady must be stopped if the Christian concept of marriage is to be saved."
Psychiatrists approach the problem of going steady from another viewpoint. Those who oppose it do so on the grounds of damage to mental health, rather than imminence of sin. One prominent psychiatrist feel that going steady leads to sexual experiences at an age when most boys and girls are neither physically
nor psychologically ready for them. Sex, even in the guise of light necking, often gives rise to feelings of guilt, fear and anxiety which may harm sexual development.
Parents see the problem from a third angle - they worry because "Janie never wants to go out with anybody but Bill. Surely there must be a number of other nice boys around. When I was her age I had lots of admirers. Isn't she missing out on a lot of fun?"
Today's steady dating teenagers seemingly are more interested in gaining the feeling of security that comes from dating just one person, and always being sure of a date, than in just having "fun." And many authorities are in favor of going steady for just that reason. One spokesman for this point of view is Rabbi Joel S. Geffen, Director of the Department of Field Activities and Community Education of the
Jewish Theological Seminary of America: "Going steady is nothing more than the old seeking for companionship. There's nothing terribly harmful in it unless they take it too seriously."
How do the young people themselves feel? PEOPLE TODAY polled a number of them, got these answers:
"A boy who goes steady with a girl doesn't have to spend as much money on her as he would if he had to impress a new girl on each date."
"Girls who go steady don't have to worry about being left out of thing - they've always got a fellow to go
"The best way to get to know a person is to go out with him steadily. That way you find out whether you
really like him."
A major worry of those who "view with alarm" this practice is that the participants seem to start at an incredibly early age. Even 12 year-old girls can be seen wearing a boy's ring or identification bracelet.
But many experts refuse to set up a hue and cry about going steady; they even see many good things about it.
The Rev. Dr. Randolph Ray of N.Y.'s "Little Church around the Corner" believes many youngsters who "go steady" aren't really limiting their dating drastically. "A lot of them go from one to the other. They really haven't made up their minds and are ready to rock and roll with anybody that comes along."
Famed anthropologist Dr. Margaret Mead calls going steady a 'great teen-age experiment'. She says: "Youngsters today get bored with dating by the ninth grade, so they start going steady. In effect, a boy of 14 says to himself, 'I might a well get it settled, then I won't have to think about who to take to the basketball game Saturday night.' . . . The 14 year-old and his girl grow into each other, almost as if
they were members of the same family from birth. When they get married, their marriage is bound to be more stable - they have no grounds for comparison."
She concludes: "It is inevitable that after four years of sitting on the couch, a couple gets married."