As schools became the arenas for extracurricular clubs, , and other events, they also became the site for spontaneous heterosexual socializing.
Young people developed dating in these new work and educational contexts as a means to order mate selection and to contain the erotic possibilities that the new freedom from adult supervision made possible.
In the 1920s and 1930s, exclusivity was not considered either essential to dating or its only necessary result.
Instead, a dating-and-rating syndrome sometimes overwhelmed the long-term courtship objectives of dating, as young men and women of the middle class engaged in a whirl of heterosexual social activities which defined their status in a complex hierarchy of popularity and desirability.
Some immigrant and religious groups still resisted and were appalled by the freedom that dating permitted between strangers, but most native white young people understood that while dating was not supervised by adults it nevertheless had clearly established boundaries enforced by peers that regulated respectability, eligibility, and the routines of sexual access.
Most young people did not have either the time or the privacy to engage widely in experimental activities, and the importance of chastity for women among respectable people meant that girls and young women did not venture very far on their own without adult chaperones.Both boys and girls were now more often found mixing promiscuously in unsupervised work and play environments as adolescent girls went out to work in factories, shops, and offices.These young people often spent their money and free time in unsupervised commercial recreations such as , dance halls, and amusement parks.The vast extension of schooling between the world wars to the majority of adolescents (including immigrants) in public , and to a substantial minority in colleges and universities, made these new peer definitions possible.The long hours at school and the shift of authority from home and work to youth-based institutions, along with the coeducational nature of the great majority of these institutions, made peer standards in dating dominant.These relied on both the heterogeneity of populations at school and the enormous expansion of popular culture, especially via movies, popular music, and sports, that provided sources and models for approved behavior, appearance, style, language, dress, and beliefs around which standards of popularity and datability revolved.In expanding the vocabulary of acceptable and proper behavior, popular culture idols helped the young redefine eligibility and expand the limits on sexual propriety in their dating behavior toward more liberated forms.Starting in the 1920s, a date usually involved one or two couples going out together to a movie, a dance, a soda shop, or a roadside restaurant.In places outside of large cities, this increasingly relied on access to an automobile and became dependent on the outlay of significant amounts of cash to ensure that the treat for the afternoon or evening was acceptable to the dating partner.But among others, especially the large and growing middle class and the respectable working class, the fact that young men and women spent more time away from the watchful guidance of parents became a source of considerable cultural concern and anxiety in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a concern most effectively articulated by social reformer J in The Spirit of Youth in the City Streets.Especially problematic was the new freedom of young women.