When I was 16-years-old I was taken to a rock concert by an older man whom I liked and trusted. He was not a 'boyfriend' but a neighbour who shared the same bad taste in music, and insisted on paying for my ticket, and for a drink and hot dog during the evening. We had a great time, but on the way home he made it clear he expected sex. I declined, and he stormed off, telling me he would not have wasted his money if he had known I would not pay him back in kind.
As a lifelong feminist campaigner I am only too aware of the view that some men hold about quid pro quo chivalry — there is no such thing as a free lunch/dinner/drink when the man who is paying fancies a tumble at the end of a date.
This motive appears to have been apparent in the exchange between a 'glamourous' 18-year-old student and a young man in a Sheffield nightclub a few weeks ago. Abby Fenton said she was at the bar intending to buy herself a drink when a young man approached her, complimented her on her looks, and insisted on paying for her drink (to the value of £6.50). Fenton accepted, and it would appear that was the last time she saw him. Some time later she received a text from him asking for the price of the drink to be refunded.
The events manager at the club told a journalist: "We always see people asking for money back from buying drinks on the night if it doesn't go their way, but never this."
This fact that this is normalised behaviour is appalling. I am well versed in the way that sexism is mistaken for chivalry when it comes to men picking up the tab on a date. Many men believe that because it is his role to ask the woman out, he should pay the bill. If a woman insists on paying her half, it can lead the man to question his own masculinity and role of 'provider'. This is straight out of the 1950s, at a time when men were men and women were doormats.
Despite the fact that women still, on average, earn less than men, the idea that women are such weak creatures we have to have doors opened for us and our meals and drinks paid for is nothing short of patronising nonsense.
When a man automatically pays the bill because he has a penis, he is doing so because of the system of patriarchy, under which men are favoured over women in all socio-political contexts, putting the expectation on men at all times during the dating game to make the decisions and take control.
"Ah, but what of the women who expect it?", I hear you shout, and, "Women can't have their feminist ideas and expect us to pick up the bill." I would argue that the women who expect it are those who are told that men should pay for us, and that only hairy-legged man-haters would insist on going Dutch.
Remember the phrase, "He who pays the piper plays the tune"? When a man automatically pays the bill because he has a penis, he is doing so because of the system of patriarchy, under which men are favoured over women in all socio-political contexts, putting the expectation on men at all times during the dating game to make the decisions and take control.
Should Fenton have accepted the drink from this man in the first place? I would not have, but I understand the dynamic involved. Accepting a drink in the context of a night out, during which the man compliments your appearance, means he wants sex, and that you are bought and paid for. It would have been safer for Fenton to say "thank you", but decline. But I refuse to blame a woman for taking the tiny advantage available to her that exists because of women's inequality to men. True equality would mean that women earn the same as men, and that we put our hands in our pockets on equal terms. The price of a vodka and coke should not be sex.