Role Reversal on Tu B’Av


Written by Joseph Dunsay. After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. Find more Jewrotica writing by Joseph here.

Rated PG

Dating etiquette dictates that women wait for men to ask them out while men actively court the women they desire. Biologists see these gender roles as a natural consequence of the contribution each sex makes towards human reproduction. The minimum male investment is a lunch break and a bit of bodily fluid. The minimum female investment is nine months of pregnancy and years of nursing. Hence, it makes sense for women to be more selective when choosing their mates. Western tradition reflects this pattern by encouraging women to sit back and make men prove that their DNA is worth accepting.

Jewish custom allows a yearly exception to a woman’s passive romantic role. On Tu B’Av, single women can approach bachelors for dates and marriage. In ancient times, Jewish women marked the holiday by dancing in vineyards and calling out to eligible men. They wore borrowed white clothes so that no one could tell how wealthy or poor the ladies were. In modern Israel, romantic songs play on radio stations during Tu B’Av, and Israelis send red roses to significant others. Chassidic musicians perform among the grapevines near Jerusalem where women have revived the annual dancing tradition.

Nature has its own exceptions to the standard courtship routine. Most species of frogs stick to the script of males singing to attract females into their loving embraces, but duets are the norm for one South American species of frogs. A female starts the mating ritual with a clicking sound when her eggs are ready for fertilization. Her vocal boldness is necessary, because she has only 24 hours to get her eggs fertilized and mating takes place at night in crowded murky ponds. A male hears her general advertisement and produces his own vocalization if he thinks she is attractive. The hormone inspired duet progresses to copulation.

Female frogs can become more sexually assertive when environmental conditions demand it. Human females become more open to new romance when social norms allow them to be more active. The typical speed dating event has women sitting at the same tables all night while men move from table to table. A participant checks a box if he or she wants to follow up an encounter with a real date. Men check more boxes than women do. Two psychologists managed to close this gender gap by having women rotate from table to table while the men stayed seated. A change in dating rules was all it took for women to overcome biology.

It turns out that social norms can free a woman from the path evolution paved just as easily as they steer her down that road. Well-written family laws can ensure that a man’s parental investment lasts longer than an hour thereby making the costs of a night in bed more equal. With the risks of romance mitigated, women have less to lose by approaching men. Tu B’Av is a wonderful opportunity for Jewish women to take a more active role in their reproductive lives. Whether this means dancing in a vineyard or making the first move online, women can spend this holiday practicing their right to choose.

After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. His LGBT erotic e-book launched in the summer of 2015.