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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The unsurprisingly problematic history of Date Knight

While Date Knight, or “Screw Date,” as the historically-minded among us refer to it, is all in good fun today, it has a far more controversial history. According to a 1995 retrospective in the Carletonian, the event originated as a “slave auction,” as a 1966 article about the event called it, in the 1960s. This casual racism shows how little students at this predominantly white institution at the height of the civil rights movement learned about Black history or cared about how their actions affected Black classmates. This racist event came with a healthy dose of sexism, too. Carleton co-eds dutifully lined up on stage while male students bid on them, featuring flashcards commenting on each woman’s attractiveness. Once “bought,” the girl had to go on a date with the man, as well as perform chores for him.

This event went through several permutations over the years, evolving into a “computer date night” not dissimilar to the much-missed Datamatch, and finally, the Screw Date we all know and love, originally called “Screw Your Roommate.” People across campus started to compete to set their roommate up with the least desirable partner possible, with one Jan. 27, 1989 article describing a Carleton student, who, upon seeing his date, immediately started running in the other direction.

While blind dates don’t always end in lifelong partnership, the adage “Carls marry Carls” has held true throughout the school’s history. A Nov. 19, 1949 article in the Carletonian pointed out that 12% of graduates went on to marry each other, not including faculty who married each other or students who married their professors. A poem circulated around campus in the late 1940s asserted that “Freshman date a whirl regardless of the rule, sophomores are by far the fastest bunch in school; juniors start to fade away, and seniors have all had their day.” Blind dates were a common way to find a partner, as was picking up a classmate with pick up lines like “Let me see your specimen.”

However, since men and women were housed on opposite sides of campus until the 1970s, opportunities to meet a potential prospect were somewhat scarce. One Carletonian writer in April 1937 proposed a way to solve the problem: a night where women would ask men out. This allowed young female Carleton students a rare chance to assert themselves romantically. There were also socioeconomic reasons behind this move, as, perhaps because they weren’t responsible for paying for dates, women were seen as having more money than male students. This idea became reality in October of that year, which declared the first Tuesday of every month as “ladies’ date night.” Some men were disappointed by this shift in the status quo, with a Dec. 8 letter to the editor in the Carletonian, saying, “Now the men know what it’s like — that waiting near the phone, getting nervous and more forcibly cheerful as the days go by, until finally it’s all over. They suddenly realize they weren’t even asked, and then the loud wailing of many self-styled Lotharios can be heard throughout the west side.”

A similar phenomenon was the Sadie Hawkins Dance, popular on many college campuses, including Carleton’s, in the 1940s and ’50s. This was a dance where women invited men, often chasing them across campus to do so, inspired by a similar event in the wildly popular comic strip Lil’ Abner. One Nov. 4, 1950 Carletonian article describes women stalking their paramours across campus all day in preparation for the dance in a spectacle similar to this year’s game of Assassin.

However you choose to celebrate this season of love — whether that be with a long-term partner, or a blind date you barely know — be safe and have fun this Date Knight.

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