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Relationships in nightlife: cultural analysis from a gender perspective

Relationships in nightlife: cultural analysis from a gender perspective

May 6, 2021

Our way of understanding relationships has a great learned component . In this case, I will focus on the social dynamics that occur in relationships in nightlife (bars, clubs, pubs ...) of Western countries.

Learning through culture

The processes of enculturation define in the social character (shared among several major social groups) what it is to be an adult, its significance, and all the imperatives that it entails. They are a series of socially accepted patterns and valued in situations of couple search by people who share this cultural paradigm, among others. One of these desirable characteristics is having a personality made and formed and stable over time.


According to my experience and the role of observer used in nightlife, I detect an expression that is repeated mostly among people of male gender , without exempting other genres. How we see people and interpret them, has a cultural component, and according to the prevailing culture is determined what is beautiful, acceptable and desirable and what is not.

Monogamy: a starting point for cognitive dissonance

Within Western culture the belief of monogamous relationships is established, and different ways of conceiving personal and affective relationships are rejected. The expression when observing people of female gender "is that I like them all", causes a conceptual incongruence between the culture absorbed and the hedonic needs of the moment, creates a homogenization of the perception of people and gives the point of party to the construction of the genre, with the explanation that when one has a belief, it is really the belief that possesses the person, regardless of the reasoning after this expression.


Essentialist positions are crumbled by this affirmation, since there is no reality, but it is constructed. And that construction makes us see reality as we see it, through learning and enculturation processes.

Traditional culture and gender roles in nightclubs

This expression responds to a traditional culture pattern, which is characterized by a homogeneous vision (beliefs, who is inside and who is) and are stable over time. In addition, Western culture is constantly reformulated under the same parameters but with different aesthetics, so can give the feeling that gender roles and relational attitudes are different, but they are really about covert strategies. An example of this may be machismo dressed and perpetuated as romantic love. We change the use of language, but structurally it contains a meaning equal to the previous reformulation.


This type of traditional cultures are also characterized by patterns with little variability, which translates into a greater degree of imperativeness. This degree, as the word says, has different levels in terms of the adverse reaction to situations that must be enforced by the people submerged in that culture. Cognitive dissonance in terms of the modernist versus postmodernist cultural shock, causes internal conflicts, and following the parameters of a traditional culture, also creates a guilt in the other.

Cultural influence also affects the conclusions we draw from the facts , therefore, the interlocutor can be interpreted as someone who does not understand or reject you, depending on whether the issuer complies with the prevailing canons, focusing the responsibility of the negative on the other and justifying the acts themselves as correct. The other is the one who is to blame, thus invisibilizing, through excessive psychologization, the structural and cultural component of behavior. In this type of situation, added to the fact that environmental characteristics are not suitable for a communicative process, an intersubjective negotiation of meanings is made especially difficult to understand the discourses of both parties beyond the projections and subjective interpretations of the other, from the glasses of cultural imperatives and what it should be.

Explaining the contradiction

On the one hand we have the cultural imperatives, and on the other the desire for other people, consummate or not. Why can this attitude be due?

The canons of beauty on gender roles mark the appropriate behaviors for each gender, in addition to their physical appearance. The environments where it is not easy to have a conversation, added to the visual nature of the human being, make the view become the sense that greater attention resources receive and, therefore, s e transforms into the first tool to make value judgments . The gender, understood as a social construction and in a learned way, makes us look at people conceived as beautiful according to these canons. The cultural canons, from a Western point of view, understand gender as a man and a woman only, but from the postmodernist view, new ways of understanding gender, sexuality and interpersonal relationships are included beyond the pre-established ones.

The woman as a mere object of desire

Nightlife venues are governed by certain aesthetic standards for access, like any company, looking to project an image and, in addition, that like-minded people give advertising for free. Without neglecting the passive role that is intended to give women as objects of consumption and advertising, we can see how both men and women respond to certain patterns of clothing for these occasions.

If people who meet these cultural standards of beauty have access to a fashion establishment, and access to those that do not comply is restricted, it is easy to understand that nightlife venues become an inculturation stage where roles and behaviors are learned socially accepted by the prevailing culture, in this case, modernist and traditional. It is not differentiated by more than aesthetics, and having learned what is desirable for each gender role, it is understood that you can feel more physical attraction for different people in the same place, as well as choosing the clothes and behaviors supposedly more adaptive for each social situation within the premises.


Adolescence: Crash Course Psychology #20 (May 2021).


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