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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 7. May 1, 1952

Women & Sex — A comparative study, by an American in New Zealand

Women & Sex

A comparative study, by an American in New Zealand

As many of my Weir friends, who have been subject to my critical joking remarks about New Zealand girls, know, there is a rather sharp contrast between the appearance and personality of the American and the New Zealand female. I thought, therefore, that an analysis of some of the differences, as I see them, might perhaps prove of interest to your readers. Considering the fact that I shall be gone when the magazine appears, I hope that you will permit the release of a few aggresive impulses which result from the sexual frustration I have felt this year.

To understand these differences one must consider the dating system in the United States a social phenomenon of which most New Zealanders seem to have a fairly accurate but somewhat over-elaborate impression. It is highly organised in the sense that informal, implicit norms exist for most aspects of behaviour. The norms continually change, however, and as a result dating "rules" are not rigid and often ambiguous; that it cannot be thought of as a system as such. Because of and as a result of extensive dating, the girl's prestige is largely measured in terms of her popularity—the number of dates she has, her beauty, her sex-appeal, her personality, and other, indefinable, date-getting qualities. Dates are not merely a means to marriage—they are methods of having a good time and of achieving status in a larger world that is more highly competitive than New Zealand. This type of life has resulted in some definite over-all differences in the femininity of these two nations.

Perhaps we could start by the use of a few adjectives sprinkled liberally without discretion:

The American Girl is best described as sophisticated; she is also coy, seductive, superficial, feminine, careful in dress, subject to fads, dominant in a very subtle manner, outwardly competitive, "catty," attractive in natural beauty, figure and personal care, resourceful, self-assured to the point of conceit, vivacious, subtle in the "use" of sex, independent, adaptable, versatile, impractical, shrewd, scheming.

The New Zealand Girl is best typified by the word "simple"; she is also obvious, considerate, naive, careless in personal care, relatively indifferent in dress, less superficial, lacking in self-confidence, not adaptable, reserved, unable to "use" sex except by obvious expression, insecure in a dating situation, submissive, fair-minded, outwardly complacent, more cultured in the arts, more educated academically.

If I should be accused of being prejudiced I can only repeat that I am an American seven months from home. Actually of course neither description is typical completely to the extremes, one way or the other.

But to illustrate the contrast, pretend that you are at an American university of about ten thousand males and three thousand females.

If you want a date for Saturday week, you'd better get busy for if she's good looking you're already too late. As you look out of the dorm window you can see couples walking or lying on the grass. The greater number of these couples, you can statistically calculate, do not "go steady" and certainly will never be married, for the females, especially in their first years of college life, are looking for variety and a good time.

You phone—the line is busy—you phone again ten minutes later and the line is still busy, and so you hold the dial down for seven minutes, hoping that the six other guys who are trying to "get in" are not doing the same. At length you're successful; you're lucky she's there for the chances are greater than she is out for a coke with someone else or is at her sorority house. She could be out playing tennis—but not hockey—but it is unlikely for athletics, while [unclear: indulged] in, are not feminine.

You open with casual conversation and attempt to guess from her voice [unclear: whether] she's glad you phoned. Then you ask, worked into the conversation as casually as possible, if she will go to the Tuny Man's Ball with you Saturday week. You do not ask "Are you busy Saturday week," for this may necessitate her being untruthful and is not "proper." As well she wants to know where you are taking her for the importance of the occasion may influence her decision. You're in luck—she accepts by saying "I'd love to"; the last time you had to call five different women. You want her to leave her dorm by 8.0 so you tell her to be ready at 7.30.

The day arrives she comes down at 8.15 saying, 'I'm terribly sorry but. . ." She is wearing the [unclear: £1] (the lowest price) corsage you sent her. It is only a few blocks away but you get a taxi, for to walk or take a tram is unheard of in formal dress. You enter the hall proudly for she walks gracefully and she is dressed skilfully and carefully—her femininity can never be challenged.

She seems confident and self-assured during the evening but talks to you as if you're the authority. When she talks to others—either by the use of her eyes, body or mouth—you can't help but feel that this mass of glamour and the chatter which comes out is a little superficial and about one inch deep; but that's the female way and you let it go at that—

You dance in dim lights, cheek to cheek, to slow music without a pronounced rhythmic beat. There is an occasional break for Latin music or a fast dance, but dancing in the U.S. is not an athletic event; therr is no race around the outside track.

She carries a "bag of tricks" around with her; socially she is skilful and well-poised—with the techniques she endeavours to satisfy her desire and usually does even at your expense. You even enjoy it sometimes. Due to thi competitive element and to the lack of institutionalisation in dancing, the situation is somewhat ambiguous. You are careful to listen during the evening for any second meaning in her conversation ; you reply in an equally vague way, but it is useless for she can read you like a book—but you don't know it. If she asks about your roommate in "that" way, chances are you're out—you're just a tool, if she subtly mentions next Saturday is free that's your cue and you stand a chance for the time being anyway. You try to find out her interests and secrets in a blow for blow, cat and mouse sort of a struggle of hints, Jokes and serious conversation. Neither is sure what the other means; each is trying to feel the other out. You admire her poise and social skill for seldom, if ever, is she caught off her guard or not knowing exactly what to do.

The dance is over. You might go straight home or you might take a detour—chances are she knows which it will be but you "decide" never knowing that you didn't. Having spent the whole night accumulating the courage, you try to kiss her goodnight: you might as well have saved yourself the anxiety for there is little for you to decide. At least her refusal is pleasant—she has had practice—you can tell that. She says she has had a wonderful time; you think that she may mean a little more than that . . . but you're never sure. You leave pleased, anxious, wondering, frustrated.

Space and safety will not allow a description of the New Zealand scene. Weir Housemen can make the comparison for themselves—but don't make any assumptions! I like them both; after all there are some things that all women have in common.

R. J. Foster.

Foster was a gifted American—or as he would have it Texan. Student studying Psychology under the Fulbright scheme. It is therefore to be presumed that he knew what he was talking about. The above article frirst appeared in the 1951 Weir House Magazine from which it is reprinted by kind permission of the proprietors.
Weir House

Darkly foreboding, Weir House stands primly menacing against the sombre skyline. Behind the electric fence live half-men, half-beasts. The room where our contributor was interned has just recently been converted to a debauchatorium. This interesting social phenomenon may only be visited under escort of the warden.