Originally published on SexReally.com on May 25, 2011.
After approximately 800 years in the business of courtship and romance, bringing together billions upon billions of lovers through war, famine, drought, economic hardship, unforeseen obstacles, and reality television, Chivalry has passed away. How can we be sure? See: here, here, and here.
Chivalry, known to many colloquially as the code of male ethics, was born in the early medieval age, though its ancestors have existed in more primitive forms for as long as humans have roamed the earth. With the bougie-est of upbringings, Chivalry blossomed into its fullest form amongst the noble classes. Focusing on service to others, it became known throughout all the lands as the epitome of valor, honor and, most importantly, courtly love.
Over the course of its lifetime, Chivalry came to embrace a simpler life than its detailed, code-driven childhood and adolescence, shedding innumerable pieces of parchment listing rules and regulations for every interaction, downsizing to a much more manageable definition of courtesy to others, particularly women. The grand gestures of eras past were scaled down slightly, with stories of duals and courtly romance retiring to an eternity of fairytales, replaced with coats placed over puddles (or chilled shoulders), a helping hand out of a carriage or vehicle, and accompanying a female companion while walking on the side of the street closest to the traffic.
Chivalry, sort of like Madonna, reinvented itself at various points during its lifetime, evolving with changing attitudes towards gender roles and sex. It distanced itself when women asserted their equality and adopted a less condescending and more polite focus. As men and women began exploring the constraints of a sexual relationship and its relation to marriage, Chivalry heralded this exploration, and allowed itself to extend to a general common decency for all human beings. Men and women held doors open for each other, the Sadie Hawkin’s dance was invented, and dates went Dutch, even outside the Netherlands.
Things started looking grim during Chivalry’s last few years, as basic courtesies like leaving the toilet seat down and offering to pay on the first date became rarities and often required a request. While on its deathbed, nothing gave an ailing Chivalry more joy than the few times that retro instances of its imprint were honored, primarily during engagement and marriage ceremonies and the once a year a man opened a car door for a woman.
It lasted through the invention of automatic doors, mobile phones, and internet dating. It evolved as bras were burned, birth control was celebrated, and friends gained “benefits”. It re-evaluated its core principles era upon era and never backed down from innovation. Even while under siege for seeming chauvinistic, sexist, and archaic, Chivalry was always willing to embrace modernization and conform as best as it could.
Chivalry is survived by its loving, though aging children Politeness and The Rare Gentleman, as well as its infamous estranged love child from the summer spent by the beach in New Jersey, Douchebag.
"Cemetery of Chettle parish church" photo by Johan Doe.
Lauren Mann works in The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy’s Entertainment Media department. She’s been blogging about sex, love and relationships among twenty-somethings since she first joined the Campaign as an intern in 2009. Check out her personal blog at whatjewtalkingbout.tumblr.com.