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A few years ago when I was teaching at a local university I made a friend who went by the name of Sarge. He was quite a presence in and out of the classroom through both his personality and care for others. He was particularly troubled by how people are judged and treated. In a discussion about dating he began to equate dating to a livestock auction, and the conversation resulted in me beginning to require a paper from students about how dating is like a hog auction, and in particular how dating has functions and meets needs.

There are four functions of what we do or what we participate in. The first is the Utilitarian Function which in this case states that dating serves to provide rewards or helps us gain approval or acceptance. The second is Knowledge Function which would state that dating helps us see the world as meaningful or organized or perhaps not. The third is Ego-Defensive which would use dating to help us develop attitudes to help cope with emotional conflicts and to protect our self-esteem. The final function is the Value-Expressive Function that would use dating to help us express our values or core aspects of who we are.

I think that most people when presented with this analogy identify the other person as the “hog” to be desired or bought. But what if, in reality, what or who is being auctioned is actually the auctioneer.

After asking questions of people who buy and sell livestock, I found out there are a few things to look at such as blood line, conformation (stature, form, etc.), the overall appearance of health, and maybe even the hog’s personality if in fact that is discernable. Sounds like looking for a date doesn’t it. I think that after you get the hog you will learn more about the hog’s personality: what it likes, how it eats, and certainly not the least concern is performance. Does it provide something for you? Does it make you look good at the county fair? Does it have a good future? Will it be able to live long and prosper through having litters or siring good piglets, and of course in the end, provide good bacon?

Does purchasing the “best” hog provide us with some sense of accomplishment? Does the hog make us look good in front of the other hog farmers? What if we get stuck with a seemingly prize hog only to find we have bought one that looked good at the time but we quickly find this hog is not good for our farm and definitely not what we want?

What if we approached dating from a desire to give rather than to receive? Is it possible?

Perhaps the value-expressive function would help us understand this thought of dating for the purpose of giving. From this approach we would seek a date mate who would reinforce our self concept and sense of self-realization and we hope to enrich their life also. This person would help us express our social responsibility by allowing us to fulfill ourselves as a person, and we them. Yet, even from this perspective, their usefulness and instrumentality is the basis of desire; again paralleling the act of choosing a hog.

Is dating really like going to a hog auction? Single people might as well be walking around with numbers on their back to make it more convenient for others to choose or not to choose them. And how would this rating be determined? And who would determine our rating? Maybe this is already happening and we don’t want to admit it. Happy Auctioning!!!