Sneating: An Old Dating Trick With A New Twist

Photographed by Refinery29.
When my mom was 18, she went on a lot of dates with men she didn't actually like. Maybe that sounds like a sad story: The teenage girl who doesn't know how to say no, and so she goes out with any man who asks. But my mom doesn't need your pity. She wasn't a poor little girl who allowed men to manipulate her. She was just poor, literally. And she used the dates to get free dinners that she wouldn't be able to afford herself.
Back then, what my mom was doing may have been called smart or maybe conniving, depending on how you feel about someone using another person for free food. But now, we have a name for this behavior: "sneating." According to Urban Dictionary, sneating is a combination of "sneaky" and "eating," and has been around since at least 2011. The term gained new life when a woman named Sarah explained that she has no regrets about sneating with her Tinder dates.
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When the New York Post told Sarah's story, they claimed that sneating "feeds on chivalrous men." Calling the men "chivalrous" definitely implies that men are getting taken advantage of here. But not everyone believes that. The conversation around sneating is two-sided: Some say that going out with someone purely for a free meal is manipulative and rude. Some say that the men (and it's usually men) who end up paying for the date knew what they were signing up for, and the women (because it's usually women) who benefit don't owe them anything.
While I understand how going on a date because you want free food sounds immature, I tend to agree with the second argument. Women like my mom who benefit from men who pay for meals are playing into expected gender roles, for sure. If a cisgender man is going on a date with a cisgender woman, it's still often expected that he'll be the person who pays. Most men not only understand these "rules" of dating, but tend to play into them, as well.
Now, I'm all for subverting the rules our culture has placed on dating and relationships — many of which tend to be restrictive, especially for women — but if you're going to abide by the rules, you can't complain when they don't work in your favor. Buying food for someone does not mean that they owe you a second date, sex, or anything else, unless they specifically said, "I will pay you back." So maybe the person who said yes to the date isn't convinced that there will be a date number 2, but that risk is inherent in any first date.
Bottomline: Whatever cutesy name we want to call it, women like my mom have done nothing more than say yes to a date someone asked them on, and eat the food they offered to buy.
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