What Is the Romance Gap, and Why Does It Still Exist?


I have a confession to make. While I consider myself to be a strong, independent woman, there’s still a little part of me that expects and wants my boyfriend to shower me in gifts.

Like not really, but a little bit. Having grown up with this romanticised ideal of “the perfect man” (only to discover that not only is that ideal problematic but also that women are pretty hot too), I’ve been taught that a successful romance is one where I’m given gifts.

Coming from the old fashioned idea that marriage is a financial transaction and men make the money in a household, I guess it makes sense from a financial standpoint that they’d be the one to give gifts.

But we live in a new world now! We live in a world that (mostly) understands that women have the ability to make their own money and have financial stability without men. And thank god for that.

So then, why does research from Bumble tell us that Australian men are not typically receiving flowers from their partners?

97 percent of all floral bouquets purchased through the company DAILY Blooms are received by women, and 83 percent of men state that it’s romantic to receive a gift from someone who has a crush on you. 

This research confirms that the Romance Gap — which is the difference in how men and women are socialised and expected to behave while dating or in a relationship — is still alive and well in Australia. 

Despite positive strides towards equality, traditional gender roles and expectations remain entrenched in Australian dating culture and romantic customs. Bumble’s data also showed that that over 80 percent of Australians believe that when it comes to romantic relationships, there are different expectations and expected behaviours depending on your gender identity. 

Sexologist Chantelle Otten thinks it’s important for both people in a relationship to give gifts, not only to change gendered relationship ideals, but also to improve your sex life.

“Research does show that femmes are better at gift giving than mascs, however when we are talking about the context of relationships and dating there is still a notion of waiting for the masc person to gift to the femme,” Otten tells POPSUGAR Australia.

“I think this comes back to what we’ve been taught by our parents and in movies and TV shows. Look at How to Lose a Guy In 10 Days — the masc has to prove himself and once he showers the femme in gifts he is rewarded. It’s hard to shift these ideals when growing up this is the norm and what we’ve experienced.”

Similarly to the expectation on men to give gifts, there is a very common narrative that the masc person should have a higher sex drive and therefore they should be chasing the sex in the relationship, Otten says.

“Everyone has different levels of libido and all genders should be comfortable making the first move. Some femmes are really horny and we don’t really talk about that as a society. Some femmes want to feel attractive and in control and there is nothing wrong with that.”

Basically, the Romance Gap feeds into all the gendered expectations that society has put onto relationships — most often heterosexual relationships — that can impact our expectations based on gender. They’re easy to fall into because they’re what we’ve been taught and grow up around, but they don’t need to be our norm.

Even something simple like cleaning up after your partner, because your mum used to do that for your dad, feeds into the Romance Gap without really giving either party an opportunity to change the cycle.

“You need to think about what you want and if you want something go and get it. Just think, the more you go for what you want the more likely you are hopefully going to get the answer you need.

“I really think you can bend your own reality and what society wants you to be and do whatever to do. If you want to be forward and don’t want to wait for anything, be that the job you want, person you want to date, the gift you want to give… and take a step forward and go for it!

“By doing so, you’re changing the gendered narratives that desperately need to be changed.”

So go buy your boyfriend, husband or masc-presenting partner a little somethin’ and let’s close that Romance Gap one gift at a time.

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