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This article is about the form of courtship. The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country and over time. While the term has several meanings, the most frequent usage refers to two people exploring whether they are romantically or sexually compatible by participating in dates with the other. With the use of modern technology, people can date via telephone or computer or meet in person. Dating may also involve two or more people who have already decided that they share romantic or sexual feelings toward each other.
Some cultures require people to wait until a certain age to begin dating, which has been a source of controversy. Dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries. Humans have been compared to other species in terms of sexual behavior. According to Sapolsky, humans are somewhat in the middle of this spectrum, in the sense that humans form pair bonds, but there is the possibility of cheating or changing partners. However, one particularity of the human species is that pair bonds are often formed without necessarily having the intention of reproduction. In modern times, emphasis on the institution of marriage, generally described as a male-female bond, has obscured pair bonds formed by same-sex and transsexual couples, and that many heterosexual couples also bond for life without offspring, or that often pairs that do have offspring separate.