So, wow. Yeah. Another one of those “I’ve been reading a lot of.. and.. (insert my opinion here).”
So, yes, I keep reading about Bucky as the ladies man: all sexed up and such. It’s a bit baffling to me, as this is a very modern way of thinking. Dating - or courtship - was very different in the 30’s and 40’s than it is today!
For example, take this excerpt from A Brief History of Courtship and Dating in America, (Part 2):
Beth Bailey and Ken Myers explain in the Mars Hill Audio Report, Wandering Toward the Altar: The Decline of American Courtship, before World War II, American youth prized what Bailey calls a promiscuous popularity, demonstrated through the number and variety of dates a young adult could command, sometimes even on the same night.
In the late 1940s, Margaret Mead, in describing this pre-war dating system, argued that dating was not about sex or marriage. Instead, it was a “competitive game,” a way for girls and boys to demonstrate their popularity.
This describes a situation in which dating was more about one’s reputation than any sort of romance. It was very important not only to be seen with many dates, but with the proper people. This explains why Steve would have had such a difficult time securing a partner: being seen with someone unpopular was worse than not being seen at all. However, this gives us a clue as to how popular Bucky must have been! If he was able to leverage himself in order to get Steve dates, Bucky must have been pretty high-ranking on the dating scale.
For men, desirable dating traits included a good personality and dance skills, as well as being “tactful, amusing, well dressed, prompt, and courteous” (Great Depression and the Middle Class…). Lasciviousness was not a good quality! Women communicated with one another concerning a man’s suitability, so for Bucky to have been popular he couldn’t have been the sex-centric playboy that fans like to imagine. It’s far more likely that he was well-spoken, funny, charming, and a great dancer. Remember, Bucky was from the lower classes, so he wouldn’t have had the money - despite the Depression, it was expected that men pay for the entire date (barring Sadie Hawkins themed events and once a couple started to go steady) - to impress women with a car and fancy clothes, nor would he have been able to take them out to dinner, so his dance skills would have been pretty important!
In fact, dancing was such a popular form of entertainment that, in one year, the University of Michigan fraternities held over 300 evening dances!
According to this web page “young people in the 1930s dated and double-dated by going to movies, getting something to eat, going for ice cream, driving around, spending time with friends, going to dances, and even ‘necking.’” That’s right folks, necking. Not fucking.
Women were expected to straddle a fine line between being too forward or too “frigid,” both of which could harm their reputations. Young people engaged in kissing, necking, and petting (meaning anything short of full intercourse). Petting was becoming more common - due, in part, to rising automobile-culture - as was sex itself; heavier petting typically came from going-steady, and engagement “came… to mean that partners would at some point ‘go all the way’” (Teen Culture in the 1930’s). Ladies who were known to be free with their sexuality prior to commitment were in danger of being known for exactly that, and could easily become popular merely as a means to an end (the wrong kind of popularity).
So, it likely wouldn’t have been hard for Bucky, as a popular young man, to find a willing partner (and I’m certainly not suggesting that he was virginal). However, if he were the sort of man to focus on easy women, it’s not likely that he would maintain his own high rating (which, again, we can guess at by the fact that he was able to not only secure himself dates, but Steve as well).
This is a really quick and dirty run-down of dating and sex during the 30’s into the early 40’s, but there is a lot of information available out there. Bucky is presented as a stand-up guy, so I don’t really understand why so many people seem to view him as some sort of a man whore. I sincerely doubt that he was entirely chaste (particularly once he went into the Army, a topic which I avoided on purpose), but I imagine that he was a desirable companion for his charm and dateability far more than for his sexual prowess.