I've always had friends who are men & we've done many things together - as friends. I generally assume that any activity is done with friends or acquaintances.... unless the other person has made it very clear that he wants it to be something more & we have had some kind of discussion to that effect. (It's called 'communication' - rather than making unwarranted assumptions or guesses based on too little info.) And anyway, the best relationships (imo) start out as friendships first, so as to get to know the other person (at least for a little while).
I have always thought that that was what dating was. "get[ing] to know the other person"
I guess there are people who prefer to make dates with unknown people based solely on visual 1st impressions. I tend to prefer to talk with someone & get to know him a bit 1st. ;-) When it comes to dating, quantity does not interest me; quality does. Actually, casual dating with relative strangers holds little interest for me, as I have plenty of other things to do with my time. I prefer to wait for the kind of person that I could potentially have a relationship with - or at least someone whose company I'm pretty sure I will enjoy. If you do things together on just a friendly basis first & get to know the person, then it's easier to tell. And you have not precluded the possibility of friendship with someone because you tried dating first & it didn't work out.
It also does not take advantage of a guy's tendency to pay for evertything on a date.... vs paying for oneself when you are doing things on just a friendly basis. I always figured that, if one wants to be treated as an equal, one must act like an equal - rather than someone merely looking for a 'provider'. (I doubt that someone like John Ross would like me - which is fine by me, as I doubt that I would like him based on those essays he's written. I'm not into those kinds of games. Better to find something like that out before dating someone, don't you think?-)