As far as mainstream holidays go, Valentine’s Day is perhaps the most heteronormative of all. From greeting cards and gifts, to television shows and movies, society inundates us with messages that Valentine’s Day is an occasion to celebrate monogamous, heterosexual relationships. It’s a day when men buy flowers, chocolates, and (for the more adventuresome) frilly panties for their ladies before having a candlelight dinner punctuated by kisses and declarations of love and fidelity. So on a day when almost everything seems to be about “devoted husbands” and their “beloved wives,” what are gays and lesbians supposed to do?
Entries in valentine's day (97)
Feeling cold increases people’s liking and willingness to pay for romance movies but not other movie genres (i.e., action, comedy, thriller). Researchers thought this was because physical coldness activates a need for psychological warmth, a feeling often associated with romance movies. Indeed, the more individuals associated romance movies in general with psychological warmth, the more they reported liking romance movies – but only when they felt cold. So if you’re going to watch a romance movie this Valentine’s Day, be sure to turn down the heat for a heartwarming experience.
Hong, J., & Sun, Y. (2012). Warm it up with love: The effect of physical coldness on liking of romance movies. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(2), 293-306. doi:10.1086/662613
For heterosexual couples, just making sure that both partners reach orgasm during vaginal intercourse can be difficult. Achieving orgasm at the exact same moment (i.e., “simultaneous orgasm”)? That’s even more of a challenge. Why? Because the typical motion of penile thrusting does not seem to provide adequate sexual stimulation for many women. In fact, only about half of women report being able to climax from penile movements alone during sex and, even among those women, many of them report that they do not experience orgasm reliably.1 As a result, many women find that adding clitoral stimulation to intercourse (e.g., with the use of one’s hand or a vibrator) or attempting different sexual activities is necessary to help them climax. However, it turns out that you may not need to do these other things if you can better align your own and your partner’s genitals during sex.
Everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, and you’d probably assume that couples end up expressing their love (or lust) for each other in ways other than giving gifts. In fact, the #1 gift that men want to receive for Valentine’s Day wasn’t really a traditional “gift” at all: it was sex (read more about the top-ranked gifts here).
We asked over 1,000 Americans (learn more about survey here) if couples should expect to have sex on Valentine’s Day, and if so, if that sex should be better than average (i.e., “extra special Valentine’s Day sex”) or if it would be the “typical” sex that the couple normally has. Overall, 36% of people expected to have better sex than usual, 27% thought they’d have typical sex (if you’re bad at math, this means that almost 2 out of every 3 respondents expected couples to have sex on Valentine’s Day), and 37% didn’t think that sex should be expected on Valentine’s Day.
Things get interesting, however, when we look at men and women separately. Almost half (47%) of men expect better sex than usual, whereas 30% of men don’t expect Valentine’s sex. The pattern is reversed for women; nearly half (47%) say that sex shouldn’t be expected, and only 23% expect extra-special sex on Valentine’s Day.
So, don’t just assume you’re on the same page as your partner when it comes to Valentine’s Day sex. Communication about sex is always a good idea, and when better to start discussing the importance of sex in your relationship than on Valentine’s Day?
I’ve received a gift on Valentine’s Day once in the past ten years. I wouldn’t consider my lackluster gift count so remarkable if I were perpetually single, but I have been romantically involved with someone on every single Valentine’s Day in the last decade! In contrast to my former partners, I derive a ridiculous amount of pleasure from giving people presents. Although I hardly need a reason to buy someone a gift (“It’s Tuesday? Cool; here’s the box set of Top Gear you said you wanted”), Valentine’s Day offers the perfect excuse for me to indulge my gift-giving fancy.
Recently, marketers have taken interest in why people buy Valentine’s gifts for their partners. One particularly interesting study focused on young men’s reasons for buying Valentine’s Day presents and what these reasons suggest about their relationships’ balance of power.1 The researchers spoke with approximately 100 men through a series of focus groups and in-depth interviews, during which the participants were asked about a Valentine’s purchase they made for a romantic partner within the last two years. Men reported three primary reasons for buying into the Hallmark holiday...
Dubbed an “erotic fiction” and “mommy porn,” the Fifty Shades books are among the top selling novels of all time. In fact, worldwide sales are said to be over 100 million, and at its height one of these provocative page-turners was being sold every second.1 Given the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, it is no wonder that the geniuses in Hollywood are planning to cash in on the “feels so good to be bad” phenomenon this Valentine’s Day. Of course, the question remains, should you go see this movie?
If you are like my sister, then you have already answered with a resounding, “Yes!” Of course, it is likely prudent to consider how this deliciously salacious movie may impact your relationship, for better or worse.
In a prior post we told you what gifts were identifed as the perfect gifts for women on Valentine's Day. Now it's the guys' turn....
Again, we asked our survey respondents:
What is the perfect Valentine's Day gift for a man to receive?
The #1 most preferred gift men want for Valentine’s Day
S-E-X. A whopping 46% of our male respondents indicated that the perfect gift for them on Valentine’s Day is sex.
And we won’t go into all the gory details, but some guys were quite specific regarding exactly what type of sex they have in mind. My eyes still burn. Think what you want, but at least it’s free, right?
- the proposer asking the father or parents of the proposee for his/their permission or blessing to marry the proposee
- the proposal is a surprise
- the proposer getting down on one knee
- the proposer presenting a ring
- the proposer asking, “Will you marry me?” 1,2
If any of the elements are missing, especially if there is no ring, then outsiders might think the engagement is not legitimate or the relationship itself is weak.1,3 Although people who are less traditional are fine with not having a ring, many think that the lack of a ring indicates a lack of sincerity on the part of the proposer. 1 Where did the notion that there needs to be a diamond ring start?
Okay, so you've figured out that you're going to give your partner a thoughtful, romantic gift during an intimate dinner (vs. as part of a flash mob), but now you have to figure out just what you should get your partner. Fortunately, you're in luck, because we asked men and women what they thought were the perfect gifts for Valentine's Day. Let's begin with women......
We asked survey respondents to respond to the following question:
What is the perfect Valentine's Day gift for a woman to receive? (please fill in anything you think a woman would most like)
Here are the top gifts listed for women (I wish we could say the results are shocking. We can't.)
The #1 most preferred gift women want for Valentine’s Day
That’s right. Jewelry. Turns out all those ads on TV may be on to something. 30% of the women in our sample listed some sort of jewelry as the best gift for a woman to receive on Valentine’s Day (and 37% of men agreed – looks like the message is coming in loud and clear).
It is customary to do something special with your partner on Valentine’s Day to celebrate your relationship. Have you planned what you are going to do? You can go with the standard commercialized gifts like chocolates, lingerie, or overpriced roses. Or, perhaps you plan on simply spending some time with each other. If you go that route, rather than the trite dinner and a movie, you may want to consider doing something together that will actually make you and your relationship better.
Good relationships are built on mutual feelings of closeness, trust, intimacy, friendship, and affection. These qualities form a stable foundation for relationships, but why not take your relationship up a notch and go from being merely “good” to becoming great? One way to create a great relationship is for partners to help each other grow as individuals. Ultimately, this growth fosters your and your partner’s self-improvement, which will help you enjoy an even more sustainable and satisfying relationship together.
Hopefully, you and your partner have a great sex life. For those of you who are satisfied with life between the sheets, you may still have ideas on how to make your sexual life better. And expressing your needs, wants, and desires can enhance your sex life.1
Yet, many intimate partners say that talking about sex can be difficult; it is a conversation that is laced with vulnerability. You may wonder, is my performance good enough? Is my partner satisfied? Even if sexual satisfaction is high, you may want to explore new sexual activities with your partner. Despite the legitimacy of such questions and conversation topics, individuals often avoid talking about sex because they don’t want to hurt their partners by providing not-so-favorable feedback or otherwise noting a partner’s sexual limitations. Fear of rejection or being judged keep individuals from bringing up the subject, too. My suggestion is that you take the plunge and have the conversation anyway; talking about sex could benefit your relationship in ways that far outweigh the risks associated with having such conversations.
In my previous relationships, more than one partner on more than one occasion spat out the following emotional expletive at me:
“Your feminism has ruined you!”
I have explicitly self-identified as a feminist since my undergraduate days and enacted this feminism in my social and personal relationships. My strong feminist identification led me to to political activism and vocal critiques of women’s place in society.1 This created some tense situations in my twenties when I took pleasure in loud arguments about women’s issues and the importance of being a self-professed feminist. My close college friends and I named ourselves feminists, cursed loudly in public, flirted with insults instead of hair flips, gave one another dead roses for Valentine’s Day, and even penned a poster for our apartment that read “The Hairy-Leg Café” to play with the negative stereotypes of feminists we knew some of our peers held.2 For me, using the F-word as a proud marker of my belief in equality means that I hear subtle and not so subtle put-downs when I’m critical of sexual double standards, traditional heterosexual marriage, differences in pay and prestige, and who cleans the bathroom. I’ve been called a feminazi, dyke, man-hater, and ugly bitch by students, random men at bars, and peers when I’ve voiced my views. Fortunately, it seems that self-ascribing oneself as a feminist is not as argument-provoking or unfashionable as in the past. In fact, popular women’s magazines such as Glamour and websites like Jezebel.com claim that calling oneself a feminist is “The New Do.”3
Every year around Valentine’s Day people start agonizing about finding the “perfect” gift for their partner, and some spend extraordinary amounts of money on it too. But no matter the effort or financial cost incurred, many of us quickly discover that our gifts provided only fleeting happiness and were quickly forgotten. In order to avoid this outcome, I recommend giving your partner something much more personal this year: touch. It will be much easier on your wallet, and it has the potential to improve your relationship far more than any material object that you and your money can buy.
One of the reasons people indicated that they hate Valentine’s Day is because it’s too commercial. The vast majority of our survey respondents indicated that some form of gift is expected (88%). So we wanted to know (a) how people prefer to receive their gifts and (b) what types of gifts they prefer. Below, I address the first question. Stay tuned for a breakdown of gift preferences in subsequent posts.
How do people prefer to receive gifts?
Do people want to flaunt their Valentine’s Day riches by receiving a gift in public? Or is it best to receive a gift privately? The vast majority (65%) of those surveyed preferred a private gift. One-third of our respondents indicated they had no preference --- public or private is fine. If you’re adding up the numbers, it should be clear that very few people prefer to receive their gift in a public setting; less than 2% of those surveyed opted for a flaunt what you got approach.
So if you’re on the fence about giving your gift during an intimate one-on-one moment vs. sending a singing Valentine-A-Gram to your not-so-secret Valentine’s place of work, opt for the more personal approach. It’s the safest route (worst case scenario, you’ll find out whether your partner is one of the 2%).
There is a lot of pressure to impress your romantic partner with a fabulous Valentine’s Day date (I should know – Valentine’s Day is also my wife’s birthday!). If you decide to go to a fancy restaurant, how do you know which cuisine to choose? Should you go with spicy Thai or cold sushi? If you’re going to buy your partner a gift, do you choose something practical and imminently useful but unromantic (the Science of Relationships book?) or should you instead go with something useless but romantic (a stuffed teddy bear holding a satin pillow shaped like a heart with “Valentine’s Without You Would be Un-Bear-able” written on it?). Or, if you’re going to get your sweetie something, well, sweet, should you choose the heart-shaped box of chocolates that is the candy equivalent of Russian Roulette or should you buy some specialty hot cocoa?
*Wikipedia defines “middle age” as 41 – 60, so it must be true.
Everyone in a long-term romantic relationship has a story. Each of our stories is unique. Our story begins when we were 21 (Charlotte) and 25 (Patrick). We were both coming off other long-term, serious (or so we thought) relationships, and we really didn’t know what we wanted out of a relationship or what we could offer a partner. Now, 17 years and 2 kids later, we both feel pretty lucky that things have worked out as well as they have. Back then, we had no idea what challenges we would face or how we would help each other maneuver through them. We were young and optimistic, but there was so much we didn’t know.
Due to practice and a bit of research (it doesn’t hurt that we are both researchers who study romantic relationships!), we know a little more about relationships now. However, we are still never sure what to do each Valentine’s Day (see past reflections on this matter here and here). It seems like a holiday for “new lovers,” and we’ve known each other too long to feel “new” to each other. What are those of us approaching middle age and in long-term relationships supposed to do on this holiday?
Being the nerds that we are, we decided to review some relevant research to help answer this question, and we offer a few tips in case you find yourself in a similar predicament.