A holiday with its roots in Ancient Roman history and lore, Valentine’s Day is now entrenched as a celebration of love, relationships and the greeting-card and restaurant industries. For one day, those in long-term and serious relationships are allowed to flaunt their happiness, through mandatory dates, cards and public displays of affection. Whilst those on the other side wait expectantly for the cards and flowers from possible future lovers or are made to feel inferior for their single-status. Valentine’s Day celebrates the coupled-up and derides the single.
A 2011 survey by StudentBeans.com looked into the number of sexual partners students claimed to have had. Students at the University of Glamorgan came out top with 10.9, whilst LSE was ranked 25th with 5.9, above Kings at least, who had 5.7. Now, this doesn’t tell us the relationship status of those surveyed; was it a case of numerous romantic dates and cards or one night stands? However, it does suggest that maybe students do not always want the coupled-up, loved-up status Valentine’s Day seems to infer we do.
Long-term relationships are seen as the norm in today’s society. In human society traditionally the young are looked after by both of their parents for a comparatively long time- they aren’t just kicked out of the nest and told to get on with it. If both mother and father are to play a role in this, it helps if that the sexual relationship continues monogamously. In addition a serious relationship can bring extra security and stability for both involved. However, life never runs quite like this, and the equation of one plus one equals happiness is not always right.
It could be argued that everyone is just looking for that perfect partner, perhaps even a soul mate. That casual sex, one-night stands and “friends with benefits” relationships are just blips, as we struggle to find this serious relationship. These numerous sexual partners can be seen as simply mistakes we make on the path to true love. Are other forms of relationship really inferior to the one we’re meant to celebrate on Valentine’s Day?
Developments in the twentieth century chart the rise of the unconventional love story. From the 1960s the birth control pill has helped separate sex from pregnancy and, as a result, separated sex somewhat from long-term relationships and marriage. Women, and in particularl young women, no longer faced the choice of being sexless or shacked up with a house full of unruly children. Sex was more accessible and the pressure of finding a life partner was reduced. From statistics showing high rates of chlamydia amongst young people to magazines such as Cosmopolitan delivering advice on how to deal with the awkwardness of a one night stand, it is clear that society has a more liberated stance on relationships than Valentine’s Day would suggest. Unfortunately, you wont find a “You were a great one night stand” card next to the “To the love of my life” cards on the shelf at Clintons.
If the disappointment of receiving no Valentine’s Day card is worrying you, take a look on the other side of the coin. Those loved-up couples have to worry about meeting the expectations of the day. Cards, flowers, meals out and presents, are needed to make the day, and night, perfect just because it is the 14th February. The red and pink hearts and smiling Cupid don’t reflect the reality of relationships, love and sex, but a romantic ideal we have been forced to accept. There are attempts to confront this, from vagina-shaped cupcakes rebelling against the dainty pink hearts on those found in most bakeries to the single-nights at bars and clubs.
In conclusion, don’t be upset if you don’t receive a card on Valentine’s Day. Yes, a bit of romance is fun, but there is plenty else to do that is not based on candle-lit dinners and cards. Take your own stand against the commercialism and celebrate love and sex for what it is today. Forget the heart-shaped sweets and buy something more vulgar. Throw out the normal card and make your own, being honest with what you write. Celebrate all the relationships you have, whether its your long-term partner, your family, your close friends, and even your friend-with-benefits.