The Power of Pleasure

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Single This Valentine's Day? Who Cares.

Valentine's Day: no pity party necessary for singles.

Valentine’s Day is traditionally a day for love. But what is Valentine’s Day to those who aren’t in love? As someone with quite a few single Valentine’s Days under my belt (one particularly memorable one spent watching Silence of the Lambs with a fellow single girlfriend), I’ve felt a range of emotions about the day of love. Most years I haven’t really cared. But there have been a few where I’ve been left feeling pitied. Like the time the pizza for one I ordered was given to me for free because the pizza guy felt bad I was alone. Or the time my coupled friends invited me to their dinner party because they didn’t want me to be tragic by myself. I didn’t need the pity. I wasn’t tragic. Actually, I was fine. It seemed like it was everyone else who had the problem with it.

Thinking about this made me curious about what other people’s attitudes and perceptions were about Valentine’s Day. So, I put on my researcher hat and went to the literature to find answers. However, I didn’t find much! Very limited research has been conducted on the day of love. So, in collaboration with other experts at Good in Bed, I conducted a survey of 1241 men and 852 women about their attitudes and beliefs about Valentine’s Day.

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Participants overwhelmingly reported that it wasn’t at all important to be surrounded by people on Valentine’s Day as a single person, with 61% of the single participants, 56% of the casually dating participants, 71% of the separated participants, 50% of the divorced participants, and 57% of the widowed participants reporting that they were not at all concerned with being alone on Valentine’s Day. A very small minority of these groups reported feeling the need to curb loneliness by being surrounded by people on this day (less than 5% in each group). And although common stereotypes about Valentine’s Day paint women as more attached to this holiday, there were no significant gender differences in response to this question. 

There also doesn’t seem to be much pressure to celebrate Valentine’s Day, with the majority of both men and women reporting little to no pressure to celebrate the holiday. Just because the pressure is off to be surrounded by people or to celebrate Valentine’s Day, this doesn’t mean that sex is off the table for single or casually dating folks. More than half (53%) of casually dating folks and 50% of single folks were open to hooking up sexually with someone because it is Valentine’s Day.

Based on the results of this survey, Valentine’s Day isn’t a day of anxiety or loneliness for single people. This is pretty consistent with my personal experiences and anecdotal stories I hear from others. Perhaps it is the views of others taking pity on single folk that contributes to anxiety rather than any sort of actual distaste for a holiday like Valentine’s Day. In fact, a quarter of the full sample noted that Valentine’s Day was as much for friends and family that you love as romantic partners and 30% of the sample believed the holidays was simply commercialism at its finest.

My advice to you this Valentine’s Day is to not assume that single people are sad and alone today. Most of them are perfectly content in their happily single world.

Kristen Mark, PhD, MPH, is a sex and relationships researcher and assistant professor at University of Kentucky and a managing editor at Good in Bed.

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