Sex Panther: Valentine’s Day


Editor’s Note: Feb. 14 seems an apt time to revive our Sex Panther column. Throughout the semester you’ll be reading articles from Middlebury students of different identities and experiences on all things sex and relationships. If you have a topic you’d like to see written about or you’d like to write, visit go/sexpanther to get in touch with us. 

A hallmark holiday that stems from the ancient Roman Lupercalia feast and the execution of its two eponymous men, Valentine’s Day continues to generate massive sales among U.S. consumers. While many outwardly disown the holiday as a cliché and a gimmick, the spending trend continues to rise. Last year Americans spent nearly $20 billion on Valentine’s Day (according to the National Retail Federation), up from 2017. Hallmark began churning out valentines in 1913 (per an NPR report) and over 100 years later the Hallmark card is still a staple in the classic Valentine’s Day gift along with candy, jewelry and clothing. Why do we still love spending money on Valentine’s Day? I have some theories:

1) If you build it, they will come. Celebrating Valentine’s Day is what you’re supposed to do, it feels wrong to not do anything. Even in elementary school it felt horrible if someone else was given chocolates and a heart-shaped anything but you weren’t — what does that teach us about love?

2) I’m in a glass case of emotion. Or, it may be that being vulnerable and sharing with someone you care about just what you love about them seems an all-too daunting task except on its designated day. 

3) I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen. For some those words are always too scary and we prefer instead to buy gifts and hope that the message gets across.

Vulnerability in communicating your emotions is easier said than done, and I’ve definitely experienced that tongue-tied feeling of not knowing what to say or being scared to say what you really feel. But in challenging ourselves to be honest with ourselves and our feelings, and not just for show on Valentine’s Day, we can find more fulfilling and sustaining relationships.

This isn’t to say that the idea of Valentine’s Day is completely horrible. Yes, it started as “a drunken revel” in ancient Rome, and perhaps that’s what it has returned to, but having one day to celebrate love and its power could be awesome. What if we stopped buying into the capitalist commercialism that has overtaken Valentine’s Day and instead showed our love in other ways? Whether we are in a relationship, single, or somewhere in between, Valentine’s Day is a reminder to love, and not just romantically. 

Making dinner with friends (using as many dining hall ingredients as possible) going to the Middlebury Discount Comedy show in Hep Zoo tonight (it’s free!), sending your friends notes about how amazing they are — these are all great ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day without buying into the traditional gifts we’ve been taught to expect. In the end, we all get to decide how and when we want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, if at all. The important thing is to share moments with the people we love. And if we need a holiday to remind us of that, then so be it.


Sex Panther

P.S. those movie quotes were from Field of Dreams, Anchorman and Say Anything

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.