Now that I’m a journalist, I get the point of Valentine’s Day.
Call me cynical, but having one day a year to express my love to the people that I should express it to pretty regularly has always seemed more like a chore than a holiday. As a 4th grader, I recall purposely signing some Valentine’s Day cards (the ones going to kids I didn’t care for) with my non-dominant hand to make my signature uglier (I have excellent penmanship).
At my current stage in life, it just seems like a time to go through some pretty exhausting, predictable motions that end in overeating and passing out early.
But when you’re journalist, the mystery of Valentine’s Day becomes clear. About two weeks before the holiday your inbox fills with numbers and stats about love, dating, sex, relationships, breakups, divorce, and attraction. You get infographics and charts, and experts are clamoring to tell you what they know.
It’s a data dump — a sex census — and it’s all to let us know where we as a society stand on an idea that people don’t often feel comfortable talking about: love.
Here’s what I learned this week: Technology is totally taking care of long-distance relationships because there is now (finally) a bi-directionally app-controlled sex toy on the market called Lovense. And previously unbeknownst to me, the Hooters girls hand out Valentine’s Day cards annually. Solid showing, girls.
More important than any of that, though, I got a better idea of what we think is “normal” these days. Not Hollywood Rom-Com normal — No, things like the fact that 10% of employees in Ireland have had sex in their office.
Or on a sadder “normal” note, I learned that divorce lawyer and related information searches rise 40% on legal site Avvo.com in the week before Valentine’s Day.
So yeah, if you’re thinking about a breakup right now, you’re not a freak.
Humans navigate the world through comparisons. We understand concepts by comparing what we see or who we are, to the way things are supposed to be.
Take a simple chair, for example. In your conception of a chair you see a thing with four legs. That’s why when the bean bag chair came out, people were like hey — that’s a different kind of chair.
Love, relationships, sex, etc., those are ideas too, and our society has conceptions of how they’re supposed to be. When you compare yourself to that conception, you figure out if you’re “normal” or not.
But the conception changes, and Valentine’s Day is how we keep track of it.
So this is important stuff. A lot of it, though, is pretty predictable. For example, according to a survey conducted by men’s lifestyle newsletter Inside Hook, the two qualities men look for most in a woman are that she’s attractive (51%) and smart (44%). Also, 43% of respondents said that they’re most self-conscious of their stomachs when they have sex.
Boring (unless you’re a guy who needs reassurance that all your bros secretly wish for a tummy tuck, too).
There’s more value here in the outliers. Like in the fact that the number one factor that turns guys off (still according to Inside Hook) is a rude woman — 81% of respondents said that.
And the real kicker from Inside Hook’s survey: 77% of respondents said that watching porn has no effect, or a positive effect on their relationship. Only 23% acknowledged that it could be a substitute for dating, or that it gave them unrealistic expectations of sex.
That’s hilarious. Now I know we need to work on that.
You can check out Inside Hook’s data on men and porn below; the full survey is here. In the meantime, just know that you’re probably not a freak unless we all are.
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