TIME relationships

Teens Are Totally Over Valentine’s Day

Young love on social media isn't all it's cracked up to be, according to new research provided to TIME

Ah, to be young on Valentine’s Day: walking past aisles of CVS chocolates to pick up your acne medication, stalking your sister’s college roommate on Instagram to admire her cute boyfriend, glaring at the one couple in your high school who prove that teenage love isn’t a cruel rom-com fantasy. Nobody ever said adolescence was a bunch of roses, but now there’s data to prove how sad it really is.

Teenagers are the most miserable group on Valentine’s Day, according to new data compiled by social-media platform We Heart It and provided to TIME. The vast majority of 21,000 responses (over 98%) were from teenage girls, and they didn’t have a lot of love for the holiday. Only 13% of teenagers under 15 think Valentine’s Day is “painful,” while 22% say it’s “overrated,” and 24% think it’s irrelevant. Teenagers are also the least likely age group to send Valentines, with over 53% saying they’re not sending any at all (compared with 41% of respondents over 25).

Teens also have very different attitudes about social media on Valentine’s Day — and it’s giving new meaning to the phrase “love hurts.”

Young teens seem to think that social media is essential to the Valentine’s Day experience: 21% of respondents under 15 said social media was “extremely important” on Valentine’s Day, and over 64% said it was “somewhat” important. By contrast, only 10% of respondents over 25 said they thought it was “very important” to Instagram or Tweet their chocolates and flowers.

But all those vicarious Valentines aren’t making teens feel better — instead, social media make them feel worse. Only 36% said they thought social media made Valentine’s Day more fun, while 65% said social media either made them feel jealous or stressed out (34% said they got jealous, 31% said they got stressed). By contrast, 54% of respondents over 25 said they thought social media made the day more fun.

In other words: Valentine’s Day, like red wine and stinky cheese, just gets better with age.

MONEY Leisure

The Fifty Shades of Grey Stimulus

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
Chuck Zlotnick—Focus Features/courtesy Everett Fifty Shades of Grey

The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon will surely heat up movie theater box offices this weekend. Movie tickets are hardly the only things fans are being cajoled, teased, tempted, and otherwise seduced into buying.

The marketing campaigns and product tie-ins related to Fifty Shades of Grey range from the wholly expected (condoms, “toys” you’d never see in toy stores) to the puzzling (craft beer and marijuana-themed hotel packages), sometimes venturing down the path of just plain icky (S&M Teddy Bear). Among the categories banking on the arrival of Fifty Shades in theaters delivering a big sales stimulus:

Online Movie Tickets
Fifty Shades of Grey was considered a hit at the box office a full month before being released in theaters. It achieved status as the fastest-selling R-rated movie in the history of online sales four weeks ago at Fandango, and Fifty Shades alone constituted 60% of advance sales at the site on Tuesday, February 3. Advance sales have been particularly hot in Bible Belt states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Alabama.

This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fifty Shades has become Fandango’s fourth best seller for online tickets prior to opening weekend—behind only films from storied franchises “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,” and “Twilight”—and that the phenomenon could even help get filmgoers more into the habit of buying movie tickets before showing up at the theater.

BoxOffice.com is predicting that that the movie’s four-day gross at theaters will be a whopping $95 million, offering this insight as to why Fifty Shades is bound to draw such in epic crowds: “To be blunt, curiosity and sex sell—even, and perhaps especially, to those who are reluctant but simply want to know what the fuss is all about.”

Movie Theater Advertising
According to AdAge, the arrival of Fifty Shades of Grey at theaters has prompted several brands that have never advertised during movie previews to jump into the game. Calvin Klein Jeans and the apparel retailer Vibez are showing their first-ever commercials before the film in the U.K., while brands like Revlon and Renault are also advertising at movie houses before customers start watching Fifty Shades.

Alcohol
Fifty Shades of Grey wine hit the market two years ago, and it’s “hardly been a best-seller,” liquor store owners recently told Marketplace. Still, the arrival of the film should certainly help boost sales of Fifty Shades-branded White Silk and Red Silk wine, if only for the sake of kitsch.

Meanwhile, plenty of bars and restaurants have concocted special Fifty Shades of Grey cocktails that’ll surely be best sellers in certain circles. The luxury movie theater chain iPic, which features oversized leather recliners and, in the premium section, pillows, blankets, and iPads for ordering food and drink, has created a cocktail especially for the film called the “Red Room of Pain.” The drink is made with hibiscus, ginger rum, and rose petals. “It’s a decadent, slightly naughty cocktail while you’re watching the movie,” an iPic mixologist said to the Miami Herald. “I think we’ll sell a gazillion of them.”

There’s even a new limited-edition Fifty Shades of Grey craft beer that incorporates 50 different hops and other ingredients that supposedly have aphrodisiac qualities. It’s selling for $46 a bottle.

Adult Toys, Hardware Supplies
The New York Times recently reported that the success of the Fifty Shades books resulted in a sizeable increase in sales of once-obscure sex-themed products, and that the film’s release is expected to bring about a second wave of “adult toy” sales. Perhaps what’s most surprising of all is that some of these Fifty Shades-themed products are being sold by mainstream retailers like Target and (in England) Tesco. Another British retailer, hardware store B&Q, has alerted staffers to become familiar with Fifty Shades, be sensitive about inquiries into seemingly odd product inquiries, and to “monitor stock levels of rope, cable ties, masking tape and [duct] tape to ensure that supplies do not run low.”

In related news, authorities in London have expressed concern that the release of the film is likely to lead to a spike in emergency calls from couples trying to imitate what they see on the screen. “The Fifty Shades effect seems to spike handcuff incidents so we hope film-goers will use common sense and avoid leaving themselves red-faced,” a London Fire Brigade official said.

Condoms
Naturally, condom manufacturers have had some fun with Fifty Shades. Trojan released this hilarious ad online showing a couple’s slapstick attempts to channel their inner Christian Grey and Steele, and the commercial is also being shown in theaters before the film:

Hotel Packages
Hotels in Portland, Ore., (where Fifty Shades is set) and South Florida, among other spots, are offering Fifty Shades-themed guest packages with amenities like a gray silk tie, Champagne, chocolates, and “a sensual love kit.”

Meanwhile, in Denver, the Curtis Hotel has a deal that would only make sense in Colorado, or perhaps Washington—the two states where recreational marijuana is legal. The “totally dope package” that goes by then name “Fifty Shades of Green” costs $420—a number that means something to cannabis enthusiasts—and includes two movie passes, roses, and in-room munchies like brownies and Cheetos. Curiously, like most hotels, the Curtis is a completely nonsmoking property.

Teddy Bears
Perhaps the strangest and creepiest tie-in of all is the Fifty Shades of Grey Bear being sold by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. The bear “features smoldering eyes, a suit and satin tie, mask – even mini handcuffs,” along with the understated warning: “Contains small parts. Not suitable for children.”

The Actual Book
Many of the reviews of Fifty Shades the movie say that it’s better than Fifty Shades the book—which isn’t saying much, considering what awful things people said of the writing.

Nonetheless, as with most film releases, the arrival of Fifty Shades in theaters looks like it is helping renew interest in the book. Fifty Shades of Grey has been in the top five of the New York Times Best Sellers for the past two weeks. Prior to that, it hadn’t been in the top five in terms of overall print and e-book fiction for quite some time.

TIME Food & Drink

The Truth About Aphrodisiacs

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f.Olby—Getty Images Oysters have long been considered an aphrodisiac, for both texture and shape

Find out before you plan your Valentine's Day meal

You may want to feel like Aphrodite, goddess of love, on Valentine’s Day, but will her namesake aphrodisiacs do the trick?

Humans have been trying to spark their desire with special foods and drinks for millennia, with several schools of thought dictating what made for a libido-enhancing ingredient. Certain foods were valued for their resemblance to genitalia—phallic foods like carrots and asparagus, yonic foods like oysters and halved figs. Others, like chili peppers, are supposed to speed up blood flow with heat. Some, like very rare spices, were the Lamborghinis of the food world, turning on the eater with the knowledge of how expensive they were.

But do any of them actually work? It’s not very likely. Take chocolate: There is some science behind the treat’s seductive powers, in that cocoa boosts serotonin levels and contains phenylethylamine, both of which are associated with arousal and stimulation. But the amounts are so small that you’d have to eat enough chocolate to make yourself sick before you saw any real chemical impact on your sex drive.

In the past, however, there is some chance that because diets were so poor, eating some of these nutrient-rich foods may have boosted one’s health enough to restore the sex drive that may have been hindered by malnutrition.

Alcohol has functioned as a love potion for centuries, and it even explains the etymology of the “honeymoon”—after a couple was married, they would drink mead (a honey wine) every day for a month. This was their “honey month,” or “honeymoon.” The drink was meant to increase fertility and ensure that the couple procreated quickly. A glass of mead may still help get the night going, but leave it at that—too much alcohol can have an anaphrodisiac affect, actually decreasing libido.

So no, none of these rumored aphrodisiacs will directly stimulate your sex organs, even if they produce sensations akin to arousal. And yet—do not disregard the power of the placebo effect. Desire starts and ends in the brain, the location of all sensation, and if you really believe that adding a few dashes of Sriracha to your Valentine’s dinner can make you hot and bothered, it probably can by the power of suggestion. In sex, as in all pursuits, your brain is your most powerful organ.

TIME streaming

These Are the Songs People Have Sex To, According to Spotify

Streaming music service Spotify has sifted through 2.5 million playlists made for that explicit purpose. Here's what it found

According to streaming music service Spotify, indie rockers The XX rule the bedroom. The band’s song “Intro,” the first on their debut album, is the most likely track to appear on user-made “sex” playlists on the service. The Guardian reports there are some 2.5 million such playlists on Spotify.

On average, men are more likely to have created sex playlists than women—56% to 44%. Top artists include Chet Faker, Zella Day and LP. The full collection of top songs are available here:

There are more than ten times as many playlists devoted to “love,” surely a sign of hope for humanity. There are about 28 million of those, according to Spotify. Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake are among the most popular songs in that playlist category.

[The Guardian]

MONEY Holidays

5 Ways to Get Back at Your Ex and Celebrate Being Single on Valentine’s Day

name label with cockroach on it
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images (cockroach); Eric Hood (label)

There are many ways to celebrate one's love on Valentine's Day. But how about some ideas for folks who want to spew hate at their exes, or at the contrived holiday in general?

Rest assured that there are plenty of ways for embittered haters to participate in Valentine’s Day too. Here are five possibilities:

Name a Cockroach After Your Ex
The San Francisco Zoo has a couple of unusual Valentine’s Adopt-an-Animal specials for those eager to get over a relationship gone bad. For a donation of as little as $25, the zoo is encouraging spurned lovers to adopt either a Giant Hairy Scorpion or a Hissing Cockroach and name it after one’s ex. “Nothing says ‘I’ve moved on’ like adopting a giant cuddly cockroach in the name of your favorite ex,” the zoo’s sales pitch states. “With a little luck, this generous donation will release your bad love life karma so that you never have to encounter a cockroach again.”

After adopting and naming one of these creatures, zoo patrons are given the opportunity to enter the names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails of anyone they’d like to notify about the event. Hmmm… now who might you want to tell?

Machine Gun Memories of Your Ex
The new “Just Divorced” Experience from a Sin City-area shooting range called Machine Guns Vegas welcomes customers to fire a choice of automatic weapons at items from their old relationship, “including (but not limited to) wedding dresses, tuxes, and marriage certificates.” The package, which is available starting February 14 for a limited time, costs $499 for up to four guests, and comes with 40 rounds of ammunition and transportation to and from the range.

The owner of Machine Guns Vegas—who, believe it or not is named Genghis Cohen “because his father admired Genghis Khan,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal—said that while most personal articles are fair game for blowing away, there are restrictions: “They’re not allowed to shoot a picture. They can do it privately, but if a nut job shoots a husband or wife in the light of day, we don’t want to be involved in a lawsuit.”

Donate Stuff from Your Ex to Charity
Instead of blowing mementos of your old relationship to bits, you could do some good with them by participating in Donate Your Heartbreak, a program from WebThriftStore.com. The New York City-based site is asking people to consider donating gifts and other valuables. It will sell the items online and turn over 80% of each sale to one of five dozen charities.

Jewelry is a particularly popular category for “Heartbreak” donations, and one participant explained to the Daily News why it was so easy to hand over a watch that was given to him by his ex. “The gift was ‘you’re always running behind so I thought I’d buy you a watch,'” he said. “I think at that point I knew most of the sugar is gone from this relationship.”

Send Some Hate Mail
Valentine’s Day isn’t just for proclamations of love. It’s also a fine time for unleashing other kinds of feelings—like how much you loathe your ex or Valentine’s Day in general. Luckily, there are virtual and physical cards out there allowing celebrants to issue forth all these messages and more.

The Just Wink greeting card company boasts Valentine’s cards with messages such as “Besties Before Testes” and “Most Guys Are A******,” the latter slogan encapsulated in an oversized pink heart. Someecards, meanwhile, offers a dizzying number of funny and quirky messages to be shared in mock celebration of the holiday, including “This is the most special of the estimated one billion cards that will be sent this Valentine’s Day” and one intended especially for exes: “It’s not you, it’s someone else better than you.”

Party at an Anti-Valentine’s Event
No matter if you hate your ex or simply detest how forced and fake the Hallmark holiday of Valentine’s Day can seem, you’ll be welcomed at the many anti-Valentine’s dinners, happy hours, and parties happening around the country. Anti-Valentine’s themed events have been popping up for years, particularly in cities with large populations of young people. This year, there are plenty of options for Valentine’s haters in Dallas, Portland, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and beyond.

Some anti-Valentine’s events are basically just drink specials (with festive and colorful names like the X-Boyfriend), while others are mixers for those eager to get back into the game, and still others award prizes for people willing to share their worst “dumped” stories. Perhaps most unusual of all, a radio station in Wisconsin is hosting an Anti-Valentine’s Gaming Party. What better way to celebrate singlehood and make your ex jealous than by playing Mario Cart for hours on end? Or something. Plus, it’s a benefit for the Make a Wish Foundation.

 

TIME sexuality

Fifty Shades of Grey Gets Women Into Porn, Research Says

After reading the best-selling book, some women begin using pornography for the first time

E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey is introducing more women to porn — at least according to a narrow study conducted at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

Researcher Diana Parry interviewed 28 women in their 20s to 50s about their pornography habits. She discovered that women in the group increased their consumption of sexually explicit content after reading the book.

“So many of the women [we interviewed] were hopping in for the first time to pornography or sexually explicit material that was written by women for women,” Parry told Salon in an interview.

“I find it’s motivating women. It is exposing them to a genre of material that they either didn’t know existed or they didn’t know that they liked,” the professor said.

Parry employed a broad definition of porn, using a catchall label of “sexually explicit material” to reduce stigma surrounding erotica, porn websites and other sexual entertainment.

“But I think we need a cautionary note around it, because while they open up opportunities and provide women with unprecedented access to new genres or ways of thinking about their sexuality, at the same time, many of the scripts that are reproduced are really patriarchal scripts around women’s sexuality.”

[Salon]

MONEY Holidays

These Miserable Guys Say Valentine’s Day Is a Ploy By ‘Oppressive Chocolate Capitalists’

Vday chocolates on shelf
Denis Beaumont—AP

Imagine if the Grinch hated Valentine's Day instead of Christmas. A group of dudes with this kind of mentality are planning a march in protest of the "blood-soaked conspiracy of Valentine's Day" on Saturday.

A reasonable case can be made that Valentine’s Day is too forced and commercial. It’s the ultimate Hallmark holiday, the argument goes, in which many people spend purely out of a sense of obligation, based on traditions cooked up ages ago by entrepreneurs pushing chocolates, greeting cards, jewelry, and roses. This week, for instance, the Miami Herald reported that over the course of half a century, Colombia has spent a fortune developing and marketing flowers to export to the U.S., and the result is that today three out of four flower orders delivered on Valentine’s Day originate in the country.

The point is that no matter how much Valentine’s Day has to do with genuine displays of love and affection, it’s also about marketing and making money. Big whoop, you might think. Every holiday, from Thanksgiving to Halloween and beyond, is exploited by somebody trying to make a buck.

Apparently, however, one angry group of men in Japan feel that they can’t stay quiet or simply ignore the holiday they view as offensive and oppressive. They are planning a “Smash Valentine’s Day” protest march in Tokyo on Saturday to get their voices heard.

As you might imagine, these haters and their movement aren’t big hits with the ladies. In fact, they admit as much. The group’s name is Kakuhido, which translates roughly as “Revolutionary Alliance of Men That Women Find Unattractive” or just “Revolutionary Unattractive Male Alliance.”

A call to arms on has been issued on group’s website, the (UK) Telegraph reported. “The blood-soaked conspiracy of Valentine’s Day, driven by the oppressive chocolate capitalists, has arrived once again,” reads the announcement about Saturday’s planned demonstration. “In order to create a brighter future, we call for solidarity among our unloved comrades so that we may demonstrate in resolute opposition to Valentine’s Day and the romantic industrial complex.”

On the one hand, Katsuhiro Furusawa, who founded the “Revolutionary” group in 2006 after (surprise) being dumped by his girlfriend before Christmas, is sometimes known to express a sensible point of view. “The love the mass media is talking about is actually commercial love,” he explained of Valentine’s Day to one magazine. “They are using love to turn people into consumers.”

Yet Tokyo Reporter noted that, by and large, “Kakuhido’s beliefs are misogynistic.” They’re anti-woman, anti-marriage, and also just plain angry and sad. And it’s not just Valentine’s Day they hate. The group hosted an anti-Christmas demonstration last December, reportedly because they were “tired of feeling lonely and depressed by the lack of female companionship during the holiday season.”

Sad. Let’s hope that come Saturday, a Grinch-like miracle happens and the hearts of Kakuhido members grow three sizes on Valentine’s Day.

TIME Sex

Fifty Shades of Grey and How One Sex Act Went Mainstream

A cultural evolution, from 'Fanny Hill' to 'Fifty Shades'

In 1976, a survey was distributed to American women through magazines like Cosmopolitan. The questions it asked were personal — very personal — and the answers, compiled in The Hite Report, were a landmark insight into female sexuality. Women were asked to describe their experiences, desires and disappointments. In a 1987 story, TIME praised the report’s author, Shere Hite as “the doyenne of sex polls” and “liberator of the female libido.”

(Read more from TIME’s archive on Shere Hite and her research on sex in America.)

In their anonymous responses, women vented and raved about both sexual practices and social attitudes. One of the findings that might shock audiences today, however, was actually one of the least “free love” of all. Buried in the section about receiving oral sex (and not even listed in the index), was a question about fellatio. One woman’s comment (expressed in blunter language than can be used here): “I would consider [it] with a loaded gun at my head. No other way.”

Reading that line, I wondered where that woman is now. Perhaps she’ll be one of the millions of people off to see Fifty Shades of Grey this week: the story of a young woman’s sexual awakening in which said act accounts for some of the tale’s least provocative moments. Advice about it is now a staple of Cosmopolitan today; indeed, today’s readers are told that it’s basically “the kickoff…for sex.”

How did attitudes change, and so quickly? As recently as the 1970s, this was certainly not something that a gentleman would expect. Today, the act is something more like bread before dinner: noteworthy only if it’s absent.

But there’s more to the history behind that change than a simple move toward permissiveness — and, it turns out, the ubiquity and “standardness” of fellatio is perhaps not as widespread as one might believe.

***

Fellatio has been happening for as long as humans have been around, and there are references to it from ancient Peru and classical Rome. Cultures and religions, however, have not all taken—and still do not take—the same attitude towards it.

I went to the Kama Sutra, thinking that would be an obvious starting place for historical ideas about the topic, but its discussion of fellatio is fairly brief, associating it with dirty and loose women. (Interestingly, the Kama Sutra spends much longer on the erotic quality of using one’s fingernails to impress dents in a lover’s skin.)

That classic of the dirty book canon, 1748’s Fanny Hill, makes no reference at all to fellatio, which suggests it wasn’t something commonly offered in London brothels at the time (or else that it wasn’t something that the clammy-handed readers of smut novels were expected to want). In American legal texts of the early 1900s, fellatio was clearly for fellas. The statutes referring to it, originally falling under the vaguely defined idea of “unnatural acts,” were about catching gay men. Hetero oral sex tended to get passing references in pre-World War II sex manuals, the kind that talk about the need for a man to “instruct” his presumably virgin bride. Apparently some healthy couples indulged in this kind of thing, the message ran, but it’s not part of most people’s repertoire. In 1919’s Sexual Truth Versus Sexual Lies, Misconceptions, and Exaggerations, the author wrote that cunnilingus and fellatio “are very common in the less worthy marriages.”

In his 2000 study, The Social Organization of Sexuality, sexual behaviorist E. O. Laumann theorized that oral sex became more popular in the 1920s. Laumann’s surveys, which describe the sexual histories of various age cohorts, show a big jump in oral sex right about the time when the baby boomers started hooking up. The sexual revolution brought fellatio into the public consciousness, via its most famous practitioner, Linda Lovelace.

Despite the counter-cultural frisson of the subversive act going mainstream, there’s indication that not everyone was on board with it at this point. Women started to write about fellatio, but as something they merely did, much more rarely as something they enjoyed. The narrator of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying (1974) references it, unpleasantly. Indeed, as Samantha, the most liberated of the group on Sex and the City, consoled a friend, “there’s a reason it’s called a job.”

The act is barely depicted or mentioned in mainstream films at all before the 1990s, when the act itself became a well-known activity in the Oval Office. Bill Clinton made famous the notion that fellatio is “not sex”, and 60% of teenagers today agree with him. (The idea that it is “not sex” could go part of the way to explaining why people tend not to use protection for it.) At the time of the Starr Report, Newsweek warned readers that some of the activities described would make readers “want to throw up”, which does suggest that their readers in the 1990s (or at least the editors at Newsweek) were still not of the view that the President’s predilections were “standard.”

***

Even today, the “everyone’s doing it” attitude that prevails in sex writing is not entirely accurate.

Perhaps the reason we’ve come to believe that everyone is into oral sex is because it’s most common among white people, and it’s white sex writers who are saying that it’s universal. Yes, 75% of white college women reported in 2001 having done it at least once, according to a 2001 study called “Race, gender, and class in sexual scripts,” but only 56% of Latina and 34% of African American college women say they have. (Of these groups, only 55, 46, and 25%, respectively, describe performing fellatio as appealing).

Other research over the last twenty years bears out these ethnic differences. Among college students in the ’90s in Canada, whites were more likely than Asians to participate in oral sex. In the U.S., a national survey in 2002-2003 of women ages 15 to 44, showed that 84.3% of white women had engaged in fellatio at least once, while only 60% of Hispanic women, and 57.4% of black women had. (That’s “ever in your life,” not “regularly.”) That study’s authors found that whiteness correlated highly with practicing oral sex: “White race, age of 20-44 years, being married and having higher numbers of life time ex-partners were related to having ever given oral sex.”

In addition, though the act is much more common than it once was in mainstream films and TV, not every pop-cultural depiction has caught up with the idea that it’s standard. In some cases, it’s still used as shorthand to suggest that the man receiving it is a jerk. He’s an adulterer, a corrupt cop, or from Wall Street. The message to viewers is disregard for these scumbags mixed with (depending on the film) some level of reluctant admiration for this jerk who manages to be on the receiving end. The message is generally less mixed for the woman involved. For her, the transaction is degrading. Even Tony Soprano thought that it was only for a certain type of woman: when asked why he had a mistress, he explained that his wife “kisses my kids with that mouth.”

In the 2013 film Don Jon, which is hilariously honest about casual sex, the main character describes his girlfriend (played by Scarlett Johansson) as too hot to need to give oral sex—as though that were something only unattractive women have to do, to compensate for their other failings.

Indeed, fellatio is often seen in pop culture as the act of a desperate supplicant begging for favor (see: every single joke ever about a woman earning a promotion on her knees), a source of homophobic innuendo or simply as some kind of punishment.

So how can something that almost “everyone” is doing also be something bad? After a century of rapid evolution in attitudes toward fellatio, we’ve arrived at the warped mindset that something that is seen as degrading and awful is also often seen as obligatory for straight women — and perhaps made even more disturbing by the fact that we ignore the people who prove it’s not obligatory at all.

These cultural differences and paradoxes are ignored in the “this item is standard” mindset. I spoke to several friends while writing this piece, and one told me of having the offer of fellatio declined: the man is from a culture where that just isn’t done. By normalizing a predominantly white practice—and not even one that all white people do—the message is “your culture is having sex incorrectly.”

It’s hard to reconcile a sex-positive attitude that was supposed to allow women freedom to express their needs with the mindset that says oral sex is compulsory. In fifty years, fellatio has gone from a niche (and in many places illegal) sexual activity—which at least would have offered the frisson of an illicit thrill—to something not only normal, but also presented by mainstream culture as obligatory.

And as attitudes toward the one act have changed, that progression has perhaps created space for other acts to move from niche to mainstream (see porn, Internet). And other formerly-rare practices among heterosexuals seem to be heading towards that tipping point. Just look at Fifty Shades of Grey. If you’re looking for a hint that bondage and sadomasochism have breached the mainstream, how about an R-rated movie that breaks ticket presale records? Though Anastasia Steele’s oral-sex choices might have once scandalized audiences, today they’re just filler before the real action begins.

TIME relationships

This Is the Exact Number of Dates You Need to Go On Before Sex Is Acceptable

To two decimal places, no less

A global survey of the dating preferences of 11,000 people in 24 cities has come up with an answer to a frequent problem of modern etiquette: How many dates do you go on before it becomes reasonable to expect to sleep with someone?

The average answer, according to the Global Dating Survey 2015 by Time Out, is 3.53 dates — or “mid-fourth date, after the mains have been cleared and just before the crème brûlée arrives.”

Only 1 in 10 people feels that it’s O.K. to expect sex at the end of the first date.

Read the rest of the findings here.

MONEY gifts

6 Totally Unromantic Truths About Valentine’s Day Spending

Greeting cards to send to your loved ones for Valentine's Day
Richard Levine—Alamy

Sure, people celebrate Valentine's Day to show how much they love that very special someone in their lives. But that's not the only reason people spend big bucks for Valentine's Day.

You’ve probably seen the headlines about how Americans will spend $18.9 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, which would be an all-time high. Before you buy the idea that Americans are simply gaga over the big lovey-dovey holiday and eager to splurge to demonstrate their feelings, let’s take a closer look at how people are spending their Valentine’s dollars, how spending changes over time—and why we celebrate this day the way we do in the first place.

Here’s some research to consider regarding Valentine’s Day spending:

One-quarter of men spend because they feel obligated or are just trying to get lucky. According to an Offers.com poll, roughly half of men say they celebrate Valentine’s Day in order to “spend quality time with my partner.” However, nearly one-quarter of men admit that they mark Valentine’s Day out of a sense of obligation or “because they’re hoping to get lucky.” Meanwhile, 13% of women say they celebrate just “because everyone else does.”

The longer the relationship, and the older you get, the less you spend. Love may or may not fade over time, but the likelihood of going all out on Valentine’s gifts sure seems to die the longer couples are together. One poll shows that men spend an average of $154 on fiancés, versus $136 for wives, while another survey indicates those in the prime spouse-seeking and newlywed 25- to 34-year-old demographic outspend all other age groups. Unsurprisingly, couples with longer-lasting relationships are less likely to make Valentine’s Day plans far in advance. Roughly half of couples who have been together for less than five years say they prepare at least a month ahead for Valentine’s, compared with only one-third of people who have been a significant other for more than five years.

Americans will spend more than $700 million on Valentine’s gifts … for pets. That’s according to the National Retail Federation. And that’s roughly double what we spend on Halloween costumes for pets, which is probably good—surely your dog prefers a Valentine’s snack to being dressed up in a ludicrous Madonna outfit.

1 in 5 women buy Valentine’s gifts … for themselves. Data cited by the Society of American Florists indicates that while men are more likely to buy Valentine’s gifts for their spouses—63% of men versus 30% of women—the ladies are more inclined to buy for their moms (30% versus 11% of men), friends (19% versus 7%) and themselves (19% versus 1%).

Rose prices spike just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s not just your imagination. Roses really do get more expensive around February 14. While wholesale prices vary depending on location, florists say they typically pay twice as much for roses in early February than they do at most other times of year. Increased transportation costs and extra labor are among the reasons often given for why rose prices are inflated around now, but overall it boils down to supply and demand: Roses cost more for Valentine’s Day because people are willing to pay more.

The two people most responsible for modern-day Valentine’s Day were entrepreneurs trying to make a buck. For centuries, Valentine’s Day was a mashup of a wild Roman pagan festival known as Lupercalia and the celebration of two Catholic saints (both named Valentine) who were executed on February 14. By the Middle Ages, it had become somewhat of a tradition to offer a handmade card or flowers to one’s beloved. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s, however, that it became popular to give mass-produced chocolates and Valentine’s messages, and we have two business-minded visionaries to thank for this.

First, there’s Richard Cadbury, a member of the famous chocolate-making family that been perfecting the bite-sized delectable then known as “eating chocolate.” Cadbury had the brilliant idea of packaging and selling these chocolates in heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day, and the rest is history.

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Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a Massachusetts woman named Esther Howland was building her reputation as the “Mother of the American Valentine” for designing and popularizing high-quality lace-paper Valentine cards featuring messages of love and devotion. It was unusual at the time for a woman to run a business, yet Howland set up an all-female assembly line and kept the New England Valentine Company thriving for decades. First and foremost, one museum curator said of Howland to NPR, “She’s a businesswoman … I mean it is lacy, beautiful, feminine material that she’s producing, but she’s producing it successfully and making money.”

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