In my house, we don’t celebrate gendered holidays. I’m over it, and, thank goodness, my boyfriend is, too. I’m sick of holidays that pander to one gender or the other, playing out like some kind celebration of the patriarchy, ignoring not just more complicated concepts like fluid genders, but also anything that doesn’t fit into a binary view of forced expressions of intimacy based on cultural gender norms. This sounds super high-minded. Let me explain.
My boyfriend refuses to acknowledge Valentine’s Day. It’s not just that he doesn’t take me out to dinner and buy me heart-shaped boxes of underwhelming chocolate; he literally refuses to say the words, “Happy Valentine’s.” His argument is that he will (and does) show love without capitalism dictating the method and means of his declarations. While I still say the words, quite honestly, I agree with him. I’ll even take it one step further. Valentine’s Day casts love as an exasperating and costly process for men, and a commodity to be sold for chocolate for women. The tropes of Valentine’s Day all involve men making dates, buying presents, sending roses, etc. They also involve women being deeply and personally offended if a particular man doesn’t enact culturally mandated romance for that particular night. Women are portrayed as withholding and petty if men don’t purchase their romance correctly. Valentine’s Day teaches us that women need a receipt in order to love and men are frustrated and overwhelmed by the idea of romance. Partnership plays no part in the Valentine’s scenario.
What makes this all worse is the recent addition of Steak and Blowjob Day as the “man’s equivalent” of Valentine’s. Celebrated one month after, Steak and Blowjob Day is a time for a man to get his reward for going through the hell that was Valentine’s Day. Ladies all love Valentine’s, but men, they love meat. And head. On the flip side, women are often cast as the reluctant givers on Steak and Blowjob Day, just as men are on its “female” counterpart. Women who are eager to participate often cite reasons like giving back for the present received on Valentine’s, or the desire to be a “good woman.” The perverse thing is that our society somehow thinks that women want flowers and heart-balloons more than a good meal and some head. Maybe some women do. I try not to judge. Moreover, we have made the two things equivalent. Roses have the same relative value as a sexual act. Look, roses smell lovely, but licking my pussy they are not. I am pleasantly touched if given roses in public; I am touched in a very different way if given head. The counterpart of Steak and Blowjob Day isn’t Valentine’s, it is, “Feed Me Yummy Food and Make Sure I Cum By Using Any and All Available Tools Day.”
The gender roles here, especially when it comes to what it means to be a man or woman on these holidays, are desperately fucked up. A good man suffers through Valentine’s Day but is then rewarded with the most manly of meats and an act that stimulates only his genitalia. A good woman needs things to remind her of a man’s faithfulness and love. In return, she cooks for him and gives him head, whether it is something she enjoys or not. These definitions make me a terrible woman. I do not cook. Period. End of story. I can order a mean take-out, though. I give head when it is mutually desired and not one moment before or after, no matter what our culture says. I also do not expect my man to buy me crap to prove he loves me. I know he loves me because of how he acts and what he says. His wallet is irrelevant. By these standards, I am also, apparently, a good man. I will take steak over chocolate and head over teddy bears any day, culturally commanded or not. In my long-term relationship, I have cooked zero steaks; he has cooked many. I eat them, though, and thank him for cooking me such a great meal, because I fucking love steak. Sometimes, afterwards, we have some kind of sex, because we both want to do it. Always, we sit on the couch and tease each other, because that’s how we show affection.
I am not anti-appreciation days. I am very pro-anniversaries. I like reminders of when we first got together, and most people will agree that taking time out to acknowledge each other is always good for the relationship. My most recent anniversary was celebrated by him surprising me with a trip to my favorite Argentinean steak house. I didn’t require this of him and certainly didn’t expect it. I bought his half of the meal and he bought mine, because the meal wasn’t about him taking me out and impressing me; the meal was about us appreciating each other and our partnership. We ate our steaks and drank our wine and enjoyed each other on our own terms. We, as a couple, decided to celebrate on that day, in that manner. No one told us what romance was and there was not a heart-shaped anything in sight. There was, of course, delicious steak and some pretty awesome sex later, because those are also things we both enjoy, as individuals and as a couple.