Experts Offer Tips and Thoughts for Anyone Playing Cupid This Valentine's Day

Newswise — Justin Garcia is a SUNY Doctoral Diversity Fellow in the laboratory of evolutionary anthropology and health at Binghamton University. He is an expert on human sexuality and biology of romantic love.

It's been nearly 50 years since Elvis Presley released the smash hit, “It’s now or never,” in which he goes on to plead, “Come hold me tight, kiss me my darling, be mine tonight." And according to the latest research on expressions of intimacy, a close embrace or kiss may be exactly what you need to make this year's Valentine's a day of passion and love.

While passion can be exciting, and often the holiday spark folks are looking for, the vast majority of American men and women crave something deeper than just sexual behavior.

“People want emotional intimacy, to feel bonded and romantically attached to another,” says researcher Justin Garcia, a SUNY Fellow in the Laboratory of Evolutionary Anthropology and Health at Binghamton University. “This drive lies deep within our evolved biology; and while sex is important, so too is the drive to connect to a lover."

Garcia recently completed a study showing that roughly 95 percent of men and women say they like to cuddle amongst other intimate behaviors. But, the context of who they are cuddling with matters a lot. In romantic relationships, 97 percent of both men and women report that they like to cuddle up close with their partner, but in uncommitted sexual hook-ups only 52 percent of men and 61 percent of women like to cuddle. The same general trend appears for a host of intimate behavioral expressions.

According to Garcia there are two important things to take away from this study. "A majority of both men and women like to kiss and cuddle,” says Garcia. “The sexes aren't as different in our desire for love as we often think. But it is important to note that the context of these affiliative gestures makes a lot of difference.”

While a majority of us like to cuddle, kiss, and hold our partners in our arms, it often matters how emotionally bonded we are to that partner. “In some cases, these behaviors are about trying to become emotionally closer to the partner,” says Garcia. “We quite often see that sex isn't always just about sex - it is often one of many ways to find someone to love.”

***** Ryan Vaughan is a professor of English, humor and media studies at Binghamton University. He regularly contributes to AOL's TV Squad, specializing in television, humor and media.

“Every Valentine's Day, there is a deluge of complaints about how "Valentine's Day is just created by the people at Hallmark, Hershey, KY Jelly and walk-in clinics to sell products and services." I have just one thing to say to that: so what?

We live in a country that dedicates an entire day to being romantic, and we're going to complain about it? I can think of plenty of worse things to manufacture a holiday around…, for instance, amputation: simply created by pirates to sell more peg-legs, and by Ben-Gay to push their new line of amputation salves, and by Halliburton to begin developing robotic appendages for a future destined to be ruled by cyborgs.”

***** Mary Muscari is an associate professor in the Decker School of Nursing at Binghamton University, and author of "Let Kids be Kids: Rescuing Childhood."

“Sure, Valentine’s Day is about sweethearts, cards and candy, but it’s also the perfect day to show someone you care –especially those who feel forgotten. Instead of spending money on high-fructose treats and throwaway cards, make it a family day that includes a few ‘extra’ family members, even just for a few minutes. • Buy a box or two of bulk Valentines and bake some cookies. Make little gift baggies for the cookies, tie a card on each and bring them to a nearby nursing home. Handing them out one-by-one will also allow your child to see the joy it brings to the residents. • Tie pink and red ribbons to dog bones and bring them to the local shelter. Buy a box of tasty cat food, bag it into small portions, and tie the bags with bows. The animals may not care about the bows, but your children will love making the special treats. • Instead of buying premade Valentine cards for classmates, make them. Personalize them by writing something special about each child. There’s at least one kid in class who could that little bit of extra attention. • Donate clothes and toys. But first attach a little homemade Valentine card that says “thinking of you.” • Send Valentine’s Day cards to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. • Make a giant heart out of poster board, and put it in front of your house. The world is not always a nice place, so let’s put our hearts out there to show it we really do care!"