Newswise — What makes Valentine's Day so special? Is it the romance, the history, the cultural aspects or is it just fun? Our experts here at the University of Maryland have you covered no matter what angle you're trying to take - whether it be the economic impact of the day to the use of humor as a way to express love. Please feel free to contact our experts directly.

Valentine's Day, Love and...

The Economic ImpactHumorAncient RomeKids Exchanging CardsHuman SexualitySexual ExpressionPopular CultureSocial BehaviorThe InternetSaying Thank You To Caregivers

The Economic Impact

Janet Wagner - associate chair and associate professor of marketing, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.

Expertise - retailing and services marketing. Her most recent research is on how service firms in both online and offline environments build relationships with their customers. Of particular interest is how firms build customer loyalty, through customer satisfaction, trust, and value.

Wagner says -

* "The importance of Valentine's Day differs by customer as well as retailer. Men who buy Valentine's gifts spend three to four times as much as women, on the average. Next to Christmas, Valentine's Day is the biggest holiday for greeting card retailers."

* "More than 80% of Americans report that they send a card to a significant other. Valentine's Day is also important to retailers of flowers, candy, and jewelry. In the service category, more than half of all couples report that they spend the evening out on Valentine's Day."

Credentials - widely published, Professor Wagner has presented her research at marketing industry meetings around the world. Her honors and awards include the Krowe Award for Teaching Excellence, the Reviewer of the Year for the Journal of Consumer Research, and honorable mention in the Ferber Award competition.


Larry Mintz -associate professor and director, Art Gliner Center for Humor Studies; American studies, University of Maryland.

Expertise: American popular culture and American humor with an emphasis on television, standup comedy, popular literature and theater.

Mintz says -

* On male-female humor: "The bulk of male-female humor is very negative. I like to tell my classes that it is easy for marital to become martial with just the blink of an 'i.' As far back as Rip Van Winkle, marriage has been portrayed as a trap for men and oppression for women."

* On humor and love: "We use humor as a necessary antidote or mild corrective, balancer for sentimentality. Males, especially, are uncomfortable expressing sentiments of love. Humor makes it easier."

Credentials: director of the Gliner Humor Center; former editor of Humor, International Journal of Humor. Mintz has published a number of articles about humor and popular culture.

Ancient Rome

Judith Hallett - Professor, Department of Classics, University of Maryland.Expertise - Latin language and literature; ancient Roman and Greek civilization; women, sexuality and the family in classical antiquity; and the classical tradition in America.

Hallett was interviewed by Discovery News last year for a Valentine's Day story comparing love in ancient Rome vs. today. It turns out that the Romans had a very different view of things. "Most expressions of love, particularly love poems, were directed to extramarital lovers," she says. "However, love was encouraged among married couples, and it was assumed that husbands and wives would grow to feel affection and devotion towards one another." She also told Discovery News: "The idea that two young people would decide to marry or live together respectably on the basis of mutual erotic attraction would have been totally unheard of in classical Rome."

Credentials - Hallett has written extensively about ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and their cultures, including Roman Sexualities (Princeton University Press, 1997). She has appeared widely in the media, including the CBC, the History Channel / A&E as well as PBS.

Kids Exchanging Cards

Ken Rubin - professor and director of the Center for Children, Relationships and Culture, college of education, University of Maryland.

Expertise - social, emotional, and personality development in children; peer relationships and friendships; shyness, social anxiety, and victimization; the transition to middle and high school; parenting and parent-child relationships from a cross-cultural perspective.

Rubin says the exchange of Valentine's Day cards in the classroom or school can be troublesome because:

* "There are distinctions that the sender can make that says to the recipient, 'I don't really like you.' For the 25 percent of students in a typical classroom who are openly rejected by other kids, this is more salt in a wound. And for what? A day invented by the greeting card companies?"

Credentials - Professor Rubin has written extensively about the social, emotional, and personality development of children; peer relationships; parenting and parent-child relationships. His book, The Friendship Factor, won the 2002 National Parenting Publication "Gold Award."

Human Sexuality

Robin Sawyer - Professor and acting chair for the department of public and community health, University of Maryland.

Expertise - human sexuality including adolescent (particularly college student) sexuality, focusing on sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy and sexual violence, including intercollegiate athletics and sexual violence.

Sawyer offers what he calls "a pair of quotes that capture the essence of at least one outlook on love, sex and relationships:"

* "Love is the self-delusion we manufacture to justify the trouble we take to have sex." - Dan Greenburg

* "Love is like an hourglass with the heart filling up as the brain empties." - Jules Renard

Credentials - Nationally known for his expertise on human sexuality, Sawyer has given presentations at more than 350 universities and colleges around the U.S. He has authored two textbooks and written and produced four films on sexuality.

Sexual Expression

Melinda Chateauvert - instructor in the African American Studies Department, University of Maryland; founder and board member, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, which advocates for safe and consensual sexual freedom.Expertise - political movement organizing, the Civil Rights Movement, Gender Sexuality and the Black Family, public policy and the African American Community, sexuality and sex laws.

Chateauvert Says:

* "Sexual freedom is the next human rights issue. Attitudes toward alternative forms of sexual expression are changing. That's because sexual practices and behaviors once closeted and condemned are becoming normal with access to urban communities, the Internet and specialized social events." * "Sexual freedom is a human rights issue because love, caring and communion allow us to celebrate, create and explore the full variety of life's joys."

Credentials - Chateauvert's research projects include a study of the labor and labor consciousness among workers in the commercial sex industry, and a comparative political analysis of various campaigns to change laws regulating sexuality and gender identity.

Popular Culture

Sheri Parks - associate professor of American studies, University of Maryland.Expertise - popular American aesthetics with a special focus on culture, family and gender. She is particularly interested in the role of mass media in the lives of families.

Parks Says -

* "Popular culture, thanks to a heavy dose of advertising, has come to define how we feel about our relationships and how we measure ourselves during holidays like Valentine's Day. For example, if there¿s no card that reflects how we feel, then we feel sad. The cards have become the benchmark for the day." * "If popular culture defines what counts as romance, and we accept that, then it says something about our relationships."

Credentials - along with her work at Maryland, Parks is a popular radio host and a mother. Her radio show, Media Matters, won the 2001 Friends of Children Award from the National Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Social Behavior

Gerald Borgia - professor of Biology, University of Maryland.Expertise - Gerry Borgia is interested in the study of mate choice, sexual competition, and the evolution of display. He does that by studing the extraordinary mating rituals of the bowerbird, found in the forests of Australia and New Zealand. In 2002, Borgia and one of his students made international news when they used a robotic female to show that the sensitive guy is the one who gets the most chicks in the bowerbird world. They are now working on a male robot.

Borgia Says -

* "One very successful male who had a good bower mated with 25 females over one 2-month mating period. He mated with nine females in one day. But that¿s the exception. Most of them don¿t land a female mate at all. The sexiest guys get all the mates." * "Like humans, bowerbirds have evolved a high level of intelligence, but each species has come to this point with a very different set of ancestors. The example of bowerbirds has led some to suggest that in humans and bowerbirds, intelligence may have been driven by competition to show off to the opposite sex."

Credentials - widely published, Borgia¿s work has been covered by local, national and international media. He has also done research on insect mating behavior, blue crabs, wasps, guppies, toque monkeys, tamarins, terns, gulls, and song sparrows.

The Internet

John Robinson - professor of Sociology; College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Maryland.

Expertise - the impact of the mass media and the Internet on society; time use; societal trends, social change and social science methodology.

Robinson Says -

* About the Internet's impact on sex: "(Recent data shows that) lower sexual frequency was found with each (age) group's increased use of the Internet. The group that seemed most affected were those under age 35 and married, suggesting a 'Not tonight, honey, I have email,' pattern of interaction."

Credentials - Directs the Internet Scholars Program and the American's Use of Time Project. He is the co-author of Sex, Church And The Internet based on data from a General Social Survey of Internet users done in 2000.

Saying "Thank You" To Caregivers

Susan Walker - assistant professor, family studies and state family life specialist, Maryland Cooperative Extension.

Expertise - child care professional development, child care policy, parenting education, at-risk families.

Walker Says -

* "Valentines Day is a day to tell those around us how much we love, and care about them. In addition to our friends and sweethearts, this is also a day to recognize those who mean a lot to us through their everyday actions. One group particularly in need of recognition from parents is child care providers. Family child care providers, who care for children in their own homes, and child care center teachers and directors, spend long hours every day with children."

Credentials - an expert in family and community supports for children , Susan Walker coordinates child care training for Maryland Cooperative Extension and conducts research on family child care professional development, and rural low income families' use of child care. She is a member of Montgomery County, Maryland, Child Care Commission and co-chair of the public policy committee. She is the co author of: Parenting the First Year Implementation Manual, and developer of the school readiness community assessment, both from the University of Wisconsin-Extension. She is co-author with Moncrieff Cochran of the chapter, Parenting and Personal Social Networks, in Parenting: An Ecological Approach , 2nd Ed. (Luster & Okagaki, in press).

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