Sexual Activities Decline on Valentine’s Day: Researcher

PHNOM PENH – Young people have become more aware of sexual activities during Valentine’s Day and see the date in different ways compared with two decades ago, says public health researcher Tong Soprach.

Valentine’s Day, celebrated on Feb. 14, is not a Cambodian cultural tradition but was adopted through foreign movies and neighboring counties, according to the researcher.

The date was known as “Couple’s Day” which conveyed an inappropriate message with flowers or other materials leading to a sexual relationship on the day, while the original concept never mentioned sexual activities. 

Soprach had carried out a survey every five years on the topic before Feb. 14 since 2009.  Data shows the trend has declined nearly by half in 15 years. 

According to the recent findings, only 34.4 percent among over 600 respondents considered Valentine’s Day as a special day, down from 61.2 percent in the first year. The percentage of expectation of sexual activities fell from 12.4 to 2.2 percent. 

Another aspect is gifts giving. There is also a decline in buying gifts for their partners to press for later sexual activities, such as buying flowers and expensive items, the study says. 

According to their responses, most of respondents have changed their direction from meeting at clubs, karaoke rooms or hotels to enjoying their dates at movie theatres or malls. Meanwhile, some of them choose to stay at school and homes. 

Source: Tong Soprach’s study in 2024

“The results showed a lot of negative responses before, but the situation seems to be better and becoming more positive,” Soprach said. 

“With these responses, the study suggests that the tendency towards sexual relationship during Valentine’s Day has declined by five times by this year,” he added.

Day not only for couples 

One of the reasons for the decline is the effectiveness of campaigns used to spread awareness of Valentine’s Day. The campaigns raised awareness that the day is also celebrated for the love as in family or friendship. 

Instead of sexual relationships, the young can engage in sharing love with people they know, donating blood, or doing social works such as helping orphans or disabled elders, Soprach said. 

Another factor comes from the re-direction of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in changing the date’s name from “Couple’s Day” to “Love Day”. The change was to erase the misleading perception that it is for a sexual relationship.

“It aimed to emphasize that love is celebrated among all people — whether it’s family, friends, or lover — not only couples,” he said.  

The Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports also actively raise the awareness among students. He said, “Some teachers assign more works on the day while some other even schedule examinations.” 

Another important actor is social media users who are sharing the educational contents to help young people avoid misunderstanding the concept of the day and future risks. 

Better safe than sorry 

Soprach said everyone of eligible age has the right to take part in sexual activities but it has to have the consent from both parties without force. While it’s a right, it’s also a concern that needs protection and prevention. 

“Based on the questionnaire, men would usually buy expensive gifts, take their girlfriends for a long ride, and visit the places where could create the vibe for them as they expected the sexual activities. It is fine to do so, but they must have an agreement from the women’s side,” he said. 

Soprach added that the young, however, must know about protection from communicable disease such as HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy. 

The National AIDS Authority also reminded the public about safety and the meaning of the celebration. 

In 2023, as many as 76,000 people were living with AIDS while new cases reached 1,400 per year, meaning that four people got infected by HIV per day.

Among those, around 42 percent of the new cases were among  people aged 15 to 24.

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