It’s that time of year again… Valentine’s Day. We all know it’s coming when Christmas is over, and the shelves of our local supermarkets are already stacked with heart-shaped delicacies and teddy bears that a 2-year-old wouldn’t want. What is it about this day that makes people feel a rollercoaster of emotions, whilst at the same time feel so isolated and alone? Maybe it’s the fact that Valentine’s Day only seems to celebrate traditional forms of relationships, whilst we as a society have moved way beyond that. We should be able to celebrate love in all its forms; whether that’s the love we have for our families, our friends, or any other important relationship in our lives. Galentines Day (February 13th) is the perfect way to do that.
I interview two women who are change makers in their fields, Yasmin Benoit an Asexual and Aromantic model and activist, and Venus Libido an illustrator, model, and presenter of Private Parts a chat show exploring all things inclusive dating and relationships. These ladies are trying to overturn our perception of Valentine’s Day, and are using Galentines Day to do just that.
JP: What does Valentine’s Day mean to you?
VL: Over the years I’ve never really celebrated Valentine’s Day. I’ve just come out of a 9 year relationship and both me and my partner where never fond of the day itself. However this year Valentine’s Day will mean celebrating the family and friends I love. Celebrating other relationships I have in my life and really focusing on being thankful for those who truly love me back.
YB: For me, Valentine’s is just a commercial occasion that signals a few things – that chocolate will be on sale soon, there’s more possibilities for lingerie modelling work, and an excuse to drew attention to the fact that there’s a lot of aromantic people out there who aren’t about that life.
JP: How are you trying to change the Valentine’s Day stereotype and confront the bias?
VL: For me it’s about tackling the kind of relationships we are traditionally celebrating, focusing less on romantic relationships as a way of feeling loved and more on Platonic relationships as well. We are all loved and appreciated by at least one person and that doesn’t have to be someone from a romantic relationship. I don’t want this day to make people feel alone just because they aren’t celebrating it with a partner but to celebrate all forms of love we receive.
YB: At this time of year, I’m asked to speak about aromanticism and asexuality more, whether it’s an events or in the media. I try to add a different perspective to the discussions that surround Valentine’s Day – which obviously place a lot of emphasis on sexuality and romance – and challenge those existing ideas.
JP: Challenging the societal norms and emphasis society places on Valentine’s Day is a battle many of us would like to conquer – do you think it’s possible?
VL: Yes absolutely! This is why I wanted to create Rosé Before Broséé. We forget that this is a celebration of love from all perspectives but of course that’s down to the way society markets it to us. Valentine’s Day isn’t about a dinner for two and a bunch of roses anymore it’s about coming together with friends and family who uplift you and remind you that you are loved.
YB: Valentine’s Day is just a symptom of a wider culture that places more value on romantic relationships and romantic love above other forms of interpersonal connection. In the grand scheme of things, I think Valentine’s Day is quite harmless. It’s just one day, one that I think most people find cheesy, forced and overly commercialised, even if they are in romantic relationships. What needs to be changed is the way our society understands and appreciates love.
JP: How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day, if your celebrating it at all?
VL: I will be waking up next to my best friend Natalie in an air bnb. Most likely with a hangover from the night before as we would have been celebrating Galentines day and Rosé Before Brosé.
YB: I don’t think I’ll be doing anything to celebrate Valentine’s Day, aside from maybe eating some chocolate, but I would have done that anyway!
JP: In contrast, what relationships will you be celebrating this Galentines Day?
VL: Im going to start the day celebrating it with my mum and showing her how much I love and appreciate her. She’s taught me that loving myself first is the most important factor in life and I want to show her how much she means to me. Then in the evening I will be celebrating the relationships I have with my friends. I have so many amazing people in my life who help me through the good and the bad and I want to show them how much that means to me.
YB: Galentine’s Day is about celebrating platonic love, especially in relationships between women. I’m going to spend it at a positive, supportive space with women who I find supportive and inspiring!
JP: How much emphasis and importance do you place on platonic love? How important are your friendships to you?
VL: It’s most certainly the most important thing to me. The people in my life shape me and encourage me to keep going. The last two years since being on Instagram and surrounding myself with strong and empowered people I’ve really learnt to love myself more. Putting myself, my body, my mental health first has truly changed me for the better and that’s all thanks to the friends I chose to surround myself with. Without them I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here.
YB: Romantic love isn’t the goal for me, so I place that same importance on platonic relationships. Platonic love isn’t secondary, it isn’t primary. It isn’t ‘just friendship,’ that’s as good as it’ll get, and that can be great too. I put the same amount of energy into it, I value my friendships the same way. They only occur when I truly vibe with someone, and it’s something I intend to be in long-term. I can see myself being in what aromantic people call a queerplatonic relationship someday, and even forming some kind of family that way – it’s like a platonic relationship, but a more serious one that blurs the traditional lines.
JP: What does love mean to you? What does it look like?
VL: To me love is a text from a friend asking if I’m ok. Love is being touched by someone who makes you feel safe. Love is touching myself and making myself feel good. Love is being around my family on a Sunday afternoon round the table. Love is knowing that no matter what someone does loves me.
YB: Love means the same thing to me as it does to everyone else. I’m just inclined towards specific types, i.e. the type that isn’t romantic, but love doesn’t manifest the same way in every relationship. It isn’t something you can define or visualise, it’s a feeling. It just is, and it looks however it looks in that moment.
JP: Does love look any different to you as a feminist/activist?
VL: I doesn’t look different but it’s definitely changed from how I viewed it maybe 2 years ago. I thought I could only be loved if that meant being in a relationship with someone else but now it’s the total opposite. It’s super cheesy but love really does have to start from within first and then that energy will just gravitate towards others.
YB: think the main difference is that I’m seeing and experiencing love from a perspective that isn’t reliant on something heteronormative. It’s also something that I have to analyse more as a phenomenon because I’m asked about it more than the average person.
JP: You both challenge the importance society places on sexuality and love, how would you say you’re doing this?
VL: I’m doing it by breaking down taboos and addressing social norms because love is so different for everyone. I’ve recently made a huge leap in my personal life and come out as pansexual to my friends and family and now I feel like I can truly be myself. I’m 28 and I was almost willing to never tell anyone because I thought what’s the point now. But no we need to remind each other that things are changing and people are becoming more educated and open about sexuality and love. It’s never to late is my motto and I want to keep spreading that kind of attitude to others.
YB: I’ve been involved in activism for the past year, just trying to raise awareness for aromantic and asexual people, increase our visibility and dispel misconceptions. I try to spread a message of inclusion across as many areas as I can, intersecting with different communities that are already having progressive conversations about sexuality and love, but are lacking in a perspective like mine. I’ve written articles, appeared in documentaries, spoken at workplaces, universities and Pride events, consulted on projects, participated in charity and pride campaigns, and tried to create safe spaces that are inclusive of aromantic and asexual people in real life.
In celebration of Galentines Day, Venus Libido has launched a wine Rosé Before Brosé in collaboration with Vagabond Wines, a limited edition provence rosé celebrating friendship and the realness of platonic love – available in all of their stores or you can buy online here. The bottle will be available as part of a month of feminist celebrations leading up to International Women’s Day. Time to treat yourself and your bestie, get popping!
Interview by J’Nae Phillips