Well, it is that time of year again. The time when a lot of people begin thinking about love, either in delightful celebration, in complete denial and rejection, or in a dismissive, somewhat indifferent state-of-mind, all because Valentine’s Day quickly approaches. Stores are filled with red hearts, white teddy bears, and delectable chocolates, and radio stations manage to play nearly every R&B love song ever written. Amid gleeful anticipation and grumbling disdain, the most often asked question is: What are you getting your significant other for a Valentine’s Day gift?

While many of us will admit that V-Day is almost always skewed towards women and making or keeping them happy, we can’t ignore that men need love and attention too. This is the perfect time to show your man some extra special affection, but guess what? Sex is not an acceptable “gift” to give, by anyone and to anyone.

I’ve participated in discussions about Valentine’s Day (and other major holidays where gifts are exchanged) during which people, women especially, state that they plan to give their partners sex as a gift. Hold up… what? Since when has sex ever been a “gift”? A gift, by definition and concept, and what makes gift giving special, is that people offer each other tokens of appreciation that are free of the demand for reciprocity. When you give a gift, you should really do so from the kindness and goodness of your heart, and you should do so without expecting the receiver to give you something in return.

If we can accept this as a working definition, why are people actually offering sex as a “gift”?

When you have sex, do you participate without expecting to get anything out of it? I’m not sure the average hot-blooded human being enters a sexual situation focused solely on giving pleasure with absolutely no desire for shared enjoyment. When I have sex, I’m trying to get mine. Yes, I love lavishing my partner with my titillating skills, and I give 110% to make sure my lover is completely satisfied before calling it quits—as we all should.

There’s never a time, however, when I think, “Wow, I’m going to give all of this here hot loving and I don’t want anything in return!”

Sex should, at the very least, be a mutually agreed upon and enjoyed experience between (at least) two people who want to be present in the moment, want to enthusiastically participate, and don’t feel obligated to perform. Unfortunately, because sex has historically been something too-often used for leverage—as a bargaining tool or even as a weapon—the sense of obligation is all-too-familiar for some people, particularly women.

Women have historically been conditioned against enjoying sex for their own pleasure and have been made to feel they must simply comply with sex rather than be proactive and in control of their sexual satisfaction. It’s only been within the past few decades that women have felt safe and empowered enough to become more vocal in demanding the right to have sex for no other reason than to “get off” and not be negatively judged or shamed for it.

When someone says “I’m giving him/her sex” as a gift, it seems like maybe the couple is not having sex regularly enough that giving sex as a gift would actually seem special. Or the giver somehow rations sex out, maybe even reluctantly, and the partner would be happy to actually get some. While I know that isn’t the intention behind every answer, I do know that this is a very real issue for some people. I’ve had several people write to me complaining and asking for help on how they can increase the frequency of their sexual activity because they’re simply not getting any on a regular basis.  

Unfortunately, there are people out there who only get to have sex with their partners on special occasions and, as such, they feel like each time is a blessing. When I ask why they continue in the relationship without making their desires known, the most common answer I get is that they don’t want to seem shallow or sex-crazed.

How does wanting sex more often than the 12 paid holidays you receive from work every year make one sex-crazed?

If you’ve ever decided to give your lover sex as a gift, I want you to abandon that idea for the next gift exchange. Yes, sex can be involved as part of your gift, but be sure it’s not the main event. And be sure to include things you’ve never done before, like maybe role-playing, a trip to a swing club, or making a feature-length sex tape. Be daring and create a sexual experience your lover will never forget. There should be no trace of reluctance, and you should go well above and beyond what you normally do in what (I hope) is your regular, healthy sex life.

I also hope, though, that this Valentine’s Day, if you’ve made plans with your special someone, those plans aren’t centered on having sex. This is the time to be more creative and put effort into doing something nice for your lover. You don’t have to spend a lot of money; in fact, the more creative you are, the less you’ll find you need to spend. Pay attention to what she says she wishes she had. Make note of when his attention is focused on a commercial advertising something he really likes.

Keep each other’s goals in mind and work on showing support and appreciation of their efforts in working towards those goals. Be thoughtful and mindful. And if sex ends up on the menu, make it more of the appetizer or dessert as opposed to the main course. You can have sex every other day! Make Valentine’s Day special.

Feminista Jones is a sex-positive Black feminist, social worker and blogger from New York City. She writes about gender, race, politics, mental health and sexuality at FeministaJones.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FeministaJones.