Mainstream Legitimization of Homosexual Men Through Valentine's Day Gift-Giving and Consumption Rituals
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SUMMARY. Recently, the gay community has received increased attention from marketers through specially-made television commercials, direct mail pieces, and other media messages. However, little research in consumer behavior has examined the potential attitudinal and behavioral differences and similarities between heterosexuals and homosexuals. Specifically, this paper provides an exploratory look at the meaning and practices surrounding the consumer ritual of Valentine's Day from the perspective of homosexual men. Using depth interviews within an interpretative framework, our research sug-

gests similarities exist for the celebration of Valentine's Day between homosexual and heterosexual singles, while differences may exist for the functions of Valentine's Day gift-giving between these groups. Some homosexual couples feel they cannot "legitimately participate" in the dominant rituals associated with the holiday due to oppression by a "heterosexual society." Marketing implications are discussed. [Article copies available from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-342-9678.]


"Homosexuality is a way of being, one that can completely influence a person's life and shape its meaning and direction" (Grahn 1984). Today, through the potential spending opportunities offered by the gay community, marketers are beginning to recognize homosexuality as a way of life. A spokesperson for AT&T's long-distance telephone company explains, "The particular market segment [homosexual] is a good one to target because it's composed of affluent, highly-educated, and very brand-loyal consumers" (Fitzgerald 1994a). With the rise of upscale gay magazines such as Out, Genre, and The Advocate, and the promise of an affluent market niche, marketers are showing increased attention to the tailoring of messages and media especially for gays.