At 57, winemaker Bull Gulvin has never been married and has no such plans in the works.

He's not a mama's boy or a playboy. Instead, the Columbia, Pa., resident calls himself a "realist" for remaining single.

"There aren't many really compelling reasons to get married anymore," Gulvin says.

A lot of attention gets paid to single women, who can cheer themselves with chick flicks, self-help books and shows like "Sex and the City," which aim to empower female consumers to think of singledom as independence or self-reliance.

But this Valentine's Day, it's worth noting: Men can be single and fabulous, too.

While single women have seemingly banded together to change their image in the popular culture, there's been no such battle cry for men, who have a whole different set of stereotypes to fight: They're confirmed bachelors, James Bond-style playboys, cranky old men or gay.

None of this is helped by the fact that married men live longer, or by the common notion that men need a woman's touch to perform household tasks like cooking, decorating or doing their laundry.

But some proud, single men say they're better off alone.

"A man is a sperm bank, a meal ticket, a handyman and an early retirement plan," Gulvin says. For those reasons and others, he has decided to go through life without committing to one romantic relationship.

Both men and women are staying single longer, as the median marriage age rises. In 2006, 33 percent of men in their early 30s had never been married, compared to 29 percent of women, according to Census numbers.

Experts say society still favors married men over their single counterparts, though. The most common complaints come from the workplace, where many say they are discriminated against.

"Especially as you approach your mid-30s and 40s and all your colleagues around you are married, there's a lot of unsaid words that go on and feelings of inadequacy at work," says Sherri Langburt, founder of the new Web site SingleEdition.com, an online community for happy singles.

Those include speculation about a single man's sexual preferences and, concomitantly, a difficulty in making friends with heterosexual co-workers because colleagues might question his motives.

Single men often say they are asked to work on holidays, put in longer hours or travel more for business. Employers often assume that without a spouse, unwed workers have extra time to spare, says Nicky Grist, executive director of the Alternatives to Marriage Project. That organization is for people who choose not to marry or cannot legally marry.

Particularly in the powerful worlds of business and politics, it's often all about appearances and presenting oneself as a stable man with a solid foundation, Grist says.

"Part of that expectation probably still stems from the idea that in order to completely fulfill your role as a leader in this business or policy setting, you need the support of a family and most often wife," she says.

Jihad Saleh, a Mexican-African-American Muslim in Washington, D.C., says he has faced unique cultural pressures for recently "coming out of the closet" about wanting to be single for the rest of his life.

On the one hand, his religion puts immense pressure on young people to wed, he says. "Within the Muslim community, it is kind of a semi-taboo to admit that you want to be single. ... There's something wrong with that to them," says Saleh, who is a legislative assistant to a New York congressman.

Saleh, 33, was dating a Muslim woman whose parents didn't approve of him because of his ethnic background, he says. They broke up, which led to his proclamation of lifelong singleness.

He has started a network called "Happily Single in the Muslim Community!" and hosts online groups on Facebook and Meetup.com.

As an African-American, Saleh also feels a "social responsibility" to parent an African-American boy over the age of 4 or 5, a group that he says are very rarely adopted and often shuffled between foster homes. He realizes that as a single man, such an already challenging adoption will be particularly difficult.

But Saleh is committed above all to his singleness. "I am an extrovert to a friend, but I've kind of learned that balance, where I don't feel like I have to be with someone all the time," he says.

Of course, not all unattached men want to stay that way. The popular online dating site e-harmony says it had trouble attracting men when it first launched in 2000, but has seen a notable increase in interest.

"It seems like there has been a real social shift among men, and that being committed does seem to be cool these days," says J. Galen Buckwalter, vice president of research and development.

He says there's growing emphasis in our culture on the value of fatherhood and longterm relationships.

Even Scott Baio, star of the VH1 reality show "Scott Baio is 45 ... And Single" is finally settling down for the long haul. And a new reality show on Bravo, "The Millionaire Matchmaker," features dozens of wealthy singles who are looking for everlasting love, even though they could afford to be playing the field for the rest of their lives.

But coupledom isn't for everybody.

Gulvin says he goes out with women, has many friends, a job he enjoys and a loyal cat waiting for him at home at the end of the day. He has no interest in having children and doesn't want to fall in love.

"I don't like the feeling. I find it to be pretty neurotic and dysfunctional," he says. "All you have to do is listen to country-western love songs (if) you want to hear about dysfunctional, codependent love relationships."