Everyone feels it this time of year. The weather’s warmer, the sun’s brighter, and all of a sudden, you’re feeling… lusty.
Summertime is often associated with being the season of love — or at least a fling (“Summer lovin’ had me a blast,” anyone?) — and it turns out, science can actually explain why we feel all hot and bothered once the temperatures increase.
It's in the air
For starters, there’s the link between warmth and intimacy. When we feel warm, we are more likely to feel connected with those around us.
“Research on embodied cognition shows that even holding warm beverages increases perceptions of social proximity,” Dr. Jess O’Reilly, sexologist and host of the Sex With Dr Jess podcast tells SheKnows. “And when we feel socially isolated, we perceive the temperature as colder. Because temperature and feelings of intimacy are psychologically related — studies show that altering one can affect the other — and because we tend to associate sex with intimacy, you may feel an increase in desire for sex during the summer months in response to feelings of intimacy and closeness.”
Another reason? It’s sunny outside.
“Sunlight has the potential to increase serotonin levels, which can boost your mood and leave you feeling more energized and frisky,” O’Reilly explains. And longer days tend to mean more social engagements — aka more opportunities to flirt with new love interests — and “warmer weather may increase attraction, as you’re more likely to bear skin,” she adds.
But there’s some disagreement that “sun’s out, skin’s out” may attract more sex.
“Interestingly, research shows that the naked body is more captivating in winter months,” Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, tells SheKnows. “This is thought to be due to the scarcity of bare skin in colder months. During summer months, shorts, bikinis and sundresses are common. Given the frequency of bare-skin visual landscape, the human mind becomes somewhat acclimated to revealing clothing.”
Meaning while a sexy bikini worn in the summer will definitely turn some heads, the same bikini worn during a winter vacation might get an even stronger reaction.
This theory lends itself to a 2013 study done by researchers at Villanova University, which revealed the most sex-related Google searches are in June and July — as well as in December and January. So, basically, as much as we’re feeling lusty during the summer, we are also feeling horny during the colder months.
The timing of both is significant. A 2002 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that the two seasonal peaks in the onset of sexual and romantic activity among adolescents occurred in the early summer months — June and July — and during December. Not surprisingly, the researchers found that summer romances were more often of the fling variety, while those involved during the winter had a preexisting history, which further explains the cuffing season phenomenon.
In general, however, “humans are often lusty during summer months,” Manly says. “Summer brings more daylight hours and often vacation time. The increased amount of playtime often reduces stress and pressure. When we feel less stressed, we often become more interested in play and passion."
On a physiological level, Manly says we're flooded with feel-good neurochemicals when we engage in fun activities. These benefits increase in the summertime because of increased exposure to sunlight and nature, she adds.
Summer months also often bring out the desire to work out and eat healthier, which naturally boosts our libido.
“Exercise is one of the most effective ways to boost sexual desire, as it can increase testosterone levels as well as heighten confidence and desirability,” O’Reilly explains. “Eighty percent of men and 60 percent of women who exercise two to three times per week feel sexier, and those who get their sweat on four to five times per week rate their sex lives as higher than average.”
As for how to work with all that pent-up sexual energy, O’Reilly suggests a couple of things. First, “Get outside,” she says. “Pack a blanket, condoms, lube or even a tent for a day hike that will get your adrenaline pumping and prime your body for sex al fresco.”
Also, try having sex in the morning when the temperature and hormone levels are in your favor. Despite the potential to have hotter, more frequent sex in the summer, some suggest testosterone levels may actually decline during warmer months, so O'Reilly recommends taking advantage of the morning testosterone high.
Another reminder, and probably the most important of all? Don’t get discouraged by the thought that your summer fling necessarily has to have an expiration date.
“The fun doesn’t have to end when autumn arrives,” Manly notes. “Any romance — when it is built of the basics of honesty and respect — can continue to grow after the fling stage fades. All it takes is two partners who are both invested in having the delight of summer last well into the future.”