How Summer Became the Season of Sex

Written by Bobby Box

To make it through this article without referencing “Summer Nights” from theGrease soundtrack is, dare I say, impossible. But I promise that after this here paragraph, there will be no mention of the film, Olivia Newton John or dropping out of beauty school. Besides, it’s not only Grease to ponder on the seduction of the sultry season, it’s merely the most obvious reference. According to Wikipedia, the ever-trusted online resource (that’s a joke, people), there are seven songs and three films with “Summer Love” in the title tracing all the way back to 1957.

But while mainstream media purports summer as the season of love, is there sufficient information to support the assertion? After doing some digging, I’ve found that yes, it does—kind of. It all depends on your definition of love. Ultimately, summer tends to be about love-making more than it is about head over heels love.

Research published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that Americans are most interested in sex during the early summer. The conclusion was reached after researchers analyzed Google keywords related to finding dates, prostitutes and pornography, all of which spiked in the early summer months. However, winter months were nearly just as popular, which kind of negates this whole sexy summer position I’m trying to substantiate. (Boo.)

Another piece of data comes courtesy of Facebook, which released statistics from 2010 and 2011 on the time of year members most often change their relationship status. The months of May through August showed a massive net increase in breakups. This suggests summer is simply a time couples argue more, or a time couples choose to free themselves from the chains of monogamy and opt for just physical intimacy instead.

Not surprisingly, cheating is also on the rise in the summer months. New research from extramarital dating site Ashley Madison revealed memberships skyrocket in the summer, with peak sign-ups occurring in July. On average, the site witnesses nearly 21,000 new sign-ups every month, with more women seeking affairs than men.

The reason summer is prime for cheating, according to The New York Post, which reported on the study, is that sun exposure increases levels of serotonin, making people happier and more confident. In many cases, this alone can influence a person’s decision to seek extramarital affairs and feel less guilty about it. Obviously, this scientific reasoning doesn’t just explain cheating, but a heightened proclivity for sex as well.

“In the warmer months, people are wearing less clothing,” Paul Nelson, clinical sexologist at Maze Men’s Health, tells Playboy. “While a woman looks stunning in a business suit, the same woman wearing a sundress is simply going to elicit more of a sensual response from her partner. The bare shoulders, bare arms, short skirts, are all going to lead to more erotic thoughts for many men, who also wear less clothing. And I think the obvious erotic connection with bathing suits goes without saying.”

In addition to its accompanying nudeness, the warmer months also serve as a temporary escape from routine for some (students and teachers, for example), which offers time to pursue love interests. Similarly, people spend more time outside of the home fraternizing at events and on vacation in the summertime. That, of course, presents more opportunities to get laid.

“I tell everyone that during the summer months they should absolutely be having sex outside frequently,” Nelson shares. “A private deck or balcony is ideal. In an urban setting, people often have access to [the] roof of the building. I also encourage people to go on hikes in the woods. I do remind them that sex does not need to be intercourse. There are lots of things couples can do while still staying clothed enough where they don’t need to put themselves at risk.”

In the same way summer incites sex, the winter months tend to promote more serious relationships. “There is a detectable change in sexual interest and behavior in the winter months, especially in December and early January,” Lawrence Siegel, sexologist at Sage Institute, begins. “Of course, we can immediately see these times as being about holidays, celebration and vacation. The spirit of revelry easily carries through into sexual interest and activity.”

It’s during these early winter months that, through a sociobiological lens, there is an increase in what has come to be called “cuffing behavior,” and is seen in most mammals as winter begins. “Perhaps borne out of an instinctual need to not be alone during the winter months, there is an increased desire for single or unattached people to ‘be cuffed,’ or ‘tied down,’ in a relationship,” Siegel explains. “Could it be a biological need to share warmth with another living being? Is it a coincidence that the end of summer/early fall is the largest number of births, meaning conception occurred during the early winter? Perhaps not.”

Just like summer encourages nudeness, the cold necessitates people covering up their bodies, often with progressively thick layers of clothing. There is also less sunlight during the winter, meaning lower levels of vitamin D (and, subsequently, levels of serotonin, dopamine, testosterone, FSH, etc.) and higher levels of melatonin. Perhaps, overall, it is the combination of all those factors that contribute to the unique aspects of winter sex.

The fact that it’s cold often leads to a more welcome connection of bodies than in warm weather, where it can be uncomfortable because it’s too hot. “This often leads to or is part of a more protracted foreplay that involves more intimate connection. Because body-shared warmth is important, intercourse often involves less movement (so as to stay under the covers), but with more intense thrusting and greater body contact.” Per Siegel, this often leads to a greater release of hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin, which increase both organic intensity and feelings of closeness. “The early winter months are periods of increased fertility, whereas the summer months may be attributed to increased sexual activity,” Siegel says. “If nothing else can be said, it is safe to say that seasonal changes in sexual and reproductive function and behavior is incredibly complex.”

There is a large body of research that reveals dating, mating and sex does indeed follow an annual cycle, with valleys in the spring and fall, and peaks in summer and winter. For instance, studies of birth records consistently show that more children are conceived during summer and winter than during spring and fall. Condom sales rise and fall seasonally, with the largest proportion of sales occurring in summer and winter. Virginity loss and sexually transmitted infections also follow this same structure. Since it’s summer, this means you should be having sex and lots of it. So get out there, show some skin and have yourself a good ol’ naked time.