Why is summer so horny?

7 mins
11 Jul 2022
Why is summer so horny?

It’s the season of sex – but is it science, our Love island obsession, or a vibe shift that calls for a shot of Vitamin D?

image Kevin & Perry Go Large

words Louis Staples

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s pretty hot outside. As I write this, I’m sitting in my living room, with the blinds drawn and a fan wafting already-warm air around the room, debating whether or not to have a cold shower. Soon it’ll be time for my first ice lolly of the day.

Sweating indoors isn’t the sexiest of vibes, but let’s face it: the summer sun has an undeniably horny energy. Research has revealed that sex-related Google searches peak in the summer months. Coincidence? I think not. This afternoon, the park near my flat will be full of people wearing not-too-many clothes, soaking up the sun. It gives off the same primal vibe of that cafeteria scene in Mean Girls, where Cady Heron reimagines her hormonal teenage classmates as creatures in the African savannah. (In the urban jungle of east London, I often feel like I’m watching an Attenborough documentary, with fuckbois circling their unsuspecting conquests).

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The summer season’s horny energy is encapsulated by Love Island. Each year, the nation watches as temperatures (and libidos) rise in the Majorcan villa, while heads are turned and relationships are tested. Elsewhere, there’s no shortage of similar shows combining hot temperatures and sex, from Netflix’s Too Hot To Handle, to HBO Max’s FBoy Island. Summer anthems also tend to revolve around sex, from Rihanna’s ‘Wild Thoughts’ (2017) to ‘Sexual’ by Neiked (2018), while Lil Nas X’s hornified bop ‘Call Me By Your Name (Montero)’ was the song of summer 2021.

But why? Running in complete opposition to the cuffing culture of the winter months, Woo delves a little deeper to find out why summer is the ultimate sexy season.

Is there a scientific reason why summer is so horny?

“Summer sunshine promotes extra release of serotonin and dopamine,’ psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall told Metro. “These are two of the most energising and positive neurochemicals in the human brain. For a healthy sex drive both of these chemicals need to be present in decent amounts, together with some giggles and being relaxed.”

Additional vitamin D (no pun intended) from the sun can also make us horny. In some people, it prompts an increase in production of oestrogen and tesosterone, which can increase sex drive. Exposure to the sun can also drop melatonin levels – a natural hormone which can block sex hormones.

“Summer is automatically more intimate, whether it's that brush of the thigh or feeling much more of someone when you hug them”
Beth Ashley, sex and relationships writer

For men, people with penises and those who have sex with them, another horn-driver might be the phenomenon of “summer dick”. This is exactly what it sounds like: dicks getting bigger in summer. MEL Magazine writer Tracy Moore investigated this phenomenon and doctors generally agreed that the penis can either look bigger, or grow ever-so-slightly, when it’s very hot outside. Given what we know about the male preoccupation with penis size, it’s not a huge leap to suggest that this might give men more confidence or sex drive in the summer months. As urologist Dudley Danoff, author of The Ultimate Guide to Male Sexual Health, told MEL: “There’s a reason why people don’t take honeymoons to the North Pole. They go to Hawaii. There’s a reason why a hot tub is attractive for romance.”

There’s also a lot of research about the different ways sweat can turn us on. Some people are specifically into body odour, sweaty feet and pits (Woo is a kink-shaming free zone), but even for those who aren’t, sweat can still release pheromones. These are chemical messengers produced and emitted by the body that contribute significantly to interpersonal and sexual attraction. So even if we don’t know it, a person’s sweat could be part of the reason we’re turned on by them.

Summer is the season that most revolves around fun and leisure. We learn this from a young age, when schools break up for weeks on end. “There is something very nostalgic about summer sex for me because summer was when everyone had sex for the first time when I was a teenager,” sex and relationships writer Beth Ashley tells Woo. “You get six weeks off in the summer but your parents don’t, so you come of age sexually with a free house. Summer sex just reminds me of waiting for my mum to fuck off to work and then getting the boy I liked to come round.”

In adulthood (when the school holidays have sadly been replaced by…annual leave) much of our time off is used on holidays abroad, going to festivals and generally having as much fun as possible while the sun is shining. People spending a lot of time socialising outdoors, away from the confines of the office, in an environment where they’re relaxed (and possibly a little drunk or high), surrounded by people in less clothing than the winter months, is the perfect storm for seasonal horn.

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There are practical reasons too

“We're much more involved and in touch with our skin during the summer,” Ashley says. Summer is more intimate, she thinks, because people are wearing less clothing and there is more opportunity for “organic” touching. “There's nothing really sexy about accidentally touching your own thigh, or someone else's, or someone accidentally touching your thigh, while you're hanging around together if you're wearing sex layers,” she explains. “But summer is automatically more intimate, whether it's that brush of the thigh or feeling much more of someone when you hug them.”

This summer, specifically, we are moving out of the shadow of pandemic lockdowns and the fear of being near each other is dissipating. Writing for The Face, Nathan Ma makes the case that 2022 is the summer of Big Intimacy. Intimacy can include sex, of course, but from Netflix’s Heartstopper to Conversation With Friends, Ma thinks 2022’s pop culture reflecting a move towards tenderness and heartfelt emotion.

Annie Lord, author of the memoir Notes on Heartbreak and columnist for Vogue on sex, love, and relationships, thinks this is a reaction to the previous two years. “I remember when the pandemic was first happening, it felt less like what you wanted as sex – what you wanted was to be really near to someone,” she told Ma. ​“You know when you’re in the park with friends, and everyone’s limbs are kind of knotted together?”

After living through a period when sex and physical touching were literally criminalised in law, it’s little surprise summer 2022 is all about getting close to each other – whether we’re horny for platonic or romantic intimacy.

It’s mostly about vibes

For many Brits in particular, the concept a horny summer goes right back to the time we first came of age, when so many of us celebrated the end of school by embarking on a “lads” or “girls” holiday. (On BBC Three’s Sun Sex and Suspicious Parents, we saw that sunburn, sexual discovery and chlamydia were often on the cards in places like Zante, Kavos and Magaluf). And in pop culture, the idea of a “summer romance” goes all the way back to books like The Great Gatsby and iconic films like Grease. This vibe is still alive today in trends like #HotGirlSummer and last year’s post-vax #ShotGirlSummer.

Summer really has the vibe that anything can happen and that life’s problems can wait until the sun disappears from the sky and the leaves start to fall. It’s about following our impulses, pursuing pleasure and doing what feels right. So it’s not surprising that the Love Island villa – a place where people have abandoned their responsibilities to pursue sex, romance and Instagram followers – is such a horny place. Because that slightly chaotic vibe is the essence of summer – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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