Holiday Horniness, Explained

December 24, 2021 by Justin Lehmiller

Unlike many animal species, humans don’t really have a mating season. We can have sex any time of year. However, there do appear to be some peaks and valleys in our sexual interest and activity levels. In other words, there is a certain seasonality to sex, and we’re in the midst of one of those peaks right now.

Research shows that sex reliably increases at two times of the year. One peak occurs in the summer (specifically, June and July). That’s the time of year when people tend to have the most sex. Sex typically declines in the fall, but then there’s another surge that occurs in December and January before our bedrooms cool down again in the spring. Note that the winter peak seems to be highest during that holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

We see this in terms of changes in condom sales, Google searches for sex-related content, conception rates, STD rates, and much more. Check out the video below for a closer look at the various changes that take place in our sexual and romantic lives during December, as well as the biological, psychological, and social factors that might be playing a role in it. As I mention in the video, in trying to understand why sex changes with the seasons, there isn’t just one thing driving it. It’s a complex phenomenon!

One caveat to the research discussed in the video is that most of the work comes from studies in the US, UK, and Australia. There hasn’t yet been a comprehensive analysis of the seasonality of sex around the world, which would be interesting to explore. For example, do we still see changes in sexual interest and activity throughout the year in places that have a more stable climate? I would hypothesize that you would to at least some degree. For example, some of the factors that are likely behind the December/January increase include a greater number of people taking time away from work and going on vacations around the holidays (factors that lower stress and create more opportunities for sex). However, we need more cross-cultural data to know for sure.

Enjoy the video, and here’s to a happy and horny holiday season!

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Sources for information contained in this video:

Seasonal changes in sexual activity levels: Cornelisse, V. J., Chow, E. P., Chen, M. Y., Bradshaw, C. S., & Fairley, C. K. (2016). Summer heat: A cross-sectional analysis of seasonal differences in sexual behaviour and sexually transmissible diseases in Melbourne, Australia. Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Seasonal changes in Google search trends for pornography, prostitution, and online dating: Markey, P. M., & Markey, C. N. (2013). Seasonal variation in internet keyword searches: A proxy assessment of sex mating behaviors. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42(4), 515-521.

Seasonal changes in condom sales and STD rates: Wellings, K., Macdowall, W., Catchpole, M., & Goodrich, J. (1999). Seasonal variations in sexual activity and their implications for sexual health promotion. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 92, 60-64.

Seasonal changes in conception rates: Tita, A. T., Hollier, L. M., & Waller, D. K. (2001). Seasonality in conception of births and influence on late initiation of prenatal care. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 97(6), 976-981.

Seasonal changes in sexual injuries: Phillips, E. A., Esposito, A. J., & Munarriz, R. (2015). Acute penile trauma and associated morbidity: 9‐year experience at a tertiary care center. Andrology, 3(3), 632-636.

Seasonal changes in virginity loss: Levin, M. L., Xu, X., & Bartkowski, J. P. (2002). Seasonality of sexual debut. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(4), 871-884.

For more information on biopsychosocial theories regarding why sexual behavior changes in the winter, check out this article I wrote for TONIC

Music Credit: Winter Wonderful by Kensington Studios, used under license from Shutterstock, 2017

Image Source: 123RF/lightfieldstudios

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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