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There’s no business like snow business: A brief look at sex and the weather

For the last week or so, the snowy weather has been the main topic of conversation on the lips of most people who live in the UK. This doesn’t surprise me at all as most people now accept that weather can affect mood state, and for some people can lead to extreme depression in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. There also seems to be some evidence that weather can affect people’s sex lives. Being too hot or too cold is likely to lessen the desire to engage in sexual behaviour. Most academic research appears to indicate that sex drives are higher in spring and summer. One of the reasons given for this is that during spring and summer, there is more sun, and that a particular hormone – Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (MSH) – stimulates sex, particularly in women.

A number of studies have also indicated that during the spring and summer months, the body produces more seretonin (the so-called ‘feel good neurotransmitter’) because of increased luminosity of sunlight. During the winter months as the amount of sunlight decreases, the body produces more melatonin, and this appears to inhibit sex drives. However, there is wide individual variation and the weather and subsequent hormone stimulation differs highly from one person to the next. As an online article by Shiv Joshi confirms:

“Sunlight has a direct effect on the brain’s serotonin production, according to researchers at the Human Neurotransmitter Laboratory and Alfred and Baker Medical Unit, Baker Heart Research Institute, Australia. Our serotonin levels increase with increase in luminosity. And how does that matter? Among other things, serotonin also regulates arousal, says Ray Sahelian, MD, author of Mind Boosters…Not just serotonin, but sunlight affects many other hormones in our body as well, some of which are associated with mood and pleasure feelings, according to professor Carmen Fusco, an instructor in pharmacology. It decreases melatonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine and increases cortisol, serotonin, GABA, and dopamine. The summer heat is good for your sex life too. It works on your muscles, by relaxing them and intensifies sensations of the skin. Further, the heat slows us down. This helps us get in touch with our more subdued sensual side, according to psychologist Stella Resnick, PhD, author of The Pleasure Zone”.

Another online article by Emily Herbert notes that the spring and summer months may reduce sex drives in some people – particularly those who suffer Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder and get the ‘summer blues’ (as opposed to the stereotypical ‘winter blues’). She notes that:

“Though rare, Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder is when warmer temperatures make a person feel cooped up instead of carefree. Characterized by anxiety, decreased appetite, insomnia, and irritability, the condition is triggered by longer days and too much heat and/or light. Those who experience Reverse SAD report feeling attacked by the sun and tend to go into Twilight mode – avoiding sunlight at all costs, taking frequent cold showers, and scampering from one air-conditioned environment to the next”

It’s also worth noting that the human body’s own morphine-like chemicals (i.e., endorphins) are also released in certain non-sexual pleasurable activities such as alternating hot saunas with cold plunges. It has been noted by sexologists that is possible that a proper sexual context helps make a potentially painful situation into an erotic one. Regular readers of my blog will know that I take an academic interest in all things sexually paraphilic, and I’ve tried to look at the links (if any) between the weather and sexual parapilias and fetishes. To be honest, this whole blog was initiated by the following online admission of a sexual attraction to rain on the Is It Normal? website:

“I wouldn’t really know if this is considered a fetish or not, but rain really turns me on. The cloudy weather or late night rain makes me really horny. I can be in my room all alone and bored and just the fact that it’s raining really excites me. It’s not to go outside and have sex while rain is pouring on you. It’s to have sex while it rains. This thought is really sexy to me, and I really want to try it. I’ve been told this is a fetish, but I don’t see it that way”

This snippet reminded me of the dark side of rain fetishism as it brought to mind the case of Lam Kor-wan, the so-called ‘Hong Kong Butcher’ (also known as the ‘Rainy Night Butcher’). The case can be found in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2011 book Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. Kor-wan (born in 1955) was brought to trial in 1983 and is Hong Kong’s most notorious necrophile who always attacked his victims during inclement weather. As Dr. Aggrawal reported:

“In 1982, at the age of 27, while working as a taxi driver, [Kor-wan] is known to have abducted and killed at least four women. After killing, he would have sex with their dead bodies, often taking videos of his necrophilic acts. He would then mutilate their bodies and keep their sexual organs in Tupperware containers in his bedroom. For this idiosyncrasy, he was also known as The Jars Murderer. The rest of the bodies were disposed of via his taxi in the New Territories and on Hong Kong Island. As he would often attack his victims during inclement weather, he was also known as The Rainy Night Butcher”.

In the 1965 book The Golden Age of Erotica, Bernhardt J. Hurwood also made a passing reference to the influence of the weather on sexual paraphilia. He wrote that in the Middle Ages, people’s masochistic desires found a sexual outlet via flagellation (which he claimed was the behaviour’s “natural home”). According to Hurwood, “perhaps it was the cold climate which originally aroused in Englishmen a desire for whipping. Nowhere in the world do we find such a deep affection for the rod”.

In his earlier 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Aggrawal was quoted as saying that “like allergies, sexual arousal may occur from anything under the sun including the sun”. In fact, Aggrawal’s book arguably contains the most references to weather fetishes (although nothing on their incidence, prevalence, or etiology). This includes fetishes and paraphilias in relation to sexual arousal to sunny weather (actirasty), sexual arousal from the cold or winter (cheimaphilia), sexual arousal from snow (chionophilia), sexual arousal from thunderstorms (brontophilia), sexual arousal from thunder and lightning (keraunophilia), sexual arousal from fog (nebulophilia), sexual arousal from rain and being rained upon (ombrophilia and pluviophilia), and love of thunder (tonitrophilia).

Whether (or should that be ‘weather’?) these sexual paraphilias genuinely exist is up for debate (I haven’t been able to locate a single academic or clinical case study relating to a single one of those listed by Dr. Aggrawal). However, weather conditions have been shown to affect mood state and ‘normal’ sexual behaviour, so there is no reason to think that on occasions, it may lead to abnormality.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Aggrawal A. (2011). Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Amanad, V. (2012). Does Weather affect your Sex Drive? Only My Health, June 29. http://www.onlymyhealth.com/does-weather-affect-your-sex-drive-1340990772

Herbert, E. (2009). Sex: Weather-driven desire? Elle, July 28. Located at: http://www.elle.com/life-love/sex-relationships/sex-tips-women

Hurwood, B.J. (1965). The Golden Age of Erotica. Los Angeles, CA: Sherbourne Press.

Joshi, S. (2010). Summer and intimacy: Felling hot, hot, hot. Complete Wellbeing, May 11. Located at: http://completewellbeing.com/article/feeling-hot-hot-hot/

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