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Feeling hot, hot, hot: A brief look at sex and the sun

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.

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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 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”.

German researchers Winfried März and colleagues examined the relationship between vitamin D production (aided by sunny weather) and sex hormones (published a 2010 issue of the journal Clinical Endocrinology). In a study of 2,299 men, the researchers found that levels of Vitamin D were associated with androgen (i.e., testosterone) production with peak levels in August (the sunniest time of year in Germany). They concluded that testosterone and Vitamin D levels “are associated in men and reveal a concordant seasonal variation. Randomized controlled trials are warranted to evaluate the effect of vitamin D supplementation on androgen levels”. The study was replicated by Dr. Katharina Nimptsch and her colleagues among a sample of 1,362 men (also published in the same journal in 2012), and they found the same association between Vitamin D and testosterone production (although they found no seasonal effect). However, a more recent 2014 study published by Dr. Elizabeth Lerchbaim and her colleagues in the journal Andrology found no association (but it was on a much smaller sample of 225 men).

Although I have been unable to track down the academic source, an article by Sam Rider in Coach Magazine claimed that:

 “Exposing the skin to sunlight for just 15-20 minutes can raise your testosterone levels by 120%, says a report from Boston State Hospital in the US. The research also found that the hormone increased by a whopping 200% when genital skin was exposed to the sun. Stick to the privacy of your own garden though – we don’t want any arrests”.

In previous blogs I briefly reviewed some of the many studies into courtship requests by Dr. Nicolas Guéguen (which you can read here and here). In one of his studies (published in a 2013 issue of Social Influence), Guéguen examined the effect of sunshine on romantic relationships (reasoning that sunny weather puts people in a better mood than non-sunny weather). In this study, an attractive 20-year old man approached young women walking alone in the street and asked them for their telephone number in two conditions (sunny or cloudy days). The temperature was controlled for and all days of the experiment were dry. The results showed that more women gave the man their telephone numbers on the sunny days. Guéguen concluded that positive mood induction by the sun may explain the success in courtship solicitation.

Finally, in his 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 fetishes that concern the weather. 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). However, as far as I am aware, no scientific research has ever investigated any of these alleged fetishes.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, 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.

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

Guéguen, N. (2013). Weather and courtship behavior: A quasi-experiment with the flirty sunshine. Social Influence, 8, 312-319.

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/

Lerchbaum, E., Pilz, S., Trummer, C., Rabe, T., Schenk, M., Heijboer, A. C., & Obermayer‐Pietsch, B. (2014). Serum vitamin D levels and hypogonadism in men. Andrology, 2(5), 748-754.

Nimptsch, K., Platz, E. A., Willett, W. C., & Giovannucci, E. (2012). Association between plasma 25‐OH vitamin D and testosterone levels in men. Clinical Endocrinology, 77(1), 106-112.

Rider, S. (2015). How to boost your testosterone levels (the natural way). Coach Magazine, October 5. Located at: http://www.coachmag.co.uk/lifestyle/1558/10-ways-boost-testosterone

Wehr, E., Pilz, S., Boehm, B. O., März, W., & Obermayer‐Pietsch, B. (2010). Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men. Clinical Endocrinology, 73(2), 243-248.

Check mates: A brief look at courtship requests (Part 2)

In my previous blog on courtship requests (e.g., men asking for a woman’s phone number, men asking women out for a drink, etc.), I examined a number of Dr. Nicolas Guéguen’s studies on the effects that various factors had solicitation success. In this blog, I briefly overview such factors as the role of the weather, music, odour, clothes (uniform and colour), flowers, and social status.

Weather: In a 2013 issue of Social Influence, Guéguen examined the effect of sunshine on romantic relationships (reasoning that sunny weather puts people in a better mood than non-sunny weather). In this study, an attractive 20-year old man approached young women walking alone in the street and asked them for their telephone number in two conditions (sunny or cloudy days). The temperature was controlled for and all days of the experiment were dry. The results showed that more women gave the man their telephone numbers on the sunny days. Guéguen concluded that positive mood induction by the sun may explain the success in courtship solicitation.

Music: In a 2014 issue of Psychology of Music, Guéguen and his colleagues examined the extent to which music can play a role in sexual selection. In their experiment, 300 young females were approached in the street by a young male who asked for their phone number. The same man approached the women in one of three conditions. In the first he carried a guitar case, in the second he carried a sports bag, and in the third he carried nothing. The results showed that the man received the most phone numbers of women while carrying the guitar case which the authors argued showed that musical practice can be associated with sexual selection.

Odour: In a 2011 issue of Chemosensory Perception, Guéguen examined whether a young man in a room (Guéguen’s laboratory) with a pleasant fragrance (the smell of a freshly baked croissant) was more successful asking women out on a date (i.e., a courtship request) than without a pleasant fragrance. Guéguen asserted that the effect of odour on romantic relationships had never been tested experimentally. The results showed that women more likely to agree to a date when they were in the room with the pleasant odour. Guéguen replicated the experiment in a real life situation and published his findings in a 2012 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology. In the field experiment, young women were approached and asked for their phone number by a young attractive male in an area that had a pleasant aroma (i.e., pastry shops) and in another shopping mall area where there was no such aroma. More women gave their phone number to the man in the pleasant smelling area.

Clothes (uniform): In a 2009 issue of the European Journal of Social Sciences, Guéguen carried out three experiments on whether men wearing a fireman’s uniform made women more receptive to a courtship request. Guéguen’s experiments revealed that men were more successful in getting women’s phone numbers while wearing a fireman’s uniform (compared to when they weren’t). The other experiments showed that women more likely to smile and say ‘hello’ to a man in a fireman’s uniform compared to when they were wearing their normal clothes.

Clothes (colour): In a 2013 issue of the journal Color Research and Application, Guéguen examined the colour red and its association in love and sex. Using data collected on an online dating site, findings showed that women wearing red clothes in their dating photograph received more contacts from men in comparison to those wearing black, white, yellow, blue, and green.

Flowers: In a 2009 issue of Social Influence, Guéguen examined the effect of flowers on mating attractiveness and behaviour in two experiments. In the first experiment, females that were exposed to flowers while watching a dating video of a man rated the man as more sexy and attractive (and more inclined to accept a date from him) compared to the condition where flowers were absent. In the second experiment, females responded more favourably to a courtship solicitation from a male when flowers were present in a social interaction compared to interactions without flowers. In a 2012 issue of the Journal of Social Psychology, Guéguen further examined the effect of flowers on mating behaviour. In this experiment, 600 women in a shopping mall were approached by an attractive young man who asked for their phone number. This was done in three different situations: in the area of a flower shop, a cake shop or a shoe shop. Results showed that the woman was more likely to give her telephone number when in the area of a flower shop.

Social status: In a 2012 issue of the Swiss Journal of Psychology, Guéguen (along with Dr. Lamy) examined men’s social status and attractiveness. In this experimental field study, young men with either low, middle or high incomes asked young women for their phone numbers while walking down the street. The man’s income was positively correlated with request success (i.e., the woman was more likely to give the man her phone number if he was rich). Guéguen and Lamy explained their results using evolutionary theory, suggesting that women select their partners with the greatest resources for them and their children.

Giving compliments: In a 2012 issue of Psychological Reports, Guéguen and his colleagues examined whether giving women compliments on how they looked made them more receptive to a courtship request. In the experiment, 160 women were approached by a man walking down a street and were asked if they would like to go for a drink. In one condition the women were given a compliment on their physical appearance (and in the other they were given no compliment). The results showed that more women said they would go for a drink with the man if they were given a compliment.

Parental investment: In a 2014 issue of Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Guéguen examined whether a man that interacted with a baby before asking women for their phone number were more successful than a control condition where a baby was present but no interaction took place. In the experiment, a man was seated at a pavement bar met his ‘sister’ and her baby (the woman wasn’t really his sister. Straight after the interaction, the man approached a nearby woman and asked them out. Results showed that when the man interacted with the baby, he was more successful and received more positive responses from the woman. Evolutionary theory was again used to explain the results (in terms of men’s parental investment, or at least women’s perceptions of it).

Foot-in-the-door techniques: In a 2008 issue of Psychological Reports, Guéguen examined whether ‘foot-in-the-door’ (FITD) techniques increase compliance to a courtship request. In his experiment, 360 young women were asked by a young male in the street whether they would like to go for a drink. In the FITD condition – prior to the courtship solicitation – the young woman was asked by the man to either provide directions or to give him a light for his cigarette. The findings showed that FITD led to more women saying they would go for a drink with the man.

While many of Guéguen’s studies might seem like common sense or truisms, he does at least provide scientific evidence for many things that are taken for granted as correct (often in the complete absence of empirical evidence).

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

Further reading

Guéguen, N. (2009). Man’s uniform and receptivity of women to courtship request: Three field experiments with a firefighter’s uniform. European Journal of Social Sciences, 12(2), 236-241.

Guéguen, N. (2011). Women’s exposure to pleasant ambient fragrance and receptivity to a man’s courtship request. Chemosensory Perception, 4, 195-197.

Guéguen, N. (2011). “Say it with flowers”: The effect of flowers on mating attractiveness and behavior. Social Influence, 6(2), 105-112.

Guéguen, N. (2012). Gait and menstrual cycle: Ovulating women use sexier gaits and walk slowly ahead of men. Gait and Posture, 35(4), 621-624.

Guéguen, N. (2012). Does red lipstick really attract men? An evaluation in a bar. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 4(2), 206-209.

Guéguen, N. (2012). The sweet smell of…courtship: Effects of pleasant ambient fragrance on women’s receptivity to a man’s courtship request. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32(2), 123-125.

Guéguen, N. (2013). Weather and courtship behavior: A quasi-experiment with the flirty sunshine. Social Influence, 8, 312-319.

Guéguen, N. (2014). Cues of men’s parental investment and attractiveness for women: A Field Experiment. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 24(3), 296-300

Guéguen, N., Fischer-Lokou, J., & Lamy, L. (2013). Compliments and receptivity to a courtship request: A field experiment 1. Psychological Reports, 112(1), 239-242.

Guéguen, N., & Jacob, C. (2013). Color and cyber‐attractiveness: Red enhances men’s attraction to women’s internet personal ads. Color Research & Application, 38(4), 309-312

Guéguen, N., Jacob, C., & Lamy, L. (2010). ‘Love is in the air’: Effects of songs with romantic lyrics on compliance with a courtship request. Psychology of Music, 38(3), 303-307

Guéguen, N., & Lamy, L. (2012). Men’s social status and attractiveness. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 71(3), 157-160

Guéguen, N., Marchand, M., Pascual, A., & Lourel, M. (2008). Foot-in-the-door technique using a courtship request: A field experiment 1. Psychological Reports, 103(2), 529-534.

Guéguen, N., Meineri, S., & Fischer-Lokou, J. (2014). Men’s music ability and attractiveness to women in a real-life courtship context. Psychology of Music, 42(4), 545-549.

Check mates: A brief look at courtship requests (Part 1)

In a previous blog examining whether having a tattoo makes women more attractive, I mentioned two studies carried out by Dr. Nicolas Guéguen on a French beach. He predicted that women with tattoos would be more likely to be approached on the beach by men. In the studies, Guéguen found that compared to non-tattooed women (i) more men approached tattooed women for a date and (ii) more men estimated themselves as having more chances to date and have sex on the first date. After reading this study, I found that Dr. Guéguen has made a very successful research career out of repeatedly doing the same types of field study by examining a wide range of factors that may influence ‘courtship requests’. In short, he has examined whether the chances of successful courtship solicitation requests (e.g., men asking for a woman’s phone number, men asking women out for a drink, etc.) asking can be influenced by the gender of the person, weather, stage of the menstrual cycle, smiling, giving compliments, bust size, cosmetic use, social status, uniforms, music, flowers, and odour (to name just a few).

Gender: In a 2009 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Guéguen examined the effects of solicitor gender and attractiveness on receptivity to sexual offers in a field study. In his study (which took place in France) young men and women of average versus high attractiveness approached potential partners of the opposite sex and simply asked them either one of two questions: “Will you come to my apartment to have a drink?” or “Would you go to bed with me?” Results (perhaps unsurprisingly) showed that most of the men approached by the women were willing to have sex with the woman (more so if she was rated as physically attractive). Females approached by a male were more disinclined to have a drink, and not a single woman accepted the male’s sexual request. Guéguen concluded that “such results confirm that men are apparently more eager for sexual activity than women are”.

Menstrual cycle: In a 2009 issue of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, Guéguen examined the relationship between courtship solicitation and women’s menstrual cycles. In this experiment, 455 young women (200 with normal menstrual cycles and 255 using a contraceptive pill), were approached by 20-year-old man who asked them for their telephone number. Immediately after being approached, the women were surveyed about the number of days since the onset of their last period. The results showed that women in their fertile phase (but not those on the pill) were more likely to give the man their telephone numbers than women in their luteal or menstrual phase.

In a 2012 issue of Gait and Posture, Guéguen examined gait and menstrual cycle using an analysis of nonverbal behavior of women toward men. In his study, the gaits of women walking ahead a male were recorded using a spy-camera. Guéguen measured the amount of time that the females spent walking and the extent to which the females were perceived to be sexually attractive by two independent raters. The women were then compared according to where in her menstrual cycle she was measured with a salivary test. Guéguen reported that: “Near ovulation, it was found that women walked slower and their gait was subjectively rated as sexier. Such behaviors were interpreted as unconscious desires of women near ovulation to reinforce their attractiveness in order to attract more men and to increase their choice of a partner”.

Bust size: In a 2007 issue of the journal Body Image, Gueguen hypothesized that breast size would be related to courtship solicitation. In two experiments, a young female was asked to wear a bra that allowed her to artificially vary her breast size. In the first condition the women simply sat in a nightclub for one hour whereas in the second condition she simply sat in the pavement area of a bar. Results showed that when the woman artificially increased the size of her bust she received more solicitation requests than in the smaller bust size condition. In another study, Gueguen examined effect of a woman’s bust size on the rate of help offered in a hitchhiking situation. In his experiment, a 20-year old woman wore a bra that could be artificially increased in size. A total of 1200 male and female French motorists passed the woman standing at the roadside looking to hitch a ride. Results showed that significantly more male drivers stopped to offer a ride when bust size was increased. No effect was found among female drivers.

Cosmetic use: In a 2007 issue of the North American Journal of Psychology, Guéguen, examined the effect of women wearing make-up and courtship requests by men. In his experiment, females either with or without make-up sat in two coastal French bars for a one-hour period on a Wednesday and Saturday night. Guéguen examined the number of solicitations by men. The results showed that women wearing make-up received more solicitations than those not wearing make-up and men approached the women wearing makeup in a much quicker time after entering the bar compared to those not wearing make-up. In a 2012 issue of the International Journal of Psychological Studies, Guéguen similarly examined whether red lipstick really attracts men. In this study, females wearing different shades of lipstick (red, pink, brown or no lipstick) sat in bars under exactly the same conditions as the previous 2007 make-up study. The results showed that women wearing red lipstick received a higher number of male solicitations and were solicited in a much quicker time by males after they first entered the bar.

Smiling: In a 2008 issue of the journal Social Behavior and Personality, Guéguen published an experiment in which a young woman was simply asked to smile or to not smile at men when they entered a bar. Results showed (perhaps unsurprisingly) that “those men who were smiled at approached the woman and considered her more favorably. This effect is explained in accordance with studies that found smiling enhanced attractiveness and that a smile is interpreted to be a signal of a woman’s interest towards a man”.

Light touching: In a 2007 issue of the journal Social Influence, Guéguen, examined the relationship between light tactile contact and courtship solicitation in a number of experiments. In his one experiment, a young man approached young women in a nightclub while a slow song was being played and asked if they would like to dance. While asking the women to dance, the young man either touched the forearm of the woman for a couple of seconds or did not touch her at all. Women were more likely to dance if their arm had been touched. In another experiment reported in the same paper, a young man approached women in the street and asked for their phone number. The results again showed that the woman was more likely to give their phone number if during the request they were lightly touched on the arm by the man. A similar experiment by Guéguen reported in a 2010 issue of Social Behavior and Personality showed that men made more solicitation requests towards women who had lightly touched them in a bar.

Hair colour: In a 2012 issue of Psychological Studies, Guéguen examined hair colour and courtship in two experiments. In the first study, women wearing blonde, brown, black or red wigs were observed while sitting in a nightclub. In the second study, men with different colored wigs asked females in a nightclub for a dance. The results showed that females with blonde hair were more frequently approached by men. However males with blonde hair didn’t receive any more acceptances of their requests compared to males with other hair colours. In both experiments, red hair was deemed the least attractive (as measured by solicitation requests or success of solicitation requests).

In my next blog, I’ll briefly look at Dr. Guéguen’s findings in relation to courtship requests and weather, music, odour, clothes (type and colour), flowers, giving compliments, parental investment, and social status.

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

Further reading

Gueguen, N. (2007). Women’s bust size and men’s courtship solicitation. Body Image, 4(4), 386-390.

Gueguen, N. (2007). Bust size and hitchhiking: A field study 1. Perceptual and motor skills, 105(3f), 1294-1298.

Guéguen, N. (2007). Courtship compliance: The effect of touch on women’s behavior. Social Influence, 2(2), 81-97.

Guéguen, N. (2008). The effect of a woman’s smile on men’s courtship behavior. Social Behavior and Personality, 36(9), 1233-1236.

Guéguen, N. (2008). Brief report: The effects of women’s cosmetics on men’s approach: An evaluation in a bar. North American Journal of Psychology, 10(1), 221-227

Guéguen, N. (2009). Menstrual cycle phases and female receptivity to a courtship solicitation: an evaluation in a nightclub. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30(5), 351-355.

Guéguen, N. (2010). The effect of a woman’s incidental tactile contact on men’s later behavior. Social Behavior and Personality, 38, 257-266.

Guéguen, N. (2011). Effects of solicitor sex and attractiveness on receptivity to sexual offers: A field study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 915-919.

Guéguen, N. (2012). Makeup and menstrual cycle: Near ovulation, women use more cosmetics. Psychological Record, 62(3), 541-548.

Guéguen, N. (2012). Gait and menstrual cycle: Ovulating women use sexier gaits and walk slowly ahead of men. Gait and Posture, 35(4), 621-624.

Guéguen, N. (2012). Does red lipstick really attract men? An evaluation in a bar. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 4(2), 206-209.

Guéguen, N. (2012). The sweet smell of…courtship: Effects of pleasant ambient fragrance on women’s receptivity to a man’s courtship request. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32(2), 123-125.

Guéguen, N. (2012). Hair color and courtship: Blond women received more courtship solicitations and redhead men received more refusals. Psychological Studies, 57(4), 369-375.