Anyone who gets periods doesn’t need to be reminded of what a mindfuck hormones can be. From brain fog and cravings to headaches and mood swings, menstrual cycles can affect our day-to-day lives in some odd and uncomfortable ways.
That said, ovulation isn’t usually the worst time of the month. It’s often when the fog clears, you have more energy and, for some people, you start developing random crushes and becoming weirdly hornier. Which is probably why there have been so many TikToks lately with taglines like: “Is he actually cute or… am I just ovulating?”
For those who didn’t listen during GCSE biology, ovulation typically happens around two weeks before a period, when an egg leaves the ovary and travels down the fallopian tubes. Ovulation itself only lasts for around 24 hours, but it’s part of what’s known as the “fertile window”, which lasts approximately a week each month. If you get periods and you’re shagging someone with a dick sans birth control, this is the time when you’re most likely to get pregnant.
So, is that why so many of us feel turned on during that time of the month? Are our bodies hardwired to encourage us go out and procreate, quickly?
Christine Garver-Apgar, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado, says that yes, there’s evidence to suggest we become more attracted to people during ovulation for this reason. “Scientific literature finds that women’s romantic partner preferences shift across the ovulatory cycle in predictable ways,” she explains, referring to research specifically on cis women who are attracted to men.
“When nearing ovulation, women’s preferences for men with traits that may connote ‘superior genetic quality’ tend to increase compared to other times in the ovulatory cycle.” Basically, if you find yourself fantasising about that hench guy from the gym who usually gives you the ick, it might be because your body wants you to have babies with him.
There are studies to back this up. One 2005 study found that, during the fertile window, cis women in straight, monogamous relationships become more attracted to men other than their partner, especially if their partner isn’t “symmetrical” – in other words, they’re more attracted to those with conventionally attractive looks, and therefore, “stronger” genes. Eek.
While the above makes sense, it also doesn’t really take queer people into account – lesbians, for example, don’t just suddenly turn straight for 24 hours because their bodies are telling them to make a baby with a guy who has a symmetrical face. But, according to studies, they also experience heightened desire during the fertile window – it’s just not directed towards men, obviously.
“While research on ovulation in women who are not attracted to men is limited, during ovulation, sexual desire corresponds to a woman’s sexual orientation,” asserts Dr. Raquel Hammonds, CEO of The Fertility Advantage, a fertility consulting firm. “Thus, a lesbian woman should be more motivated to have sexual contact with other women during ovulation than at any other point in her cycle.”
Around ovulation, Dr. Hammonds adds, you might also find yourself “masturbating more, consuming more erotica and having more intense and arousing sexual fantasies”.
Apparently, wanking and sex itself might also feel better generally. “Changes in cervical and vaginal secretions can enhance sexual pleasure and desire,” says Dr. Hammonds. “Some may even experience more satisfaction from an orgasm during this time.”
We sort of know why this happens, but what about how? What’s going on hormonally, exactly? “Ovulation itself doesn’t cause changes in sexual interests,” explains Steve Gangestad, an evolutionary psychologist.
“It’s likely the hormones responsible for orchestrating ovulation. Oestradiol and estrogen typically peak a couple of days before ovulation and some have proposed that it causes increase in sexual interest mid-cycle.” On the flip side, this is also why a decline in estrogen might cause a person to become less horny, or have difficulty climaxing.
So, if you’re wondering why you fancied about seven people in the same tube carriage as you for a few mornings last month, it could possibly be because you were ovulating (assuming you can and do ovolate, of course).
Of course, as with everything related to periods, clearly more research is needed across the board. But in general it seems like the TikTok girlies are right: It really is worth asking yourself whether someone’s cute or whether you’re just ovulating.