Summer always brings out the shaggers. Monitoring the news day-in, day-out, as we do here at vice dot com, there's a noticeable uptick of photos, videos and reports of people smashing their genitals together in public places every time the sunny months roll around.
This year is no different.
The latest and most viral of these "public romps" is the video of a man and woman caught "having sex" on a Ryanair flight from Manchester to Ibiza. Mind you, the woman in the video has since said they weren't having sex at all; that she was merely giving the man a lap dance – with a friend defending her to The Sun as "one of the most strait-laced women I know".
Either way, that video isn't the only documented public rendezvous to have emerged since the pale-skinned amongst us started fearfully slathering on factor 50. At the end of May, a couple were caught getting "frisky" in broad daylight behind a wall in Barnsley. At the start of June a bystander captured what looks a lot like a public handjob outside a pub in the middle of Soho. The next week, in Bath, police caught a couple having sex in their car, and a few days later Bristol Police came across a couple hitting skins in their front garden. Finally, just last week, a video of a "randy couple" having "frantic sex at a bus top" in Moray, Scotland was viewed over 200,000 times on Facebook.
If previous years are anything to go by, this is just the beginning. But just listen to the anecdotal evidence, listen also to the stats. A YouGov poll – the results of which were released earlier this week – found that, of those surveyed, 63 percent have engaged in outdoor sex. And with over two-thirds of the population in possession of a smartphone, it's not unlikely that some of that is going to be caught on camera. The same study found that "the car park" was the most popular outdoor sex location, securing 49 percent of the vote and beating "field", "wood" and "on a boat" to the top spot.
Of course, the poll didn't touch on seasons. So at what point between spring and summer does having sex behind a small wall in Barnsley become a thing? And aside from carnal instinct, is there a more complex narrative at work here to explain why instances of public sex being captured on camera seem to rise tenfold as soon as the sun comes out?
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To find out I spoke to Donna Dawson, a psychologist who specialises in personality and behaviour, sex and relationships.
"Testosterone is the hormone that controls sex drive – and it rises in accordance with rising vitamin D levels in the body," she explained. "Vitamin D is made in the body after exposure to sunshine, or after eating oily fish and meat, and so sunshine increases sex drive. As men biologically have more testosterone, the rise in sex drive is more evident in men during the warm summer months."
This sounds convincing, and who am I to argue with a professional? But is it really that simple? Did that guy in Soho just eat loads of oily fish before going to the pub, and so then engaged in oral sex in front of a sizeable crowd of onlookers? And what about the huge increase in the sharing of these kinds of moments on social media?
I asked Rebecca Dakin – the "Great British Sexpert" and author of 101 Sex Tips – what she thought.
"Basically, the sun does make people very horny," she said. "In general, outdoor sex has always been around, but people are videoing it more because people have cameras on their phones. We've also got the rise of reality TV in which having sex in public is the norm. I mean, we've got Love Island, we've got Big Brother... you know, it's almost like people have got no shame now; they're quite happy to perform in front of other people. People are not as bothered."
So oily fish and vitamin D make people have sex more in the summer, and Love Island and Big Brother make people care less about being "caught", filmed and immortalised on the internet. Fine. That kind of makes sense. But it seems like something's missing still. I need a third opinion, and who better to ask than Dr Justin Lehmiller, Director of the Social Psychology Programme at Ball State University and author of the blog Sex and Psychology.
"I wouldn't say this is necessarily a matter of desensitisation – public sex is actually a very popular sex fantasy, and one that has been around for a long time," he said. "Also, as a scientist, I'd be very hesitant to conclude that public sex is on the rise until I see data showing that it is. It's not clear whether more public sex is actually happening or whether we're just seeing increased documentation and media reporting of it."
So what have we learned? That as long as humans are humans they're going to have sex outside, and that – for the British – the simple addition of warm weather is only more of an encouragement.