It’s that time of year when kids around the world begin waiting with baited breath for Santa Claus, hoping he’ll drop by their home, squeeze down the chimney, and drop off some gifts. Turns out a lot of adults are hoping for a much different kind of visit from Santa.
As Pornhub reports, there's a reliable peak in Santa-themed porn searches during the holiday season. There’s plenty of it to watch, too. In fact, a quick search for “Santa Claus” on Pornhub alone brings up more than 1,100 hits, with hundreds more on their gay site.
The sexualization of Santa doesn’t stop at porn. For example, a search for “sexy santa” on Amazon brings up more than 8,000 costumes and accessories for those who wish to enact their own real-life Santa sex fantasies. So why are so many people hot for Santa? As a social psychologist who studies sex for a living, I have a few thoughts.
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The fact that a lot of people are turned on by Saint Nick shouldn’t be surprising because we’ve known for a very long time that people can develop attractions and fetishes for virtually anything or anyone. In fact, we can trace this idea back to Sigmund Freud, who famously wrote more than a century ago that human beings are “polymorphously perverse,” meaning we aren’t limited to obtaining sexual gratification through socially or culturally normative behaviors.
This is why some people get off on clown porn, while others fantasize about becoming human cows—but those are stories for other articles. Why specifically are so many people drawn to Santa? On one level, it’s tempting to chalk this up to the fact that Santa’s typical behaviors are just a little, well, dirty. He’s the ultimate voyeur: He watches you all the time, including while you’re sleeping—and, presumably, while you’re masturbating and having sex, too. He’s also asking everyone to sit on his lap, and he’s obsessed with figuring out who’s been “naughty.” And then there’s that song about him kissing mommy.
In other words, there’s a lot of sexual innuendo built into the story and mythology of Santa. But that’s not all that’s going on here. For some people, we may also be seeing a type of uniform fetishism, in which they become sexually aroused by the idea of wearing or seeing someone else dressed in a specific uniform.
It’s actually quite common for people to fantasize about uniforms. For instance, when I surveyed more than 4,000 Americans about their sex fantasies for my book Tell Me What You Want, I found that 48 percent of them reported having fantasized about someone in uniform before. Most commonly, the costumes people fantasized about involved the military, police, and firefighters. Although I didn’t inquire specifically about Santa costumes, it’s clear that uniforms in general are sexually appealing to a lot of people.
What people find arousing about a given uniform can vary, but it often has to do with the status or role that a uniform conveys—and what we see in many of the most popular uniforms are themes relating to power or dominance. In the case of Santa, he has a lot of power because he’s the arbiter of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice and, accordingly, he gets to decide who gets rewarded and who gets punished. This probably explains why a lot of the Santa porn out there has an overt BDSM element to it, with Santa usually taking on a pretty dominant role, such as by spanking naughty men and women.
Related to this, Santa can be seen as a “daddy” figure of sorts. He’s an older gentleman with a beard and a bit of a dominant streak, and there are a lot of people—including both women and gay men—who find that combination of traits to be sexy.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that part of Santa’s sex appeal may stem from the fact that people are subverting what many consider to be a wholesome and religious holiday. So in that sense, they’re also breaking a taboo. Making Christmas all about sex is transgressive, and we know that people are very much turned on by the idea of “forbidden fruit.” Indeed, in my research on sexual fantasies, taboo activities were one of the most popular things that turned people on.
Certainly, what makes Santa sexually appealing might vary from one person to the next. Different people might be hot for Santa for different reasons, so it’s wise not to make too many assumptions here.
One other thing worth pointing out is that people are hornier than usual around the winter holidays. Google searches for sex and online dating increase during this time of year, and there’s even a surge in condom sales. The fact that we’re just feeling a bit randy in December is probably why many of us turn Christmas symbols into sex symbols—and also, of course, why “cuffing season” is a thing, too.
Justin Lehmiller is a research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. His latest book is Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. Follow him on Twitter @JustinLehmiller or Instagram @JustinJLehmiller