Why Do the Holidays Make Us So Horny?

Experts explain why we're so eager to get our stockings stuffed.

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Dec 20 2018, 9:05pm

Leila Ettachfini

In a time when mistletoe, creepy Christmas songs, tacky holiday rom-coms, and sexy Santas abound, one ethos of the holidays has diverged from worship or gift-giving into something else entirely. According to condom sales, tweets across the globe, and birth rates, we spend much of the holidays not only spreading love, but making it, too.

In December of 2017, Scientific Reports published a study in which researchers looked into online interest in sex during various times of the year by way of populations from majority Christian and majority Muslim countries. In the 129 countries they examined, Google searches for “sex” and tweets having to do with sex peaked during Christmas for Christian countries, and Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha for Muslim countries.

Additionally, other data shows that September—which notably falls nine months after December—has the highest birth rate in the US, and condom sales spike over Christmas. A 1999 study found “a sharp and acute peak in [condom sales during] Christmas week itself, followed by a trough the following week.” A more recent 2013 7-Eleven study (yes, the convenience store) found that condom sales on Christmas day were 2.5 times higher than average for the company.

With an increase in both conception and contraception in December, it’s clear that something about the holidays gets people all sorts of hot and bothered. But what is it? Professor Luis M. Rocha, one of the authors of the 2017 study that examined people’s interest in sex globally based on birth rates and online activity, tells Broadly that, before this study, people assumed the high September birth rate was a result of the December solstice. “Biologists thought it was just an adaptation, because other species have birth peaks that are related to how many hours of sun there are in a day,” he said. His study, however—which examined countries in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres—is evidence that the reason for our heightened interest in sex around the holidays is cultural, not biological.

So, we know it’s cultural, but what else about holiday cultural tropes makes so many people down to fuck? Homemade cookies? (Do we credit Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby”?) According to Jesse Kahn (LCSW, CST), director and sex therapist at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective in New York City, there are a number of things that encourage people to seek out sex during the holidays. “For those where sex is connected to family and reproduction, they may feel inspired to create or expand their families,” says Kahn, while other positive associations around the holidays “could result in feeling more bold and seeking sexual connectedness.”

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Still, the holly-jolly pursuit of sex isn’t exclusively for people with positive memories or feelings about the holidays. “For those with difficult family experiences, sex with those they choose intimacy with can be a way to feel more connected or pleasure at a time of feeling disconnected or estranged from the rest of their families,” Kahn tells Broadly.

Kahn also points out that the holidays provide more opportunities to attend gatherings that include alcohol (less true for Muslims’ Eid gatherings), and intoxication can make people likelier to have sex (and less likely to use condoms—be safe!).

Whether it’s the work of pining over the inevitable kiss in the snowfall during the Lifetime movie you just watched or the fact that you’ve found yourself in your hometown and bored as hell: If you’re feeling frisky this holiday season, chances are good the person you’ve been daydreaming about is too. Happy holidays, and go make it happen.