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Does the heat turn us on, or will climate change kill our libido?

Experts talk about how the weather and its variations affect our sex life, from both a physical and a psychological perspective

Heat

They say that spring is the season of love. The summer, however, does not have a saying that relates sexual arousal to seasonality. Still, the notion that when temperatures soar, the libido follows suit, is very widespread. The study Seasonality in human reproduction, published by the University of Oxford, concludes that in countries with high temperatures — not scorching hot — births increase ten months after the summer. In this way, it establishes that the heat is responsible for the higher number of sexual relations.

The study emphasizes that arousal occurs in warm, not extreme, temperatures. “Extreme heat can cause increased sweating and fluid loss, which can lead to dehydration, which can affect the body’s hormonal balance and have a negative impact on libido. In addition, high temperatures can increase the levels of stress and trigger a higher production of cortisol, a hormone that can interfere with the sexual response,” explains sexologist Andrés Suro from the MYHIXEL male sexual health company.

Hormones, vitamins and vacations: The trinity of desire

Despite the fact that sexual arousal is a complex phenomenon that can be influenced by a variety of factors, including individual preferences and experiences, the experts consulted by EL PAÍS agree that heat can have a significant impact on sexual arousal — with some nuances, of course. Ana Lombardía, sexologist and sexual therapist for the Lovehoney Group brands, starts by pointing out the role of hormones. “Heat and light naturally stimulate the glands that secrete serotonin and other pleasure hormones that contribute to our well-being. Thus, our senses are already more alert. If we add to that the context of summer, when we wear fewer clothes, we have to keep in mind that the simple fact of showing more skin steers the brain towards a greater arousal, eroticizing the bodies more. In fact, just feeling the wind directly on the skin, walking barefoot on the sand or on the grass creates additional stimuli, sensations that help to rouse and excite our nervous system and our impulses a little more,” she explains.

“When it is very hot, our body is moist, it perspires. For some, perspiration represents something very sensual, because it is in the sweat where pheromones are concentrated; volatile particles that are imperceptible to the conscious sense of smell but that tickle the receptors of the olfactory system and trigger sexual attraction. However, for others it is not only quite repulsive, but it can even block their desire to have sex,” she warns. Andrés Suro points out that heat, when it is not excessive, can have a positive effect on mood and general well-being, as both the sunlight and an increase in vitamin D can improve the mood and raise the energy, which in turn can influence the arousal and the willingness to engage in sexual intercourse.

However, beyond the vitamins and the hormones, we have to take into account the relevance that social and emotional factors have when it comes to having more or less sexual appetite. “In principle, it is during the summer when we have more free time, thanks to vacations and reduced working hours, and this lowers the stress level and increases awareness of our physical and emotional needs. In addition, we also have more energy to fulfill these needs. Our number of interactions also increases, because there is much more time to go out with friends, to barbecues, to swimming pools and more, all this accompanied by skimpier clothing than at other times of the year. All this can provide more opportunities, as well as a higher desire, to engage in sexual relations,” says psychologist Daniel Blasco.

Sonia Encinas, author of Sexo afectivo [Affective sex], adds: “If we associate summer with vacations, free time, leisure and pleasure, we will assume that when the heat starts, our enjoyment grows. Of course, we could also see it the other way around: if we associate the arrival of the fall with a more relaxed life, having space for ourselves and going on vacation, excitement or desire are just as possible. The question is to observe the conditions we live in and how much space and time we can devote to enjoyment in our lives throughout the year,” she points out. Andrés Suro continues: “It is important to note that not everyone experiences increased arousal due to heat. Sexual preferences and responses can vary significantly from person to person. Some may find the heat more exciting, while others may prefer different stimuli or conditions, which is especially true for those who hate the heat.”

Is climate change the enemy of libido?

Extreme temperatures and adverse weather conditions can affect some people’s libido and sexual desire, so excessive heat can have various effects on the body and mood, which can influence the sexual response. There are serious studies in this regard, such as one carried out by researchers of the University of California in 2018 (Maybe Next Month? Temperature Shocks, Climate Change, and Dynamic Adjustments in Birth Rates) in which they concluded, after studying the relationship between temperatures and the number of births between 1930 and 2010 in the United States, that the number of births nine months after the days with temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit decreased, with a sort of rebound effect in the months following that dry spell.

“When a person is exposed to extreme temperatures, their body can experience physiological changes, such as increased sweating, feelings of fatigue, dehydration and general malaise. These factors can affect the comfort level and the willingness to engage in sexual activities. Additionally, extreme heat can disrupt sleep and rest, which can impact the energy levels and the ability to experience sexual arousal. Being in a hot and suffocating environment can also be discouraging, making it difficult to concentrate and enjoy the intimate moment,” Suro says. Sonia Encinas points out that an extreme temperature, be it warm or cold, brings discomfort. “If I can mitigate it (with air conditioning or heating) I will return to a state of comfort in which arousal is possible. If I can’t, if the temperature causes thermal stress, the presence of cortisol in my body will inhibit my predisposition to pleasure. They are, in fact, incompatible,” she warns. In fact, in the aforementioned study, the researchers concluded that fertility did not decrease in regions where the use of air conditioning was more widespread.

But it is not just about the altered libido, Ana Lombardía points out; health also comes into play. “We must be vigilant in cases of extreme heat, during heat waves, because heat stroke can quickly occur. During sexual intercourse, our heart rate increases and we sweat a lot. You have to take the same precautions you would take for a sporting activity, because sex mobilizes energy. The metabolism is usually put to the test due to a poor sleep quality caused by the heat and the fatigue that accumulates, so you have to sleep in a cool room and stay well hydrated,” recommends the sexologist.

So yes, spring might be the season of love, but it is the heat what alters our hormones, our mood and, for better or worse, our sex life.

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