Our summer days might be drifting away — but oh, oh those summer nights. With the promise of summer love coupled with the steadily rising temperature, summer hook-up season has officially begun.
While there isn’t a scientific consensus on why people tend to find romance during the summer, lovers in pop culture (think: Danny and Sandy in “Grease,” Noah and Allie in “The Notebook,” Johnny and Baby in “Dirty Dancing”) combined with our own experiences confirm that summer is the season for getting frisky.
According to Mehmet Oz, the go-to health guru for Oprah Winfrey (and 1986 Wharton and School of Medicine grad!), science can explain the spike in summertime sex.
“There’s a biological reason why humans are hornier during the summer,” Dr. Oz wrote in reply to a question on Sharecare, a platform he co-founded to link health and wellness questions to experts’ answers.
“We all have a third eye called the pineal gland located in the middle of the brain, which secretes melatonin. Melatonin blocks our sex hormones, and the long and bright days of sunshine cause a decrease in melatonin production. So our pineal gland senses the length of the day and increases our sexual drive in relation to it,” Dr. Oz explained.
Another theory, based on research conducted by Abraham Myerson at Boston State Hospital, claims that exposure to ultraviolet light increases testosterone levels by as much as 120 percent, making production of the male sex hormone surge in the summertime. The extra testosterone explains why we can’t seem to resist bikini-clad women and half-naked men.
While our hormones may be in full swing, summer-associated sexual behaviors (like sex on the beach) are ill advised. Fornicating on the shore might seem like the hottest thing under the sun, but experts warn that sex in the sand, the ocean, the pool, the hot tub or the sprinklers in your front lawn can all seriously compromise sexual health.
Of course, sex in public places — be it the beach, your public pool, Lake Michigan or anywhere else — is illegal. More importantly: as it turns out, these activities come with a host of unsexy consequences. Boinking on the beach runs the risk of introducing sand — plus whatever is in the sand — into the vagina. Not only can sand cause irritation and chafing, but it can also cause infection. In fact, a 2007 study published in the Environmental Science and Technology Journal found that 91 percent of beaches have detectable levels of enterococco, a type of bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections.
If you think moving your hook-up to the water is a better idea, think again. Getting it on in the water reduces the efficacy of condoms by weakening the latex — especially in water with chemicals like chlorine or ozone, found in most swimming pools. Additionally, having sex underwater runs the risk that the condom will slip off should water get into it, compromising the protection provided by wearing one in the first place.
The hot tub? That’s an even worse idea, according to Dawn Stacey, the author of About.com’s Guide to Contraception, who explained that “the chlorine can weaken the condom and the heat can cause further deterioration, increasing the chances of condom breakage.”
Using a condom, however, is important in slippery sex situations, since sexually transmitted infections can still be spread during sex in water — even in chlorinated water, like hot tubs and pools.
Even people unconcerned with the spread of STIs (like our friends in monogamous relationships) should be wary of summer sex activities. An Oregon State University study found that bacterial infections spike during the summer, rising by about 17 percent for every 10-degree increase in temperature.
“Bacteria can be forced into the vagina during sex and lead to irritation or infection,” Stacey explained. “Natural bodies of water like oceans or lakes may be the home to unusual bacteria or amoebas which could put a woman at risk for a urinary tract infection.”
Even if pools and hot tubs are properly chlorinated, she warned that “chlorine can disrupt healthy bacteria in the vagina and change natural pH levels which can cause a yeast infection.”
While Stacey’s warnings might turn you off, the point isn’t to avoid sex altogether — it’s to be informed and careful about the risks associated with sex during the summer. A summer romance can still rival the temperature in its hotness (à la Sandy and Danny), but avoiding dangerous hook-up settings ensures that your summer love story has a very happy ending.
Arielle Pardes is a rising College junior and women, gender and sexuality studies major from San Diego, Calif. Her email address is email@example.com. The Screwtinizer appears weekly during the school year.