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Sometimes, sexuality studies don’t provide us with a full, nuanced picture of what folks are actually experiencing in their erotic lives—particularly over the holiday season. Does quantity really increase desire or erotic wellness? As a gift to yourself this holiday season, learn how to tell the difference and cultivate your own sexual desire.
Most Popular Times Folks Report Sexual Activity
According to some studies, the peak season for folks to have sex is the summer months, quickly followed by a lull in the fall. This pattern is seen in condom sales, Google searches for sexual content, online dating activity, conception rates, and even STI rates. Even though people seem to have less sex in the winter than in the summer, there is a second peak in sexual activity appearing to be during the holiday season, with the largest surge specifically in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
In a recent study by Luis Rocha et al, researchers used birth rates, Google searches, and social media posts to dive deeper into the social and cultural trends that occur during the holiday season across nearly 130 different countries. They were able to pinpoint an increase in sexual activity during the holiday months in both Christian and Muslim observing countries, regardless of their geography. Interestingly, other holidays did not elicit the same interest in sex.
In an as yet unpublished study, researchers at Stanford University looked at data from 500,000 women and found that less sex is reported in the three days leading up to Christmas than average, and that dip lingers until midnight on December 31, into New Year’s Day, when there is a spike in sexual activity worldwide. Different studies glean different angles on sexual activity and/or sexual desire.
(Note that since these studies are narrowly focused, they don’t gain insight into the quality of sexual pleasure of partners and, unfortunately, focus solely on heterosexual couples, leaving out the experience of LGBTQ+ folx.)
What Clients and Couples in Sex Therapy Discuss as They Approach Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Holiday Season
Interestingly, in clinical practice, sex therapists and couples counselors tend to hear a similar narrative to the third study and a different story from the first two studies when speaking to partners regarding their lower sexual desire during this heightened time. Many clients frequently report struggling with stress and anticipatory anxiety leading up to and during the entire holiday season stemming from:
- Balancing work responsibilities and planning for travel
- Planning, shopping for, and preparing holiday meals
- Anticipating arguments and/or tension from unresolved family-of-origin dynamics
- Increased fatigue stemming from less sleep due to late-night online shopping for Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and/or Divali gifts
- Additional attention on caring for children, older family members, and/or one’s partner’s enjoyment during the holiday
- Less time for self-care, like exercise, catching up with friends, or quiet time alone
These issues make it difficult for clients to cultivate pleasure and what I call erotic wellness, often leaving them with low sexual desire. Prioritizing your sensual self and pleasure can help you implement tools to cultivate erotic wellness for yourself individually and, if you are in a relationship, with a partner.
Cultivating Erotic Wellness During The Holiday Season
What is erotic wellness? I define erotic wellness as the state in which one feels in touch with one’s erotic fantasies, rituals, and fun activities that stimulate what I’ve called one’s erotic triggers.
This is part of one’s sex esteem and can be practiced individually or with a partner.
If your primary erotic trigger is touch, activities can include tactile experiences like swimming, taking a jacuzzi, or getting a massage.
If your primary erotic trigger is sight, you might take some time to watch explicit sexual media like feminist pornography or a scene in your favorite film. Or, you might take some time to dress in an outfit that awakens your own sexual empowerment.
Many times humans consent to having a sexual encounter with a partner but aren’t as erotically turned on as they would be if they had been primed with their erotic triggers by themselves before they engage with a partner. This shift would allow the intimacy to be imbued with more pleasure and erotic playfulness.
By cultivating an individual erotic wellness practice in your own body and mind before approaching a partner (if you’re currently involved with a partner) you have warmed up your erotic triggers and thereby increased your desire. Like other types of self-care, this involves intentionally carving out time and space to focus on one’s sensual self and erotic triggers.
Erotic Wellness Tips
Here are some antidotes to help keep your erotic wellness alive during the holiday season:
Reconsider a quickie with yourself. Quickies, whether solo or partnered, are sometimes assumed to be dysfunctional due to their abrupt nature. However, quickies can be reclaimed for individual sexual activity and be used between events or visits.
Create a vacation mentality. If you’re with your partner and kids, ask your family members ahead of time to take care of your kids or pets for a few hours so you can sleep in late, get some exercise in, or take a nap. You could even use this time to have slow sex with your partner and focus on each other’s pleasure. For a fuller vacation experience, book a hotel for a few nights nearby while your kids/pets are with the grandparents, so that you have evenings and mornings to catch up on sleep and erotic wellness.
Finally, give yourself a break. You don’t have to be involved in every planned activity with your relatives or chosen family.
Consider the time you request for your erotic wellness as a well-deserved gift you’re giving yourself during this bustling holiday season.