Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas or none of the above, the last month of the year is usually fun and festive. But is it frisky? Are people having more sex around the holidays because of an abundance of mistletoe, or does spending four nights sleeping on Aunt Sally’s pull-out couch make for a chaste winter break? And what about that couch — is it rude to have sex in someone’s guest room?
We called on two prominent sexologists to respond to commonly asked questions about holiday hookups, breakups and sex etiquette to find out.
Do holiday parties lead to more random hookups?
Blame the eggnog. Sexologist Michelle Hope, aka MHSexpert, calls holiday parties “a cocktail of nostalgia, mistletoe, magic and, well, actual cocktails that can lead to more festive flings.” This is especially true at office holiday parties. One survey by Harris Interactive found that 25% of Americans say they’ve had a sexual relationship initiated at an office holiday party.
Sexy soirees with alcohol can have a downside, however. As Hope notes, “Alcohol is social lubricant, but it shouldn’t grease the wheels of decision-making. The CDC warns that booze can blur the lines of consent.” Flirting is great, but if either of you might be too drunk to say yes, swap numbers for another day.
What about breakups? Are there more of those during the holidays?
During the fall and winter, it’s common for single people to link up to stave off loneliness — it’s known as cuffing season. But not everyone stays together over the holidays (and some don’t even make it that far — according to Facebook data, Dec. 11 is the most popular day for couples to break up).
Sexologist and relationship expert Dr. Logan Levkoff tells Yahoo Life that she always expects some breakups around this time of year. “Our emphasis on holidays makes people feel like they need to have a partner, and they may spend the season with someone they don’t really like,” she says. “Others might rethink an existing partnership after bringing someone home to meet the family. New Year’s becomes the reckoning, ‘Do I want this for next year?’” It’s no surprise, then, that January is unofficially known as “National Breakup Month.”
Is it rude to have sex in someone else’s home as an overnight guest? What about in your own bed when you have guests?
If you’re sleeping over at a relative’s house, staying in your significant other’s childhood bedroom or have overnight guests in your own home, most etiquette experts agree it’s OK to have sex, but with a few caveats: Be respectful by keeping it quiet so others don’t hear you, and if you’re a guest in someone’s home, be considerate and wash the sheets before you leave. As Hope says, “If you’re known for your vocal performances, maybe it’s time to hit mute and let actions speak louder than words. Remember, thin walls aren’t just a structural issue, they’re a privacy nightmare.”
Do people deprived of privacy during the holidays end up having car sex?
A 2017 survey found that 60% of college students had had sex in a parked car at some point, but we don’t know if this spikes during holiday guest season or drops off because it’s cold out. That said, nearly 1 in 10 adults have had a roadside romp while traveling for the holidays, according to a survey of more than 2,000 people from Zipcar and Harris Poll.
Couples hooking up may opt for car sex if they can’t find privacy elsewhere, but experts say it’s not for everyone. “In theory, it sounds exciting to mix it up in the car, but after a certain age your body doesn’t bend like that,” Levkoff notes.
While it’s not illegal to have sex in your car, it’s also worth noting that you can get in trouble with the law if you get caught doing it in public. “Getting frisky in your Ford could land you a starring role in the local police blotter,” says Hope. “In many places, it’s a misdemeanor that could lead to some embarrassing registry lists.”
Are more babies conceived during the holidays?
Yes, there is a baby boom about nine months after the holidays, but it’s not because of the eggnog or car sex. Conception is more likely around the winter solstice whether you live in the Northern Hemisphere where this occurs around the holidays or in the Southern Hemisphere where it happens in June. Researchers believe this has more to do with biology than behavior. One possible explanation is that sperm favor cold weather. Hope says that if you’re not planning to have a baby next year, it’s good to stock up on contraception, along with holiday wrapping paper and tape.
Do sex toys make good stocking stuffers?
Both Levkoff and Hope agree that a bullet vibrator or magic wand could be a welcome gift for certain people on your list. Just be discreet — in other words, don’t let them open it on Christmas morning in front of relatives. You can also give a sex toy to a partner, but be careful about the messages it sends. It’s great to add something fun to your bedroom repertoire, but if your partner has said they have no interest in certain sex toys, giving them one will be seen as ignoring their wishes — no matter how big a bow you put on it.
Speaking of toys, is it true that people are using Christmas ornaments as sex toys?
“I hope not,” Levkoff says. “Those things are sharp, they break and they’re full of germs. Think of how many people touched them before they went back into the box last year.” There are so many effective and safe sex toys on the market at all price points that there’s no reason to rely on holiday decorations or household objects for pleasure. And no one wants to spend Christmas or New Year’s Eve in the ER.
Martha Kempner is a writer and sexual health expert. She is the author of the weekly newsletter Sex on Wednesday.