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ISSUE 121 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2008

Sex on the Hill: Sex in the face of adversity

By Miriam Samuelson
News Editor

Friday, April 11, 2008

Last weekend, the Minnesota weather tricked me into thinking that spring had finally arrived. The snow melted overnight. The birds and bees could finally pollinate the natural world, and we Oles could finally begin to strip away our winter gear and don open-toed shoes and one or two layers of clothing instead of seven. But after a couple days of sunny bliss, we found that we were in fact doomed to an eternal winter. An eternal winter of studying and festering indoors, of widespread Seasonal Affective Disorder. A winter of sadness and gloom.

And if that's not enough, the year is getting busier and busier. While we usually have the good weather to warm our spirits in light of impending final projects (and, as a senior, do I dare say the word "graduation?"), this year's eternal winter has driven us indoors to commiserate. We remain trapped in the back-to-back schedule scribbled in our planners, bound to the 150 pages of reading we had to do last night and to the paper proposal we have due next Tuesday.

So what does all my complaining have to do with sex?

If I correctly remember other Aprils in my college career, this is supposed to be the time when love is in the air, when Oles turn their attention away from huddling near the heater and toward the springtime-induced burning in their loins. I recall fond (and some not so fond) memories of people flirting in Fireside, having long chats on the stone benches on the plaza and waking up early to watch the sun rise on Old Main hill. People pass you with a twinkle in their eye, and our behavior begins to uncannily resemble mating rituals of the animal kingdom.

Now, as I walk by people, they glare into the sidewalk, muttering schizophrenically under their breath about the twelve meetings they have to attend that afternoon. Instead of public mating rituals, I see people huddled in the library cramming for tests. I've heard of more spring breakdowns than I have spring flings. Dude, where is our sex drive?

After a search for empirical perspectives on this phenomenon (which will hopefully be solved in a few weeks if the sun ever decides to show its face to Minnesota), I found that there are several studies dedicated to sex, stress and bad weather. Almost any basic pamphlet on Seasonal Affective Disorder will tell you that a lack of sunlight impedes the function of the hypothalamus, which controls mood, appetite, sleep, temperature and sex drive. And what about sex and our workload/extra-curricular activities? Several articles and studies I read cited stress as a huge libido dampener. One study argued that cortisol (known as "the stress hormone") may block healthy production of reproductive hormones.

So are we stuck? Must we forever succumb to the pervasive pull of academic and extra-curricular demands while attempting to brave the bad weather that exacerbates our stress? Are we doomed to a spring full of cold, harsh scheduled-ness at the expense of any attention paid to the nether regions of our bodies?

So I set out again to find empirical solutions to this dilemma. I found good news -- there are in fact several ways that we can make spring, in all its lovey-dovey glory, come faster. Friends, we can overcome stress and bad weather, we can put love in the air and pay attention to the burning in our loins in spite of impending finals and lackluster weather. If we try, we can will into existence the happiness, horniness and general good sexy vibes that come with spring.

Almost every single article I read agreed on one thing to beat winter blues and stress to have a healthy sex life: exercise. It may be 35 degrees outside, but the snow has melted enough for us to take a 20 minute walk to town or at least drag ourselves down to Skoglund. Doctors recommend keeping your diet healthy for many reasons, but reducing stress, boosting energy and keeping sexuality healthy are definitely among the top few. Other people have suggested using sex itself to release stress -- just throw it all to the breeze for an hour and get down with yourself or your partner (this only works to a healthy extent, of course).

In these last grueling days of the winter-spring transition, pay attention to what your body needs and honor it. The season of love and energy is just around the corner. And we'll do what we can to make it come faster.

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