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‘I Can Feel It in My Boner’: What’s Behind the Phenomenon of ‘Storm Thirst’?

Thunder, lightning, wind and rain put some people in a uniquely amorous mood

Two weeks ago, a powerful nor’easter swept through New York City, dumping so much snow on the streets, parks and rooftops that local weathermen proclaimed it to be the strongest December storm to hit the Tri-State area in more than a decade. But while most people lamented the howling winds, frigid temperatures and unrelenting precipitation, Jose, a pseudonymous 30-year-old photo assistant, couldn’t have been happier.

Peering out the frosted window of his sixth-story Chelsea apartment at the sideways sleet battering the street down below, he felt his toes curl and skin prickle as he became erect. “Any time there’s weather like that, I get so horny,” he tells me. “There’s something about the danger and the sheer force of Mother Nature that just speaks to me, and for as long as the storm’s around, all I can think about is sex.”

As winter comes (or should it be cums?) and darkness arrives at mind-bogglingly early hours, it wouldn’t be unusual for you to feel like Jose — a touch hornier, especially when there’s weather. Getting turned on by turbulent skies is colloquially called “storm thirst,” but its more extreme manifestations are known as “fulgarophilia,” or, quite literally, a “lust for lightning.”

Like a sexier version of feeling the rain in your bones, it’s something Jose says he’s had since he was a kid. “I grew up in the Midwest with tornadoes, snowstorms, floods and pretty much every kind of weather,” he explains. “At some point, I must have associated all these storms and things with discovering my own sexuality, because even as an adult, weather-related things seem to turn me on.”

Thunderstorms, lightning and howling winds definitely do it for him, but his favorite meterological aphrodisiac is the kind that swept through NYC two weeks ago — severe, multi-day blizzards resulting in road closures, snow days and a city-wide advisory to stay home. He’s single, which makes things difficult during winter storm season, but says his Grindr gets “significantly” more use when it’s nasty outside.

According to Jodie Slee, a Leeds-based relationship and sex therapist, storm thirst is definitely a thing. “There’s some thinking that the air becomes more oxygenated after a storm, which can be an effective aphrodisiac,” she tells me. There’s also a psychological component. “Fear is aphrodisiac as well,” she continues. “When we fear for our life, our sympathetic nervous system comes into play and our primitive brain thinks we need to procreate before we pop our clogs. We’re also more likely to cling to someone for safety; that’s why a horror film cinema trip is supposedly the ideal first-date scenario.”

Likewise, fear, which can be triggered by the sound and sight of thunder, lightning, strong winds and blackening skies, causes the release of dopamine and adrenaline. “Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter that motivates us to search out things that enable our survival or the continued survival of our species such as food, water and sex,” explains Slee. Or even more to the point: “A spike in dopamine production means a spike in sexual motivation.”

Meanwhile, as with fear, adrenaline also gnaws at your sympathetic nervous system, which triggers a fight-or-flight response, dilates your blood vessels and gives you a zip of energy. This can make you feel exhilarated — which, in turn, increases your heart rate — an effect that can replicate the physiological changes that take place during sexual arousal.

That said, Slee warns that too much adrenaline isn’t great for sex. “It’s the hormone that causes the refractory period in men, which makes it hard for them to become stimulated or aroused for a while,” she says. “This is also why more severe natural disasters don’t make us horny. For most of us, our body will prioritize a real threat over sex.”

Along those lines, a paper by the IZA Institute for the Study of Labor found that low-severity storm advisories are associated with a “positive and significant fertility effect,” while high-severity advisories have a “significant negative fertility effect.” In other words, a couple clouds might kickstart your carnal instincts, but a full-on Twister reenactment will suck the horny right out of you.

There’s also a specific sexual yearning that characterizes nights spent inside, blissfully protected from the rain, wind or snow (this is the crux of the aggravating Christmas hit, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”). A more posh, restrained horniness, it spreads through one’s body and becomes exacerbated by the fact that the weather is indeed too frightful to venture out for a hookup sesh, much less a candlelit dinner.

Online dating statistics have proven this effect time and time again. Per a 2017 report from AskMen and Zoosk, October is when people are most active on dating apps and websites. It’s the start of the wretchedly named “cuffing season,” which marks the time when many begin their hunt for someone to cuddle up with as the skies darken. Likewise, in a 2016 NBC News report, the network found that OkCupid experiences a 10 percent increase in user activity on rainy days. And during snowstorms, Match.com sees a 33 percent rise in activity, with Bumble at a 20 to 40 percent rise.

Again, a lot of this is because, during bad weather, we naturally spend more time indoors with less to do. This is especially true during the pandemic winter, which is likely to have heightened storm thirst more than ever. After all, we produce less serotonin in the darker months, and people reach their highest testosterone levels during the fall. So if you feel afraid as lightning strikes, your windows clatter and rain overwhelms your gutters, it would be totally normal if you were to crave a warm body by your side — preferably a naked one to, you know, get your mind off things.

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