Hot Girl Summer? Cuffing Season? Female Sexuality Is Expected To Be Seasonal (And That Only Benefits The Patriarchy)

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As summer approaches, we bid adieu to “cuffing season” and say hello to “hot girl summer.” Both concepts are predicated on trends in the sexual behaviour of women who are expected to embody a certain type of seasonal sexual characterisation in accordance with patriarchal expectations of heteronormative male desire. 

“Hot girl summer” involves embarking on a string of no-strings-attached sexual ventures which allow female-identifying people to clock up as many bodies as they can, preferably in as little clothing as possible. After all, nothing says summer like a sweaty shag with a stranger. 

While women’s decision to sleep with whoever they want and wear whatever they want, and their right not to feel ashamed for doing so, ought to be encouraged, it’s difficult to ignore the patriarchal implications of how women wearing fewer clothes and having a more voracious female sexual appetite can also appease the male gaze. Questions of “What was she wearing?” after claims of sexual violence against women only serve to exacerbate the dual presentation of women in patriarchal rhetoric as both desirable and vulnerable to the very people from whom they are most at risk. 

Desirability Isn’t Seasonal

As the nights get darker and the weather turns colder, slutty summer is contrasted by the monogamous idea of “cuffing season”, a concept which seems, from the conversations I’ve had with members of the LGBTQ+ community, to be predominantly heteronormative. Unless women are choosing to extend their sexy sentiment into winter, in what one of my housemates referred to as “snow time is hoe time”, “cuffing” constitutes the idea that women should be locked into a relationship and committed to settling down with someone to keep them warm over the festive season. This form of constrained sexuality seems to benefit heteronormative patriarchy in the way that women are expected to partner up and hibernate throughout the winter months for as long as men feel that they need to. 

If it’s too cold for men to go on a night out in just a t-shirt and pick up a bird to take back home and sleep with, the idea of a woman who’s used to going out in a tiny strip of stretchy material around her torso, and not much else, actually coping better with the cold is surely unimaginable. These men clearly have not been for a night out in Newcastle Upon-Tyne, where in winter ambulances drive around offering out foil blankets and flip-flops to over-tanned, under-clad women who weren’t going to say no to getting glammed up for a night out for trivial reasons like “baby, it’s cold outside” or because the snow is “up to your knees out there.” It’s as if the very notion of simply popping on an extra layer had never occurred to whoever came up with “cuffing season”, not when women can be tied down (and not even in a fun way) and gain their warming winter weight in the form of a 200-pound hot-blooded male to sprawl all over them rather than having a cosy night in, alone. 

In either case, it seems like women are either expected to sleep with men but not expect any commitment from them in summer or be expected to commit to these men who want someone to “cuddle” with and take home to show off to their mum over the holiday period. 

This Isn’t The Debutante Era

This concept of emotionally and socially cuffing yourself to someone, for a season, seems archaic and more akin to 18th-century aristocratic social structures in which only true regency debutantes were to be presented as marriage material at the ripe old age of 13. But let’s explore the historical implications: The lower-class women who facilitated the sold sex, compared to the female children being showcased as debutantes, were not considered proper “ladies”, all because they couldn’t claim extra-marital virginal status. This may have been because these women were not of the conviction that monogamy, which in its most literal sense, was the only acceptable mode of sexuality open to them. 

However, unfortunately, the truth is that often the lower social class of these women meant that their sexuality became something sellable to libido-driven rich men willing to pay. Meanwhile, everyone else turned a blind eye to the sources of these men’s sexual fulfilment come their wedding day to a previously chaste girl half their age. 

The most ironic thing about both “hot girl summer” and “cuffing season” is of course that the entire system in which they are both either ridiculed or endorsed, as if female sexuality was as changeable as the seasons themselves, is based on the often-inevitable complicity of women in these so-called trends which benefit the patriarchy more than the women on whom these structures depend. This is because women’s refusal to participate in either of these characterisations is seen as prudish in summer or slutty in winter, and that’s before I’ve even mentioned the greater risks women face by embracing hook-up culture in the first place, to name unwanted pregnancy and rape as just a few. 

Today, in concept, these modern-day “debutantes” are the women settling down for the winter, and the “ladies of the night” are the readily-available women that men find at bars, clubs, and through online dating sites that they don’t see as human with individual desires and instead, a sentient sex toy to help them attain orgasm. The same idea is echoed: that women should be accessible to men no matter what, both sexually and romantically.

What’s more, as if the seasonal depression wasn’t already enough to deal with in winter, women are also often made to feel inadequate if they’ve not found themselves in a relationship as the dark nights draw in. From a feminist perspective, this on top of everything else, perpetuates the patriarchal double standards which oppress women and inhibit their ability to truly express their own sexuality in whatever way they desire. If we are truly to break away from heteronormative and patriarchally constructed forms and expectations of female sexuality, we need to find a better way of encouraging female independence and sexual liberation that is not predicated on women’s convenient ability to facilitate male desire.