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Say “summer,” and you instantly think of the beach, something sizzling on the grill, cold white wine and breezy summer reads. But what about sex? According to scientist and author Patricia Barnes-Svarney, hot weather brings even hotter nights (or days). Her new book, appropriately called Why Do Women Crave More Sex in the Summer: 112 Questions That Women Keep Asking—and That Keep Everyone Else Guessing, is due out June 5th (preorders at Amazon) but we at BA50 were lucky enough to get her to answer some of our questions. (go HERE for her really fun youtube teaser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9blTqzy0hg)

BA50: Seriously? Women really crave more sex during the summer? Can you tell me why? And when you say “more” — what exactly does that mean?

Patricia: Alright, ladies: how many times have you said to your significant other, “I’m just going shopping for a sexy snowsuit,” versus, “I’m off to find a sexy bikini?”  One of the reasons why many women seem to want more sex in the summer (in this case, “more” does not mean more than men—it means sex more often during the summer) has to do with clothes. Lighter clothes make you feel less encumbered, and many summer outfits reveal more curves, cleavage, and skin. All this adds up to feeling better about yourself—and often being more amorous.

Researchers have found more “scientific” reasons for being in the mood, too. The summer sun is one of the main culprits: longer days and shorter nights cause the body to produce mood-boosting dopamine and serotonin, along with a hormone called MHS—all natural chemicals that increase a woman’s libido.

And there are smells that bring on amorous feelings, too—which is why there are so many toiletries that come complete with wonderful smells. Think lavender (calming), roses (arousing)—and don’t forget men’s sweat! Researchers have found that if a man is attracted to a woman he will secrete chemicals through his sweat glands—a signal that he is sexually interested. And although you may not consciously know it, as a woman, with your heightened sense of smell than men (and with summer’s more humid air to carry the smells)—you’re brain picks up his eau de attraction.

BA50: So if we want more sex, or want our partners to want more sex — are there certain flowers or plants we should have around the house?

Patricia: Not everyone has a green thumb, which is probably why many people use oil scents instead of trying to plant a garden (plus, gardening often wears you out—and you want some energy for sex!). For the house and bedroom, try flowers like lavender, lemon balm, various mints, and roses—smells that calm, sooth, and arouse. Silk sheets help, too!

BA50: What about peri and pre- and full-blown menopausal women? Are there certain changes where smell/weather/anything else affects them or affects them differently?

Patricia: Since I’ve been around the sun over 50 times already, I can say that weather, gravity, the French national elections, the World Series, etc. affect women before, during, and after menopause in much the same way. Yes, there are physical changes, such as changes in our sense of smell and eyesight. And there are changes based on what we did before (and after) menopause, such as smoking or not watching our weight. Studies show that what does affect our sense of well being as we age are our perspective on things and whether we’re optimists or pessimists.

BA50: I have to ask as I love this question you answer in your book: How can marriage keep the brain young?

Patricia: I love this question, too! There are studies that show that couples who live together are half as likely to develop dementia (especially Alzheimer’s disease) later in life as people who live alone. Of course, the researchers add that there are other factors that keep your brain young, such as good genetics, exercise, and if you frequently work on The New York Times puzzles—or any mentally-stimulating games that stretch your brain. But they add that having someone around to talk with—even if you bicker about who has the remote—is a good thing, as such brain activity may strengthen the connections between your brain cells.

BA50:  Are there any other “keep young/feel vibrant” tips a 50+ woman should know?

Patricia: There are a plethora of things a 50+ woman can do to feel vibrant—and if you feel vibrant, you don’t need to think “keep young”—because you know you’re fine the way you are… in other words, although there is no FoY (Fountain of Youth), I discovered through all this research that it’s not necessary.

There are things that can make us feel better, such as certain foods (did you know that red wine’s natural antioxidant resveratrol can improve your skin tone and texture—and it’s also found in most types of berries, peanuts, and green tea), exercise (keep those natural good-feeling chemicals called beta endorphins coming), and even spices (some research shows turmeric and curry powders have an element called curcumin, which may be responsible for slowing down aging). And the list goes on…

BA50:  Is there a certain “takeaway” message you want readers to have?

Patricia: It’s an exciting time to be around—especially with all the female medical, physical, and mental studies that have been conducted over the past two decades. I found that women are fascinating—no matter where they are on life’s path, and there’s so much more to learn.

BA50: I love that your book also brings up other interesting questions, such as ‘Can men have PMS?’

Patricia: There are studies that suggest men can have PMS-type symptoms—not as “badly” as women, but still with mood swings, hot flashes, and even reports of stomach cramps. A study in 2004 dubbed this possibility as IMS (irritable male syndrome). Although the study concentrated on male sheep during mating time (!), the researchers extrapolated to human males, suggesting that because a human male’s brain has many receptors for testosterone (the hormone that helps makes a male a male), when the levels go down often times due to stress, the male will respond with IMS symptoms. Not everyone agrees, either. Some researchers believe that such symptoms are merely the result of an unhealthy — think “couch potato” — lifestyle.

BA50: How did you come up with the idea for a book asking these kinds of questions?

Patricia: I never got out of the “why” phase of my youth! Since I’ve been a science writer for over two decades, and a female for over five, I decided the best way to uncover those “why” woman questions I had was to explore the world of female research. I also asked some of my girlfriends (and guy friends, who were mostly responsible for the sidebar questions and answers throughout the book called “Them and Us”) what questions they had about being female. The most-asked topics were about how a woman’s body works; the most asked question was “Why can’t my significant (male) other find the mayonnaise in the refrigerator when it’s right in front of him?”  And — yes, the answer is in the book!

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