Examining flings in the dog days of summer

Heather McIntosh | Fulcrum Contributor

Photo by Justin Labelle

THE SUMMER MONTHS offer a soothing balm against the wicked Ottawa winter. As temperatures rise, we find ourselves engaging in new activities, often in different places and with different faces. Some of us migrate home for the summer, others travel, and many settle in at a summer job to make some cash for the costs of the upcoming fall. With these activities, we exchange our grueling academic routines for a different summer groove that many of us long for throughout the school year.

As seen in many literary classics and films, it appears that falling in love—or lust—comes with greater ease during the dog days of summer. It seems that the general consensus among young adults is that May through August are the months for hook-ups, flings, and, sometimes, finding a mate. However, what is it that motivates us to associate the summer solstice with getting together and getting it on?

Although many students are forced to work long hours to sustain themselves for the upcoming school year, summer is commonly associated with vacation and freedom. We no longer go on study binges inside the dreary walls of Morriset that cause us to develop extreme caffeine dependency and forgo basic personal hygiene practices for days—or weeks—on end. We are emancipated from the shackles of class schedules, term papers, and exam periods, and given the opportunity to actually make some money and revel in a more relaxed schedule.

SEE ALSO: The art of falling in and out of summer love [Blog]

Jocelyn Wentland, sex researcher and fourth year Ph.D. student in experimental psychology at the University of Ottawa, suggests the idea that the summer haze often motivates Canadians to associate the warmer months with the carefree nature of the vacation mindset.

“When we go on holidays, we get the opportunity to try on a new persona,” she said. “We are away from our regular surroundings—our home, our usual friends, and our reality in general. Although the whole ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ concept may not be a accurate portrayal of how we conduct ourselves in the summer, we certainly tend to transfer some of these behaviours over during the warmer months.”


When you have limited time together and you’re in vacation mode, it can be hard to take things slow.


As people get out and enjoy all that the sunny season has to offer, they are increasingly inclined to experiment with sex and romance, more so than during the winter. The summer heat often motivates us to shed some layers to weather the soaring temperatures. The bulk of our winter gear is stowed away for next winter, and many students replace snowsuits with skin-bearing ensembles conducive to the climate.

Aaron Dupont, a University of Ottawa health sciences student, said that he quite enjoys the summer skin landscape, associating it with a good time to hit the town and an even better time to meet women.

“It just seems that during the summer more people are out and about doing stuff to enjoy the sun, like going to the beach and pool parties,” he said. “To get ready for beach season I try and hit the gym a bit more to look and feel my best.”

In lieu of these things, how do we define the types of relationships that unfold this time of year? For example: what is a summer “fling”, and how is it different from hook-ups and dating?

Wentland defines flings as “short-lived romantic and sometimes sexual relationships that often have a conclusive time limit on them, with this end point usually not being controlled by either party.”

For Kerry Hamilton, a recent U of O graduate, summer flings don’t follow the conventional rules of a relationship.

“When you have limited time together and you’re in vacation mode, it can be hard to take things slow,” she said. “This can seen fine in the moment, but in the long run, it may not lead to success in a normal relationship.”

Despite Hamilton’s warnings, there are some exceptions to the rules of summer love. By throwing caution to the wind, U of O alum Amber Blackwell was able to transform a fling into a serious relationship.

“We both knew all along that I would be moving away to go back to school, but we just went with it,” she said. “It’s not like either of us dwelled on it, we just decided to enjoy the time that we had together and just see where it would take us.” Upon the inevitable upheaval, her and her love interest sustained the connection and found love beyond the summer heat and into all four seasons.

While the outcomes of summer flings can vary dramatically, they do have potential to turn into something after the summer sun sets. However, Wentland explains that “people can be really crappy at citing how their relationships begin accurately.” For example, people who meet briefly during the summer, hook-up, and play house for a short while are less likely to actually admit that their incomprehensible love for one another began after a one-night stand.

A brief exploration of summer flings shows that while these relationships do happen fast, they don’t have to end that way. If the right mate comes along and that impulsive attraction can sail beyond August, then the potential for happiness and endless love is certainly possible. However, sometimes it is just what it is; a brief summer fling may be meant to stay strictly within the confines of beach season. Regardless of the circumstances, honest and open communication about expectations and outcomes can minimize a lot of potential heartbreak. Most importantly, if you do happen to snag yourself a summer fling, have fun, but be safe—trust your instincts and always practice safe sex!