Written by Jessie Sage, originally published by the Pittsburgh City Paper.
With the season changing and the temperatures dropping, many of us find ourselves changing our habits. We pull out the warm clothes, start to eat comfort foods, and prepare for the holidays. But do our habits or attitudes around sex and dating also change? Many folks have suggested that, in fact, they change so drastically that we need a name to describe the phenomenon: cuffing season.
The term itself references metaphorically handcuffing yourself to another person or coupling up for the winter when you otherwise wouldn’t be motivated to do so. Fetish model and phone sex operator Felicia Fisher describes cuffing season as “the several-month period where it starts getting cold out [and] people who are single are sick of mingling start looking for someone to be with over the cold months.”
Fisher says that she recognizes her own desire to cuff at this time of year. She says, “I have noticed a trend where, in September-October, I tend to find myself either on dating apps or ‘settling down,’ so to speak, with someone.” She adds that she doesn’t feel alone in this. “I’ve also noticed people seem to be more eager to either get into a relationship or are looking for someone to spend time on, you know, being more eager to stay up late chatting or planning dates or whatever.”
Adult film actress Fit Sid has similar feelings. She says, “I’ve been very content focusing on myself for the past few months and now I have the urge to join dating apps again and find someone to be cozy with which seems to creep up each year around November.”
As adult performers, both Sid and Fisher have also recognized changes in sales during cuffing season. Fisher says, “I did notice a jump in video sales for the end of the year (October-December).” Sid has the same experience. She says, “I feel like people during the holidays are more willing to purchase clips and support the girls and guys they love. … It’s as if they want to cuff the models behind the screen virtually to feel secure during the season.” However, Fisher points out that one-on-one interactions like phone sex are down during the season, which she attributes to customers being more likely to be involved in relationships.
Fisher also worked in a sex-toy shop for five years and noticed a change in customer habits. “I feel like around September, October, we would start seeing an influx of couples coming in, then it would die down for a little and ramp up around the end of January/all of February for Valentine’s! I feel like we saw a lot more people there for solo items in the couple weeks following Valentine’s onwards for whatever reason — maybe the relationship didn’t work out?”
Solae Dehvine, CEO and Founder of Dehvine Publishing and author of a book about cuffing season, says that the phenomenon isn’t simply about romance, there is an economic component.
“I think some homeless and transient lovers use cuffing season as a means of survival and that isn’t the context in which I see people publicly talking about cuffing season,” she says. “Cuffing season is [also] about resources and financial aspirations.”
Winter is harsh, especially in this part of the country. While the concept of cuffing season is new to me, it makes sense that people would be more likely to seek some refuge during these frigid months.
Jessie Sage is a sex worker and writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. She’s also the co-founder of Peepshow Magazine and the co-host of the Peepshow Podcast. Her words can be found in the Washington Post, VICE’s Motherboard, Hustler Magazine, Men’s Health, BuzzFeed, and more. She’s currently writing a book on sex work, motherhood, and illness called An Unexpected Place (forthcoming on West Virginia University Press).