New Opportunities & New Challenges: The Intricacies of Having a Sex Life During the COVID Pandemic
While the uncertainties that arose during the pandemic might have “pushed” some people “closer together”, others turned to more creative endeavors, by dipping into virtual platforms.
The ongoing global coronavirus pandemic has affected multiple aspects of people's lives, with intimate relations being no exception.
As the pandemic currently shows no signs of abating, reports about an apparent decrease in the so called "collective libido" have started to emerge, though what role COVID played, begs an interesting question.
For example, the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour (NSSHB) published in 2021, found that sexual activity in the US and other countries decreased years before the outbreak, between 2009 and 2018.
As for more recent developments, the CEO of one of the world's largest condom manufacturers, Karex, revealed last month that the use of their products has dropped by as much as 40 percent over the last two years.
Chantal Gautier, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Westminster, and trainee in sex therapy, suggests that peoples’ sex lives were likely affected in "different ways" by the pandemic.
"For some, the uncertainties triggered by Covid might well have pushed people closer together. Which in turn might have prompted some couples to get reacquainted with their turn-ons, fantasies and use of sex toys," she said. "For others, the pandemic opened new doors into virtual environments."
For example, Gautier noted, online sex parties afforded singles and couples alike an opportunity to “engage with sex” without the need to abandon the comfort of their residences.
"Under Covid rule, many people (for the first time) were forced to live and work in close proximity with one another," she explained. "Yet, when couples mesh into one, sometimes the appetite for sex diminishes."
She observed that a “certain emotional space” is needed for people to “keep any flame alive”, and lockdowns imposed amid the pandemic probably did not help in that regard.
This might explain why, according to IFOP (2020), some 25 percent of couples reported having less or no sexual activity during the first lockdown, which hints at a decrease of “our libido”.
10 February 2022, 07:01 GMT
Figures released by a New YouGov tracker reveal that on average, 27 percent of people in the UK have sex in any given week.
"But what does this tell us about our libido?" Gautier inquired. "For some people, this number would never feel enough and for others it might feel aspirational. Some people might be having sex more frequently but not finding it satisfying. More importantly, how do we decide when sex is good or not? Or what is expected and acceptable?"
In addressing the issue of younger people’s sexual habits, compared to previous generations, Gautier postulated that for some individuals (regardless of generation) sex is "complex", but that the pandemic "might well have impacted those (coming of age) in their sexual development".
"Other inhibitors that influence sexual activity include attitudes to sex, background, religion, cultural messages (e.g. taboos around masturbation), stigma, shame and of course poor sex education. This raises the question, how well are we doing in the sex education arena, in any generation?" she inquired.
Gautier also remarked that sexual activity, whether solo or partnered "has positive health benefits", though sex "can be about very different things for different people".
“For some, sex is purely for reproduction purposes. For others sex is for pleasure; to feel desirable; for closeness; to role play or for connection. All and all, it is up to people to define what sex means for them. That said, whether we are in a pandemic or not and no matter what people’s likes and dislikes are, any sexual activity must always have mutual consent between involving parties," she surmised.