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How Much Sex Are We Actually Having In Isolation?
We talk to Dr. Karen Gurney to find out…
Despite legal restrictions on socialising, experts advising us to refrain from shagging anyone outside our houses and, oh you know, generally focussing on other more pressing matters, we’re all still talking about sex.
I’ve spent the best part of a month feeling overwhelmed by the myriad ways people are “enhancing their sex lives in self-isolation”, sex toy advertisements with captions patronisingly prompting us to “masturbate for self-care #Covid19 #EndTheStigma” and so-called advice suggesting “isolation is the perfect time for couples to work on their sex life”.
Ultimately, whether we like it or not, we’re in lockdown.
Sex is now defined by this fact, and that goes for all of us. Like everything else, our sex lives will be impacted by the pandemic. Rather than denying this and insisting we just use the free time to “spice things up” with some fancy vibrator and a copy of the Kama Sutra, it may be an idea to stay informed about sex in the pandemic and turn down the pressure.
To obtain some understanding on how our sex lives have truly been impacted by Coronavirus (and what we can do to satisfy our urges) while worrying about the world, Restless caught up with Instagram’s ‘The Sex Doctor’. Dr Karen Gurney, Clinical Psychologist, Psychosexologist and author of Mind the Gap: the truth about desire and how to futureproof your sex life tells us everything we need to know about sex amid a global pandemic.
After receiving a lot of messages from people asking why their desire for sex was changing in response to COVID-19, Dr Gurney created an Instagram poll to survey her audience about how their sex lives have been impacted.
She explains: “Research does suggest that for many people, stress inhibits desire, and for others, sex is a way to manage stress, so at times of stress they crave it more. This played out in my poll.” The results showed 59 per cent of participants said they’ve wanted sex less since lockdown began, while 35 per cent said they’d either craved or had sex more often. The rest experienced no change.
The poll result and the research Dr Gurney cites conflicts with much media reporting around sex and COVID-19. Due to a huge boom in sex toy and condom sales, it’s been hastily reported that the British public are ‘shagging through the apocalypse’. There’s even talk of a baby boom post-COVID.
Dr Gurney comments, “It’s true that couples living together may have more opportunities to have sex now, and I suspect this is where the idea of a baby boom comes from. Many of the messages I’ve received [have suggested this]. The surge in sex toy purchases is probably more related to those isolated at home alone!”
Dr Gurney shares that a lot of couples are feeling anxious or paranoid that their sex lives have taken a nosedive, and it’s possible the mass focus on sex is exacerbating that anxiety. For anyone concerned about their sex life in lockdown, Dr Gurney reassures us all that all responses to sex – whether you’re feeling like it more or less – are entirely normal.
“Neither reaction is anything to worry about, but it’s worth discussing it with your partner – if you have one – so that you can figure out how each of you is responding and be sensitive to each other’s position. This is an odd situation for all of us and we really need to let ourselves off the hook, instead of thinking about what we ‘should’ be doing.”
The truth is, there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ amount of sex. This stands during the pandemic, before it, and even after it.
Dr Gurney advises, “There are certainly averages in the UK for how often people have sex (a little less than once a week), but my advice is to take those averages with a pinch of salt. Sexual satisfaction is less predicted by sexual frequency than you would think. It’s more important to feel the sex that you’re having is mind-blowing than worry about how often it’s happening.”
It’s unsurprising we, as a nation, would fixate on sex during such a shared stressful situation. It’s not irregular for stress to present itself as rampant horniness. Hell, I’ve never got through a deadline day without a tension-infused wank. How our sex lives will intersect with living through a pandemic is impossible for us to individually predict. Most of us will not have experienced a global crisis before. In fact, this is all so new to us that the Kinsey Institute have launched a new study to analyse the effect of long-term self-isolation on our sex drives and general livelihoods. Early results have already been published, and out of a sample of 1,200 adults, nearly half of the participants reported their sex life has declined and that they are currently “much less sexually active”. Researcher Justin Garcia puts this decline down to “the stress and distance created by the novel coronavirus’s spread.”
All we can do to prepare sexually, is take care of ourselves. This includes those of us who are single or living separately to our partners keeping it in our pants – we must adhere to social distancing rules, no matter how intense desire grows. We must listen to our bodies’ physical and psychological cues as they arise. Cancel the noise pressuring you to somehow come out the other side of Coronavirus with a pimped-out, shit hot sex life and instead, take it one day at a time. “One thing is for sure,” Dr Gurney says, “we have a lot to look forward to when all this is over.”