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By Sarah

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The current global pandemic has significantly impacted all our lives in various ways. Alongside the obvious physical health concerns that Covid poses, we are faced with the negative impact of quarantines and lockdowns on people’s mental wellbeing, our interpersonal and personal relationships as well as experiencing decreased levels of social connectedness. Another area of our lives that has been significantly impacted by the current situation is our sex lives, whether you’re single or in a relationship.

The sudden upheaval to our lives has caused anxiety, depression, guilt, fear and uncertainty, to name but a few emotional responses. In our day-to-day lives, our routines have been disrupted and our sense of liberty and spontaneity taken away. This has instilled in many of us a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Added to this the economic uncertainty of the current situation means many have lost their jobs, or are working at a reduced rate. The stress that follows from this economic uncertainty is known to inhibit sexual desire. One can see how all this can be a surefire way of killing the collective erotic mood!

The pandemic has meant that pubs and bars have all closed, as well as cafes and restaurants. People are encouraged to work from home, limit their movements outside of the home, as well as having limited contact with others. In essence, people are confined to their homes a lot more than they ever have been before. This means couples are spending more time together and families have seen the home environment repopulated with children, adolescents and young adults who are all learning online and are unable to visit friends. Couples are also spending added time together with restricted possibilities for ‘date night’ and limited external psychological stimulation. These extended periods of time together with few other outlets can potentially create tension and lead to arguments and disagreements. Added to this, couples may be experiencing issues related to discrepancies in sexual libido. While some respond to stress with a decreased appetite for sex, others may notice their sex drive increases and finds it helps relieve stress. Issues also arise surrounding privacy or to when to find ‘alone’ time between a couple. So we not only have problems relating to the logistics of when and where to have sex but also around our desire to have sex in the first place, considering all the above factors that our dampening of people’s sexual appetite.

Those who are single are experiencing similar but different problems. Many may be longing for a significant other to share these challenging times with while others are unable to have sexual relationships. While some live alone, others are living in shared accommodation. With more and more people working from home, this inevitably poses problems regarding the issue of privacy again. It is not just couples that are struggling to find privacy to have sexual contact, but individuals are also experiencing this problem when it comes to finding privacy to practice masturbation.

There is the obvious concern regarding the transmission of Covid during sex as health officials have given us useful guidelines on how to practice safe sex  during Covid times (don’t forget to wash your hands regularly throughout!).Opportunities to meet others, either for a potential relationship or for sex, are all but gone with the shutting of bars, clubs, and pubs. Social events are out and social distancing is in. Those in long distance relationships are also struggling. With limited options with regard to travel, long-distance couples are missing the physical contact and sexual intimacy, which is so important in maintaining a healthy relationship, and this in turn can lead to tension and a sense of emotional distance between a couple.

Sexual health is essential for the global health of individuals, couples and families. Studies correlate sex with increased satisfaction with one’s health, increased levels of trust, intimacy and love in relationships, improved ability to perceive, identify and express emotions and lessened use of immature psychological defence mechanisms. It appears that the current world we find ourselves in has altered our sexual habits, but it does not all have to be doom and gloom. Couples living together have limited external distractions and increased time together which might ultimately increase physical closeness and lead them to reconnect at an intimate level. Perhaps it can be a time to explore new sexual fantasies or desires together. It may mean that as individuals or couples we need to become a little bit more creative and think outside the box! Masturbation, sexting, online dating apps, use of porn, and intimate devices are all ways to practice sex in a safe way. One of the few industries that has boomed during all this have been the pornography industry. Given the current state of things, it is understandable that people are consuming porn on a more regular basis. While the pandemic has the potential to diminish our sexual drive, it can also potentially lead men and women to discover new and exciting things about their sexuality and sexual desires that they may not have had the opportunity to before.