This article was scientifically fact-checked by Human Sexuality expert Dr. Laurie Mintz.
Our lives are currently a contradiction of fears and anxieties like most of us have never experienced before. Fear about an invisible contagion that can be carried and transferred by strangers without their knowledge, and anxiety caused by having to isolate ourselves in our homes, or wherever we were when the outbreak began. This is a tough combination, because we often turn to others to ease these problems and, right now, many of us are not in a position to do that. We also self-medicate with shopping, restaurants, bars and movie theatres, and we can’t do any of these things either. Another thing we turn to for reassurance is, of course, sex*, and even that is in doubt.
So, where does coronavirus leave you and your sex drive?
We’re all dealing with this crisis differently. As I mentioned in a previous post, most partners are not reporting an increase in sex, regardless of what the media is assuming, and most report that their sexual activity has dropped off a cliff. In that post I listed a number of reasons why: the fear and anxiety, as I just mentioned, but also the new and unexpected pressures of suddenly living in each other’s pockets, and the friction that can bring for many.
Your libido needs things that turn you on to be turned on (e.g., a sexy story, a hot lover, a fantasy) and these are called excitatory processes. On the other hand, there are things (think anxiety about the pandemic!) that can stifle or even totally eliminate your sexual desire, and we call these inhibitory processes.
There are plenty of couples, although they are in the minority, who have reported a big growth in their sex drives – and this is borne out by the Christmas-like increase in sales at LELO. What’s causing this? It could be any number of things, from as simple as the welcome refreshment from your daily routine, or the amount of free time you’ve discovered as a result of not having to commute. Or, maybe the necessity of finding creative ways to spend your day has awoken a desire that had been suppressed by routine. And, as I mentioned in a prior blog, for some people awareness of their own mortality brings an increased drive to feel alive, including through sex! After all, translated libido means “life energy” and for some, sex is just the life energy needed to counteract fears of illness and death.
Regardless of if your sex drive is amped up or shut down due to the pandemic, it’s essential to remember that sex and orgasm are forms of physical and psychological relief for most of us, and incorporating them into your new schedule can do wonders for surviving the mundanity and claustrophobia of the lockdown..
For that to happen, though, your sexual energy needs to be given the space it requires to breathe, and blossom. To have this happen requires two things. First, to control or minimize your overwhelming anxiety and second, to purposefully focus on sexuality. To accomplish the first, use tried and true techniques such as deep breathing, exercise, and meditation. To accomplish the second, set aside some time in your daily or weekly schedule to focus on sex. Read an erotic story. Watch an erotic movie. Simply set aside time to pleasure yourself or share pleasure with your partner. You may not be horny when you start, but given enough erotic body contact, we bet you will get there by the time you finish. Sound unromantic to have sex when not horny? It’s actually more romantic than no sex at all and it’s actually a tried and true sex therapy technique.
There’s a lot to be worried about right now. We’re all worried, and you can find consolation in that alone. There’s no one who isn’t worried about something as a direct result of the outbreak. We’re worrying about our families, our communities, our economy, our jobs, our finances, the unknown of how long all this will last. All these factors deserve serious self-care, and that can eat up a lot of your energy on its own, leaving little for your sexual desire to be nourished by.
The outbreak can literally be defined by those able to maintain their sexual desire and those that are not. That might sound like an extravagant position to take, but since our libido is so intrinsically linked to all the other facets of our psychology, it’s as good a measure as any. Think about it—this way of looking at it is defining the outbreak by those still in touch with their libido, or their life energy!
And many of us can swing from one end of the spectrum to the other from day to day. That’s also normal: there’s no right or wrong way to cope with our current circumstances – there is only the coping. The most important thing is to own your sexual energy in whatever form it takes: if you’re horny one day and you have a willing partner who’s energy is also indexing in the positive, make the most of it and enjoy each other’s sensuality. If you’re not feeling it tonight, that’s cool too, just say ‘not tonight’ and don’t feel guilty for your lack of libido. Or, as suggested above, try scheduling sex into your quarantine routine.
The worst mistake you can make is to assume everybody else is having a better, or easier, time than you right now. Don’t assume that everybody’s having tons of sex and don’t feel ashamed that you’re not, because the majority of other people right now are exactly the same as you are. Very few people are treating self-isolation as a horny holiday. They’re just not. Most people, like you, have other things on their minds.
But, the flipside is that, now more than ever, intimacy is important. Touching, and being present with your partner, is how you’re going to get through this. As is so often the case, good communication is the most essential thing right now. That includes communication about the quarantine and how sex will fit in that for you!
*In this article, for ease of reader understanding, we are using the words sex and intercourse as synonymous, as is done in popular culture in general. Similarly, we use the word “foreplay” the way it is used in popular culture (i.e., the sexual acts such as oral sex that come before intercourse). However, as aptly pointed out by our sex expert Laurie Mintz, we would also like to acknowledge that such language exalts men’s most reliable rout to orgasm and linguistically erases women’s most reliable route to orgasm—clitoral stimulation, either alone or coupled with penetration. Indeed, only between 4% and 18% of women reliably orgasm from penetration alone. We look forward to the day when such language is not commonly used in culture.
Facts checked by:
Dr. Laurie Mintz
Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Florida, teaching Human Sexuality to hundreds of students a year. She has published over 50 research articles and is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Mintz also has maintained a private practice for over 30 years, working with individuals and couples on general and sexual issues. She is also an author and speaker, spreading scientifically-accurate, sex-positive information to enhance sexual pleasure.