Sex During the Coronavirus Just Isn't Happening—and It's Totally Normal
When shelter-in-place orders started in New York City, I expected my boyfriend and I to get it on every day. Seriously, just he and I, stuck in a tiny apartment indefinitely, felt like perfect grounds for a frisk fest. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Between both of us working longer hours and feeling the mental and financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic, on top of anti-racism uprisings, our libidos have had way more lows than highs. I’d be lying if it didn’t make me feel self-conscious at times—but then I realized we weren’t the only couple dealing with this.
Why you aren’t having as much quarantine sex
According to an NBC News poll of roughly 11,000 people, at least 50% said that the coronavirus has negatively impacted their love life. That’s a lot of people not dating, not being intimate with others, and most likely not having sex. “A lot of people in quarantine aren't feeling their best, or feeling as sexy,” Ian Kerner, PhD, a psychotherapist and sex counselor based in New York City, tells Health. “If you're home all day and you're not changing out of your pajamas or applying as much self-care or going to the gym, your sexual self-esteem can start to go down. You may stop seeing your partner as sexy too and think of them as just someone familiar.”
Multiple studies, including one from 2018 published in the Archives of Sex, show that stress is a common libido killer. This stress, combined with the lack of "external validation" created by the pandemic (in other words, the self-esteem boosts you get from seeing friends and going to work every day), can really take its toll, says Kerner. Even worse, the longer you go without sex, the worse your sex rut can get.
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“Intimacy and sex are a lot like exercise—times where we need it the most is when we don't want to do it,” Lyndsey Harper, MD, gynecologist and CEO of Rosy, a mobile platform to help women with sexual concerns, tells Health. Dr. Harper emphasizes that sex is more than just physical release. (Though that's important, of course.) Sexual activity offers brain benefits, including the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone” that leaves you feeling happy and relieved. Sex also reduces anxiety and stress (go figure) while improving sleep and cardiovascular health.
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How can I get out my quarantine sex rut?
If you find yourself having less sex than usual and social distancing/lockdown guidelines are the reason (or at least aren't helping things), don’t rush to blame your partner. Kerner suggests discussing the lack of sex in a vulnerable way. “Say you feel lonely or neglected or that you miss connection—rather than ‘We're not having sex’ or ‘You're not interested in me anymore,” he recommends. “Go to the emotions you can bring to your partner that won't threaten them, but instead invite them to soothe those emotions.”
Dr. Harper pushes couples stuck in a sex drought to begin scheduling sex. As unsexy as it might seem, making plans can really make a difference. “By scheduling sex, you anticipate and plan for it,” says Dr. Harper. “Seek out tools during the day to get you more excited, like erotica, and end up feeling mentally and physically prepared.”
Dr. Harper also recommends planning date nights at home to get the lust vibes going. You may not be able to go out to your favorite romantic bistro, but you can replicate the atmosphere at home. "Try a virtual cocktail-making class, recreating a meal from your favorite restaurant, or having your own wine and paint night," anything to get you in the mood, make you feel playful and connected, and bring up sexy memories.
What if I’m single?
The pandemic is a great time to explore your sexuality on your own, says Kerner. Try sexy selfies, sensual dancing, reading erotica, or explore any pent-up fantasies you haven’t tried before. “Don't be so hard on yourself—there's light at the end of the tunnel,” he advises. “You can still give yourself orgasms, you don't need a partner to do that. Find ways to stay connected, get in touch with your fantasies and things that are unique to you and turn you on.” Even just having sexy exchanges via dating apps can get you in the right mindset.
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