When lockdown measures were first introduced, one of the only conceivable benefits was the potential for an improved sex life for couples quarantined together. But according to a poll of more than 10,000 people, 69 percent of couples are having less sex than usual (yes, 69 percent).
A lack of time is typically blamed for a barren love life, but with working (and doing basically everything) from home the new normal, time is something we all have a lot more of. Indeed, many predicted there may be a Covid-19 baby boom, with sex becoming an increasingly popular hobby for bored couples.
But when condom sales declined in March, the boss of Durex did not point the finger squarely at the lack of opportunities for singletons during lockdown – he said those who have even more opportunity than ever are having less sex too.
Speaking to the BBC, Laxman Narasimhan – boss of Reckitt Benckiser, which owns Durex – said: “What you see is this virus is having a toll on the number of intimate occasions in the UK.
“Intimate occasions are going down and that is a manifestation of anxiety.”
We subsequently held a poll on Twitter asking if couples were having less sex than usual, and a serendipitous 69 percent of the 11,438 respondents said ‘yes’.
Clearly, we are not able to verify the living situation of those who voted, and if you are a couple ‘staying alert’ at separate homes, then lockdown measures will have made intimacy tricky – forbidden, in fact. What’s more, there’s bound to be couples in lockdown who have been spending more time together between the sheets.
But what about the couples cooped up together 24/7, with no commute/sports/pubs/restaurants to eat into their bonk windows – why would they be having less sex than before?
Well, sex expert at men’s sex toy brand TENGA and Sex Education script consultant, Alix Fox, reckons the Durex boss is right to think that anxiety is playing a part.
Alix Fox said: “Whilst the potential for sex to offer a much-needed sense of escapism, entertainment, comfort and stress relief means that some people have become voracious lockdown lovemakers, many others have found that their sex drives have taken a nosedive during quarantine.
“One big reason is anxiety: worrying about the wellbeing of loved ones; job insecurity; financial instability; and huge uncertainty about the future can make your libido pack its bags and leave – even if you can’t.
“Stress affects people on a chemical level as well as an emotional one; when we’re fretful, we produce more of the hormone cortisol, which can cause our desire to do anything X-rated to go AWOL.”
Alix added that many people may find themselves more tired than ever in lockdown – particularly parents who are now tasked with homeschooling – while experimentation with different forms of contraception may be having an impact too.
She said: “A not insignificant proportion of women are choosing to come off hormonal contraception during lockdown, to avoid the hassle or cost of having to source supplies; and because this time at home gives them a proper chance to explore how their body and moods might change without the influence of artificial hormones.
“Some will find their libidos will perk up as a result; but for others, they may deflate.”
Indeed, there are many quarantined-induced changes that may have caused your love life to suffer a blow, but it could just be that you are understandably getting pretty sick of each other after two months of intense company.
Alix said: “Some couples don’t want to have it off with each other because they’ve had it up to here with each other! Even the most usually harmonious of pairings are likely to get under each other’s feet and on each other’s nerves when they’re trapped together for weeks without the usual breaks and ways to let off steam.
“For many lovers, quarantining might be the first proper chunk of uninterrupted time together they’ve had in ages, and while some will relish this and become more closely bonded, others are going to be sadly realising they have fallen out of love, or aren’t a great match.
“If a couple don’t normally co-habit and are used to only seeing each other only a few times a week – when sex would likely be on the cards because it’s ‘date night’ – but are now sheltering together 24/7, they might learn that their sex drives simply aren’t as perfectly matched as they thought.”
But just ’cause your sex life appears to be dying, doesn’t mean it can’t be revived, and Alix has shared a few handy tips.
She said: “Sex can be a fabulous form of escapism – and we all need a bit of that right now. If you’re both sick of being cooped up in the same place, cheeky role play gives you an opportunity to pretend you’re somewhere else, and maybe even with someone else! You don’t need to be an amazing actor or have a wild imagination.
“Start off by picking a familiar scenario where one person is naturally in charge: you could be an adoring servant tending to the every need of a king or queen, or a photographer directing a model in a naughty photo shoot. Want to see your all-too-familiar home with fresh eyes? One of you is the estate agent, trying to sell the house to a frisky customer who wants the erotic potential of every room and piece of furniture to be pointed out to them.”
She continued: “Finally, remember that sex doesn’t have to mean penetration, and intimacy doesn’t have to involve genitals. Exchanging massages can be an incredibly enjoyable and closeness-enhancing experience, and there are easy ways to make things either more relaxing or intense.
“Flickering scented candles or fitting a different coloured bulb to your bedside lamp can instantly create an atmosphere. Play a recording of rain, the ocean, or a crackling fire: you can mix your own custom blend of chill-out sounds on Noisli.com.
“Alternatively, if you want to make things more X-rated, pop on the soundtrack from an erotically charged film or TV series, or download some audio erotica from apps like Shades and Dipsea, or the excellent Girl On The Net site.”
Last of all folks, go easy on your partner if you catch them having a w**k, yeah? It’s a stressful time.
Alix said: “If you discover that your partner is masturbating even though they’ve told you they don’t want to have sex, try not to take it as a snub or get offended. Partnered sex and solo sex can serve very different roles, and for lots of people, masturbating can be a quick way of helping themselves to unwind and feel better when their mood is low.
“A global survey of over 10,000 people carried out by TENGA revealed that 64% of Brits stated that they used masturbation as a form of self-care, and 52% said it improved their sense of wellbeing, by performing helpful roles such as assisting with insomnia. British respondents ranked masturbating as just below sleeping but above listening to chill-out music or taking a bubble bath as most effective in relieving stress.
“Rather heartbreakingly, 27% of women and 21% men said that masturbating was actually better at relieving anxiety for them than partnered sex, because they didn’t feel the need to perform or live up to anyone’s expectations.”
So let’s all be a little less demanding of our other halves during this difficult time and, if needs must, don’t be ashamed to go and have some ‘you time’.