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UK lockdown: it’s OK if you and your partner aren’t having sex right now

Can we all please stop and talk about the fact we’re not having as much lockdown sex as we thought we would?

When the coronavirus lockdown was first announced back in March, many people – including health minister Nadine Dorries – began waggling their eyebrows meaningfully and dropping extravagant hints about a possible ‘baby boom’ in nine months’ time. The implication being, of course, that anyone stuck indoors with their partners would be using all of that extra downtime to have sex.

As it turns out, though, a deadly pandemic isn’t as much of a turn-on for – to quote Bridget Jones – the ‘Smug Married’ couples of the world as everyone first assumed. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“Our sex life feels dry,” says Eva*. “We love each other and still have fun. But when we see each other every day it kind of makes things less enticing.”

Molly, reflecting on her own situation, adds: “I’m living in tracksuit bottoms, feeling sluggish and can barely keep my eyes open past 10pm. Quite literally the last thing on my mind right now is sex. It’s all about food and TV. Sorry, boyfriend!”

And Claire, who moved back into her family home with her partner at the start of the Covid-19 quarantine, says: “If we were living on our own and had more time together, it might lead to more sex, but the reality is that the only time we’re truly alone together is when we go to bed at night.”

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Keen to find out what this lockdown drought means, we reached out to Heart FM presenter and co-author of Where’s My Happy Ending? Anna Whitehouse.

Here’s what she had to say…

Why has sex taken a backseat for so many of us right now?

Anxiously scrolling the news while arguing over dishwasher stacking isn’t exactly the most sensual foreplay. So if your grey matter has just been in the pandemic scroll hole, you’re unlikely to be up for doing it. And that is human; that is OK.

If your grey matter has just been in the pandemic scroll hole, you're unlikely to be up for doing it.

Should we be worried if we’re not having sex in lockdown?

The more pressure you put on doing it, the less you want to do it. You never want sex to be on a list of ‘things to do’ beneath ‘buy oven degreaser’.

Should we be talking more about the fact we’re not having sex in lockdown?

If I see someone talking about the post-lockdown baby boom anymore, I’m going to throw my contraceptives out of the pram. This is an intense time.

We are navigating a global crisis in a domestic setting. Your mind will flit between death tolls and food slots within a five minute period. It’s OK to not get your end away in that context.

Talking about the weight of anxiety you may be feeling is a simple way to connect in the absence of bump and grind. Or failing that, a hug. You can still be physical without getting under the sheets.

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Couples may feel closer than ever, despite the lack of sex. Why is this?

My husband and I are good in a crisis. We’ve navigated miscarriage, redundancy, and postnatal depression like Olympians. It’s the greyness we’ve struggled with – the banal discourse around tax returns and school pickups that peppers your every day. Right now there’s something bigger happening and the insignificant quibbles are falling to the wayside.

That said, I still want to flick him really hard on the forehead when he leaves his beard trimmings in the sink.

What does this mean for our relationships going forward?

Whether you’re having sex or not, this is a make-or-break time for many. There has been a renewed sense of what’s important. The common denominator at the moment is support – for each other and our communities. And if we aren’t getting that from our partner in the context of a pandemic, then it’s unlikely to happen outside of lockdown.

We’re seeing each other’s true colours and that can only be a good thing. Divorce is OK, breaking up is OK, being alone is OK – what is not OK is being somewhere you aren’t loved, listened to, and respected. That is not OK.

Couple watching Netflix on laptop
Talking about the weight of anxiety you may be feeling is a simple way to connect in the absence of bump and grind

How else can we boost intimacy?

The sale of sex toys has gone through the roof in the last 40 days. Once you’ve watched the whole internet together, there’s plenty of time to work out how, well, each other works. Boredom can be fun.

* All names have been changed.

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