As having sex at home with someone you don’t live with becomes illegal in England, we asked three women how they’re feeling about it all.
“Sex at home with someone you don’t live with is now illegal.”
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this headline as something straight out of the pages of a cheesy dystopian-turned-romance novel – the ones where forbidden love prevails and government corruption is overturned in one fell swoop.
However, this isn’t the case. As lockdown restrictions eased yesterday and our ability to socialise with six people from outside our household came into place, the government introduced a slightly absurd law – it is now illegal to have sex at home with someone outside your household.
Under a new amendment to The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 Bill (set up to introduce restrictions to curb the spread of the pandemic), it is now illegal to “participate in a gathering which takes place in a public or private place indoors, and consists of two or more persons”. Essentially, this means that both the person whose house is being used, and the person who enters that house, could be prosecuted.
While it’s long been understood that people from different households, including couples, shouldn’t meet up and enter each other’s homes, previously, there were no legal restrictions on what people could and couldn’t do.
It’s important to note that although sex at home with someone you don’t live with is now officially “illegal,” we haven’t had any update on how a person might be prosecuted, and what repercussions (such as a fine) you might face for breaking the rules.
It’s hardly surprising that people up and down the country have found this recent coronavirus update a little bit surprising. The hashtag #sexban has been trending on social media all morning, with those in relationships and single people alike sharing their disbelief at this obscure legislation.
But what impact will this have on the lives of women up and down the country? We asked three women to share how they’re feeling about the latest update.
Hollie Richardson, 31, is single. She’s been enjoying virtual dating in lockdown, but worries about the restrictions the new law might place on any potential relationships.
“The ‘sex with someone outside of your household is now illegal’ headlines shook me yesterday. I already knew that we’re not allowed to go into other people’s houses but seeing what this really means in black and white really hit me.
“And like any other single girl who’s watched Normal People in lockdown, I’m horny and becoming very frustrated. I’m single and living alone: when the hell am I going to have sex again?
“I know why we’re doing this – to stop the spread of the virus – and I’ve so far followed the rules. But I won’t lie, I have fantasised about breaking this specific one. Would I actually do it if it came to it? Hmm, I’m not sure, because the guilt would kick in afterwards. Perhaps I’ll just watch Normal People again instead.”
Rachel Surrey*, 30, has been with her partner for six months. The pair have been living apart during lockdown, and were hoping restrictions would be lifted soon.
“When I first saw the news, I thought it was just a dramatic headline for clicks, but when I realised it was actually a law in the UK, I felt a bit sick.
“I haven’t been closer than two metres to my partner, who I’ve seen all of four times, in the last 11 weeks, and had hoped with restrictions easing up in England we’d at least be able to have a cuddle at some point soon.
“I want to know how long it will last, and how it will be enforced. The wider implications worry me too – it feels like such a huge infringement on our rights as people.
“I understand the government want to keep the spread of the virus in check, but I don’t think they’ve considered the practicalities of this – if lots of couples now start moving house to be together, is that going to make things better or worse for the spread of coronavirus?!”
Alicia Gray*, 24, has been in a relationship with her boyfriend for two and a half years. The couple have been living in separate households during lockdown.
“When I first heard the news about the new law, I felt really sad. It felt like there was originally a light at the end of the tunnel for couples as the rules started to ease, but now all hope of having an intimate relationship seems to have been stripped away again. I’m also angry as it’s not sustainable or fair to ask this of people. I also feel that if the government wanted to come up with a solution for couples like us, they could do so safely.
“I feel a lot of couples who don’t live together are generally young people who cannot afford to move out, and it feels like young people are once again being forgotten and penalised for something that’s not their fault. The situation is also having a really negative effect on my mental health, to the point where I’m considering having therapy to deal with this situation.
“For now my boyfriend and I will stick to the rules. I’m hoping the rule will change in the next month or so. If this goes on for months and months I can’t say that I would stick to the rules anymore, especially when I strongly disagree with them.
“I don’t think my boyfriend and I are quite on the same page about the rules – from my experience my friends are reporting the same too. My boyfriend feels more strongly that we need to stick to the rules no matter what. I’m more open to breaking them if the government doesn’t do something about this soon.
“This ban will have a negative impact on our relationship for sure. I’m extremely anxious and worried about when we can stay over at each other’s houses again (we’re in a long distance relationship) and this is feeding into my mood and causing me to snap at my partner more than usual. We’re regularly told how important intimacy is for a relationship, so now it’s not possible it is really difficult.”
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*names have been changed