The pandemic has significantly altered our lives in the past year, and our sex lives are no exception. Whether dating via Zoom to avoid the risk of COVID exposure or feeling cooped up with a partner (and maybe kids) during quarantine, both single and partnered people are reportedly having less sex during the pandemic. Our Founder and Clinical Director Matt Lundquist was recently featured in The Cut’s article “This Sexless Year” in order to reflect on how the pandemic has changed sex, dating, and relationships (at least for now).
Focusing on single people and couples independently by speaking to both individuals on their personal experiences and relationship therapists like Matt, writer Katie Heaney shows how, for some, “an inactive sex life or a low libido has been a source of considerable stress–and a crisis of confidence in one’s sexual future.” Matt reiterates that “for most people, being without sex is a loss.” However, he also observes that some single people have used this period of sexual inactivity to “reevaluate how they organize their sex life and dating life.”
This doesn’t mean single people have sworn off sex entirely in quarantine. Matt explains that many people are reaching out (or being contacted by) exes and are rekindling these sexual and/or romantic relationships. “I think [hooking up with an ex] felt safer for some in the context of COVID but also the world being scary at large. Emotionally, it felt safer,” Matt says.
For couples, more time spent together in quarantine didn’t always mean more sexual intimacy. In some ways, it hindered it, leading to, as Matt describes, “a vanilla quality.” He explains, “Part of what brings a vibrancy to sex is difference and randomness and chaos…Part of what couples build on energetically, which they then bring to their relationship in lots of ways, is the vibrancy of the world.” Relationships exist in the world and they trade on space, separation, and distance to be invigorated. Lots of relationships go stale and become dull because people’s lives become dull. In non-pandemic times, this happens in the form of partners trying to get all their needs met from one another exclusively and divesting from the world. Right now, there is less of a choice since the very nature of quarantine is to limit contact with others.
Ultimately, Matt emphasizes that we shouldn’t relate to having less or no sex as a failure. Sex is a site for so much self-doubt (having it too much, not having it enough, doing it the wrong way). Boring sex or a lack of sex is bad enough without beating oneself or one’s partner up about it. Especially during the pandemic, Matt suggests, “I think it’s important for people to keep in mind we’re not meant to live like this.” Though in March 2021, our capacity to adapt should be celebrated, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that our isolation during the pandemic is still an unhealthy way to live. Adaptation is great, but adapting to unhealthy circumstances is a mixed bag.