Here is an article that I wrote for I-D Magazine
What effect do you think quarantine is having on our attitudes to sex and relationships?
Quarantine is having all sorts of effects on the state of our mind, our bodies and relationships.
Surveys are showing that it is making sex and relationships either better or worse; it is unlikely to stay the same. We cannot change the outside world, but we can control how we respond.
Sexual need has become more polarised. It is either something that we will be doing more frequently, through having more time, more need of closeness or because our prehistoric drive to ensure survival of the race is kicking in. Alternatively, we will be having less because we are withdrawing into ourselves and feeling more disconnected from our partners.
How are those attitudes manifesting themselves in terms of behaviour?
If you are in quarantine with your partner it is a wonderful opportunity to invest more time to improve your relationship by communicating, connecting and having great intimacy and sex.
Thinking happy thoughts will trigger production of the hormone Serotonin, being kind to someone will trigger Dopamine and loving touch and great sex will flood the body with Endorphins and Oxytocin. These will all make you feel good and reduce anxiety. Sex should become better and relationships flourish as we support each other through this difficult place.
You can choose this response, or you can choose to feel worried and trapped. Do you want the glass to be overflowing or empty?
If you choose the latter, this is likely to trigger unhelpful, prehistoric stress responses. We can’t fight or flee the invisible enemy, so we will go into freeze mode. Our adrenal glands will be filling our bodies with the hormones Adrenaline, Norepinephrine and Cortisol. These give us the ability to respond quickly to stress but, when the stress is longer term, will suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and appetite, make us feel depressed and decrease libido.
This will take us to a place where sex will fall off the agenda, resentments grow and cracks in the relationship widen.
Why would quarantine make us “braver” or engage in more risky digital behaviour such as sexting, sending nudes and contacting people we would not necessarily be interested in sexually or romantically IRL?
If we are feeling fear or loneliness, we will want to seek out safety or comfort. Our freedoms to travel and socialise have been significantly reduced so our choices will be fewer. This, together with increasing boredom, will be causing us to lower our barriers and expectations. We will be seeking out some connection as being better than no connection at all. Our minds will be desperate for the short-term dopamine hit that messages and social media notifications will bring that “there is someone out there wanting to connect with me”.
If we are living with our partner and the cracks in our relationship are getting wider, we may feel trapped and unable to deal with the fundamental problems. Reaching out to someone else will give us an escape from the current reality with us less concerned about the longer-term impact.
Because of this risky behaviour and blurring of boundaries will become more prevalent.
How do you think people will act once quarantine is lifted? Do you think our sex lives will return to how they were before, or will behaviours change to account for the “missed time” so to speak?
One possibility is that people will just treat this as being an inconvenient blip and go back to life as normal. Resentments will be carried forward and, freed from the trap of quarantine, many relationships will be worse than before or fall apart.
I really hope that people will have taken the opportunity to reflect and work out how to create a future that is good for them, their partner, their tribe and the planet. We will be able to move forward into the new future with greater relationships and intimacy.
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