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Is Lockdown Libido A Real Thing? We Asked The Experts

They say lockdown has messed with our psyches. Around the world, stranger-than-fiction dreams are being reported in their hundreds, as well as hard-to-shake anxieties clouding our judgement.

Affected most prominently, perhaps, has been society's collective libido – something that is often quashed by fear, worry or change of routine. 

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Western society in late February, many people reported experiencing extreme, untenable arousal, and some people even predicted a quarantine-fueled baby boom.

Yet some of us find that the freer, calmer nature we associated with pre-COVID-19 life was instrumental in allowing us to engage with our sexier selves. 

Pair that with the overwhelming loneliness experienced by most, it appears that lockdown lust affected most in different ways. 

Social psychologist and author of Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire Justin Lehmiller told Vox in April that “a higher percentage of people now [say] they’re masturbating and having more sex. But you also have a higher percentage of people saying they’re not engaging in any sexual behaviour at all.”

While a recent Irish poll made in conjunction with dating app Bumble found that intimacy proves to be of great importance for most. The results found that:

  • Coming out of lockdown, more than half (55%) of people using Bumble are seeking more meaningful relationships after experiencing loneliness during lockdown
  • COVID-19 has changed our understanding of intimacy with 37% stating that digital intimacy is important in a relationship, both during lockdown and as measures are lifted
  • 46% said they are comfortable being digitally intimate 
  • 39% miss kissing the most
  • 2 in 10 say they will want to be intimate more quickly 
  • 45% feel anxious about how to be physically intimate in real life as a result of COVID-19
  • With a quarter of people (24%) agreeing that intimacy does not have to be limited to being physically intimate, there is a move towards an increased level of digital intimacy amongst Gen Z and Millenials 

“Lockdown has had a lasting impact on the way we are navigating the new world of dating," Naomi Walkland, Head of UK and Ireland at Bumble said.

"Where previously people would go on dates pretty quickly after matching, we are now taking the time to talk and explore the connection before even meeting. This kind of ‘slow dating’ is bringing forward conversations that may have happened two or three dates in as people are working to figure out what they’re comfortable with, both in real life and virtually.” 

Through social distancing, physical contact (as we know) was totally eradicated. As was sexual activity, unless we already lived with that person. 

Our social etiquette and norms have also changed, meaning that the way our sex drives respond have also changed. Now, instead of random hookups and meeting at bars, nude photos and FaceTime sex have become the norm. 

But, is that always a bad thing?

"These trends in dating post lockdown and digital intimacy show an interesting opportunity for conversations on boundaries," DCU lecturer and sexuality studies expert Dr Caroline West tells Irish Tatler

"If our dates don't respect our boundaries around social distancing, this is a good sign that they might be disrespectful of future boundaries. A lot of the respondents reported feeling anxious when dating post lockdown. This is understandable, and it is normal to feel anxiety in general during a pandemic, and especially when meeting new people who may or may not have stuck to the guidelines. 

"A lot of us have been on our own or around very few other humans for months," she continues.

"Social interactions can be exhausting at the best of times, and if we haven't been very social lately, this can provoke anxiety. Arrange short dates so that it's not overwhelming, and do something that's low stress, such as a coffee in a midway location. There's no substitute for real-life chemistry, but a  video call can help you filter out those who are definite nos and those who are worth a shot at a real-life meet up when you are more comfortable with it. 

"As we now live in an increasingly digital saturated culture, it is no surprise that intimacy is now also mediated through technology. This can take many forms, however, it doesn't have to be overtly sexual, as it can mean maintaining relationships through sending ideas of date nights or sending memes to friends who live far away."

The silver lining when it comes to the deprivation of physical intimacy is that the opportunity to reassess what form of intimacy we desire has presented itself to us, albeit crudely. 

And for those of you worried about the lingering absence of your libido, the experts say to fear not. Stress “can really shut down somebody’s libido,” says Lyndsey Harper, an OB-GYN and the founder and CEO of Rosy, an app for women with decreased sexual desire.

“Your libido may be the first thing to go when you’re dealing with a pandemic, but it will likely also be one of the first things to return post-pandemic,” she says.

Main image by @jeannedamas

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