The pubs are shut. The restaurants are closed. There’s no daily commute, more spare time and you’re with your partner 24/7.
Not much else to do, so great news for our sex lives, right? Not necessarily.
For some, lockdown is a glorious excuse to hide from the world, have longed-for extra time with their partner and lots of adventurous, exploratory sex.
Others feel claustrophobic and bored, too worried about catching the virus to cuddle up and stressed and anxious about their health, money and what’s in store.
Stress can ramp up desire in some people – particularly men, who often use sex as a coping mechanism. But for most, it’s a desire flattener.
Stress can ramp up desire in some people – particularly men, who often use sex as a coping mechanism. But for most, it’s a desire flattener (stock image)
Even if you’re not freaking out over dire news headlines, too much time together isn’t good for relationships – and it’s even more detrimental for your sex life.
If you had to step over a pile of diamonds every time you left the house, their appeal would very quickly fade.
Same with sex when it’s on tap, 24/7.
If you’re not in the mood, you’re not alone.
In a US NBC News poll of 9000 people, 47 per cent said the coronavirus outbreak had negatively affected their sex lives.
Sex therapists in the UK echo a decline rather than rise in desire.
‘People are struggling to be sexual with non-stop parenting, domestic duties that also seem never-ending, living in each other’s pockets, no privacy and no “me time”,’ one London-based therapist told me.
Therapists say that couple are struggling to manage all the duties of working from home, parenting and housekeeping during the lockdown, which has a direct effect on their sex drive (pictured: Tracey Cox)
So, should we all park it and resume sexual relations when this is all over?
Having sex releases dopamine, which makes us feel happier.
Testosterone levels rise after sex, giving us energy – and making us feel like having sex again soon. Sex makes us feel calmer, more connected to our partner – and it boosts our immune systems.
Here’s how to turn the tables from ‘Again? Really?’ to ‘Sure! Why the hell not?’.
Make sure the chores are split evenly
A female default while working from home is to do things around the house in any spare time.
‘It’s not my husband’s though,’ one woman complained to me.
‘I’m doing all the housework while he’s sitting around watching television. Then when I sit down to relax, he wants sex.’
Make a list of everything that needs doing around the house and to keep things functioning and split it fairly.
Many studies have shown the more housework the man does, the more often the couple have sex.
Recreate the boundaries that work used to
Even under normal circumstances, the closest couples are the ones who struggle to keep sex passionate.
Love likes routine, intimacy and security. Lust needs mystery, danger, excitement.
It’s hard enough to keep interest piqued when you’re out and about in the world, separately, five days a week.
Being together constantly at home, doing everything together, kills lust completely.
If you’re both working from home, work from different rooms or areas of the house. If your apartment is small, put on headphones to transport yourself to a different place than your partner.
Give each other as much space as possible. Head out for a walk solo now and then. Indulge in some solitary activities like reading.
When you are together, do something (like play a game) rather than sit side by side watching telly, bored stupid.
Make a playlist of songs that get you in the mood – or simply put you in a good mood
Songs that strongly connect us to our teenage years often work well. They remind us of when sex was forbidden and hormones were running wild.
Turn yourself on rather than expect your partner to do it
If you’re feeling apathetic about sex, fall back on known erotic triggers.
That might be reading a sexy book. It might be fantasising. Or watching erotica or porn.
Men’s Health magazine saw a 17.8 per cent increase in US site traffic to PornHub on March 24, compared to an average day.
If you don’t fancy sex with your partner but quite like the idea of watching porn and having sex solo, go right ahead: masturbating is a great way to remind yourself of how good sex can feel. And it releases stress.
If porn isn’t your thing, try some audio porn. (It’s very much a thing: google and you’ll find loads of websites where you can listen to people telling sexy stories.)
DIY your own porn
When else are you going to have this much time to spend on creating your very own sex video?
You’ll find details on exactly how to do it here.
Order some sex toys
Sales of sex toys are up about 13 per cent in the UK and even higher in the US, Italy (where the virus has hit hardest) and Europe.
Our buying habits have changed as well. UK retailer, Lovehoney, reported a spike in sales of quiet sex toys and couple products.
From making your own DIY sex tape to making a sex bucket list, Tracey offers 18 tips to spice things up during lockdown (pictured: feet of couple under the covers, stock picture)
It’s not just people isolating solo who are ordering up big, sex toys are a low-cost, zero-effort way to add novelty to a stale sex life.
Go online together and browse through the categories to find a few toys you’ve never tried before.
Remote control sex toys are hugely popular with couples; toys connected by Bluetooth and an app allow one of you to remotely control a toy from anywhere in the world.
Perfect if you’re forced to live apart during the lockdown.
On that topic…
Try Zoom sex
It’s a brilliant video tool and not just for couples who are apart. Go into different parts of the house and zoom a mutual masturbation session. It’s a brilliant way to show each other exactly what technique works best to bring you to orgasm.
Tune into a sex workshop.
There are lots of online courses, Ted Talks and podcasts about sex. (You’ll find podcasts of my radio show about sex on Jackradio.com.)
If you’d rather read than listen, order some erotic novels or instructive sex manuals online. (Shameless second plug: My new book ‘Great Sex Starts at 50’ is out now, too!)
Don’t just christen each room in the house, do it on every piece of furniture.
The kitchen bench. The dining room table. The washing machine. The stairs. Do it up against a wall, in the garden (under the cover of night), in front of a mirror, in the shower.
We’re all constantly wiping down surfaces, might as well make it for a good reason.
Try one new thing a day or a week
Google ‘sex positions’ and choose a few to add to your favourites. Try some role-play or a tie-up game. Dress up. Leave sexy notes. Play strip poker. Blindfold each other.
Try sensory play: playing with contrasting sensations like hot/cold, smooth/rough. (Think ice cubes and candle wax or a warm tongue, the back of the hairbrush and the bristly part, run over each other’s thighs.)
Have sex at different times of the day
You might discover those supposedly incompatible sex drives are in fact simply down to one of you being a night person and the other a morning person.
When else can you regularly have sex in the afternoon?
If the kids are at home, schedule adult time when they’ve gone to bed.
Now’s also the time to teach them that mummy and daddy need private time. Put a lock on your door.
Is it safe to continue having sex?
The jury is out on whether the virus is sexually transmissible.
It is spread by kissing but the general consensus is that if you live with your partner, neither of you are presenting with symptoms or have knowingly been exposed to COVID-19, it’s absolutely fine to continue having sex.
Even if you’re single, it is possible to enjoy sex without physically touching or being in the same room as someone.
Tinder has seen a 12 per cent increase in daily conversations in the UK – and they’re lasting eight per cent longer compared to February.
In person, one-night hook-ups might be pretty much illegal but ‘virtual arousal’ is very much possible.
‘Zoom’ sex, sexting, phone sex, watching or listening to erotica or porn simultaneously, mutual masturbation: all are virus free, lockdown compatible ways to enjoy sex.
Solo sex is another great way to satisfy yourself during lockdown: just wash your sex toys thoroughly with soapy water afterward.
If you don’t think you can get away with full sex, have some foreplay. Make a game of tricking the kids so you can grab bite-size bits of hotness. Have a shower together. Do the laundry. Both give you just enough time for one to give the other oral sex.
Make an effort with your appearance
Both plonked on the sofa, eating too much, drinking too much and generally turning into full-blown slobs?
Sure, not being able to visit your hairdresser, gym or nail salon isn’t helping.
But what’s to stop you doing a home workout together? Or putting on something other than track pants and an old T-shirt now and then?
Go for low effort sex
Sex doesn’t have to follow the usual formula of foreplay, intercourse and a (hopeful) orgasm for each of you.
If you’re not in the mood, you might be up for giving your partner hand or mouth stimulation. Or watching as they DIY.
Stay sensual even if you’re not interested in being sexual.
If you’re too tired or stressed to have sex, give each other massages. Have a bath together. Sleep naked.
Make a sex bucket list of things you want to try when lockdown is over (or during it).
While you’re at it, make a list of the top five things you like about sex with your partner and five things you’d like to change.
If the pressure to have sex is making it even less appealing, take it off the table.
Be honest. If you’re too worried or stressed to feel aroused, let your partner know. Tell them you’d like to have a break from sex temporarily.
Being honest is far better than avoiding affection for fear of what it might lead to.
Confront problems head on.
If your sex life has completely died because of the lockdown, chances are it wasn’t in great shape to start with.
Lockdown is forcing lots of couples to confront the elephant(s) in the room: nothing like being locked inside for weeks on end to bring old tensions and resentment to the fore.
If this happens, use it as an opportunity to fix those festering problems.
Be brave enough to say, ‘In the old days, we would have spent the whole lockdown having sex. I miss the sex we used to have. Can we talk about how to get back to that?’
If having too much time together is making you realise you don’t actually like, let alone love your partner, do something about it.
Have a tension-clearing chat, make an appointment with a counsellor for when the lockdown is over or agree to separate or try time apart.
Be adult and kind about it though: lockdown is hard enough without each of you spitting out obscenities every time you make a cup of tea.
Tracey’s new book ‘Great Sex Starts at 50’ is available from good bookstores and online in paperback and e-book formats.