WHEN we asked you to spill your juiciest secrets for Fabulous’ annual sex survey, it came as no surprise that the pandemic has had a huge impact.
Social-distancing rules, homeschooling struggles and fears about the virus have meant that the majority of Brits are having less sex than ever before.
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Though a few of you have been spicing up your sex lives in lockdown or breaking the rules for illicit romps, a bigger picture emerged from our survey, which we carried out in conjunction with Ann Summers. It seems we are in the middle of a sex recession.
“It’s no surprise that many people are reporting having less sex,” says Dr Jacqui Gabb, chief relationships officer for the Paired couples app and professor of intimacy at the Open University.
“For couples who live together, the daily rhythms of our lives have collapsed and it’s very hard to carve out quality time for intimacy.
“We know that during lockdown women are taking on more of the burden of childcare and housework, which is hardly an aphrodisiac.
“Single people who might normally be having casual relationships are also feeling the strain from the lack of physical contact.”
Almost 500 of you answered our questions, and the results are stark: 40% are having less sex since the start of the pandemic, and 11% have been celibate for the past year.
While fewer of us are having sex – whether in a relationship or not – more than 45% of women have masturbated more since the start of the pandemic.
On the theme of sex toys, just over half of women in couples say they have tried new things in the bedroom, too, with sex toys coming out highest on the list.
Of those in a relationship, 26% say they have considered cheating in the past year.
With Covid restrictions in place, it’s been especially tough on single women.
Many are still keen to try to meet a partner, with 41% of singles having broken Covid restrictions to have sex in the last year, while 28% have been on one date a month and 6% have been on one a week.
But 51% of single people haven’t been on a date at all in the last year, while 4% are now looking into egg freezing and adoption to start a family in the future after losing time to the pandemic.
After crunching the stats from our survey, we spoke to five women to hear how the past 12 months has impacted their love lives.
‘Homeschooling and stress have killed my libido’
Kate Davidson, 41, is an author of parenting books and lives in Florence, Italy, with husband Anthony, 55, a teacher, and their nine year-old daughter.
“Pre-pandemic, my husband Anthony and I had what I consider a healthy love life, having sex once or twice a week. After 16 years together, I still find him very attractive and we enjoyed being intimate. We’d even previously experimented with tantric sex classes.
"But then coronavirus hit. In 2019, we’d moved to Florence with our daughter for Anthony’s job as a teacher, and when the virus started to spread, I was terrified, especially as it initially hit Italy so badly. Thankfully, Florence wasn’t affected as much as northern Italy, but it was still an incredibly difficult time.
"I work as a freelance writer and Anthony still has to teach his classes over Zoom, so I’ve found myself taking on a lot more of the childcare and homeschooling responsibilities, which has left me stressed and frazzled. Before, Anthony and I would make time for intimacy when our daughter was on sleepovers, or by planning date nights, but there’s been very little of that in the last year – meaning that there has also been less chance for sex.
"Much of the time, I’m in comfy clothes, and that doesn’t exactly make me feel sexy. If I’m honest, though, the main reason we’re having less sex is that the pandemic has killed my libido. The state of the world is always on my mind and it’s made me feel anxious and exhausted.
"I’ve been so worried about ageing family members in the UK, and that stress has definitely affected my sexual desire. Plus, I think it’s healthy to spend time doing things without your partner – you need to go out in the world separately, then reconnect to feel that spark again. When we’re home together all the time, sex is far from my mind. We now make love about once a month.
"Anthony would never pressure me, but I know that he would be up for doing it more. We’ve chatted about it, but he’s so easy-going and supportive. I do miss the intimacy and connection that comes from having more frequent sex, but I just don’t feel like doing it. I’ve started to meditate every morning and that’s been making me feel less anxious."
I hope that, with time, we’ll get back to where we were pre-pandemic
'We had sex 10 times a week during lockdown’
Sophie Corble, 30, is a retail manager and lives in Hertfordshire with husband Ian, 32, a warehouse worker.
“When other people were bulk-buying toilet roll and pasta at the start of the first lockdown, I stocked up on sex toys. Faced with the possibility of being holed up at home, I knew I wanted to make the most of the time with my husband Ian, who I’ve been married to for four years.
"We’ve always had a decent sex life, doing it three times a week pre-pandemic. But it wasn’t always easy to make the time to have as much sex as we want. We both worked long hours and our schedules often clashed, plus I spent more than 20 hours a week commuting to London.
"The day before the shops closed and I was furloughed, I spent hundreds of pounds on new sex toys and kinky outfits, plus lube and other essentials. Ian carried on working during lockdown, but we still managed to squeeze in 10 sex sessions a week – often having sex twice a day. We both loved trying out all the new toys and outfits, and also experimented with new positions.
"I hated being furloughed and it definitely affected my mental health. Something about all the fear and horror of the world made me crave the intimacy of sex, and the endorphins from it have kept us both going over the last 11 months.
"We haven’t had this much sex since our honeymoon! Because we can’t leave the house much, we’ve experimented with doing it in new places – most memorably, the dining-room table.
Once we’d tried all the toys, we tried items from the house too, including a spatula for spanking!
"Even now, we’re still just as horny. I know I could have easily gone the other way and clammed up, not wanting any intimacy at all. But I’m so glad we used this time to focus on each other, rather than just on endless scrolling and Netflix.”
‘I’ve no regrets about breaking lockdown for the best sex of my life’
Lauren, 36, is an HR consultant and lives in Surrey.
“Before Covid, my love life wasn’t particularly exciting. I’ve been single for a few years and find dating pretty torturous, so mostly I didn’t bother. In February last year, I started seeing a guy called Jack who I met through a mutual friend. We slept together a couple of times, before calling it off in March because something just didn’t feel right.
"When the first lockdown hit, we kept in touch. As two single people living on our own, we were both lonely. I followed the rules exactly for the first five weeks. Then Jack and I met up for a chaste walk around the park in May, which at this point, still wasn’t allowed.
"As soon as I got home I realised how horny I was. I sent him a message asking if he wanted to come over for sex, and he said yes right away. I’ve never been confident enough to do a booty call before, but the weeks of isolation made me brazen.
"Worrying that a neighbour might spot him and report me made it even hotter. The sex was incredible. I felt empowered to ask for whatever I wanted and human contact felt amazing after so long alone. He ended up staying for a few days and we had so much outrageous sex.
Intimacy is always better when it feels naughty, and there was something about breaking the rules that blew us both away
"For the next few weeks, he’d come to stay for a few days at a time, and we’d do it four times a day. There was a feeling that Rome was burning, so we may as well let loose. It was definitely the best sex of my life, and I even had amazing ejaculating orgasms, which I’ve never had before. Both Jack and I were leading very solitary lives, so I didn’t worry too much about catching Covid from him – plus, I wasn’t even seeing my parents at that point.
"When things opened up again, our liaisons fizzled out. But when we went back into lockdown in November, it bubbled up again and were back to the same intensity. Spending that second lockdown together, we realised that we have feelings for each other and are now in a relationship. Most single people I know have broken the rules at some point. I’ve been strict about lockdown in every other way, so I don’t feel too guilty.”
Turn up the heat with these top tips for couples & singles
“If you’re in a relationship, introducing toys to the bedroom is a great way to change up your sexual routine,” says Lizzie Fields, a senior buyer for Ann Summers.
“If this is new to you, try something simple like a bullet, a vibrating c**k ring or an orgasm-enhancing gel. For couples being kept apart by the pandemic, there are plenty of toys on the market that can control your partner’s pleasure over an app – even miles apart.”
“If your relationship is strong, you’re more likely to have a rewarding sex life,” says Jacqui Gabb.
“Doing even 10 minutes a day of relationship maintenance and opening up can definitely keep your relationship alive. The Paired couples app (£9.99 for one month) is great because it encourages you to talk openly about any issues throughout the week, and there are also audio courses for boosting sex and intimacy.”
“A lot of single women have been getting through batteries quickly in lockdown,” says Jacqui. “Treat yourself to a new toy, rather than using the same one you’ve had for years.”
Sex toys have moved on and don’t just vibrate any more – these days, you can buy ones that mimic the feelings of oral sex. The Ann Summers Whisper range is great if you need to keep the noise to a minimum, too.
‘Covid means I’ve been celibate for a year’
Kate Dark, 30, is a music channel planning coordinator and lives with her parents in Essex.
“Since my teens, I’ve suffered from ulcerative colitis, a chronic bowel disease that means I have to take immunosuppressant medication. Most of the time, my condition doesn’t impact my life much – but then Covid came along.
"I’ll never forget when I got a text from the government last March, telling me to shield for 12 weeks. I’d already left my shared flat in London to live with my parents, as rumours of an imminent lockdown had been circulating. Eleven months later, I’m still there.
"Ironically, 2020 was supposed to be my comeback year. I’d gone through a tough break-up in 2019 and steered clear of dating for nine months. By January 2020, I was determined to get back out there. But I’d only managed to go on one date with a guy I met on a night out, before the pandemic started. That was the last time I had sex.
I’ve been living this life of enforced celibacy for over a year now
I haven’t bothered with dating apps while at my parents, because I don’t want to match with people I went to school with. Even when things eased in the summer, I didn’t go on any dates as I didn’t want to end up in ICU. Plus, I was scared of passing it on to my 60-year-old parents.
"I’m moving back to London later this month, but I won’t be hooking up with anyone, until I have the vaccine – though I still have no idea when that will be.
"The other day I watched Pride And Prejudice and a character says: ‘I’ve no money and no prospects. I’m already a burden to my parents.’ I just thought, that’s me!”
‘I froze my eggs to buy myself time’
Ondine Cowley, 36, is a celebrity hairstylist and lives in London.
“From 2014 to 2017, I spent three years being messed around by a man who kept saying that he wanted children. When he suddenly told me he didn’t want them after all, the relationship broke down, and it took me over two years to get back on my feet.
"Just before the first lockdown, I started dating Andrew, who I met through friends. But after eight months, I realised he wasn’t The One and ended it in September. On one hand, I wasn’t worried – I’m independent and happy in myself. But I’ve also always known I want a family and, like many single women in their 30s, I’d thought about freezing my eggs.
"The pandemic has been hard for women my age because it feels like we’re wasting valuable time. I’ve never been one for online dating, preferring to meet men in real life – but that’s harder now that we are all stuck inside most of the time. So after I broke up with Andrew, I thought: ‘If I don’t do it now I’m never going to do it. Now’s the time.’
"After some research, I choose The Fertility Partnership on Harley Street. The process cost around £5,000, but I had some savings.
"I was nervous about injecting myself with hormones every night, but it was fairly straightforward, until the last few days when my stomach was swollen and I felt emotional.
"I was open with my family and friends, and everyone was supportive. The egg extraction took place under general anaesthetic, and I felt rough for a few days afterwards. But the clinic was great and I was pleased when they extracted 11 eggs. Some people have more rounds, but I feel one was enough.
"Freezing my eggs has made me feel empowered. If I do use them, there is a 25% chance of a pregnancy, so nothing is certain, but it’s given me some breathing space, and it means I have more chance of having a baby in my 40s. I’d love to meet someone and have a baby the traditional way, but I’m glad to have the eggs as my insurance policy.”
- The Fertility Partnership is one of the UK’s largest IVF providers with nine clinics and more than 200 fertility specialists across the UK – visit Thefertilitypartnership.com.
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