If your libido is as nonexistent as your IRL social life, fear not!
“Not being interested in sex during a global crisis is completely normal,” says sociologist and clinical sexologist Sarah Melancon, PhD, with The Sex Toy Collective.
While some folks may be experiencing a case of the lockdown randies right now, she says the majority of folks are likely noticing a libido drop-off.
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These are stressful times we’re living in!
And 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.
Further, pandemic stress isn’t any old type of stress.
“For many people, it’s financial stress, which is a type of survival stress,” Melancon says.
People have sex for reasons other than reproduction — like pleasure! — but survival stress can have a negative effect on your body’s ability or interest in reproducing.
“Survival stress sends the body into a state of fight or flight, so the only thing that matters is survival, not procreating,” Melancon says.
“We become hormonally less interested in [having] a baby or giving birth, and that means a lower libido,” she says.
The Why COVID-19 Has Affected Your Sex Life list is vast and long.
Here are some of the more common reasons your sex drive may have stalled.
You and your partner are spending way more time together
You and your boo went from seeing each other only in the morning before work, after dinner, and on the weekends to… 24/7.
“You lose out on the excitement of seeing each other at the end of the day,” Harper says. “And now there are so many more opportunities to get on each other’s nerves.”
Plus, if you and your partner have children, any child-rearing or housework imbalances may be exacerbated now that you’re both likely to be at home.
It’s pretty unlikely you’re going to want to get down with your partner if you’re feeling resentful or grumpy.
Your eating or lifestyle habits have changed
With gyms, fitness studios, and restaurants closed to enforce physical distancing, chances are your exercise routine, eating habits, or both have changed.
“Any time you alter your eating, exercise, or sleeping habits, it’s going to have an effect on what’s going on inside your body,” Melancon says. “Especially your hormones. And when your hormones change, so can your libido.”
You’re drinking or smoking more
Let the record show: These aren’t ideal coping mechanisms for dealing with the pandemic.
If you’re consuming more alcohol, marijuana, or other substances, Melancon recommends reaching out to a teletherapist or finding an online support group.
And not just because increased alcohol consumption has been
Excessive alcohol and substance use is also
You’re worried about access to reproductive care
Maybe your 3-year IUD expired.
Maybe you’re worried you or your partner wouldn’t have access to an abortion, if you were to get pregnant.
Maybe you’re out of barrier protection and don’t want to risk going to the drugstore to buy more.
Lack of access to safer sex tools and reproductive health services is a very real problem right now. And that, unsurprisingly, can make sex seem wayyy less appealing.
You’re having less sex
Thanks to hormones, the more you have sex, the more you crave sex.
So, it’s a bit of a Catch-22.
If you’re masturbating less due to stress or anxiety, or you and your boo are having less sex (for example, if you aren’t staying at home together), you’ll crave sex less, too.
Libido, libido, you’ve gone away… but are you coming back another day?
According to Harper, you’ve got no reason to worry. Your libido hasn’t disappeared forever.
“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.
If you don’t care that your libido has been on the low side, keep doing what you need to do to get through these wild times.
But if having no libido right now is bothering you, there are things you can do to ramp it back up.
Good news: Sex and intimacy aren’t synonymous.
If you and your boo — or really, whoever you’re isolating with — aren’t having sex, you can still enjoy intimacy! Below are some tips to get started.
Ask each other about your days
Yup, sometimes it’s that easy.
“It can be really easy to forget to check in on someone when you’re spending all your time together,” Melancon says.
“Sometimes just asking your partner how their day was — the same way you would if they had left the house for work and then come back at the end of the day — is just the opening that person needs to share intimate details about how they’re feeling,” she says.
Some lines you might try out:
- “I know we’ve spent all day together, but I just wanted to check in. How are your mind and heart feeling today?”
- “Let’s play ‘rose and bud.’ You can tell me your ‘rose,’ or the best part of your day, and your ‘bud,’ or something you’re excited about watching grow, and then I’ll go.”
- “Hi, baby! How are you feeling today?”
Read a book or watch a documentary together
Ever heard of intellectual intimacy? It involves getting to know how another person’s mind works and sharing the map to your mind, too.
If you and your living mate(s) are up for it, you might agree to watch a documentary and discuss it together one night.
Or, read the same book and host a household book club a week later.
“Consciously setting up these kinds of dates can make sure you’re spending quality time together as opposed to just time together,” Melancon adds.
Be affectionate with each other
Sex is one kind of physical intimacy. It isn’t the only kind.
“Incorporating skin-on-skin contact can help regulate your nervous systems and make you feel safer and calmer,” Melancon says. “Even if it’s not sexual touch.”
These types of touches may include:
- foot massages
- back scratches
- head rubs
- holding hands
And if sexual touch is on the table, you may also incorporate:
- showering or bathing together
- oil massage
Middle of a pandemic or not, mismatched libidos happen!
“The goal is never to have the lower-libido partner match the high-libido partner, or vice versa,” Melancon says. “Rather, the goal is to communicate, compromise, and be compassionate.”
Here’s what that looks like.
Talk about it
According to Melancon, the first step is to (kindly!) let your partner know that you aren’t interested in sex right now.
Some lines you might try:
- “I love having sex with you and think you’re the hottest thing in the world, but coronavirus has gotten the better of my libido right now.”
- “I’m sorry, babe. As much as I wish I were in the mood for sex, I’m just not. Can I let you know when I am in the mood?”
Give your partner ‘permission’ to masturbate
Or better yet, encourage them to get down with themselves.
“It’s not fair to your partner to expect that they’ll turn their needs off just because you aren’t in the mood,” Melancon says.
Besides, lockdown or not, or partnered or not, we should all be maintaining active solo sex lives, she says.
You might say:
- “I’m not in the mood, but how about I finish the dishes so you can enjoy a solo session?”
- “I don’t want to join you this time, but please don’t let that stop you from getting off! How about you go masturbate and I can come join you for a cuddle session after?”
Lean into responsive desire
There are two types of desire: spontaneous and responsive.
Spontaneous desire is exactly as it sounds: spontaneous. It shows up instantly.
If you’ve ever gotten all hot and bothered by a hot barista or because you got a sex flashback, that’s spontaneous desire speaking.
Responsive desire is when those “I want it” feelings show up in response to stimulation.
For instance, you aren’t really in the mood… but then your partner starts kissing your neck and boom, now we’re talkin’.
“If your partner is in the mood and you’re not, instead of just saying ‘No, I’m not in the mood,’ you might rely on responsive desire to get in the mood,” Melancon says.
“You might start watching porn, or ask your partner to kiss up and down your body, or have your partner masturbate in front of you, and see if any of those things get you in the mood,” she says.
If they do, great! Have at it.
If not, no worries! Your partner’s got their hands and toys to keep them occupied.
Sure, phone sex can be great. But only when everyone who’s on the line really wants to be there! The same goes for sexting or video sex.
So WTF do you do if the person you’re chatting with starts to veer the conversation toward the scandalous and you’re not into it?
Tell them you’re not in the mood!
To be honest, somebody who gets moody, angry, or mopey because you don’t want to sex-talk in the middle of a pandemic probably isn’t somebody you want to be dating or talking to long term.
So, go ahead and let this person know how you’re feeling. You might say:
- “I’ve really been enjoying texting you, but I’m just not in the mood for sex right now. But I’d love a PG-rated video session sometime.”
- “I’m so flattered! Any other time I’d be all about it. But coronavirus is doing some wonky things to my libido. Can I let you know if that changes?”
P.S.: If they make you feel pressured to “get” in the mood or to have sex video/phone dates after you try one of these lines… dump them!
Offer an alternative
Just because you don’t want to have video sex doesn’t mean you can’t have a video date.
“Doing things together over video is a great way to cultivate experiential intimacy,” Melancon says.
Here are some totally sex-free date ideas you might try:
- Make an Alison Roman recipe together over FaceTime.
- Have a Netflix and chat date using the Netflix Party extension.
- Add each other on Co-Star.
- Order dinner from the same restaurant.
Bonus: Once IRL physical intimacy is possible, this baseline connection can make sex that much better (!).
Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to bring your sex drive back up that don’t require a #quarantinebae.
Because coronavirus stress is likely what’s squashing your libido, implementing any sort of stress-relieving rituals should help steer your libido in an upward direction.
Think meditating, turning off the news, doing yoga, showering, talking to your friends, or reading a book.
Try ‘maintenance’ masturbation
Because the more you bone, the more you’ll want to bone, meaning a self-pleasuring date can help, according to Harper.
Besides, as she says, “Even if your libido doesn’t skyrocket after masturbating, if you orgasm you’ll get to reap the stress-busting benefits of that [release].”
Do things to turn yourself on
You don’t need another person’s help to tap into responsive desire.
“Reading erotica, watching erotic films, or listening to audio porn are all things you might try to get in the mood,” Harper says.
From there, if you get a little tingle, you know what to do.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing practices, some people will find that their libido spikes, and others will see it disappear completely.
Both are totally normal and healthy responses to stress and life upheaval.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.