It’s been just over a year since the UK and much of the world went into lockdown due to the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Throughout the course of the last year, we’ve experienced many things—job shifts and losses or layoffs, changes in daily routines, the breakdown of a sense of structure. We’ve felt the loneliness caused by isolation, which changed the paradigm of social relationships with our friends and partners. For many of us, these changes have brought on a deepening sense of COVID fatigue—declining mental health caused by a constant state of anxiety and uncertainty caused by the virus.
But despite all the hardships, we’ve also learned a lot. We’ve spent more time together as families and improved our relationships, whether in-person or virtually via Zoom. Some of us found joy in baking (contributing to the early-stage pandemic yeast shortage), while others vegged out binge-watching series after series on Netflix.
We engaged in these activities in order to feel something good—something apart from the fear and uncertainty. Ultimately, we sought a sense of pleasure. And we’ve also had more time to focus on ourselves, including our own sexual pleasures: what we like and don’t like, as well as how to express boundaries.
Sex and self-exploration during the COVID-19 era
During times of stress and self-isolation—like a pandemic—people seek out comfort to feel better.
Sales of sex toys and visits to porn sites have all increased dramatically during lockdown. Less common activities in pre-pandemic times such as virtual erotic encounters via video chat, sexting, and using teledildonic devices have become the norm.
The use of audio porn and audio erotica has also increased substantially in the last year—the number of people using Emjoy’s app services increased by over 160%, with a particular increase in sessions that focus on intimate self-care and self-esteem.
With more time on our hands, we’ve had the freedom and ability to really think about what we desire, and to explore the types of self-care and sexual expression that audio erotica provides. It’s also a great form of escapism that can be a refreshing break from the typical visual-based pornography—you’re allowed to visualize on your own terms: just curl up, put on your headphones, and tune in to fantasy while tuning out the rest of the world.
Masturbation has also become a best friend for those of us alone at home. We may have started self-exploration as a coping method or to relieve the boredom of continued isolation, but we discovered so much more—primarily, how important our sexual wellness actually is.
Not able to rely on physically connecting with others to boost our moods and energy, we turned to self-exploration for our doses of oxytocin.
Further, many of us have explored new sexual fantasies and roleplay: we fine-tuned our desires, gained confidence in our bodies, and learned to express our boundaries in a healthy way.
Isn't it great that we know so much more about our needs and desires?
So... Where do we go from here?
While COVID lockdowns have brought us closer to ourselves and our own needs, they’ve also left us disconnected in other ways—whether we’re single, dating, or in a relationship. Here are some ways to work through these feelings of disconnection.
For singles: Continue your self-exploration while slowly reengaging with partners
Now that the vaccines are rolling out and we’re finally emerging from our cocoons of isolation, the single among us are wondering how to proceed.
Because yes, we’ve engaged in lots of self-discovery, but we’ve also been cut off from potential partners—leaving many of us with lingering feelings of social anxiety caused by lack of social interaction: How do we start a conversation with someone? Dating IRL? What the heck is that?!?
Don’t worry; we feel you!
Being hesitant to interact with society again after a long period of isolation is totally normal. It’s important to ease back in and take things slowly—especially when it comes to intimacy. Don’t force yourself to engage in sexual encounters with a partner until you’re ready (even if it takes a while!).
And while you’re getting reacclimated, you can always continue with self-exploration! Download the Emjoy app and try out these series:
Discover Your Body I: Best for the self-exploration beginners or those who want a refresher on why self-pleasure is essential to sexual wellness.
Discover Your Body II: For those with the basic self-discovery knowledge who want to explore their erogenous zones.
Discover Your Body III: The ultimate in sexual self-awareness: find your sexual energy.
For couples: Assess your relationship status and go from there
For those of us with partners, there’s no doubt that spending so much time together has affected our relationships—for better or worse.
With an increase in the free time we longed for during the Before Times, many of us grew closer and more intimate with our partners than ever before.
If you’re one of them, lucky you! Keep the sexiness going by trying new things and exploring new paths for intimacy together.
Some of us, however, aren’t so lucky. We may have felt heightened stress—our problems and domestic issues increasingly magnified by living in close proximity for so long.
If you’re in the second group, it’s important to stop and assess where your relationship stands and determine how to repair it—or, in some cases, to end it. Often, the stresses you experienced were situational only, but in some instances they may have existed before and it took a crisis to bring them out into the open. In either case, make sure you engage in plenty of self-care during this time.
One of the few good things to come out of lockdown is our greater knowledge of sexual self-awareness, and our appreciation for intimacy, relationships, and connectedness. May you use this information to continue your intimate wellness journey as you reemerge into society.