Its been a hard year. A. Very. Hard. Year. Between COVID lockdowns and restrictions, the election, the United States beginning to recon with is horrible treatment of Black Americans, many of us losing our jobs, and just general jack-assery by so many people, it has sucked for most of us. Me included. There are plenty of days I want to run around screaming just to try and release a sense of existential dread.
If, in the middle of all of this, you are having a hard time feeling sexy and like being intimate, you are not alone. I talk with a lot of folks who work in BDSM/kink education, sex education, and sex work. Every single one of these folks have expressed that they are having a hard time wanting to be intimate and feeling sexy.
Sexuality is an innate human need. The need to have sex is as innate as fighting and fleeing. In fact, many psychologist consider sex as the third response to high stress: fight, flight, or fuck (Why Smart People Do Stupid Things , Frank Stass). Anyone who has not been able to express their sexual desires in a healthy way, wether by choice of by force of circumstance, understands how much anxiety and frustration this can cause. The pent up energy and tenstion often spills over to impact other parts of our lives.
Additionally, for most of us, sex and intimate connection serves as a second language with our partners. We communicate care, desire, and a level of trust when we have sex with someone. For those of us who are partnered, when sex stops in a realtionship, it may feel like we have stopped communicating or that we disconnected from a person we care about.
So, if the world currently has you feeling disconnected and not sexy, what (if anything) can you do?
It depends, in part, on what is making your withdraw from sex. Some reasons are more easily addressed than others. The following are simple suggestions for helping you reconnect with your sexuality in this stressful time. Please keep in mind, depending on your health, your ability level, your relationship types, and your sexual needs, some of these will be more relevant than others.
You have been sick and don’t feel like having sex.
This is something I have great familiarity with! Having multiple chronic medical conditions means I often don’t feel well. When anyone feels physically crappy, it can be really hard to want to have sex. What many people don’t talk about is that when you have been ill, even after the illness has past, it may have lingering impacts on your sexuality.
If you have been sick with COVID19 or suspect you have COVID19 the first and most important thing is not not infect others (including your sex partners). Several states have had their health departments issue statements on how to increase safety of sexual contacts during the pandemic. You can check out one of the more comprehensive advisory documents here. These guidelines are really helpful so pay attention!
DO NOT ATTEND SWINGER EVENTS (seems obvious, but… people are being stupid now)
If you have recovered from COVID and are not infectious or have other illnesses which have resolved there can be lingering effects which make sex unappealing.
You still hurt.
COVID and many other viruses (including the common cold, flu, or unspecified “virus”) often leaves people feeling achy and tired. These will pass. In the meantime, taking anti-inflamatory medications like Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve can help with the achiness and pain (follow the instructions on the package with these medications). You should also focus on replacing what has been depeleted from your body. Adding in electrolyte-rich drinks (Gatorade, coconut water, Pedialite) are helpful in helping your body rebalance. Finally, rest is also helpful. Getting a bit of extra sleep can help you feel better.
As you feel better, your sex drive will often return. Feeling ill more than 10 days after your fever and other major symptoms have passed is not normal. If you continue to feel very fatigued and achy weeks after your illness, you should follow up with a doctor.
The Stress is Too Much
Welcome to the club! Stress can be overwhelming and a total sex drive killer. Stress can come from many sources. Some of these sources you have the ability to control, others you do not. So the first step is to figure out what are the sources of your stress. Work, school, losing a job, money issues, family, home schooling, food access, social media, feeling lonely or isolated, worrying about politics, and more can add to the stress of your life. Spend some time thinking about or writing down where your stressors are located.
For many of us, stress is increased through two major sources: social media and television. So many of us feel a need to keep up with what is going on in the world through the news (both television and newspapers/magazines). There is some good which comes from being aware of the major developments in the world. However, too much information (this will vary per person) can overwhelm us, making us feel hopeless, helpless, and/or angry.
If you find that watching the news every night, watching whichever cable news sources you like on a regular basis, or reading the paper causes you stress or anger, put limits on your consumption. Some folks watch a lot of news programming to try and feel more in control of life. However, there is plenty of evidence that demonstrates the more news you consume, the more angry and stressed people become. If you can’t cut out news consumption completely for a few days, try reducing your consumption. If you watch four different news programs a night, reduce it to two and see how you feel.
Social media is also a common source of stress and anxiety. Most folks are familiar with social media breaks. Those may work if your connections or your job is not dependent on social media. However, with many of us unable to meet up with friends and family in person, social media can be a major source of connection and support. For some of us (like your’s truly) disengaging with social media is problematic because my work depends on frequent social media engagement.
If you cannot take a social media break (or simply don’t want too) there are other ways to make your social media expereince more positive.
Use the block and mute buttons.
The options to block, mute, and take a break from certain posts and people on social media can make the platforms so much more tolerable. I liberally block folks on social media who post abusive rants, are antitrans, homophobic, fatphobic and r.acist. People who are posting hateful rants are not interested in conversation and learning about you. Just block them.
Twitter allows people to block certain words. This will eliminate posts from people and bots about issues which makes you stressed or angry. You can always unblock these terms when you are ready to re-engage with a topic.
Facebook allows you to take a break from a friend’s post for 30 days. Have a friend posting long diatribes about how much they hate something, how sad they are, how much they hate the holidays or whatever that make you cringe every time you see thier name pop up? Take a break from their posts. You can still be friends on Facebook. You just won’t see their posts for a month.
Don’t Read the Comments.
Anyone who has written something that was posted on the internet knows that the comment section is like walking through a sewer. Sure, there are some delightful comments. There are also a lot of crap that needs to be disposed of. If you read an article and feel the need to read the comments, don’t. If you post an article or a video on a platform, you can set your settings so that you can approve comments. This is really useful. For example, I require that on this blog. I approve comments both praising and criticizing posts, but I block spam posts and abusive posts so that other’s don’t have to read them. You can do the same to help people lower stress.
Dr. Tressie Cottom tweeted the other day that when you are working from home you can send that call from a family member in the middle of the day or you can answer it and forget getting anything done than the rest of the day. This is very true.
If you are working from home, friends and family may be tempted to treat your time like you are on a day off. Setting boundaries of when you work and when you engage with freinds is important. The same with schooling your kids at home. It applies in the reverse as well. If you work from home it can be easy to end up picking up an assignement after five. Don’t. Keep work during work hours, home and others during non-work hours.
As you being to limit the items which cause you stress, it can help bring your sex drive back. There are some things you have no control over. If you are unemployed (as my partner was for most of the past 6 months) how much money will come in is incredibly stressful. This has not been helped by the federal goverment jerking people around with the supplemental unemployment funds. You cannot control how much money comes in, how fast the Employment Development Department processes your form, or how the tiny sum you get from unemployment fails to meet your bills. Its okay to be angry about how shitty this all is. Its awful and hard. If you are here, I am so sorry you are dealing with this.
You Feel Lonely.
This is a huge problem for many of us. Single or partnered, living alone or with family, introvert or extrovert we are all experiencing some lonilness right now. All of us have had our normal forms of human interaction stripped. Going to coffee, grabbing dinner, hugging people, going to parties and more are now no longer options for may of us. If you are like me, you haven’t seen most of your frineds and family in person since at least February. This is an awful feeling.
First, we need to acknowledge that regardless of your living situation, we can all feel lonely. I live with my partner and my mother. However, I still feel lonely at times since I have not been able to see friends on a regular basis. For most of us, video chatting and phone calls are not enough to replace our ususal interactions.
The longer this lonilness continues, the more likely we are to withdraw from the realtionships we do have. Its part of the process of disconnection. As we disconnect from our larger social network and our regular routines, the more we tend to disconnect from everything.
Create a routine for connecting with others.
While video chatting, texts and phone calls are not a full replacement for other connections, they help. To prevent yourself from spiraling into lonliness, create a connection scheudle. My mother has a phone call schedule with her sisters and a few friends. She knows on Tuesday she calls Dottie, on Wednesday its her sister Beck. My partner does a family Zoom call on Sundays and regular text chats with his daughter (she doesn’t live with us). This all helps reduce lonliness.
Find communities online.
As we have spent more time in the pandemic, more groups have moved regualr meetings online. There are several kink organizations which have moved munches online. There are national and international groups for submissives, queer folks, dominants and more who meet up on a regualr basis online to chat. While not the same as an in-person event, it feels great to connect with other kinky folks online.
You Just Don’t Feel Sexy.
Many of us haven’t had our hair done, a good waxing, or a decent manicure in months! This can make us all feel unsexy. While many at-home beauty regimes are not the same as a professional one, they can improve how you feel about yourself.
I tried to let my grey grow out gracefully. I just felt washed out and old. My hairdresser cannot see people in person, but she was willing to mix up the custom dye I get and sell me a kit to do at home. It makes her a little money and made me feel prettier. I have learned to shave my man like a barber would. I trim up his beard and mustache weekly. Its turned into a bonding moment.
We also have let many of our usual grooming rituals go. For those of us with long hair, how many days in the past month have you just put it up in a messy ponytail? Yeah…. For those of you who wear make-up, when was the last time you did a full make-up job on yourself? Letting these things go can lead us to feel less sexy over time.
Take some time to enegage in the grooming rituals you enjoy. Shave. Wax your legs. Dye your hair. Spend some time getting your eyebrows in shape. Put on a little perfume. All of this can help you get your groove bak.
Go on a “date.”
Many of us have not been on a proper date in ages! This break in our romantic routine can cause us to feel less intimate with our partners. Seven months into this epidemic, most at-home “dates” just don’t cut it. Here are a few “date” ideas.
Get an ice cream cone. This has been our go-to date since lockdown. My partner and I drive to the local Baskin and Robhins and get two cones. We then go outside and walk around away from people as we eat the cones. Now that it’s colder, we sit in the car and eat them while we talk. Simply getting out of the house for an hour and sharing a treat is really connecting.
Get outside. Its safer to be outside. It was easier when it was warmer, but in most states its still possible to bundle up and take a walk. Go to a park, go hiking, go to a bike trail, and walk for a bit with a partner. It breaks up the feeling of being confined to the house and job. If you feel like it, grab something to eat and have a picnic.
Go to a movie (when possible). California just rolled back into the major lockdown restrictions so this is out here for a while. However, theaters have re-opened and will be re-openeing in the future. Most of the time there are very few folks in the theater. Many theaters have the ability to book online and reserve a seat now. Check your local venues to see what is playing and how crowded the theater is. If safe, get a ticket, wear a mask, and see a show. Here, my guy and I discovered gonig to the last showing of a movie on a Sunday night (usually an 8 PM showing) we are the only people in the theater. It has been a great break!
Its all about getting out of the house in a safe way and spending a bit of time with someone you care about. This break will help you both relax. The relaxation can help you get in the mood.
And… sometimes nothing works. There are days, weeks, or months where you just won’t feel like having sex. It may suck, but it happens. If this is the case, it is important to recognize you are not feeling sexual and honor that. Cuddling can be healing. Gentle kisses and running your fingers through your partner’s hair feels great. If you aren’t in the mood, don’t force it.
I hope you can find connection and sexiness in the face of all this mess.