How the Pandemic Has Changed Sex

For some, Covid-19 has had a negative impact on intimacy and sex

Nazlee Arbee
Elemental
Published in
5 min readDec 15, 2020

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Photo: Dean Mitchell/Getty Images

The global pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we interact with others, and that includes the bedroom. Sexologists are increasingly noticing changes to peoples’ sex lives, from shifts in sexual desire and newly developed fantasies to redefining the meaning of solo and partnered sex.

“A lot of people are bored, scared, and sad on a fundamental level, and this is manifesting in their sexual behaviors, interests, relationships, beliefs, and even their bodies,” says California-based sexologist Jill McDevitt. She believes the pandemic has affected many peoples’ mental space, rippling into relationships and sex life.

Elemental spoke with sexologists and researchers about three ways the “new normal” is reshaping people’s sex lives.

“A lot of people are bored, scared, and sad on a fundamental level, and this is manifesting in their sexual behaviors, interests, relationships, beliefs, and even their bodies.”

1. Pandemic stress is killing people’s libido

Sexual health coach McDevitt believes that Covid-19 is reshaping our sexualities on a chemical and hormonal level. “Stress chemically and hormonally impacts sexual functioning. Thus, the impacts of Covid-19 on sex can be biological,” she says.

Stockholm-based sex therapist Leigh Norén agrees. She suggests that changes to our mental state make it hard for us to get into the mood for sex. “A lot of people are experiencing higher levels of stress, anxiety, and PTSD, which essentially sends the message to our brains that we’re in danger. But when we’re in danger, it’s rarely a good idea to have sex from an evolutionary standpoint.” Norén’s theory is consistent with research from the University of Texas, Austin, which found that increased cortisol levels can lead to impotence and loss of libido.

“The pandemic has forced a lot of couples to spend all their waking time together,” Norén says. “It seems as if about half of the couples stuck at home in isolation are having less sex. However, those that…

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Nazlee Arbee
Elemental

Nazlee is a multimedia artist and journalist based in Cape Town, South Africa.