I have a question about COVID-19 and what kind of effect a crisis can have on a man's libido. I am a heterosexual woman in my thirties and have had a steady monogamish partner for twelve years. We have been sharing an apartment together for a big part of our relationship in which we have had lots of fun-loving kinky sex several times a week. But since COVID-19 hit my partners libido—he was usually the initiator of sex—is nowhere to be found.
Although the first couple of week of quarantine have been intense, our relationship is still very loving. I wouldn’t want to be in quarantine with anyone but him. We cuddle a lot and talk about our emotions and what we we our thinking of. We have talked to each other about where his libido has gone, but have tried not to make too big a deal out of it. (I use a vibrator to meet my needs.) This has never happened before. Although it might also have something to do with that my partner changing his medications in consultation with his doctor, but he has been doing that for years and it never had this effect. So we think and console ourselves with the thought that the loss of libido might have to do with this new and scary crisis situation. Our lives have been so happy-go-lucky in comparison to the current situation.
I wanted to ask you if the assumption we are making is correct and maybe you and some expert can shed some light on this. I can’t imagine that we are the only ones with this sudden problem. I also wanted to inform you that I asked my partner first if I could write you about this and got his permission.
Love Intimacy But Into Doing Other Stuff
I shared your letter Dr. Justin Lehmiller, the sex writer and researcher. Dr. Lehmiller is a Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute, he's been a frequent guest on the Savage Lovecast, and he's currently helping to conduct a study into how the pandemic is affecting people's romantic and sexual lives.
Dr. Lehmiller wrote back with some detailed advice for you, LIBIDOS, and even shared some preliminary results from the study. So I'm going to turn things over to Dr. Lehmiller. — Dan
Loss of libido/sexual desire is complex and can be impacted by multiple factors, including our environments, our mental state, and our overall health. Temporary fluctuations are common and usually nothing to worry about; however, persistent concerns about this are best addressed by your healthcare provider, who can help pinpoint the exact cause and advise on the best course of treatment.
That said, it does seem to be the case that many people are experiencing a loss of sexual desire during this pandemic. Some of my colleagues and I at The Kinsey Institute are in the midst of a study right now exploring how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting people’s sex lives and relationships. What we’re finding is that, for a small number of people, sexual desire and behavior are increasing; however, there’s a much larger number of people experiencing a decline.
It’s common for stress and anxiety (something a lot of us are feeling right now) to put a damper on sexual desire. This makes sense because it can be hard to get in the mood for sex when your mind is elsewhere.
For people experiencing a decline in desire right now (or people who have partners experiencing such a decline), recognize that it’s likely to come back when life starts to return to normal. We don’t know exactly when that’s going to happen, of course, but if this issue persists even then, that’s likely an indicator that it’s time to seek some professional help to figure out what’s going on.
In the meantime, I wouldn’t fret too much about low desire right now if it seems to be tied to the current situation and the anxiety surrounding it and if things were in a good place before. Relationships often have sexual “dry spells” during stressful times—that’s perfectly normal.
To cope with this, some people may find it helpful to try new activities and exercises as a means of reducing stress and cultivating desire. For example, “unplugging” from technology and taking some time to relax together and engage in intimate touch (perhaps by giving each other massages) may help create an environment where desire emerges. Others may find that introducing a new sexual activity helps (such as trying sex in a new location or position, or incorporating a new sex toy). Sexual novelty can be a helpful way of creating an immersive environment that pulls you into the moment and out of your head. Others may find that mindfulness or meditation techniques help. So if this is bothering you and your partner right now, it’s worth exploring and experimenting a bit to see if you can find a way to bring desire back during this difficult time. — Dr. Lehmiller
Dan again: Everyone can and should follow Dr. Lehmiller on Twitter @JustinLehmiller—and everyone should also by and read his latest book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. I would suggest reading it and discussing it with your partner, LIBIDOS. Talking with a partner about other people's turn-ons—talking with your partner about what other people want—has a way of putting us in touch (or putting us back in touch) with what we want. Make sure your partner knows he's under no pressure to resume having sex before he's feeling it again. But here's hoping he'll be at least be up for helping you out when you bust out that vibrator. — Dan