Brook, the sexual health charity, has partnered with intimate health brand, Canesten, to explore some of the themes that are impacting the sex lives of young people in the UK.
According to their new research, almost half (49%) of young women felt that their body confidence has been knocked in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was leading to a negative impact on their sex lives.
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, lockdown has been a bizarre old time for everyone’s sex life. If you’re sex life is better than ever, we’re happy for you, but for the rest of the nation, either you’re living with a partner and really CBA to keep the magic alive or you’re single and struggling to indulge in sex because, well, lockdown.
With vast times apart or too much time together (!), this year has had a knock-on effect on the sex lives of the nation, according to research.
To get the lowdown on how lockdown has left the nation’s sex lives in a rut – plus to garner some tips on fixing the issue – we spoke to a range of experts – from Confidence Expert Jo Painter to Psychosexual Therapist Kate Moyle, and Brook Education and Wellbeing Expert Amber Newman-Clark.
Low Desire Libido
One of the biggest impacts of isolation is low desire, which can put an instant blocker on our libido. As Psychosexual Therapist Kate Moyle explains: “The recent pandemic and lockdown has presented a problem for lots of people in that one of the most common presentations for therapy is the description of low desire, or low libido. What we now know is that female sexual desire is largely responsive and for many people being in lockdown has possibly taken away opportunities in which for these responsive desire opportunities to occur.”
This theme isn’t exclusive to those who physically don’t have the opportunity; couples have been impacted too. As Kate continues: “For couples locked down together, a lack of distance and difference stifles desire, which thrives on novelty, excitement and anticipation.” We hear ya.
Fixing this? It’s as simple as having a conversation…
Kate maintains that being able to talk to our partners about what is going on, what we like and being able to explore together, is a quick-fix for this issue. “We are not mind readers and there is no way we can see into each other’s heads unless we invite them in by telling them. Communication is key to sexual wellbeing and sexual wellness,: she said.
Virtual Comparison Culture
We spent a lot of time online before the pandemic, but ultimately this has increased exponentially continuing to impact our sex lives, as Kate continues: “We now spend so much of our lives online, and are able to see so much of the lives of others through social media. The vulva is most commonly seen in pornography rather than on mainstream television. This can cause women to lack vulva confidence, and stop them loving themselves just as they are. It’s human nature to compare ourselves against others and the challenge when it comes to vulvas in this instance is that so often, we are left with the feeling that how we look is ‘not normal’.
Yet, there is NO normal and if you can bust this, you’re on your way to being sexually confident: “Reinforce the idea that there is no such thing as normal. Try to break away from the stylised images and representations and look at something more realistic like ‘The Labia Library’ or Laura Dodsworth’s book ‘Womanhood, and The Great Wall of Vagina’.”
The decline in body and vulval confidence during the pandemic, can make us feel less inclined to be vulnerable with our vulvas, as Kate tells us: “To be sexual with someone is to be vulnerable. Bodies are a range of shapes, colours, sizes, they have different smells and they make noises – that is normal, but so often we fear what may happen when they do.”
We’ll give ourselves positive affirmations when it comes to feeling low generally, but what about extending this to your vagina?
“It might sound cheesy but the way that you talk to yourself matters and is very important. Especially at the moment when we have all been living in a time of high stress and uncertainty. Offer yourself a set of affirmations every morning to get your day started and include your vulva in that. For example, my body is unique. My body is designed to experience pleasure. My vulva and vagina are a part of me”.
How well do you think you know your vulva? Part of the discomfort and vulnerability we feel around our vulvas is that we just don’t know them well enough, as Kate tells us: “The anxiety that someone might feel about being naked in front of a partner or their partner seeing their vulva can completely inhibit a sexual experience. It stops them from fully being in the moment and experiencing pleasure as they are distracted by negative thoughts. This is because we only have enough available attention at any one time, and so if we are in our heads, we can’t also be fully in our bodies.”
However, there are ways you can overcome this as Kate continues – and lockdown could be the perfect time for a little sexual exploration:
“Get to know your body more. When you are in the bath, shower or just lying in bed at night, familiarise yourself with your body. Just hold your hands on your vulva, and explore it; not necessarily with the focus of it being sexual, pleasurable (which it may well be), or orgasm but just to get to know your body better.”