Worried that Covid has stolen your sex life? Join the club | Zoe williams

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I I didn’t think I could sympathize more with young people, or be more aware of how much they have been affected by the pandemic. Then I read about the rise of anxiety about virginity. Message boards and counseling services are full of Gen Z people who missed out on all those Rubicon events – festivals, chill weeks, parties where someone’s parents actually went out – that could have been the night. .

It wasn’t that the moment was passing; the time just never came. With so much joyless practicality, so much caution, even something as mundane as time could derail things. It was supposed to be a hot summer for girls and boys, but how do you show the world your belly when the sun isn’t out?

The anxieties are so poignant – would they be entering their twenties without having had sex? Was it possible to completely miss the boat? Could inexperience become such a millstone that you’d be stuck with it forever?

The trend was already to have sex later in life – one in eight millennials had not had sex before the age of 26, according to a 2018 poll. Compare that with their parents’ generation, in which the figure was one in 20. But there is a major difference between being part of a long-term delay and feeling like you have been lassoed by the circumstances, stuck in base camp, halfway up your mountain of awakening. It really sucks. I won’t say it’s worse than getting your A level grades unfairly deflated by an algorithm, but I can imagine the world it’s worse off in.

The harmless thing would be to say: courage, gen Z, it will inevitably happen for you. Instead, I’m going to share everything I’ve learned this year, through a combination of interviews, earwigs, and reading, about life on the other side – people who have had previous experiences. sex and how much they had during the pandemic.

In the obvious column of the bleeding report, it was much easier to be in a relationship than to be single, and much easier to live together than to live apart. However, even if you were living that dream – hey, let’s go and let’s call ourselves married! – things were complicated. The National Survey on Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, which normally takes place every 10 years, made a mini Covid study which found that three-quarters of cohabitants reported a change in their sex life, which was more likely to be for the worse.

For some, it is the crumbling walls of their multiple identities. We are all different – worker, parent, caregiver, lover, comrade, pain in the ass – and we switch from one to the other through our daily rituals – the school run, the office, the bath time, the cocktail hour, etc. the rituals were erased, we couldn’t find a way to rock, which is a long euphemistic way of saying we didn’t feel energized. Those who were anxious lost their libido, but so did those who were not. Maybe they were laughing at themselves and weren’t as relaxed as they thought they were.

Meanwhile, on the singles tour, everything was 10 times worse – even after it was legal again. A basic fear of illness ruined spontaneity and made us forget how to do anything. An STI doctor told me that she has seen patients overreact to minor diagnoses because they have a pervasive and irrational fear of infection. Some people got used to being alone and couldn’t get over it; others have been overwhelmed by the brutality of dating sites. Long Covid sucked the lives of many people, while many more were simply overexposed to each other.

None of this is to say that reluctant virgins don’t deserve the lion’s share of our sympathy. On the contrary, if you think you missed the boat, you should know that the boat you missed is dangerously underpowered and is going around in circles. There will be another – better – one around the corner and you will be glad you missed the cruise with no fun.

Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

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