After months of being asked to stay at home and not meet up with family or friends, lock-down restrictions have started to ease across parts of the UK.
Bars, gyms and hairdressers have finally reopened, allowing many of us to regain a sense of life before the pandemic struck.
But what about sex? Should we, or shouldn’t we? And if we do, what will other people say? It seems that we have another thing to worry about when it comes to sex.
The anticipation is building
For Jonathan, 23, dating during lock-down was initially socially-distanced. “We were talking for a while online, and we met up once lock-down rules relaxed. Both dates were park dates, so we were very compliant with social distancing rules,” he laughs.
Andrew, 42, found himself in a similar situation, having met up with a guy just before lock-down. “It felt like the relationship went on pause,” he explains. “The longer it was on pause, the more certain we were that we wanted to have sex the next time we met up.”
Andrew says that he and his partner didn’t want to “wait around” any longer once lock-down rules were eased. “It created a higher sense of anticipation and it also meant that when we did have sex, we cut out all of the usual stuff before having sex like going out for dinner or a drink.”
On the other hand, Yousef, 30, didn’t have such a build up to his first time since lock-down. “I had been talking to guys on dating apps during the lock-down, but being good and not meeting up with anyone, because of the lock-down rules,” he says. “Then I went out to the pub with a friend and ended up hooking up with a guy I’d met that night.”
Thinking about risk
“My partner had coronavirus quite early on during the pandemic, and so he said that he’d now developed antibodies and felt that it was safe,” says Andrew. He says there is still so much we don’t know about the virus, which means that antibodies might not guarantee long-term protection. “But we thought at the time that we were safe, and we did have that conversation.”
Jonathan echoes this, saying that he too had considered the risks before hooking up with his date. But he is more concerned about the risk to others, rather than himself. “I think I’m not naive to the fact that I’m also at risk,” he admits. “My thought process it generally more about protecting people around me, rather than taking risk myself. I don’t have a lot of concern about my personal risk, but I am very conscious as a citizen to protect other people and adhere to the rules and set an example.”
Despite not following lock-down restrictions to the letter, Jonathan thinks that once one person breaks the rules, it’s very easy for a domino effect to form. “When one person starts breaking the rules, than quite quickly others will follow. I think it is important to be responsible.”
Being drunk when hooking up, Yousef says that risk perception wasn’t really on his mind. “I was thinking about other things, shall we say.” It was only when he woke up the next morning did hindsight rear its head. “When I woke up the next morning and went home, my friend texted me and joked that I’d end up getting the virus if I carried on like that. That’s when I realised that I had taken a risk by hooking up with that guy.”
It can also be a bit of a balancing act when it comes to thinking about risk to yourself and others. “It’s complicated,” says Jonathan. “I think that for me, I do try to be responsible and wear a mask and carry hand gel. That being said, like every other human being, I am lonely and I have needs.”
“Don’t tell me people aren’t going to have sex until the end of the pandemic, that’s just not realistic,” argues Yousef, who also thinks that government guidance should be clearer. “Unless the government give some pretty clear instructions about sex, then people will just be hooking up in secret and worrying about the risk later.”
The stigma of post lock-down sex
Andrew thinks there is now a stigma attached to guys who are hooking-up, despite lock-down restrictions being eased. “There is absolutely a stigma. When I mentioned it to one of my friends he was very angry with me and had a go at me for about two hours. He said I was taking risks and putting lives in danger.”
“Obviously some people will criticise me and other guys for hooking up during a pandemic,” echoes Yousef. “I’m not sure if it’s a stigma, though. I think people just disagree with it.”
Jonathan agrees with Andrew, saying that it would be difficult for some people to talk about having sex, through fear of being judged by others. “There is a lot of stigma and a lot of people having very strong opinions about other people’s behaviours. I think that a lot of those opinions are very much justified.”
He believes that others shouldn’t be so judgemental and has been finding it difficult to weight up adhering to the restrictions and having a sex life. “It’s just hard to navigate from my perspective, because I really agree with the fact that we shouldn’t be hanging out in groups or hooking up with people. I agree that we all have a responsibility to prevent the spread of this virus. And yet here I am, not following that myself.”
As for when we will be allowed to have sex with another person from outside our household, that’s not entirely clear.