#bumble | #tinder | #pof How single people have been dealing with the ‘sex ban’ in England

UPDATE: June 10, 2020, 5:32 p.m. BST The government has announced the sex ban will end for some people from this weekend.

Being single during the pandemic is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the pressure to date has finally lifted. On the other, I bitterly regret not having more sex before lockdown.

For some, this moment in history has ushered in a welcome break from dating and some respite from keeping up the false pretense that we’re all having loads of sex all the time (I’m definitely not). For others, lockdown has ushered in unparalleled loneliness and a longing for human touch. 

In England, a ‘sex ban’ is currently in force, after legislation came into force last week prohibiting indoor “gatherings” of two or more people from different households. Basically, unless you’re living under the same roof as your romantic or sexual partner, you’ll be breaking the law if you go to someone’s home for a conjugal visit. This change in legislation came 10 weeks after the UK went into lockdown, during which the restrictions stipulated that people are only allowed to leave their homes for a limited set of circumstances, including for work, health reasons, to buy food, or to exercise.

With a fifth of Britons living alone during lockdown, according to YouGov data, a huge swath of the population of this country has gone without human touch for almost three months, with some saying they feel overlooked by the government. I was curious to find out how my fellow singletons are finding this period of government-mandated celibacy. Are people finding it challenging? Are they turning to phone sex or video sex instead? Are they getting into Zoom orgies? Have they broken the rules? Are they deeply unbothered by the whole thing, perhaps?

For some, this period of time without sex hasn’t been any different to their pre-lockdown life. Frances, who prefers not to use her real name, told me she’s actually found this period of time enjoyable. “I haven’t had sex in three years and I genuinely hate being touched or hugged by strangers so it’s actually been great for me,” she said. 

Meanwhile, James, who wants to use his first name only, told me the length of lockdown isn’t much longer than he usually goes without having sex with someone. “I’ve been single for a couple of years, and I have a new partner about every 4-5 months. I think I’m OK with that.” He added that the conversation on Twitter lately has made him feel “a bit abnormal” and that perhaps he doesn’t want sex as often as his peers. “Needless to say I did start looking at my housemate differently, and imagined what it would be like. But then decided to keep that thought locked away.”

I was curious to find out how my fellow singletons are finding this period of government-mandated celibacy.

Image: vicky leta / mashable

Not everyone is finding this period of abstinence easy, though. One anonymous respondent told me she broke the sex ban four days after it was announced last week. “I’ve been isolating on my own for nearly three fucking months and have reached the end of my tether,” she said. “I know it’s bad and wrong.” Prior to making this decision, she measured the risk, looked at the rates of transmission, and the number of deaths. “There is also the feeling that single people have been forgotten by this government and so unfortunately this creates a massive ‘fuck you’ attitude this long into lockdown.” She said that three months of being alone has taken its toll on her. “The ban is pretty much what tipped me over the edge,” she added. “All of the measures have been made with people who have families in mind when people isolating alone are low risk but have been forgotten and penalised I have no interest in obeying a system like that.”

Evelyn, who prefers to not reveal her real name, says this three-month period has been “the most  fascinating dating experience” for her. “The fuckboys have been coming out of the woodwork, my god. Guys I haven’t talked to in ages have been reaching out and either asking me to break lockdown or trying to get some sexting going on (some as early as 11 a.m., ew),” she said. “It has been an immense, unbounded pleasure to completely ignore them and really, truly understand what I’m looking for in a man. And let me tell you, it’s not someone who wants to sext at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday.”

Evelyn told me she started out with the very best of intentions of social distancing, but when she went on a date with someone she’s been messaging throughout lockdown, those intentions fell by the wayside. “One thing lead to another and it just happened,” she said. “I don’t feel guilty about it for one second. I’ve already had COVID-19, and he’s been really safe and cautious, I felt like after two months of playing by the rules and properly dating via social distance we deserved it. I know that might sound selfish and callous, but we’re only human.”

“I felt like I was in the Victorian day, getting courted and going for walk around a park.”

She told me the government’s sex ban feels “so arbitrary” and “it would be laughable if it wasn’t affecting my mental health so much.” Evelyn says she doesn’t understand why she can’t meet up with the one person she wants to be intimate with while “thousands of people can ride the tube together and work side-by-side.” Ultimately though, she’d settle for a hug. “I would fucking kill for a hug from a member of the opposite sex right now, I don’t necessarily need the D,” she added. 

This longing for an embrace is something shared by other single people. Amy, who prefers to use her first name only, told me lockdown gave her “an unexpected need for male attention” so she decided to download the Bumble app.

She’s been talking to a guy for about two months and they’ve been indulging in a “cheeky bit of sexting.” They also met up for a socially distanced walk. “Going on a date in lockdown is truly the unsexiest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I felt like I was in the Victorian day, getting courted and going for walk around a park while ensuring the man doesn’t get too close to you.” Since then, Amy says she’s felt a “desperate need” to go on a normal date “where I can just get a bit drunk and have a lil smooch.” “Talking to someone for this long without actually knowing if we have any sexual chemistry is making me overthink everything and I need it to end. I just want a smooch!” she added. 

Amy isn’t alone in wanting to be kissed. Charlie Duffield told me that one of the hardest parts of lockdown life has been putting her personal life on hold. She’s staying with her parents right now and feels extremely sexually frustrated. “I miss sex a lot but I think I miss affection in general more— hugs, kisses, hand touches, foreplay I guess,” she told me. “I’m intrigued by online orgies or finding someone to sext with, but I haven’t so far, as I sort of feel sexually numb.”

“As someone who is single, not being able to go out, interact with the world, meet new people and connect with others feels like a very real loss,” she said. “There’s something about having that option taken away which feels quite painful.” She’s trying to use this period to think about what she needs and values in a relationship. “What’s helped for me is trying to incorporate new experiences into my daily life which foster creativity or sensuality, and remembering to connect with my body via exercise, dancing, and to get out of my head. And obviously a lot of wanking.”

Many are masturbating a lot. Tina, who prefers to use her first name only, told me: “I’ve been masturbating like crazy.” Sonia (not her real name) told me, “Vibrator has been getting a lot of use and porn usage is on the up (where I had previously been cutting down on it).” Some people have found they’ve had to stop watching certain TV shows. Nicola, who prefers to use her first name, told me she had to stop watching HBO’s Insecure “because there was so much sex it was making me cranky.” In light of this sex hiatus she vows to never again turn down another one night stand offer ever again.

Minecraft. That is my answer.”

In general, single people around the world have been getting creative during this period. Take Ali, for instance, who prefers to not reveal his full name. “I’ve engaged in a little risqué video chatting but on the whole I’ve found being cooped up as good time to focus on personal projects and things and so my sex drive has been quite low these days, and I’m fine with that. Makes quarantine easier,” he said. And by risqué video chatting, he means phone sex over WhatsApp video call. “Started with a text from an ex-fling, a casual ‘what’s up’ and after about 10 minutes turned steamy,” he added. “This happened twice with two exes!” Some have found solace in games, and not necessarily the ones you’d think. “Minecraft. That is my answer,” psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Janaway told me.

Whether we wanted to or not, this period of time has made us all think about our relationship to sex. For some, it has been an affirming time that reinforced the knowledge that they were fine with going a few months without sex. But for a lot of people, it has been profoundly difficult to go without human touch of any kind, and to forego physical intimacy. 

If there’s one shared experience that unites all of us in this moment in time, it’s missing other human beings. We miss hugging our family members. We’re missing having lukewarm pints on a grubby pavement outside a pub surrounded by our laughing friends. We miss croaking out a half-hearted ‘good morning’ to our colleagues in the office. 

As a single person, I miss that first electric hand touch on a first date, when you can’t quite figure out if it was accidental, I miss the under-the-table leg touch that confirms it was definitely no accident. I miss holding hands, the late-night post-date snog, the awkward fumbling sex you have when you first sleep with someone you really like. 

All I can hope to gain from this is a sense of appreciation for those aspects of my former life that now feel like luxury contraband. 

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