Dear MKE SEX,
This pandemic just stretches on and on into eternity, doesn’t it? Sorry. That’s dramatic. It’s just that numbers are going up and people are still getting sick. Even kids are getting sick now. And I’ve been trying to be a trooper with the masking and handwashing and whatnot. But this last upswing has got me down. My appetite sucks, I’m lonely for my friends, and I don’t feel like having sex. I don’t even feel like getting myself off. That’s why I’m writing. It’s really (really, really, really, really) not like me to lose my sex drive. Is there something I can do to get it back? For the first 16 months of this thing, I thought, “at least I have sex to keep me busy.” Without it, I feel even more lonely.
I’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
I’m so sorry you are going through this. It can be hard to lose your libido when you’re accustomed to connecting with yourself and your partners through sex. Based on conversations I’ve had with customers at The Tool Shed and clients in my midwifery practice, many people are feeling really upset about this most recent upsurge. It sounds overly simplistic to say, but things like a global pandemic can greatly impact our individual mental health as well as the emotional atmosphere of the general public. And when it continues beyond the point we expected it to, it can really take its toll.
There are definitely some things you can try to increase your sexual desire. First, let’s tend to the physical realm. Make sure you’re staying well hydrated (especially in this heat) and try to eat foods that are nourishing, as well as some treats that bring you pleasure. It’s hard to eat with a poor appetite, so consider setting an alarm on your phone and making it a goal to eat two or three bites of something every time the alarm goes off. Go to bed at a reasonable time and try to get deep, restorative rest. Put your phone or tablet down as you’re getting ready to fall asleep. They keep our brains busy even if our bodies are resting. While having a drink or two can lower our inhibitions and sometimes make us feel sexy, alcohol actually works directly against the hormone oxytocin, which is a necessary ingredient for actually having sex and orgasms. I know it’s a rough time to quit smoking, but it might be worth it to cut way back if you’re a smoker. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it will slow down blood flow to all of your sexy parts making it more difficult to become aroused by touching yourself or being touched by someone else.
Now let’s look at your emotional self. Feeling lonely right now is a really healthy response to the current situation. Interpersonal connection is a deeply human need that most of us fulfill in a variety of ways when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic. After more than a year of masking and keeping our distance, the loneliness can be overwhelming at times. A lot of folks are anxious or depressed, or both, and are struggling to stay focused and optimistic. When our stress levels go up, our libido goes down. This isn’t 100-percent true for every person, but it’s largely true for most of us. In order to get excited about sex again, you’re probably going to have to do some emotional work. In addition to loneliness, most of us have experienced anger, frustration, confusion, exasperation, and more. Talking through all of your feelings about the pandemic with a friend, family member or therapist can be a good first step. In addition to talking about things, you might find it helpful to cry or scream—something with a little more oomph than the spoken word can bring a lot of relief. Moving your body a little every day is also really important for emotional regulation. It helps the body complete the stress cycle. With the reduction in stress, your interest in sex may resurface after a few days or weeks.
If you do the stuff for your body (eating, hydrating, resting) and you do the stuff for your feelings (processing them, yelling and crying, moving around a little), and you still feel estranged from sexual desire, check out the book The Monster Under The Bed by JoEllen Notte. It’s about sex and depression. It’s not specific to pandemic-induced depression, but it is full of valuable information. Be gentle with yourself, too, and know that you’re not alone. As all the writers say, these are extraordinary times and it is hard to know how to navigate them. We will come through this, and we will either feel like ourselves again or adjust to all of the changes within us.
Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get back to you with an answer.