Libido and Lockdown

Are people experiencing the “quarantine hornies,” or is sex entirely off the menu? The answer is yes; both; all the above. Here's some help for dealing with changes in libido and sexuality, how you express them, and sexual safety for right now.

A lot has changed in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing, quarantine, school closures, working from home, not working at all (not to mention fear about the health of you and/or your loved ones), as well as… libido.

Are people experiencing the “quarantine hornies,” or is sex entirely off the menu? The answer is yes; both; all the above.

Shifts in stress and anxiety, as well as big life changes, can have an effect on a person’s libido in either direction. From a biological perspective, eating, sleeping, and exercising habits all affect sexual appetite. Getting more sleep now? Sexual desire might increase. Can’t go to the gym anymore and don’t work out as much? Sexual urges might decrease. Eating lots of food, but not the healthiest kinds? You guessed it, potential passionate-feelings buzzkill.

A psychological concept called Terror Management Theory provides another explanation for why this libido change can occur in either direction. This theory says that when we are reminded of our mortality, we alter our behaviors. Though the creators of this theory didn’t specifically relate it to libido, the connection makes sense. Basically, “Life is short! I need to have lots of sex!” or “Life is short! There’s no time for lots of sex when I have so many other things to worry about!”

Anxiety can also affect libido in a bi-directional manner. Think of it like Goldilocks and the Libido-Bears of Anxiety. Too much or too extreme anxiety can decrease sexual desire drastically, whereas just a little bit,  juuuuust the right amount, can increase it (no anxiety at all, of course, has no effect). It’s also possible to alternate between both ends of the libido spectrum!

While anxiety, Terror Management Theory, and lifestyle changes are some broad explanations for libido changes during the pandemic, you may be wondering if there are any other, more specific reasons. There are.

“Where on earth did my libido go?”

  • Survival Stress: There are so many causes of stress right now. There’s relationship stress (of the familial, platonic, sexual, and romantic kinds), for one. There’s also school stress. Adapting to digital learning or making the decision to take some time off from school are both really difficult. Motivation and focus might suffer right now, further increasing stress. Plus, there’s work stress. The loss of a job—part-time or full time, for either you or your parents— is always stressful, let alone piling everything else happening right now on top. Pair this up with a pandemic and health concerns, and “survival stress” occurs. When this happens, the body essentially goes into fight-or-flight, and the only thing that matters is getting through the stressor—sex be damned.
  • Mental health struggles: Many people are experiencing mental health changes during this time. Previously controlled depression might now be spiking. Panic could be appearing for the first time. Generalized anxiety might be rearing its head. If you’ve lost a loved one during this time, there’s processing, grief, and mourning. All these things can drop a sky-high libido down to the sub-basement.
  • Pregnancy, contraception, and other sexual health concerns: if you do have access to a sexual partner*, fears about pregnancy or STIs could stunt libido. Expired IUDs or Depo-Provera shots might not be easy to renew right now. Perhaps you’re out of PrEP and don’t want to risk going to a doctor’s office or pharmacist for more. Maybe there are access issues for reproductive health care. Either way, worrying about getting pregnant or contracting an STI isn’t exactly a turn on.

“Why am I in the mood all the time?”

  • Physical contact changes: Even if you weren’t sexually active with partners before lockdown, you likely experienced other forms of physical touch from romantic partners, friends, and family. Now, without access to partners and friends, that physical contact is lacking, and quarantining with family might have you cringing at the thought of giving them a hug. This prolonged lack of physical contact can cause an increased desire for physical intimacy, which may include sexual intimacy.
  • Sex or masturbation as coping mechanism, distraction tactic, or stress reliever: Whether it’s a solo session with a hand or toy, or a sexy video chat or phone call with a partner, sex and orgasms release feel-good hormones which can be helpful in periods of high-anxiety. If you’re experiencing pandemic-induced anxiety (think back to the Libido Bears), the body might know it needs something to relax, and you might be getting turned on more as a result!
  • Schedule changes: Before the pandemic you may have had classes, a job, sports, clubs, religious obligations, and a social life. If you were really busy, you could have simply lacked the time to always be in the mood back then. Now, with many things cancelled or put on hold, there’s more opportunity for you and your body to feel aroused. Similarly, with the removal of many obligations from your plate, your stress levels might have decreased, which can increase libido.

“What do I do about it?”

  • Whether you don’t currently have a partner or a safe way to be with one, or don’t want to masturbate all the time, you can channel your libido energy elsewhere. Finding something that fully occupies your mind can be a great distraction from unwanted arousal. Play a game, paint a picture, work on a puzzle, read a (non-sexy) book.
  • Meditation can also be useful. Meditation can improve willpower, self-awareness, patience, tolerance, and the ability to refocus attention. Becoming more in tune with the senses through mediation can be helpful in redirecting them. This practice can also help you become better at experiencing sexual feelings and subsequently letting them go.
  • Though certain kinds of exercise increase libido, exercise can also be used to tone down your arousal or release those feelings. High intensity exercise can be a great option, because it can decrease or answer libido, distract you from arousal, and make you way too tired to even think about wanting to have sex.

“I don’t like that my libido has changed. I want it to go back to the way it was. What do I do?”

  • Don’t guilt or shame yourself. If you normally enjoy a high libido, but now don’t want to be touched with a ten-foot pole, it’s okay. You’re still you, and you haven’t done anything wrong to bring this upon yourself. Your libido will return as the world settles into new normalcy and life becomes less scary and unknown. Likewise, if you never felt like you needed much sexual contact, but now are always itching for a release, know that you didn’t all of a sudden become sex crazed, and you’re not doomed to a life of constant horniness. Things will even out.
  • Pandemic or not, fluctuations in libido throughout life are extremely common. Age, diet, life changes, and many other things factor into sexual desire, and this will remain true during periods of life other than this one. Lockdown may have intensified libido changes for many people, but that doesn’t mean there will be need to worry if desire fluctuations happen again down the road when the pandemic is over. This also means that libido changes right now for some people might not have anything to do with the pandemic at all! It could just be one of the many perfectly normal libido shifts that occur throughout life.
  • Talk to someone you can trust. That person can be a romantic or sexual partner, friend, relative… really, anyone you’re comfortable with. Just talking about what you’re experiencing can minimize distress. If that doesn’t work and you have the access to mental health care, counselors—especially those certified in sex therapy—can be a great resource to help you work though these changes. Many counselors are offering teletherapy right now, so you can keep yourself and your family safe while still taking care of your mental and sexual health. Scarleteen’s direct services are also available to you.
  • Masturbate! Solo-sex can be helpful whether your libido is unusually low or unusually high. Masturbation can help release some sexual tension if your libido is higher than normal; likewise, if your libido seems to have flown off to a distant country, taking some time to really get yourself aroused, and doing so on a somewhat regular basis, can help bring your sex drive back up naturally. It’s kind of like a positive and negative feedback loop in one. This practice can be valuable whether you’re single or in a relationship with someone you no longer have physical access to.
  • If you have a partner*, finding other ways to be intimate (sexual and not) are super important and useful right now. Besides phone calls and video chatting, try writing each other a poem, or making each other a picture. Work out together in your own separate homes. Pick out a movie to watch at the same time. Make playlists for each other and listen to them simultaneously. Cook a dinner together on video chat, or order from the same restaurant. Intimacy building is an important part of all relationships, and adaptations in how we do so may lead your relationship to become even stronger!

*You are your safest sex partner. This is true always, but especially right now.

If you are having sex with a partner you don’t live with, there are risks associated with participating in in-person partnered sexual activity. We know that COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets found in saliva and breath, making kissing a particularly high risk for transmission, and heavy breathing during sex can exacerbate spread. Though scientists currently think it’s unlikely for the virus to spread through semen or vaginal fluid, there may be a possibility for transmission through contact with fecal matter, making oral-anal contact a potential mode infection. Remember that trauma can lead to risk taking, and many people are experiencing trauma right now due to the pandemic, so intentionally prioritizing proper sexual precautions is of utmost importance. If you do have sex with someone outside your household, be safe.

  • Avoid kissing and unprotected oral-body contact, especially oral-anal contact.
  • Try mutual masturbation. Self-pleasuring together from a distance is significantly safer than up-close body-to-body activity.
  • Use barrier protection always, and contraception if needed. Focusing on COVID safety doesn’t mean standard sexual health practices should take a back-seat.
  • Talk about COVID the same way you would any sexual health topic. Does either partner have any symptoms? Has either been tested recently? What was the diagnosis? Safe-sex conversation skills can be truly beneficial for this situation.
  • Minimize the amount of partners you have during this time. If you are going to have sex, limiting your number of partners can be truly helpful with preventing spread of the virus.
  • Make informed decisions about your partners. Have they been social distancing or quarantining? How many people live in their household? Though risk is still high regardless, risk significantly increases if one or both people have not been following social distancing guidelines.
  • Wear a mask. Though masks don’t work perfectly in close contact, they can still help minimize spread by containing droplets. If you’re going to be having sex, taking every precaution you can is important. Though it may seem strange at first, incorporating masks into sex can be a fun and adventurous new thing!
  • Shower before meeting up and after parting ways, and wash your hands for twenty seconds immediately prior to and immediately post sexual activity. Cleaning your body and hands can remove any droplets that may have landed on your skin during un-masked alone time or from contact with your partner.

In the end, it’s important to remember that these times are difficult for everyone. You’re allowed to have feelings about what’s going on, and you’re allowed to be nervous about libido changes. But know that it’s all normal, and it’s okay that these changes are happening. People all over the world are experiencing the same things you are. And it will get better.











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Is UBI the Key to Fixing Everything?

What would YOU do with a guaranteed monthly income? 
The Covid-19 pandemic has made the benefits of a universal basic income much more obvious to most people. As a political pragmatist I’ve been in favor of some kind of UBI for a long time. In this episode I talk about the many reasons why I think having a cash UBI would be better than the miserable patchwork of our current social “safety net”. A guaranteed UBI would lead to a society that not only has less poverty, but also fosters more innovation, does a better job of supporting its citizens as they care for each other, and is better prepared to meet the challenges of the future.

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World Contraception Day 2020

Happy World Contraception Day! Part of the international Your Life campaign, World Contraception Day takes place every year on September 26. It was launched with the aim of helping young people around the world make safe and educated decisions about sex.

Why This Matters to Teens

This is especially important for teens, who often don’t receive education about contraception in school. Just “16 states require instruction on condoms or contraception when sex education or HIV/STI instruction is provided,” according to SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. Plus, “35 require schools to stress abstinence when sex education or HIV/STI instruction is provided.”

But, the reality is that there are teens who choose to have sex and not remain abstinent, and this lack of information has an effect on them. “By the time they are in twelfth grade, the majority of high school students have had sexual intercourse,” says a report done by the Guttmacher Institute using data from the U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Surveys done in 2013, 2015 and 2017, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Contraceptive Choices

World Contraception Day seeks to educate teens about the importance of safer sex. When it comes to preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the campaign introduces teens to information and resources about their contraceptive choices.

Currently, there are numerous forms of contraception available and finding one that works for you can seem like a daunting task. This campaign can help teens decide which method is best for them and what steps to take to access different contraceptive methods, including finding a health care provider if needed.

A Great Resource

The Your Life website guides teens on the usage and function of various contraceptive methods, teaching them things like which methods prevent STDs in addition to unintended pregnancy and the effectiveness of each. In addition, the website includes answers to commonly asked questions in order to enable teens to make decisions that benefit them most.

For many teens, high school is the time they begin to consider having sex for the first time. That’s why it’s so important to have campaigns like World Contraception Day that raise awareness and give them the opportunity they deserve to make informed decisions about their bodies and sexual health.

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How Do I Tell If Someone Is Into Me?

You can read a book. You can read a map. But reading people, that’s difficult in any situation. Reading people to figure out if they’re actually into you romantically or sexually is even more difficult. Douglas Laman is here to give fellow autistic readers a little help.

You can read a book. You can read a map. But reading people, that’s difficult in any situation.

Reading people to figure out if they’re actually into you romantically or sexually is even more difficult. It’s a harrowing part of developing any sort of crush on another person. That sensation of your mind ping-ponging back and forth between the ideas that your crush is infatuated with you and that your crush probably doesn’t even know you exist. The difficulty of navigating this scenario is only exacerbated for many autistic people. After all, it plays into a struggle found among many of us, myself included, dealing with reading people’s subtle social cues.

If somebody is trying to let you know if they “like” you or not, they’re often going to communicate those feelings through hand movements, raised eyebrows or vocal tone. Trying to navigate those signals has brought me plenty of frustration in the past. I’m surely not the only autistic person to feel that struggle.

There are ways to cut through all the confusion and get some clarity on if someone you like feels the same way about you. But first, let’s clarify if the water is safe to swim in before you go jumping in that pool. In other words, let’s examine why you think a person might like you back. What circumstances have led you to think a person feels this way about you? Is it just because they have been nice to you? Is there a deeper connection between you two? What kind of conversations have you shared in the past?

There is a great deal of difference between a person exhibiting basic kindness and exhibiting indicators of feeling something more passionate. Contemplate your past interactions with this person to figure out if there’s anything in their body language and vocals to even examine.

Once you’re sure there’s something deeper, then there are ways to figure out if your suspicions are correct. These subtle signals can appear anywhere and at anytime through subtle pieces of body language. Some people may explicitly say “I like you” or “I don’t like you like that,” but many people won’t be so direct. Particularly with the latter phrase, people tend to convey their interior desires through gestures.

Now, sometimes, a stretch is just a stretch. It’s important to not lapse into self-absorbed territory and think every move a person makes is a signal to you. But other times, what a person does with their bodies can indicate something greater. This is especially true when a person is trying to convey whether they like you or not. For example, a person may indicate they feel closer to you through means like frequently getting closer to you. Conversely, a person looking always looking off or moving further away when engaging with you is trying to indicate they’re uncomfortable in this social situation and don’t want to be closer to you.

Of course, not every piece of body language is as simple as looking away or moving closer. If you’re still struggling to figure out what their body language means, you can use context clues to help you figure it out.  An example of this could be if the person you’re attached to looks at the floor. Did you recently say something that would cause the other person to turn downwards? Did they indicate they wanted to look at the floor? Did behavior from another person cause this? There are all kinds of things all around you that can help lead you to the meaning behind body language. In the process, you can figure out how the other person is subtly communicating their feelings about you.

A similar process can be used to decipher the underlying meaning behind someone’s voice. The way a person says a certain phrase can indicate they feel comfortable around you and may reciprocate your feelings. However, a person can also use details about their voice to convey the opposite feeling. This is especially notable in the kind of words and subjects they use in a conversation. For instance, your crush may repeatedly refer to you as a friend or change the subject when you bring up more intimate subject matter. These function as a way of a person quietly letting you know they just don’t like you in a romantic way.

If you want to figure out a persons feelings about you, it’s important to also interact with them in the right environment. For this topic, check out my recent Scarleteen column looking at ideal places for a first date.  This location should strive for a balance between intimacy and comfort for the person you’re seeing. Somewhere like a museum, a restaurant or a thrift store can provide plenty of opportunities for one-on-one interactions. However, they also have lots of other people around, which can provide comfort for the other person you’re seeing. In these locations, you can examine your crush’s body language and vocal traits to figure out whether you’re they like you back.

Of course, these tips, particularly ones regarding places to meet, are more applicable to traditional dating expectations than where we’re all at right now as I’m writing this. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is anything but traditional. People are connecting through virtual means rather than in-person scenarios. These tips about body language and vocal tics can still be applicable over a Zoom session. Additionally, this virtual reality offers new indicators whether a person is into you or not.

Let us look at a person constantly declining your requests to have a one-on-one videochat session. Though they may always say it’s because they’re “busy”, this recurring notice can be the other person trying to gently let you know they’re not interested in you in that manner. On a more positive note, recurring prolonged one-on-one Zoom or Skype sessions with another person can be a good indicator that they may have deeper feelings for you.

If you’re getting signals that they do, in fact, feel the same way about you, then you can start to gradually incorporate the topics like seeing each other regularly or having a more romantic or sexual date into your conversations. However, it is crucial to note that, whether you’re interacting in-person or virtually, you will never be able to read another person’s body language better than that other person. If the person you’re with is expressing discomfort or lack of consent, even if it doesn’t look like that to you, that overrides your interpretation.

Similarly, if a person ends up not reciprocating your feeling of affection, that’s totally okay. You can feel disappointed, of course, but them not returning your romantic intentions does not make them a villain. This is especially an important lesson to impart for heterosexual cisgender men. As a society, men are conditioned to think they’re owed women as romantic partners. If a woman deviates from a man’s affections, well, it gets chalked up to being a conspiracy against “nice guys” or other similar expressions of entitlement. We’re not entitled to women, their attention or affection.

Those toxic ideas reduce women from being people to objects. That’s why it’s important, even if you’re disappointed that your crush isn’t into you, to not diminish the humanity of that former crush. They are a person too and one perfectly within their own rights not to be enamored with you.

Reading a person’s body language is significantly harder than reading a map or a book. However, it is an essential process. Much like not demonizing a person because they’re not into you, understanding a person’s body language is a great way to recognize somebody else’s humanity. Relationships are not built on treating people like trophies to be obtained. Taking the time to assess a person as a human being who communicates needs through body language, that is what relationships are all about.

Soft illustration of a peacock with text "how do I tell if someone is into me?"











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Suicide Prevention Month: How to Find and Offer Support to LGBTQ Teens

It’s National Suicide Prevention Month and that got me thinking about how the world can feel brutal sometimes: mean comments, rumors, judgment. Research unfortunately has found that LGBTQ youth are at higher risk for suicide.

For their 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, the Trevor Project—an organization focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth—surveyed over 40,000 U.S. LGBTQ people ages 13 to 24. Among their key findings: “Forty percent of LGBTQ respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered suicide.” Further, LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual teens, according to the 2016 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance from the Centers for Disease Control.

These are disheartening and discouraging statistics. But LGBTQ youth are subject to a lot of discrimination and abuse. “Six out of 10 LGBTQ youth said that someone attempted to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the Trevor Project survey mentioned above. And “One in three LGBTQ youth report that they have been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”

But there are things you can do, whether you’re looking for support or wanting to provide it to others. For example, the Trevor Project’s survey found that transgender and nonbinary young people who reported having their pronouns respected or access to gender gender-affirming clothing had lower rates of attempted suicide. And the great news is that 86 percent of LGBTQ young people who took the survey reported high levels of support from at least one person. Let’s make that 100 percent!

Offer Your Support

1. Listen and care. Even the smallest amount of love and support can go a long way. A simple “How are you doing?” can really help with feelings of isolation and show that you care. Reach out.

2. Use your voice on social media. By sharing LGBTQ-friendly posts, you are supporting and advocating for those who are LGBTQ. This not only increases awareness but also may catch the eyes of many who need to know they have allies.

3. Get help. If you know someone who is struggling and may be contemplating suicide, let them know that they are not alone and they have many resources, such as the ones listed below.

As The Trevor Project says on their website, “One supportive person can prevent suicide.” Sometimes, that’s all it takes to help someone.

Resources

• Call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386, where trained counselors are available 24/7. It’s a safe and judgment-free place to talk about what is on your mind.

• Not feeling like talking? Well, TrevorChat is also available online 24/7 where you can message a trained counselor from your computer. Conversations are confidential.

TrevorText is confidential and will also connect you with a trained Trevor counselor 24/7. Text START to 678-678.

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Menstrual Discs: A Unique Option for Back to School

After a week of constant ads for menstrual discs on my Snapchat, I finally gave in and tried them. The prospect of a 12-hour, no-(or-low) leak, potentially cramp-reducing product with the option of mess-free sex on your period? Enough to get me interested!

Even though the product isn’t brand-new, most people I know haven’t heard of it. I thought it could be a great option for dealing with your period in the upcoming school year. It’s always good to have more choices!

What Is a Menstrual Disc?

A menstrual disc is a flat, flexible plastic disc that collects menstrual flow around the cervix. Unlike a menstrual cup, which sits lower in the vaginal canal, the menstrual disc goes around the cervix, sitting higher in the vagina.

Before I learned about menstrual discs, I used tampons and pads. They were OK, but even after a year of using tampons, they were still uncomfortable for me when I put them in. So, when I heard about an alternative option, I was eager to try it out.

There are a couple of different kinds. I’ve only tried the Softdisc, which has worked well for me.

Why I Love It

One of the things I love about the menstrual disc is that when you pinch it in the middle, it folds down to a size even smaller than a tampon. The plastic material slides in easier for me than a cotton/rayon tampon.

It took me a few tries to get it in correctly, but once I figured it out, it lasted around eight to 10 hours. Sometimes I forgot I was on my period at all!

There were very few leaks, no hanging string or any visible signs of the disc. And I had barely any cramps (though the jury is still out on if menstrual discs really can reduce cramps since cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus, not the vagina).

I think what draws a lot of people to discs is that they don’t block the vaginal canal, so you can have penetrative sex with one in. This is awesome, but menstrual discs don’t provide any form of protection from unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, so you should still use condoms, which prevent both.

Are They for You?

Menstrual discs are another option for dealing with your period, but they are not for everyone. They’re more expensive than tampons or menstrual cups, and aren’t very eco-friendly. You’ll also need to be comfortable handling your menstrual fluid, because you’ll have to insert and take the disc out with your fingers. Also, it collects menstrual blood, rather than absorbing it, so you’ll see more when you take it out. This took some getting used to.

Despite those potential downsides, menstrual discs are my new favorite menstrual product! They make that one dreaded week out of every month more tolerable.

There are a lot of different options for dealing with your period, but until recently I’d only heard of tampons, pads, menstrual cups and period underwear. If you’re looking for an alternative option for the upcoming school year (whether you’re going to school or doing remote learning), you might want to give menstrual discs a try!

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Human Priorities

Priorities – are yours in the right place? Or are you one of those people who needs a (metaphorical or literal) smack on the ass to see what should be as plain as the nose on your face?

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Political Intercourse with the Dominatrix Next Door

Hi there! I’m a professional dominatrix, but you’d never know it because I’m also the middle aged mom next door. Join me for a unique perspective on current events and issues of the day.

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