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Dating & Relationships

Study reveals what the pandemic did to our love lives

“Frequent and rewarding sexual activity has been associated with individuals’ greater overall enjoyment of life."

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The team analyzed an online survey of 675 adults in the US, UK and Canada. (Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

By Danny Halpin via SWNS

Some couples had more frequent and adventurous intercourse during the pandemic as a way of feeling safe in a scary time, scientists have revealed.

Locked up together, those who viewed it as a leisure activity had more satisfying and active love lives during the pandemic.

Many used the extra time to explore adult toys and fantasies such as role-play.

Professor Liza Berdychevsky of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign said: “Viewing sex as leisure minimized the negative effects of the pandemic on people’s sex lives and was linked with greater ability to reach orgasm, heightened sexual intimacy and more touching and caressing.

“These individuals used the additional time with their partners to devote more time to sexual intimacy, communication and experimentation.

“Adopting this approach may have been a powerful means for individuals and couples to feel both safe and adventurous in their sex lives during a rather scary time.”

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(Shift Drive via Shutterstock)

The team analyzed an online survey of 675 adults in the US, UK and Canada between February and May 2021.

They found that viewing sex as a leisure activity – defined as having sex for recreation, relaxation, self-gratification or personal development – led those people to find creative ways to maintain their sex lives during lockdowns and social distancing.

Over half of the respondents found sex-as-leisure to be a useful coping mechanism during the pandemic, with many reporting increased feelings of creativity, playfulness and spontaneity.

Sex was a source of pleasure, relaxation and comfort for more than two-thirds of the respondents, as well as a means of stress relief, distraction or passing free time.

The behavioral coping strategies encompassed trying new positions, toys or activities such as bondage and domination or sexual role-playing.

And the technology-assisted coping strategies involved watching adult content, sexting and using dating apps.

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(Cast Of Thousands via Shutterstock)

More than 20 percent of respondents indulged in long-suppressed sexual fantasies, tried new positions (41 percent), explored sex toys and aids (26 percent) or engaged in bondage and domination (18 percent) or sexual role-playing (13 percent).

Prof Berdychevsky said: “When sexual activity is pleasurable, freely chosen, and intrinsically motivated, it aligns with most definitions of leisure activity.

“The sex-as-leisure mindset affects sexual inhibitions, attitudes and practices, and it is congruent with the view of sexual health as key to our overall wellbeing and quality of life.”

Her paper, published in the journal Leisure Studies, examined people’s views of sex as leisure before and during the pandemic and the effects that had on the respondents’ quantity and quality of sex.

Prof Berdychevsky found that those who viewed sex as a leisure activity had increased sexual desire as well as greater variety, frequency and quality of sex compared to people who did not view sex the same way.

The participants ranged in age from 18-76 and included almost 66 percent women, 30 percent men and 2.8 percent individuals who identified differently.

About 68 percent of respondents had a regular sexual partner and 12 percent had a casual partner.

In a different paper published in the journal Leisure Sciences, Prof Berdychevsky examined how viewing sex as leisure served as a coping strategy.

Participants were asked whether they engaged in various attitudinal, behavioral and technology-assisted sex-as-leisure coping mechanisms.

The attitudinal strategies included engaging in sex for comfort, pleasure, stress relief or to be playful.

Because of the pandemic’s extended periods of isolation and heightened fears of contagion, the use of technology-mediated coping mechanisms flourished.

Prof Berdychevsky found it offered people an outlet for flirting and sexual expression without concerns about safety and social distancing.

Respondents also reported that they watched porn alone or with a partner (59 percent and 17 percent, respectively), took erotic photos or videos (31 percent), exchanged erotic notes or emails (25 percent) or participated in phone or webcam sex (nearly 14 percent).

Behavioral sex-as-leisure coping strategies were found to be much more effective than attitudinal tactics.

However, while about 21 percent of the people surveyed used dating apps to connect with others, these were rated the least effective of the behavioral coping mechanisms, according to the study.

Prof Berdychevsky’s data analyses initially showed that participants’ tendency to view sex as a leisure activity deteriorated, on average, during the pandemic.

While a mixture of variables affected the quality of respondents’ sex lives – including age, stress levels and access to a regular sexual partner – when Prof Berdychevsky looked closer at the data she found that individuals’ perception of sex as a leisure activity was a better predictor of whether their sex lives thrived or deteriorated.

She said: “These results demonstrate that a strong tendency to view sex as leisure served as a protective factor against the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s sex lives.

“The decline in people’s tendency to view sex as a form of leisure activity is a potentially problematic health risk factor because this perspective is positively related to all aspects of sexuality, including sexual desire, intimacy and satisfaction.

“Frequent and rewarding sexual activity has been associated with individuals’ greater overall enjoyment of life, quality of life and well-being."

“It is crucial not to let sexual and relational health become collateral damage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Public health messages educating people to view sex as leisure could help them navigate the impacts and aftermath of the pandemic in their intimate lives and improve their preparedness for future public health crises.”

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