6 People On Giving Up Sex Until The Pandemic Is Over (& Maybe Longer)

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
When the first guidelines on how to have safe COVID sex were released in June of 2020, the advice was pretty damn clear: “You are your safest sex partner.” Many of us laughed, many of us cried, but most of us hoped the pandemic (and therefore our dry spell) would be over and done with by the end of the summer.
That, um, didn't happen. Over a year into quarantine with COVID-19 still prevalent in the U.S., a new sex-free reality has settled in for many. And while some are undoubtedly still dating and hooking up (cue side-eye), the world certainly hasn't been this laced-up in some time.
About 40% of people surveyed reported less sexual activity during the pandemic, research from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University found. For example, those having vaginal intercourse about once a week on average in 2019 reported doing so only about once a month in 2020. One big reason for lower libido is being stressed out — and the pandemic has added significant stressors to most all of our lives. (For the record, sex has been shown to reduce stress levels.)
For some, skipping sex has felt like a punishment. But for many others, abstinence in the service of social distancing has been an opportunity for self-love and growth. They've used this time to reframe what they want from their sex and romantic lives, change the ways they approach potential partners (if at all), and rediscover their own goals and desires.
We spoke to six people about what celibacy has taught them during this difficult time.

More from Wellness

R29 Original Series