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SEX ON – SEX OFF




A woman visits her doctor and tells him she has terrible discharge. “Ok, take your knickers off and let’s check it out,” he says. She drops her knickers and he has a feel around. “How does that feel?” He asks. She says, “Fucking fantastic, but the discharge is from my ear!”



Your first reaction to something like that would be to have a hearty laugh, and then blurt out – What a twat! It is here I would say, pause a little before judging anyone, since isolation, socially and otherwise too, is known to make people behave in ways that are mostly unexplainable. And given the current circumstances, where a fierce and yet faceless enemy seems to have taken siege of our daily lives, one is beginning to observe an assorted array of feelings take birth in the populace, and one such behaviour we are witnessing amidst people is that of sexual urges: some are using it as a coping mechanism, whilst some others are abstaining from it. 

The New England Journal of Medicine says, ‘In a time when the rational–emotional scale is tipping to the emotional side, we begin relying more heavily on anecdotes, particularly personal experiences that may carry inordinate weight in our minds. Journalists use the power of stories to connect with readers and tug at their emotions. Physicians, trained as scientists, are expected to follow a hypothesis-driven, rational, evidence-based approach to clinical decision making, but we, too, can be swayed by stories under the pressures of a crisis.’

In using the power of stories to connect with their readers, we are witnessing a conflicting reportage that ranges from the brashest to the most unreliable. What is alarming is that several respected publications too are allowing such inane write ups where one says that the rash on the skin can be a sign of the onset of the virus, another says that flatulence can cause the virus to spread, and the latest one claiming that masturbation boosts your immune system, helping you fight off infection and illness. I cannot help imagine what such misinformation can do to those already wallowing in a state of fear and depression, as they are quite literally under a mental as well as physical state of house arrest. 




Sex has been the greatest occupation of mankind after food and these accounts about how the COVID-19 may affect their sex lives is accentuating their anxiety. Some claim that the anxiety is playing spoil sport, while some claim that they feel a rather heightened state of arousal. So let us take the help of medicine and psychology to examine the two sides of the coin. 

It would be safe to say that both are not wrong in what they are feeling as psychological studies state that no two people act and react in the same way, and that sexual necessities and wants vary from person to person.

Isolation terrifies us, and we can draw a great deal from Terror Management Theory. Such a theory explains that when we are reminded of the prospect of our own mortality, that is when we are confronted with the fact that eventually everybody will die, we cultivate to change our communicative pattern and thoughts in a manner so as to help us cope with this inevitable end. The unrest and the death that one is learning from the various forms of media about the virus that is affecting people of all age groups, from across the globe, seems to have increased the awareness of our mortality more than ever. As an unswerving effect, each of us are dealing with an underlying wisdom of angst about death, and like everything else, every individual is coping with it in their own capacity.   




Whenever studies were conducted where the subjects were asked about the vista of their death, a fair number of them exhibited an increase in sexual longing, while some others took to it casually, like any other activity they would engage in without giving it much emphasis. Some theories rationalise that those with a positive body image and not intimidated by physical intimacy display an amplified interest in sex. I, however, think that it is rather discriminating to encourage generalised statements like this because one cannot quite measure the level of a human beings sexual craving based on factors such as body image, comfort with physical intimacy, etcetera, as one can harbour an interest in sexual closeness without boundaries sketched by research. When I probed a bit more, I learnt that such information in a surge in sexual activity in a time like this had been collated from the number of times people were accessing pornographic sites. Such numbers may possibly matter, but they are not concrete data to support why we have been feeling a bit more frisky when left indoors. My practical theory on it is perhaps that when any two individuals spend a reasonable amount of time together, the epithelial layers seem to peel away, and the said individuals begin to bond and bind deeper than when they had been distracted by the diversions of day-to-day routines. Given the physical proximity, they feel less constrained, which they would customarily feel, as they are normally engaged in physical intimacy as a couple, just that those moments, as they are busy doing other things are spontaneous, or planned, with abundant pressure to let off steam and satisfying carnal hungers by resorting to lovemaking; but when you are jammed with someone for twenty-four hours, for weeks together, the dynamics are indeed different, and once the initial awkwardness of being thrown together without escape is overcome, such individuals begin to actually explore their feelings, and as an outcome, their bodies are far more open to frequent engagements of sexual activity.   

Now on to the other side of the coin. Research illuminates that some individuals clearly use non-sexual methods of relieving their disquiet. And like the Terror Management Theorythere is also the theory of Dual Control Model of Sexual Response. This theory explores the belief that we all entertain varied bents for sexual excitation and sexual inhibition. I was reading a fine example that explained it fittingly thus: We all have a “gas pedal” and a “brake” when it comes to sexual arousal. However, some people have a gas pedal that is always partially pressed (which makes it easier for them to get turned on), whereas others have a brake that is always partially pressed (which makes it harder for them to get turned on). For people who are easily inhibited, stressful situations like the one we’re currently in are likely to slam the brake. These individuals will probably find that it’s hard to get in the mood for sex right now unless they can find a really potent distraction or another way to get in the moment.  

Another medical paper expressed something else of note, and I prefer to quote it here verbatim – By contrast, for those who are easily excitable, stressful situations don’t necessarily create the same roadblock—and they could potentially even have the opposite effect. How? We know that fear and anxiety sometimes have the effect of amplifying sexual arousal rather than supressing it. Indeed, strong emotions are often mistaken for sexual attraction. Furthermore, “excitation transfer” can potentially occur, in which strong emotional states end up amplifying a sexual response. In fact, this is precisely why a lot of people say that “makeup sex” is the best sex—residual arousal form a fight with a partner is probably intensifying sexual arousal in those cases. 




I would like to say that whatever way you end up analysing to what extent your own needs require a pause, or an augmentation, especially in the frequency of your physical involvement based on the situation, there is no compunction. Remember that love, happiness, being adventurous, positive thinking, dreaming, hope, believing, being crazy, laughter, tipsy nights, gratefulness, joy, moonshine, chasing dreams, peace, singing, bird songs, motivation, meaningful conversations, thankfulness, blooming flowers, being proud, music, braveness, exciting books, the sound of rain, the fragrance of rain, optimism, celebrating life, funny movies, soulmates, sunshine, being strong, honour, freedom . . . these are some of the true joys that no studies or research can take away from you, and the same would apply to your sex drive too. Do not let time or inhibitions hinder you from exploring what you want to explore, and as many times as you want to explore it . . . so go on and get under (or over) the sheets! 

To end, leaving you with . . . well, you decide what it means, for each one interprets things owing to the elasticity of their aptitude and attitude.

We hear alcohol may prevent the virus... We hear direct sunlight might quickly kill the virus... So, if you come across some bloke standing in the front garden buzzed-faced and naked, leave me alone. I’m conducting important medical research!






References

Taubman-Ben-Ari, O. (2004). Intimacy and risk sexual behaviour – What does it have to do with death? Death Studies, 28, 865–887

Goldenberg, J.L., McCoy, S.K., Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., & Solomon, S. (2000). The body as a source of self-esteem: The effect of mortality salience on identification with one’s body, interest in sex, and appearance monitoring. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 118–130.

Bancroft, John, Graham, Cynthia A., Janssen, Erick, Sanders, Stephanie A. (2009). The Dual Control Model: Current Status and Future Directions. Journal of Sex Research, 46 (2 & 3): 121-142. 

Ivry Zagury-Orly, Richard M. Schwartzstein (2020) Covid-19 – A Reminder to Reason. The New England Journal of Medicine 

Image Credits: An erotic realm, clockwise from centre: Ellen Barkin and Gabriel Byrne in ‘Siesta’, Richard Tyson and Sherilyn Fenn in ‘Two Moon Junction’, David Duchovny in ‘Red Shoe Diaries’, Carré Otis and Mickey Rourke in ‘Wild Orchid’, and Audie England and Costas Mandylor in ‘Delta of Venus’. Rex / Eureka / New Line Cinema 


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