We spoke to different people about how intimacy and expressions of love have changed for them during the pandemic.
“A loveless world is a dead world. The plague makes us crave more for love and the arms of our loved ones.” - Albert Camus, The Plague
After two back to back relationships, Zara* had just started getting into the flow of single life, when the latest lockdown was declared in early April. “I wanted to have some fun before getting into anything serious,” the bright-eyed 27 year old told me on a Zoom call from her parents’ 1 BHK flat in Mumbai. “Clearly that’s not happening now, and I feel like I’m constantly in heat.” In the seven weeks since lockdown was announced, Zara, like many single people, has been trying to build intimacy through apps and has been on one video date.
Like a lot of us, she has been battling with whether to take things beyond the digital realm. “I don’t know what the right time is, given the risks involved. It’s really hard to have that talk."
Meanwhile, Aditi*(28) has seen her desire to be intimate see-saw during the past year. “Initially there was a lot of sexting and sharing pictures, sexy calls over the weekend with different people, but the excitement of that fizzled out over time. When you don’t really know if you’re ever going to meet someone face-to-face, fantasies and hypothetical situations can only go that far."
Most state lockdown regulations are giving us serious deja-vu from last year, and single people all over the country have been forced to extend their sexual drought for a little while longer. But how long can this method of complete abstinence go on? And while we can buy sex toys online in India, nothing really replaces the warmth of a good spoon.
A study by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry states that while sexual abstinence is the safest practice to prevent transmission of COVID, it is not practically feasible in all cases. “Sexual oppression at the time of emergencies has led to adverse physical and psychological consequences. Considering these factors, total sexual abstinence alone might not be an effective measure to promote sexual well-being during pandemics,” says Dr. Debanjan Banerjee from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, India.
Singletons aren’t the only ones who are struggling with intimacy issues during the pandemic. Varun* whose relationship was suddenly converted into a long-distance one due to state lockdowns, says this was new territory to deal with. “Living with our respective parents means there’s only so much we can do on the phone. We can’t get as comfortable, as you’re never really alone. While we have found ways to have fun, I’ve found myself resorting to watching more porn and getting into a sort of rut,” he explained.
Varun, Zara and Aditi’s struggles aren’t due to lack of time–
At the end of the day, intimacy is intrinsically tied to “personal touch,” and cyber closeness is still a somewhat alien concept for many.
Scientists have highlighted that a lack of skin-to-skin or personal contact with other people can cause what is known as touch starvation or ‘skin hunger’, a neurological issue which can affect us both psychologically and physically.
While some people are left craving contact, others are in the opposite scenario– locked in with loved ones or partners, and sometimes not feeling as into it. “Constantly seeing each other in pyjamas didn’t really put me in the mood. That yearning to see each other at the end of a work day completely disappeared,” shared Jay and Alia*, a married couple who both led demanding jobs prior to the pandemic. Being with your partner 24/7, with little room for escape or independent lives, can clearly be both a blessing and a curse.
While a host of new challenges have presented themselves in the past year (in the bedroom and otherwise), our conversations revealed that desperate times have led to innovative measures.
From role-playing in bed, to donning a barely-there outfit while performing mundane chores, uncovering the joys of mutual masturbation and attending online sex parties, people are getting creative with how and where they express their sexuality. Many are choosing to shop of sex toys online right here in India and some people are pouring their hearts out on blogs.
Beyond the physical, people are seeking emotional intimacy in different forms too. “Through apps, I’ve found people looking to connect beyond just pictures, seek support, and find a general distraction from what’s out there. I myself have found discussing my worries with a match rather refreshing,” shared Aditi. Varun’s partner Shreya* admitted to having conversations which wouldn’t have happened if they were spending so much time together. “I think we’ve really been able to map out both our priorities and have difficult conversations– be it, kids, career goals or where we want to live in the future.”
We may not have won against the pandemic just yet, but one thing’s for sure– whether single or committed, physically and emotionally we have most certainly evolved and adapted when it comes to intimacy.
With “Vaccinated” becoming the latest adage to dating app bios, and the roaring twenties just around the corner, we’re excited to see what kind of renaissance our sex lives and drives are going to see in a post-pandemic world.
*Names changed to maintain anonymity
** This article was written by one of our talented guest contibutors, Nazma Kazani. Born in Bombay and blossomed in the UK and Jordan, Nazma is a producer, journalist and scrambled egg maker extraordinaire who creates content that promotes the diversity of human experience.
While our contributors do research a great deal to give you up to date and relevant content, this is basis publicly available information. Our contributors are not doctors or healthcare service providers and our content does not constitute or act as a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis under applicable laws. All suggestions, advice, points of view etc., are meant for adults in the privacy of their own homes.