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Why Some Women Are Choosing To Remain Celibate After Lockdown

Why Some Women Are Choosing To Remain Celibate After Lockdown

Why Some Women Are Choosing To Remain Celibate After Lockdown

With restrictions easing, some say we’re set for a summer of love – but what about those of us who aren’t fussed about getting back in the game?

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Illustrations by Erin Rommel and Sabrina Bezerra


2nd July 2021

Some say we’re heading for a second ‘summer of love’ or a ‘hot vax summer’ now that restrictions are set to end “irreversibly” on July 19th. The evidence is there: Boots UK sales of condoms have seen a massive 98% increase. Match Group the company that owns Tinder and Hinge has predicted growth of more than 20% going into the summer. Even Love Island, the horniest show on TV, is returning at long last.

But while some of us are itching to get back out there, others are in no rush. Lockdown gave us the time to reassess what we really want from our relationships and sex lives. While for some that means lining up a string of dates as the world reopens, others are in no rush to end their dry spells.

Dani*, 24, hasn’t had sex in nearly two years. The last time was with a guy she was seeing for about a month and a half in August 2019 four months before the first COVID-19 case was identified in Wuhan. “When lockdown happened, I was like ‘oh okay, maybe it’ll just be a few more months and I’ll be back out there,” she says. But as we all know, the UK has now been in and out of lockdowns for 15 months and Dani has not slept with anyone in this time.

But Dani doesn’t mind. In fact, she welcomed the chance to reflect on her relationship with sex over lockdown. “I think I’ve definitely grown up and stopped thinking about [dating] as just something you just do,” she says. “Now I want to be a little more intentional with everything.”

I think I’ve definitely grown up and stopped thinking about dating as just something you just do. Now I want to be a little more intentional with everything.

“I’m not necessarily actively looking for anything, in the sense that I’m not going to go on apps or ask people to set me up,” she continues. “I’m going to see where things go. I’m very good at being by myself I’ll take myself out and go to brunch by myself, or pubs by myself, or the cinema by myself.”

Dani isn’t alone in having less sex at the moment. Research published in January 2021 by sex toy brand LELO found that that 12% of Brits haven't had an intimate sexual experience be it a kiss or sexual intercourse for over three years. Naturally, given the fact that casual sex was essentially illegal over lockdown, it’s also unsurprising that one in ten adults reported having no sex between March and October 2020.

Like Dani, 25-year-old Elise* also hasn’t slept with anyone recently. She last had sex nine months ago: “It was with a friend who I’ve been sort of sleeping with every so often on a casual basis over the past few years,” she says. “It was more just scratching an itch, on both sides.”

Elise is also happy with her own company at the moment. “I’ve obviously not done it for a long time and I’m fine,” she says. “I wasn’t desperate to get out once restrictions changed and get straight on dating apps and line something up. I think I’m just enjoying the freedom.”

“I find all the ‘summer of love’ talk a little bit intimidating,” she continues. “I’ve downloaded a dating app to have a little look but it does all seem very intense for the moment. I think people are looking to have sex and that’s absolutely fine, as long as everyone’s safe and healthy and on the same page, but that’s not something that I’m really keen to dash into.” She adds that the enforced break from sex has allowed her to come off the contraceptive pill for the first time in eight years: “I never would have had the opportunity [without lockdown], so that was sort of freeing.”

Dr Laura Vowels, principle researcher and therapist at Blueheart, says that there are many reasons why women might not be in any rush to get back out there. “Some people may choose celibacy to feel more empowered and focus on themselves instead of sex and romantic relationships,” she explains. “For many, the lockdown was an extremely difficult time. The stress and isolation that came with the pandemic meant most people were generally less interested in sex.”

Both Dani and Elise have also cultivated their own hobbies during lockdown and found fulfilment in other ways. Dani says she’s been doing a lot more reading and “getting to know [herself]”, while Elise has found solace in exercising. “I’ve gotten much more into daily walks, some training, some gym, and I’ve really enjoyed it,” she says. “The endorphin rush, the feeling of accomplishment, and the hard work you put in has been incredibly fulfilling.”

However, neither Dani nor Elise feel as though they’ll abstain from sex and relationships forever. “I do hope this drought does end soon, but I’m in the business of doing things for the right reasons now,” Dani says. “I used to be in a rush to do everything and just felt like time was running out, but when you slow down and take your time you have more fulfilling experiences.”

Elise feels similarly. “If I meet someone and I’m enjoying their company and would like to have sex with them then that’s great, but if I’m meeting people and just not finding whatever it is that makes me want to sleep with them, then I’ll happily abstain,” she says. “There’s no huge pressure either way, which is quite a nice position to be in.”

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you’re planning on completing Tinder or taking a step back from sex this summer. The most important thing is that the freedom to make those choices has been reinstated. Different things empower different people, and there’s no reason why a woman who is actively choosing to refrain from sex is any less liberated, happy, or fulfilled as a woman who is actively choosing to have lots of sex.

As Dr Vowels puts it: “I think it’s essential that women do what they want and what makes them happy. Not what society pushes, nor what their partner wants. Women should have control of their sex lives and should not be judged for whether they choose to have sex — or not.”

*Names changed to protect anonymity

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