So… is your sex life sizzling in self-isolation? With sales of erotica and Viagra rising since lockdown, five candid writers share what’s REALLY going on in their bedrooms
- Five writers reveal how lockdown has affected their sex lives and relationships
- Simon Mills says he and his partner of six years are getting to know each other
- Liz Price has some extra time on her hands since the horse racing ended
Some are reporting a surge in libido while self-isolating 24/7 with their beloved, and sales of erotica and Viagra are soaring.
Others, meanwhile, are either on lockdown alone, unable to meet partners, or so anxious that any thought of intimacy is impossible.
Either way, nearly a month in confinement has dramatically changed our sex lives. Five writers share their experiences.
Five writers reveal how lockdown has impacted their love lives. While some are getting to know each other, others are so anxious they’re not touching (file image)
Liz Price, 51, is a horse-racing journalist and presenter. She is in lockdown with her husband of 14 years in West Berkshire.
I am standing in my bathroom. I’ve had a shower, I’m wearing some outrageously expensive French lingerie, and all I have to do is open the bedroom door and join my husband who is expecting me, even though it is three o’clock on a normal Thursday afternoon.
Not that any Thursday is normal in this current situation, but you know what I mean.
Fact is, it’s barely been three days into lockdown and we’ve already had sex three times in 48 hours. (In case you’re wondering, the first 24 hours were used to do essential things, such as buy loo paper).
Fast forward and we are now three weeks into lockdown. And guess what? I am standing in my bathroom, I’ve had a shower, I’m wearing some outrageously expensive lingerie… Except by now, I can’t even remember how much sex we’ve had.
Not that this is a bad thing. I enjoy sex, and if I told you I was 25 and just married, you wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow.
But here is the catch: I am not 25, nor am I just married. I am 51 and have been married for 14 years.
Liz Price (pictured), 51, and her husband have been spending more time together
So how on earth did I end up in this situation? Well, first off, my husband is five years younger than me, which probably explains a lot.
And we have found ourselves without work in lockdown, with his job as a bathroom installer and designer on hold and my job as a horse-racing journalist gone straight after the Cheltenham Festival.
So here we are with all this time on our hands, and before anyone comes up with the clever advice that I should give him lots of chores to do around the house, believe me a) I’ve done that already, b) he still has loads of energy, and c) he says: ‘Honey, I’ll do it when I have time, but right now, seeing as we could all die, don’t you think we should use the time and show how much we love each other?’
And there you go. He said it. It’s the one argument I will never win. It always leaves me speechless, as I will never understand why men believe the only way of showing love is by having sex. Lots of sex.
Luckily, and I have to be fair here, my husband also believes in communication.
For us, honest, transparent and regular discussion is the key to getting us through this challenging period of our lives.
Talking daily about how we feel is so very important. In these times, you just don’t know when the blues will hit you.
As long as we communicate and accept that we are not always in the same mood at the same time, that our fears and worries about the future will not always overlap, then I guess we’ll be all right.
So, as we enter week four of the lockdown, I’m standing in my bathroom, I’ve had a shower, and I’m wearing some outrageously expensive lingerie…
Costa-shortlisted novelist Louise Doughty, 56, has written nine books, including Apple Tree Yard, which was turned into a hit BBC drama. She is in lockdown in London with her partner of 23 years and two daughters, aged 17 and 23.
If social historians of the future want to know what we were up to during lockdown, they need look no further than the novels being self-published on Amazon.
There has, apparently, been a boom in what is now known as ‘lockdown erotica’. Pre-coronavirus, that might have involved furry handcuffs. Now it’s about getting your kicks indoors, as there are zero opportunities coming your way from elsewhere.
The visiting plumber beloved of 1970s housewife porn is at home with his feet up binge-watching Tiger King. Your only chance of fun and games comes from your resident sofa-buddy — if you have one. For those who don’t, the opportunities are strictly digital.
Costa-shortlisted novelist Louise Doughty (pictured), 56, has written nine books, including Apple Tree Yard, which was turned into a hit BBC drama
Whether your nearest is also your dearest is a moot point for the duration, but let’s be honest, there is nothing sexy about 24-hour proximity to a long- term partner.
And if you are trapped indoors with children, then all you really want is for him to do his share of the cooking, cleaning and home schooling.
Swinging from the chandeliers comes a lot lower down the list of priorities than sourcing ketchup for the kids’ fish-finger sandwiches does.
And frankly, any children born as a result of this are going to be first-borns. People who have kids at home all day are absolutely not going to want any more of them.
As if constant proximity wasn’t enough of a passion-killer, we are overloaded with the greatest one of all: worry.
If lockdown was a finite state, we might be making the most of it. But with the prospect of it stretching through the summer, the anxieties we all have for the health of friends and family, and our passionate concern for the NHS, mean making sweet music between the sheets is the last thing on our minds.
No woman wants to be isolated with a Chippendale right now. A good old-fashioned DIY buff will do. My own beloved has never been the big romantic type, but he’s a brilliant housemate — and never have I appreciated it more.
While I am lying on a rug in the sun ‘working’, he is up a ladder clearing out the gutters.
Once lockdown restrictions were lifted in China, divorce applications rocketed from people who discovered that, when the chips were down, their other half had no idea how to work the dishwasher.
What is tolerable when you don’t see your partner from breakfast to supper is unbearable when they are around all day.
If there is a blossoming of passion between couples, it won’t come while lockdown is in progress.
It will come after, when we all go to the pub again and take it for granted, when the kids can play with their friends, when the colossal worry has lifted.
In the meantime, this is where novels come in — ah, fantasyland. The great thing about fantasies, and why they are so erotic, is their unattainability.
Reading a novel may not have the immediate appeal of the pleasures of the flesh, but you can do it in the garden without the neighbours gathering at their windows.
And if your partner is cleaning out the gutters at the same time, that’s about as sexy as it gets right now.
- Platform Seven by Louise Doughty (£8.99, Faber & Faber) is out in paperback this month.
Historian and biographer Lisa Hilton, 45, is the author of the bestselling erotic thriller series Maestra, which consists of three books. She is in lockdown alone at her home in Venice in Italy.
‘So,’ asked my friend Chiara as we settled down with our wine for an early evening FaceTime chat: ‘What are you doing for sex?’
Like the rest of Italy, Venice has now entered its fifth week of lockdown. Measures here are stricter than those in the UK, with a ban on citizens moving more than 200m from their homes. Masks and gloves are obligatory for essential shopping, and you are required to produce a legal document justifying any excursion. Yet amid the tragedy which has engulfed the country, Venetians are more fortunate than most.
We can enjoy the lovely views of a city liberated from tourists and, as there are relatively few food shops and markets, we’re permitted a greater freedom of movement than in other urban centres. Still, the idea of bending the rules hadn’t occurred to me. ‘Nothing,’ I answered. ‘How about you?’ ‘Well, there’s always the calle (narrow street).’
Lisa Hilton (pictured), 45, is alone in her home in Venice, Italy. She says she’s not interested in sex during lockdown but has heard of others taking to alleys
In a sense, the Italians invented quarantine erotica. In the 14th century, Florentine writer Giovanni Boccaccio wrote The Decameron, a collection of stories told by ten young people who have fled to a country villa to isolate themselves against the plague.
Many of the stories (which include that of a strapping young gardener who ends up servicing a whole convent of nuns), were considered scandalously sexy.
Venice, meanwhile, has always been associated with transgressive pleasures. In the 18th century, the lagoon city was the sex capital of the world.
These days, the Venetian mask might seem like another tacky tourist souvenir, but in the past, the exotic anonymity it offered during the weeks of the Venetian carnival represented the delicious possibility of illicit encounters.
According to friends here, something of that spirit has been reawakened during lockdown.
Venice’s labyrinth of alleyways, the calli, have apparently become the scene for secret hook-ups, arranged on Tinder or WhatsApp.
Slipping out into the night for a forbidden encounter with a stranger has tempted many to thwart the rules.
I couldn’t help feeling a bit miffed. I have not lived with a partner for eight years, and as a self-employed writer I’m used to spending time alone, but still, if Venice has become one big nocturnal sex party, how come I hadn’t received an invite?
The nearest I’ve come to an erotic encounter since lockdown began has been getting, and deleting, a few random explicit pictures.
Because obviously what all women need when the world is going to hell is a close-up of some bloke we gave our number to at a drinks party 15 years ago.
I can see how the risk of illicit sex might add a certain frisson, but I can truthfully say that even after five weeks I’m not tempted.
Plus the mosquitoes are terrible at this time of year. I think I’ll wait for better days to get back into the game.
For the present, I’ll stick with the slogan ‘io sto a casa’ (‘I’m staying at home’).
- Sex In The City Of Ladies by Lisa Hilton (£7.99, HarperCollins) is out later this year.
A Divorced father-of-two, writer Simon Mills is in lockdown in Oxfordshire with his partner of six years.
Let’s be honest, this lockdown thing could have gone either way for our relationship. Extended isolation was going to end up with us either at each other’s throats or closer than ever.
Why? Well, even when you are a modern and mature co-habiting couple — eating, drinking, sleeping and socialising together — you don’t get to spend this much time in one another’s company.
You don’t spend every night in front of the TV in the same room. You don’t have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same table for a whole month. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but government-sanctioned isolation engenders a petri dish of emotion and frayed nerves.
Writer Simon Mills (pictured) has been spending more time with his girlfriend of six years and they’re enjoying getting to know each other again
So, how’s it going for me and my girlfriend of six years? Pretty good. Yes, divorce lawyers might be forecasting a big spike in break-ups after lockdown, but it’s kind of working for us.
Both in our 50s and socially distanced from my grown-up daughters by almost 70 miles, we are determined to make our forced isolation in the Oxfordshire countryside productive, enriching, entertaining and affectionate… and not like a practice run for a bland and grouchy early retirement, or a British remake of the Groundhog Day rom-com.
With the work/life balance shifted to just life, our relationship now consists of long lazy days in the garden, walks with the dog, lots of Netflix, copious amounts of Pinot Grigio and, yes, sex.
We worry about the big stuff, but minor stresses now seem inappropriate.
How did this happen? Perhaps watching Tiger King on Netflix gave this still red-blooded primate a few ideas.
Or perhaps it is the clothes. I am loving my girlfriend’s lockdown looks — her Barbara Good-style shorts and wellies, the mid-morning nighties worn with woolly socks and Birkenstocks, her make-up-free face and wild, all- day bed-hair.
Maybe the unexpected by-product of this extraordinary, catastrophic situation is a benign version of Stockholm syndrome — where boredom and routine, extended confinement and intensified proximity conspire to create an end-of-days seduction and heightened libido levels… even for a middle-aged couple like us.
Think of it as daily government-sanctioned exercise and it doesn’t seem so icky.
After six years, every day of the past few weeks of lockdown has helped us get to know each other a little bit better.
Our relationship is on an extended bank holiday. And yes, our love feels a little bit newer.
When he goes down on his knees, it’s to heat up the Aga, not me
Amanda Craig has written nine novels. She is in lockdown in Devon with her husband but without their two grown-up children.
When we bought our bolthole in Devon, what attracted us was its remoteness.
I was recovering from cancer, and we longed for time alone together. But now that isolation has become a necessity, it is not so splendid.
It’s certainly not improving our love-life.
This is the longest we have been alone together since our honeymoon.
Amanda Craig (pictured) is in lockdown in Devon with her husband. She’s worried about the virus and the pair aren’t having sex
Longer, in fact, because we’ve seen nobody except the postman for five weeks — we were here when lockdown struck.
In normal circumstances, we might have spent the time frisking about like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
There’s nothing like primroses and birdsong for kindling thoughts of wantonness, and we do still adore each other’s company.
But apart from having to work hard all day, in anticipation of an economic recession, worry about succumbing to the virus keeps emotions in lockdown.
We keep our mobiles on just in case our adult children, or our elderly mothers, fall sick.
The first thing we reach for now on waking is the radio, not each other. I insist on doing the shopping as men have a 50 per cent higher risk of dying than women if they get the virus.
When my husband goes down on his knees, it’s to coax the malfunctioning Aga into heat, not me.
The moth-eaten clothes that feel like fun to wear in the country have now become my only garments.
I have run out of make-up, contact lenses and proper moisturiser.
The closest we come to the erotic is discussing in minute detail what meals we are going to have the next day.
My body now consists of 90 per cent chocolate and the remainder is pure cheese. I haven’t been this fat since I was pregnant.
When we go to bed, we are so exhausted we fall asleep instantly. Every time I see someone tweeting about baking sourdough bread, I want to kill them. Thank God for wine.
- The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig (£16.99, Little Brown) is out July 2.
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