During the months of uneasiness and stress of the pandemic, there have been notable changes in behaviors.
In the early months of the pandemic new stresses entered our lives as we moved in and out of quarantine, social isolation, debated about masks and social distancing, dealt with social issues in America, financial uncertainty, health concerns and what to do with the kids (if you have them).
So why would that affect our sex lives? And how could it affect our sex lives?
Sex is a very interesting part of the human experience. It is affected by our physical being and our emotional makeup. Assuming that there has been no change in the physical nature of a person over the past seven months of the pandemic, we have to look at the emotional makeup of a person to ascertain what can change their behavior.
During extended periods of stress, we can see an increase of our typical sexual activity, a decrease in sexual activity, a change from typical sexual activity, a change in watching pornography, an indifference to sexual activity. During the pandemic we also have the addition of isolation or sequestration with a small group of people for an extended period of time.
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So why are there so many possibilities? Different people react differently to stress and boredom. Our social situations are different.
For those who are single, an adjustment has to be considered about both casual dating and long term non-live in relationships. Many people are concerned about breaking down the social distancing because their risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 is dependent upon whom they or their partner have been near.
The recent work of Justin Lehmilleri showed that during the pandemic, half of those interviewed had a decrease in their sexual activities and 20% expanded their sexual repertoire. It has also been reported that internationally, pornography viewing has surged. Pornhub reported a rise in traffic during the early time of social distancing. International traffic increased by 11.6% early in March. Surprisingly, traffic in Italy increased by 57% on March 12ii.
We know that sex can be a great stress reliever for many people. That can also be said for viewing pornography.
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So, is pornography addiction a possibility? The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) doesn’t recognize pornography addiction as a mental health diagnosis. But there can be compulsion to watching porn. In 2002 a Kinsey Institute surveyiii found that 9% of people who view porn were unable to stop. This can lead to cause difficulties in time management and romantic relationships. It is interesting that in men it tends to cause difficulties in sexual intimacy whereas in women, intimacy increasediv.
If we put two and two together, considering that the social isolation has changed the sexual repertoire in couples, I wonder if the viewing of pornography might also push people into exploration of new pornographic sites. Even pornography might become boring to some people who need new challenges to increase interest.
So, in my viewpoint, social isolation, stress and boredom of the pandemic gives people an outlet to view pornography which, in a small proportion of them, will lead into a compulsion to watch pornography.
. I Justin J. Lehmiller, Justin R. Garcia, Amanda N. Gesselman & Kristen P. Mark (2020) Less Sex, but More Sexual Diversity: Changes in Sexual Behavior during the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, Leisure Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/01490400.2020.1774016
ii Joe Price (2020) March 19, 2020, These Graphs Demonstrate How Much Pornhub Traffic Has Increased Due To Coronavirus Self-Isolation, Complex.com
iii Weir, K. (2014, April). Is pornography addictive? Monitor on Psychology, 45(4). http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/04/pornography
iv BRIDGES, A.J. and MOROKOFF, P.J. (2011), Sexual media use and relational satisfaction in heterosexual couples. Personal Relationships, 18: 562-585. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2010.01328.x