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People Are Having Less Sex During the Pandemic Because of COVID-19-Related Relationship Conflicts

·393 words·2 mins
Psyched for the Weekend

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States, a lot of people were joking about an uptick in babies 9 months later. The idea was that with lockdown in place, we’d have very little to do. Few ways to entertain ourselves. And so people would resort to baby-making with full force.

As I write this, we still have a bit to go to reach the 9-month mark — although we passed the 6-month mark a few weeks ago — but it appears that this prediction was way off the mark. And a different kind of narrative surrounding sex and lockdown has dominated our cultural consciousness: People seem to be having less sex during the pandemic, not more.

I had suspected it might have to do with being forced into close quarters with people. Not getting a chance to miss them or have other contacts to really contrast them with (something that I think can spur on NRE/passion even in long-term monogamous relationships).

But a recent research study has named something else that’s plausible and possibly related to being in such close quarters: People are having less sex during the pandemic because of COVID-19-related relationship conflicts.

People Are Having Less Sex During the Pandemic Because of COVID-19-Related Relationship Conflicts #

The study found the following:

  • Thirty-four percent of participants reported experiencing relationship conflict with their partner because of the spread of COVID-19 and its attendant restrictions.
  • Participants who reported this COVID-19-related relationship conflict also reported decreased sexual behavior when compared to those who didn’t report those conflicts.
  • This same group also reported less non-sexual intimate behaviors such as kissing, hugging, and cuddling.
  • Further, this same group also reported less masturbation.
  • Study effects were strongest in couples who lived with their partner and weaker when considering couples who did not live with one another (which does make me think of my previous notion about being stuck in close quarters).

I do find it rather fascinating that the conflict hasn’t simply affected partnered sexual activity but has also affected how much people engage in masturbation. That was a rather surprising finding to me.


This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.



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