Everyone Masturbated More During Quarantine—Here's Why
So the kids are spread out around the house taking classes and your partner has turned the bedroom into their work-from-home office. Or maybe you've got all the space in your studio apartment to get it on but there's no one to bang because you live alone. Since COVID-19 social distancing guidelines prompted the crash of normal living, the absence of safe, stress-free sexy time and uncomplicated access to new partners called for a manual sex life override.
Last July, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a statement suggesting it was safe and even good for individuals to masturbate rather than participate in partnered hookups—and specifically "rimming"—during the height of the pandemic as it would help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This was especially true "if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sex."
Don't forget to sing "Happy Birthday" as you do.
Apparently the sexually frustrated people of the world ran with this advice: Since the start of the pandemic, 39 percent of people are masturbating more often, according to a survey by condom and sex toy brand SKYN.
"For so many people, masturbation was the only option for sexual release during the past year," said Gillian Myhill, a London-based sex and relationships expert and cofounder of the dating app BARE. "Masturbation that leads to orgasm releases serotonin and oxytocin, which are powerful hormones associated with love—feelings that we are all longing for currently with the reduction in access to our normal lives, friends and lovers."
Over the course of the pandemic, there was an overall decrease in partnered activities like intercourse and oral sex—even for those quarantining with a partner, according to a 2020 study by researchers at Indiana University.
"It's all too easy for a person stuck with their partner in the pandemic to be buried under stress and busyness, only to emerge in the brief desire for release," said Indigo Stray Conger, a Denver-based sex therapist and cofounder of Mile High Psychotherapy. "Seeing our partner 24 hours a day, distracted and in pajama pants, is a terrible way to cultivate an optimal sexual context with one another. Desire requires distance, so that we have a chance to want to reach for one another again."
On the flip side, the Indiana University researchers found that 16 percent of study participants reported an increase in solo masturbation (interestingly, study participants who reported one or more depressive symptoms in the past month were three to four times more likely to report increased solo masturbation).
Since the start of the pandemic, 39 percent of people are masturbating more often.
Partnered or not, many frustrated adults spiced up their usual masturbation routines to alleviate this new orgasm obstacle. Sex toy giant Adam & Eve reported a sharp increase in sales, including an 80 percent increase in vibrator sales and a 60 percent increase in male pleasure products over the past year.
And 49 percent of people are watching more porn to fill the person-shaped void in their mid-pandemic sex life, according to the SKYN survey. Pornhub reported a spike in views since self-quarantining and social distancing measures were put in place last March. The initial 24.4 percent spike in daily traffic followed the popular porn site's free month of premium content to encourage users to quarantine indoors and social distance during the initial shutdowns. And even as vaccination rates skyrocket, Pornhub's viewers' stats remain higher than pre-pandemic.
But even now that a vaccinated, pandem-ish lifestyle is on the horizon, this year of alone time may have impacted sex lives for the better. By prioritizing masturbation, your body is able to maintain a healthy sexual response even without a partner to help.
"When we ignore our body's drive and arousal cues for too long through distraction or stress, those cues begin to go dormant. Our bodies get out of practice in terms of the sexual response cycle," Stray Conger said. "The more we engage in sexual activity of any kind, the easier it is to go from libido or drive to physiological arousal to having an orgasm. Just like exercise, our bodies get into a rhythm and get used to functioning optimally, or get out of healthy habits and take longer to reignite."
It may take a while for people to ease back into partnered sex after more than a year of avoiding human contact like the plague, but until then, this newly rekindled appreciation for a little menage a moi is here to stay.