There is absolutely nothing like a meet-cute, my friends. At a gig on the weekend, I ask someone for a cigarette – my last one, I promise. They oblige, and eye contact is held for an extended period. Suddenly I am smooching the stranger. Smooching strangers while lightly blazed on vodka seltzers just injects more life into you than any serum or botox or anti-gravity reflexology nonsense out there. It is nourishing for the soul, especially when unexpected and not at all what you left your house for.
Post-smooch and post-gig, friends and I traverse to a nightclub as one does, I don’t think I will see the moustached stranger again but I am happy with my smooch and elevated self-esteem and we swap numbers just in case. The next thing I know, he and a friend are en route to the nightclub and what follows is Abba, sweaty dancing, deep meaningful conversations over roll-ups and the kind of ridiculous drunken chemistry we only see on Netflix.
However, something niggles away in my mind as I’m twerking to Murder On the Dancefloor and performing high kicks to Gimme Gimme Gimme, and that something is the fact that even though I am very attracted to this person, I feel off about sex bits, which actually reminds me that I have been feeling off about sex bits for quite a while now. I can’t pinpoint which of the six lockdowns started it, but it’s a feeling of, I want to do this, but I feel like I can’t. The sex drive is parallel parked and I’m struggling to merge. I am learning to drive for the ninth time, I hope this analogy makes sense.
It’s more than a feeling of meh, and it doesn’t really have much to do with body confidence because, the way I see it, surely if someone is seeing me in a booby wool crop top and leather mini skirt, they’re getting a general idea of what lies beneath – so what is it? What the hell is giving me the ick for something that I very genuinely and generally love to bits?
I have tried. The last couple of times I have had ‘the sex’, it felt mechanical. As in, I felt like a non-sexy robot trying to get into it but feeling very much in my head, and like I would prefer to fill the dishwasher or meal prep instead. I mean, still good, because really unless it’s actually awful and just not working, it’s lovely. Kind of like chips; even shit chips are still chips, and they’re lovely and you will still eat them even if you know you probably need to cut back.
Like most people when they are slightly concerned about symptoms they don’t understand, I asked Google for answers and learned about a phrase called ‘Touch Starvation’ or ‘Touch Hunger’, which according to researcher Joanne Durkin describes a craving for physical touch, i.e. gagging for a cuddle. She says “the coronavirus has highlighted how not being able to have an affectionate hug or have someone hold your hand can cause its own suffering. Telephone and Zoom calls are a pale imitation and people are at risk of developing touch hunger, which has been associated with increases in stress, anxiety and depression.”
Understandably, it’s hard to feel horny when you’re a bit sad. I wanted to go deeper than Google to get all of us more answers because sex is the best and we all deserve to be having loads of it, so I spoke to Jenny Keane, Holistic Sex Educator about all things bedroom and brain. If like me, you and your genitals are feeling confused, I hope this helps.
Do you think the pandemic has had an effect on the general public’s libidos?
Libido has always been a big topic for both men and women. One of the most detrimental understandings about libido or your desire for sex is that sex is all in your head. But your libido is an indicator of your overall wellness, this means how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We all know how social and environmental circumstances play a huge part in this. So, yes absolutely the pandemic had a huge affect on the general public’s libidos but I also think the pandemic brought more awareness to people’s overall wellness. I saw a huge increase in people who were looking to learn how to support their overall wellness and that included sexual wellness.
How has the pandemic impacted societal sex drive?
Tension has a huge effect on the quality of connection we have with ourselves and others. Stress – healthy and unhealthy – has an extraordinary ability to shape our intimate, inner landscapes and as a result, has enormous impacts on our desire and interest in sex. Once sex becomes synonymous with disappointment or struggle, avoidance sets in and creates sexual disconnection within those partnerships, solo or otherwise. I always say that ultimately, taking a holistic approach to sex means getting real with yourself, looking seriously at your life, and having difficult conversations with yourself so that you might understand what action to take. Do you need to make more time for yourself? If you experience stress, what daily practices do you have that metabolize anxiety? If you are in a relationship, can you express your worries openly? Can you ask for help? I think the pandemic forced all of us to start asking those questions in a way we could no longer avoid because we had fewer distractions.
If people are feeling a little less confident in themselves after what has been a really trying two years, what would be your main piece of advice for getting that confidence back?
Arousal is a body-felt sensation. This means that how you feel in your own skin can contribute to an MIA sex drive. I see a lot of people taking the approach of radical acceptance when it comes to body confidence. However, when it comes to the women I am speaking to, this is harder to actually apply if you do not feel confident. I believe that feeling confident is not a sustainable feeling in the body. If we think about it, every moment thousands upon thousands of cells are dying and birthing. How we move or don’t move, our emotions, our mindset – the symphony of our inner world dancing, mixing and merging together reflects itself on our skin. Every day that passes, we get a little bit older. I think the question needs to become, how do you foster falling in love with yourself and how is it possible to sustain confidence amidst this change? That is without even mentioning the constant hum of “what beauty is” reverberating in the background. This is important because when we attach pleasure to confidence it means we will only allow ourselves pleasure when we feel these good states. Your body needs to feel/experience pleasure when it doesn’t feel confident too. I teach about the pleasure mindset in my workshops and that also includes a concept called body trust, it is a shift in your mindset to the way you view your body and then learning how to embody that mindset shift.
According to a UK survey, 80% of women don’t orgasm from penetration however oftentimes penetrative sex is what is most commonly seen as ‘sex-sex.’ How can we get better at asking for what we want during sex?
First of all, I think we need to learn how to change the mindset we have towards sex and ultimately this looks like learning how to remove the goal of orgasm. When we believe that orgasms are a part of a ‘successful’ sexual experience, solo or in partnership, we are more likely to be focused on the ‘end goal’ of any intimate encounter rather than on the complete experience of pleasure. This goal can shift us out of the present moment and increase the potential to experience pleasure anxiety – where we can experience frustration, shame, guilt or sadness when we are not able to meet this goal. It is extremely hard to experience orgasm with this mindset.
When we learn to remove the goal, the natural progression is learning how to feel and experience pleasure in the body. When we learn how to turn towards pleasure and sensation, rather than chasing the big feeling, we start to learn what our bodies like, what they do not like and what they want more of. In order to learn how to communicate better during sex, we need to learn what our body is saying to us first so that we can express that. This is why taking pleasure as a practice is important. Pleasure as a practice can be very simple and doesn’t even have to look sexual, it looks like feeling, noticing, slowing down, exploring sensations, teasing, anticipation, exploring speed and pressure.
Why do you think women are more likely to fake orgasms than men?
Oh, there are so many reasons for this and they really vary. One big one is around what I call orgasm expectation. This is where we are bombarded with images of what sex *should* look like, sound like, feel like and when a lot of those images revolve around easy and explosive orgasms. We see this a lot in porn. Porn is designed for quick pleasure. It’s all about exaggerated images, the right angles, the drama, it’s cinematic on purpose because it wants to bring you to arousal and climax quickly!
In the real world, orgasms happen at the natural speed of life. If you want to know what that looks like go spend some time in nature (without a phone) and watch how long it takes a flower to bloom, or lightning to strike, watch the wind dance through the trees, the waves in the ocean – this is real life in motion in real time. Orgasms work the same way. Pleasure can look slow, stationary, wild, it can be quick, it can take time, it can be quiet, loud, or shake the ground. The problem with believing your orgasm should come quickly means when it starts to take longer women sometimes feel uncomfortable taking up that amount of space in heterosexual relationships. Men can sometimes put pressure on women so sometimes it is easier for people in that circumstance to fake it. As I said there are many, many reasons for faking orgasm but this is where education can be really, really important and powerful.
Lastly, what is your advice for men and women to get more in touch with their sexuality?
Seek out high-quality sex education. One of the biggest sexual scripts that we have been given is that sex is something we all know how to do. Being a quality sexual partner, for yourself or others, requires skills. Skills are something we learn. Skills like communication, negotiation, seduction, kissing, oral sex techniques and hand techniques, to name a few. It is endless. Like any area of life, some of us have natural capabilities in some of these areas already and some of us absolutely do not. Learning to upskill is a valuable aspect of education and indescribably valuable when it comes to expanding our experience of pleasure.
Do you feel nourished by Jenny’s extremely wise insights? I know I do. You can find her here for more. Also, The Principles Of Pleasure on Netflix is absolutely worth a watch.
Back to me though, quick! In the end, the cute stranger and friends came back to my apartment where we tried to learn how to floss via YouTube (boomers?) over a ‘cheese board’ which simply consisted of very thickly cut slices of cheddar by my very-lit-Favourite-Second-Cousin. I laid out the fact that sex was not happening, until the morning when I was hungover, needy and well horny, and girls, I had a happy ending. Has the orgasm gate dissipated? Let us pray. Speaking of which, I really hope you don’t read these Nana and Grandad.
Photography by Pexels.