In the last four months, you've probably been experiencing a dry spell in your otherwise booming sex life (we're assuming). Because of social distancing, we've had to say teary goodbyes to the late-night booty calls, drunk Tinder hookups, or meeting your significant other to unwind with a relaxing sex session. Now that we’re all locked in our homes, previously sexually active individuals find themselves stuck in a limbo of sexual inactivity. Surprisingly, even people living together are not really having sex marathons according to a new study.
The on-going study, Sex, and Relationships in the Time of COVID-19 by the Kinsey Institute showed that 44% of Americans said their sex life had declined recently, while 30% said the same of their romantic life. Despite living with each other and spending more time at home than ever before, people are not feeling very sexual or in the mood. This could be due to the general rise in stress and uncertainty amidst the pandemic. In other words, with our mental health suffering, we might not feel like engaging in sexual activities.
You may be wondering if a long period of celibacy will negatively affect your sexual mojo or your ability to have sexual intercourse. Is your hymen going to regrow or is your vagina going to permanently tighten during this time? Are you going to explode with sexual frustration? The straightforward answer is no - not having sex for a long time will not cause any fatalities or even long-term negative effects. But lack of sexual intimacy can lead to you not enjoying certain perks and advantages that normally sex would provide.
There is a list of well-documented emotional and physical benefits of regular sex, which can significantly improve your mental health amidst the stress-inducing pandemic. You can still experience these benefits from other activities, however, there are certain changes that occur specific to abstaining from sex.
You may become accustomed to no sex
Out of sight, out of mind? Well, that may be the case for some people. Sexologist Dr. Jordin Wiggins, ND, owner and creator of Health Over All Inc tells the Bustle that during prolonged periods of sexual abstinence, you may forget about the activity over time. "Sex is not a drive that becomes more and more prominent without it – like hunger. Sex is a reward system, and when we’re having good sex, we want more good sex." She says.
"So if you don't have sex for an extended period of time, you can become "quite comfortable without having it at all," Dr. Wiggins continues. To keep your engine revving, she recommends regular masturbation sessions as they lead to the "same release of mood-boosting hormones."
However, the dissipation of sex drive isn't applicable to everyone. For some, the adage - ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ might be true. Sari Cooper, LCSW, certified sex therapist tells The Healthy that for some people, abstinence could make sex even more desirable.
“You might not be thinking about it as much, or you might be thinking about it all the time. It’s really variable,” says Lauren Streicher, MD, author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever.
Abstinence could lead to erectile dysfunction in older men
The term 'use it or lose it' may hold some truth according to a 2008 study in the American Journal of Medicine which concluded that men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s that weren't sexually active were more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. The researchers suggested that, since the penis is a muscle, frequent sex may aid in preserving potency in a similar way that physical exercise helps maintain strength.
However, this may not be true for men of all ages since the study was only conducted on men over the age of 50.
Lack of sexual activities may make you more susceptible to prostate cancer
If you've given up all hope and are not even taking the time out for self-pleasure, you might be compromising your immunity to prostate cancer, as frequent ejaculation can help in decreasing your chances of developing prostate cancer. However, some experts think that sex might actually raise your odds, by possibly exposing you to sexually transmitted diseases that lead to inflammation.
In a large study of over 30,000 men who reported they ejaculated more than 21 times a month on average, had lower chances of prostate cancer during their lifetimes, compared with those who ejaculated four to seven times a month.
Jerking off can help in removing potentially substances from the prostate, which may prevent the formation of cancerous tumors, according to the Prevention. So, maybe do yourself a favor and grab a box of tissues and turn on Xvideos.
Your mental health can suffer, especially if sex was your stress reliever
We’re sure you miss the nights where you’d lay in your partner's arms and fall asleep in them. The warmth and the emotional satisfaction of caressing them seem incomparable to anything else as it made everything in the world feel better, more manageable.
Sex was an escape for many of us before the pandemic. No matter how many deadlines one was under or daily chores, getting laid made it all better, providing us with a mood boost that even coffee could never give.
The skin-to-skin contact that sex consists of is the contact that is the first primal way we as humans get comforted when they're young. According to Lauren Streicher, MD, “Sexual connection gives partners loads of skin-to-skin caressing and touch and can help to regulate one another’s moods,” through the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Dr. Streicher adds that sex can help boost your spirits through mood-elevating endorphins.
Neuroscientist Dr. Debra W. Soh reiterates a similar point and tells the Men's Health that during orgasm, "endorphins are released that can help to improve your mood,” she says. “So, if you tend to use sex as a way of coping with stress, a dry spell can be doubly frustrating.”
A dry spell can also make you feel more agitated than usual according to a sexologist, Dr. Wiggins, "Sex has complicated ties to mood, self-esteem, and releasing happy hormones like dopamine and oxytocin," Dr. Wiggins explains.
So, if you're observing a stark decline in your mood and think a lack of sex is the reason why, it's important to figure out other ways to boost the hormones that sex usually releases such as exercise, chatting with a friend or taking a warm bath.
You may lose your vaginal elasticity temporarily
No, you are not going to be revirginized after a dry spell but you might experience vaginal tightness the next time you try to have sex, which can be easily solved by lubrication. Salena Zanotti, MD, an OB/GYN at Avon Pointe Family Health Center in Avon, Ohio explains that the vagina is an elastic tube. "If it hasn’t been used in some time, then it may get a little tighter. But it will go back to its original elasticity in a woman who is of premenopausal age,” she says in an interview with the Prevention.
Thanks to the hormone estrogen, which maintains elasticity and lubrication in the vagina. Premenopausal women produce this hormone in abundance so they don't have to worry about permanently losing elasticity even after a lengthy period of abstinence.
However, it may be a challenge for older women, who are postmenopausal, to bounce back and regain their elasticity after prolonged dry spells. That's because their bodies produce less estrogen, Dr. Zanotti says, “It’s really hard to get [the vagina] to stretch out again after menopause.” However, don't let this be a roadblock in your sex life as there plenty of lubricants you can use on your vaginal walls effectively combat vaginal dryness.
Your immune system can get weaker
Having sex can boost your immune system and if that's the case, theoretically, we should be having more sex than ever! According to a study by psychologists Carl Charnetski and Francis Brennan Jr. found, saliva samples of people who were engaging in sex once or twice a week had high concentrations of the common cold-busting antibody immunoglobulin A.
So, in times when you're not getting the D or the V, it might make you slightly more susceptible to illnesses and infections that your immune system would otherwise eliminate.
But don't fret over this, Dr. Jodie Horton, MD, a medical advisor at Love Wellness, a supplement company, tells the Bustle that there are many other ways to boost your immune system, including "meditation, yoga, getting eight hours of sleep, eating a healthy diet and staying physically active."
You may be losing your intellectual edge
It's not that you’re getting dumber each day you go without sex but that you could improve your brain functioning through sex. Sexually active individuals scored higher on tests that measured their verbal and spatial skills, according to a study published in The Journals of Gerontology.
A 2019 research from the University of Maryland reported that middle-aged rats permitted to engage in sex showed signs of improved cognitive function and hippocampal function. Another study from Konkuk University in Seoul arrived at the conclusion that sexual activity counteracts the memory-deteriorating effects of chronic stress in mice. “Sexual interaction could be helpful,” they wrote, “for buffering adult hippocampal neurogenesis and recognition memory function against the suppressive actions of chronic stress.”
Before you panic and pull up an IQ test online, there are multiple other scientifically-proven ways to promote neurogenesis (formation of new neurons) in your brain ranging from mindfulness meditation, solving crossword puzzles, or learning a musical instrument.
You may start slacking at work and feeling less satisfied with it
Being deprived of the intimacy of sex, especially when you're feeling super horny can adversely affect your employment satisfaction too.
An Oregon State University study found that couples with an active sex life were much happier at work. "Maintaining a healthy relationship that includes a healthy sex life will help employees stay happy and engaged in their work, which benefits the employees and the organizations they work for," says Keith Leavitt, an associate professor at the college.
So, feel free to miss the morning zoom meeting in order to make time for a morning bang-session, your boss will understand that it's for the greater good of the company.
Your blood pressure may see a rise
Along with feeling agitated, you may notice recurring increases in your blood pressure; a study shows that a lack of sex could be causing that. The 2006 study in the medical journal Biological Psychology found that people who were having regular sex had lower levels of blood pressure than those who weren't.
The researchers controlled for multiple variables in the study and concluded that having sex more frequently actually improves your body’s physiological response to stress. This, in turn, keeps one’s blood pressure at a lower base level.
Another study by the Journal of Health and Social Behavior reported that good sex was like an anti-dote against heart conditions (like hypertension and rapid heart rate) later in life. So, if you've been accustomed to the stress-lowering pulses of sex, its absence might not have a negative impact on your general ability to cope with anxiety.
Not having sex can mean you're less likely to develop a UTI
Contrary to what you might believe, there are certain perks of not having sex. Yes, we know it probably doesn't beat the euphoria of sex and the intimacy of touch, but on the brighter side, you can finally stop worrying about developing a painful urinary tract infection (UTI). Back in the good old days, when you were a regular sex practitioner, you might have noticed getting urinary tract infections (UTI) more frequently compared to when you’re sexually inactive.
This is because the general motion of sex can transfer bacteria from the bowel or vaginal cavity further into the urethra (the tube that urine flows out of), says Kyra C. Williams, an OB/GYN at Penn Medicine. But if you are still having vaginal sex, you can lower the risk of developing this infection by cleansing yourself in the bathroom immediately after sex.
Other ways to get the benefits of sex
Just because you're keeping yourself away from sexual contact due to fears of contracting the virus, doesn't mean you can reap the benefits of sex from an alternative activity.
Dr. Eleanor Draeger, a specialist in genitourinary medicine and spokesperson for the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV tells the Refinery29 that you can improve your cardiovascular health by doing another form of exercise, such as running or cycling. Other ways to relieve stress and anxiety include having a hot bath and reading a good book.
For all the women that are afraid of experiencing vaginal dryness due to no penetration or regular orgasm - this isn’t a definite fact, it only happens to a few women mostly of postmenopausal age. However, you can continue masturbating to keep your vagina lubricated more often. Remember that it is entirely healthy to want to masturbate, whether you are in a relationship or not, but that does not mean that it is unhealthy if you don’t want to.
You can rediscover yourself during the no-sex phase
During your no-sex phase, you can take the time to discover new interests, sexual or non-sexual. You can try different mediums of sexual stimulations such as audio, literature, video, and even material ones such as sex toys. But if you want a complete break from sex, you can immerse yourself into a time-consuming interest such as painting or playing a sport.
This time can also help you direct your focus on your non-genital body parts in terms of self-care and maintaining good health. Abstinence can help you find other coping mechanisms other than sex, to deal with troublesome emotions. Rather than escaping your difficult feelings through physical intimacy, you can take the time to face them and bear down your defenses.
Apart from individual exploration, abstinence from sex could help you build a stronger emotional connection with your partner. Often, in relationships, sex quickly takes over and people immediately develop a sexual connection but don't give time for the emotional connection to blossom.
Also, some people are prone to look out for their partner's pleasure more than their own, this can leave them feeling dissatisfied gradually. A break from sex can be a great opportunity for them to practice mindful touching and note down their erogenous zones. You can learn about your anatomy so well that the next time you won't need to pretend to moan when your partner touches a seemingly sensitive spot, even when you're not feeling anything.
Lastly, if sex was your go-to workout, there are other fun alternatives such as aerobics, dance, or even a jog around your neighborhood that can help your blood pumping and maintain good cardiovascular health.
What will happen if you never have sex?
There’s no denying that riding the sex-positivity wave is quite thrilling, we live in an age where we're finally able to speak about sex without guilt or shame weighing us down. Sex positivity has made people feel more comfortable with their own bodies and accepting of their kinky sexual fantasies. However, being sex-positive doesn't mean pushing other people to have sex too, it's not necessary that everyone embraces sex-positivity in the same way.
After all, the foundational values that sex positivity stands on are consent and health. Having sex isn't a milestone that every person needs to cross, it's simply a bodily function that you may choose to use or leave as is because the bodily function isn't going to become dysfunctional if you decide not to use it.
But people still carry this notion that they must have sex at a certain age and this notion starts developing through adolescence itself due to pop culture laying so much emphasis on getting laid. For instance, the cult sex-comedy, American Pie that had a now-recreated classic plotline of a group of four friends making a pact to lose their virginity by the time they graduate high school—by any means necessary.
It's true that during puberty, an awareness of sexual interest and desire may develop and teenagers are curious about their bodies, but it's up to the person to decide whether they want to act upon those desires or not. It could be that you don't develop a major interest in sex or you get the opportunity but then decide it's not for you.
Some people may fall on the spectrum of asexuality (a sexual orientation), which describes a variety of ways in which a person might identify. While most asexual people have little interest in having sex, they may experience romantic attraction. Others may not. To clear any misconception, asexuality is not considered a sexual dysfunction as research on the body’s ability to respond to sexual stimuli found that there were no physiological differences between heterosexual or asexual women’s ability.
Other people decide to abstain from any sexual activity after experiencing sex once, living a life of celibacy.
Whichever path you are on, remember that not having sex for a long time will not majorly impact your health in a detrimental manner. Your vagina will not permanently tighten and you won't lose your ability to have an erection, all of these are myths. If you really miss sex and are tired of ‘single-handedly’ pleasuring yourself while watching predictably unarousing porn, you can think of investing in sex toys to stimulate yourself in more novel ways, invoking your resting libido. You could also experiment with phone sex or writing an erotica story with your partner.