Sexual Fantasies and Solo Sexual Practices May Have Changed During COVID Lockdown

Lockdowns related to COVID-19 may have changed some sexual behaviors among young adults in the United Kingdom (UK), a recent Sexual Medicine study reports.

Having a better understanding of such sexual practices might help clinicians work with patients coping with stress during the pandemic.

The UK’s first COVID-19 lockdown ran from March 16, 2020 to May 13, 2020. During that time, residents were advised to restrict their social interactions to people in their immediate household. Sex among people who did not live together was discouraged.

While many studies have focused on the pandemic’s effects on sexuality, less is known about fantasies and solitary sexual practices, especially in younger adults.

For this exploratory study, researchers focused on sexual fantasizing and solitary sexual practices in a group of people aged 18-32 (average age 25 years) who were living in the UK. About 60% of the participants were cisgender women, and 39% were cisgender men. Less than 1% of the group identified as non-binary. Sixty percent reported being in a serious relationship, and 41% lived with a partner. The rest lived with family members, friends, or alone.

Between May 14 and 18, 2020, about 7 weeks after the first UK lockdown began, each participant completed an online questionnaire developed specifically for this study. Participants answered questions about their solitary sexual behaviors (masturbation, pornography viewing, and sex toy use), sexual fantasizing, and pornography consumption.

The researchers reported the following:

  • Sexual fantasizing. About 34% of the group said they fantasized about sex more frequently during the COVID-19 lockdown. This finding was more common in women.
  • Solitary sexual behaviors. About 30% said they had increased the frequency of at least one solitary sexual practice during lockdown. Approximately 15% reported an increase in two practices, and 4% had increases in all three.
  • Pornography consumption. Roughly 19% said they used pornography more often during lockdown. This finding applied more to men than to women. Approximately 17% decreased their porn consumption, and 64% had no change.

“These changes were predicted by living arrangements, relationship status, and gender,” the authors wrote.

They added that patients experiencing pandemic-related stress may benefit from these findings.

“Patients may feel guilty or ashamed about their sexual fantasies while spending greater time with their families, but the present findings suggest that the association may be normative, so psychoeducation in this area could alleviate emotional distress,” they wrote.

They recommended further research using validated questionnaires and a more diverse group of subjects.



Members Only


ISSM Update