Scientists are still learning about the ways COVID-19 affects sexuality. Recent studies have found that men who had COVID-19 or are recovering from it may experience sexual issues, such as erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation, or anorgasmia (orgasmic disorder). (For more information on how the virus affects the body and, in turn, sexuality, please see this Q & A item: How might men with a history of COVID-19 infection be affected sexually?)
However, researchers have also been studying how health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 – such as social distancing, travel restrictions, and living under lockdowns – affect sexuality.
In the next slides, we will cover some of the findings pertaining to men as compared to women.
- A study of 284 men and women aged 18-44 in China reported that 43% were having sex less often during the pandemic, but that the quality of sex, along with sexual desire and satisfaction, did not change.
- Researchers studying 479 women and 217 men in Egypt found that men’s sexual satisfaction rates fell from 91% before lockdown to 71% during lockdown. Men still tended to be more sexually satisfied than women, but 63% had sexual stress.
For some men, occupation played a role in sexual stress. For example, clerks, who were most affected by layoffs, had the highest levels of sexual stress.
- In the United Kingdom, men were more likely to use sex as a coping mechanism than women were. Loneliness was more common in men as well. Some had more interest in sex when their mood was low. The authors suggested that sex might have a “calming effect” in such cases.
- In a study of 2,608 Italian men and women, sexual activity appeared to have a protective effect against anxiety and other mood disorders. Men and women who had sex regularly had lower levels of psychological distress.
Other studies focused on the experiences of men who have sex with men (MSM).
- Among a group of 2,562 MSM in Israel, participants tried to reduce their COVID-19 risk by having fewer sexual partners, not kissing their partners, using condoms more frequently, and decreasing their use of drugs and alcohol. Using remote options, including dating apps, sex phones, webcams, and pornography became a more common way to meet sexual needs.
Almost 29% still had steady sexual relationships, and about 40% still had casual sex encounters. Men in the latter group tended to be younger and single. They were also more likely to have mental distress.
- In another study of 215 MSM couples in the United States, some participants reported more monogamous relationships, fewer sexual partners outside their relationships, and lower frequency of anal intercourse.
- A review of studies reported less transactional sex among MSM during the pandemic.
For more details on COVID-19 and sexuality, please see the links below. Remember, however, that research is ongoing as the pandemic continues.
AIDS and Behavior via U.S. National Library of Medicine
Walsh, Alison R., et al.
“Are Male Couples Changing Their Sexual Agreements and Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic?”
(Full-text. Published: April 15, 2021)
Healthcare via U.S. National Library of Medicine
Bolarinwa, Obasanjo Afolabi, et al.
“Mapping Evidence of Impacts of COVID-19 Outbreak on Sexual and Reproductive Health: A Scoping Review”
(Full-text. Published: April 8, 2021)
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Gillespie, Steven M., PhD, et al.
“Coping Using Sex During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in the United Kingdom”
(Full-text. Published: November 26, 2020)
Daniele Mollaioli, PhD, et al.
“Benefits of Sexual Activity on Psychological, Relational, and Sexual Health During the COVID-19 Breakout”
(Full-text. Published: October 23, 2020)
Shilo, Guy, PhD and Zohar Mor, MD, MHA, MPH
“COVID-19 and the Changes in the Sexual Behavior of Men Who Have Sex With Men: Results of an Online Survey”
(Full-text. Published: August 10, 2020)
Yi-Jin Feng, MD, et al.
“Correlation of Sexual Behavior Change, Family Function, and Male-Female Intimacy Among Adults Aged 18-44 Years During COVID-19 Epidemic”
(Full-text. Published: January 8, 2021)
Omar, Salma Samir, MD, et al.
“Psychological and Sexual Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Egypt: Are Women Suffering More?”
(Full-text. Published: January 9, 2021)