It's A Pleasure

The Pandemic Absolutely Decimated My Sex Drive!

Desire comes from something we’re all short on right now: novelty.

How do you increase your sex drive? Practice noticing what makes you feel good.
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Q: I feel like the pandemic totally killed my sex drive. Is that normal? How can you keep feeling sexy during such a time of stress and trauma?

A: Frankly, it’s hard for me to think of anything more normal than not feeling hot and horny when *gestures broadly* all this is going on. Now, that isn’t to say that anyone who happens to be feeling extra randy right now is “abnormal,” either. Essentially: however your sex drive is responding to this ghastly situation is almost guaranteed to be “normal.” Why? Well, that’s just kind of how bodies work. I’ll get more into sex drives and what you can do about them in a moment, but just remember that you’re living through a massively upsetting, stressful, and depressing event with kind of no end in sight. Life is not “normal” right now, so why would anything else — including your sex drive — be? (Also, even if the pandemic ended tomorrow, it’s not like everything would be hunky-dory. We, as a society, are going through it, to put it as mildly as possible.)

Appetites for food and sex are not perfect comparisons, but both are more outside our control than we’d sometimes like, and both involve a lot of emotional baggage. Ever have days where your body just wants to eat every single sweet thing you can imagine? Like you’d Bruce Bogtrotter a chocolate cake no problem and still want more? Alternatively, do you have days where nothing sounds good at all? Your appetite waxes and wanes depending on all kinds of factors like what vitamins you need, how much activity you’re getting, whether you’re stressed, whether you’re tired, whether you’re in pain, and so on. There is nothing inherently good or bad about your appetite; it’s just your body trying to tell you things. Plus, sometimes it’s not fun to listen to your body. Sometimes it’s more fun to have a second cup of coffee and get all jittery! Sometimes eating a dozen chocolate chip cookies by a fire makes us feel warm and cozy even if it hurts our stomachs. That’s fine!

Sexual desire works in similar ways: There are things we want physiologically, and there are things we want emotionally, and they have to both work together for us to get turned on. Yes, if you rub or tug or lick (this sounds like an X-rated game of Bop It!) certain body parts, they might get aroused in a physical sense. But to be actually turned on, you need to have a whole lot of pieces placed correctly in a maddeningly complex puzzle. We’re not talking about a two-dimensional, 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle with a picture of the Arc de Triomphe on it, either. We’re talking about trying to come up with a wedding seating chart with two sets of divorced and remarried parents that doesn’t result in someone crying at the reception.

And the trickiest piece of any horn-dog puzzle? Stress. Stress is perhaps the biggest mood-killer of all time. Unfortunately, there’s nothing hot and steamy about pervasive and persistent anxiety. (As a gorgeous, gorgeous girl with anxiety I’m not saying having anxiety isn’t hot; anxiety itself just tries to rob you of horniness.) It’s very difficult to feel aroused while you also feel fearful or exhausted, and if these past two years have been marked by anything, it’s been those two emotions. So of course you don’t feel your horniest. On top of that, the pandemic has coupled two seemingly mutually exclusive things: repetition and unpredictability.

Repetition is another classic horny-thwarter. Sex is about excitement and desire, and desire comes from what we’re all short on right now: novelty. When you keep living the same routine over and over, it’s hard to muster much imagination, fantasy, or wonder. Plus, a lot of people are quite literally bringing the daily slog of office life to their homes, which is certainly not helping anything feel fresh or exciting. Ah yes, nothing like getting it on in the same room in which my supervisor chastised me this morning via Zoom… in front of the whole team.

Unpredictability, on the other hand, can feel like excitement, which is normally hot. Except when it comes to COVID, the surprises are usually bad. Cool, I’ll cancel yet another birthday get-together. Not like 30 is a big deal for me. Even if your life is going comparably well when you consider what the last two years could have taken — maybe you still have your job, your health, and your family! Lucky you! — that doesn’t mean this hasn’t taken an extreme toll on your mental health and well-being. This has been a sustained period of global fear and grief. It’s been loss after loss after loss; no matter how big those losses are, they’re exhausting and unmooring.

OK, Sophia, we get it. Life is sh*tty right now, it’s fine to not feel horny. What do I *do* about that? Well, first of all, you might have to accept that you’re not going to feel horny for a bit. I know that seems counterintuitive, but if you tell yourself that you’re not going to get turned on this week, and that you’re OK with it!!!!, it might give you a little breathing room to relax. If you have a partner, feel free to tell them this. You can literally say, “Hey, I know we haven’t had as much sex lately, and I’m going to try something, but for this week, I’m giving myself a break from thinking about it at all. Just a heads up.” If something hot does happen, you don’t need to shut it down, just try to avoid situations where you’re beating yourself up because your sex drive isn’t at max capacity.

Then next week, try to do the opposite: Seek out things that reliably turn you on or simply make you feel good about yourself as a sexual being. Fun, hot stuff only (a very strict rule). This could be watching porn, reading romance novels, giving yourself a pedicure, treating yourself to a long bath, taking photos of yourself in lingerie, or asking your partner for a massage. Anything that is nice or possibly horny-adjacent? Try it! If you don’t feel anything, OK. If you feel bad or pressured, stop. The goal here isn’t to get to the point where you’re ready to rip off someone’s clothes in the middle of a Buffalo Wild Wings. The goal is merely to engage in activities that might cause you to pay more attention to how your body feels. Touch yourself. I know that sounds corny (most good advice does, I’ve found). Find out what feels good! Make noises while you masturbate. Not ready to masturbate? Watch 10 Things I Hate About You or any other movie with sparks.

If you need to go back and forth between those weeks again and again, great, do it! Eventually, you’ll get better at learning what things help you feel hornier, or at least relaxed enough to get in a mood where you could get hornier. The goal of this exercise is to understand yourself better, but not in a pressurized way. (The timeline of a week is mostly arbitrary, so if you want to try a different schedule, do.)

There will be times when every single thing is “right,” and you still aren’t turned on. There will be times when you shock yourself because… Now? Now, in the middle of the Beanie Baby documentary, body? Really? Bodies are just like that. Just remember that it takes a lot to get horny, and the times you were before the pandemic were different, easier perhaps. The things that worked before might not work now, or they might not work as reliably or as quickly. Maybe you need to read four Twilight fanfics to get going when it used to take one. It’s OK to be upset that things have changed. It’s OK to feel frustrated. Do your best to set down any self-judgment you have about your current situation, though.

One last thing: Sometimes (often) more serious mental health problems like depression and anxiety come with a decreased sex drive. If you think there is more going on than just a lack of interest in sex — and let’s be honest, there’s a lot going on for all of us — please talk to a doctor. Changing sex drives can be a good indicator for some people when their mental health is in flux. It’s another super common (and frustrating) side effect of this dumb pandemic we’re all stuck in, but we are all stuck in it together.

It’s A Pleasure appears here every Thursday. If you have a sex, dating, or relationship question, email Sophia at