Masturbate Like It’s the End of the World: Has the Covid-19 Lockdown Made Us All More Horny?

Urmi Bhattacheryya

Ian class="dropcap">I came to the party very late. Like, 13 years late. But I did it. With Kim Kardashian’s sex tape, I have discovered lockdown sex.

One June night, in a moment of quiet desperation, after having hibernated in isolation for 100 days from my boyfriend – isolated in a different city (us, children of circumstance) – I pounced on the raunchy, camcorder-held, erratically shot and minimally edited footage of buttocks and tongues, uncomfortable close-ups of warped faces and strains of dulcet moans. I played along, and, err, finished nicely. (Afterwards, I had trouble looking Kim K in the eye during my lockdown sex marathons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, but that is a secret I trust you will keep.)

That opened the floodgates. Self-pleasuring was suddenly all-consuming; it was all I could think about.

In a moment of uncharacteristic shame, I trawled social media, wondering if my late-night raunchies, which had gotten more frequent and more tsunami-like with each sex-starved night, had any sympathisers. I was very heartened when the first thing I read was this enlightened tweet from an enterprising lady: “Today, I grabbed my own ass”. I sighed quietly. She gets it, I told myself – and so did an avalanche of other people on Reddit and Twitter, on dark Instagram and WhatsApp sub-groups, who were reportedly going through PornHub caches by the day.

Was I on to something? I decided to find out.

I reached out first to a test group of kindred souls, unpartnered (or away from Bumble’s algorithms), and with access to the internet and some form of porn. One had been Long Time Single, she said. “And it’s been fine,” she insisted. “But this lockdown has been an eye-opener for me in terms of my sexual needs! Porn and – funnily – soft erotica on Netflix have been keeping me going.” Long Time Single has found newfound bonhomie with girlfriends who have been texting each other videos to watch, erotica to read, fictional men to orgasm to. “I feel like we’re behaving like teenage boys, passing DVDs under the school bench in secret. Will it be equally amazing to ‘do it’ for real with someone after the lockdown? I’m not so sure….”

Horny But Confused can totally relate, and has been feeling hornier than before with each extension of the lockdown.

Long Time Single may be heartened to know she is in august company: the men and women of World War II Britain. In a quote to Metro UK, Jessica Leoni, sex and relationship expert, talks about how “There is a lot of research showing there was heightened promiscuity in Britain during World War Two, for instance, due to an ‘end of the world feeling’ that we could die at any moment.” This holds true in data collected post WWII – which showed a massive spike in birth rates right after the war – a fact that has led many around the world to predict a baby boom in 2021.

The ‘baby boom’ theory has been equally contested by sexperts who say the converse is often true after a crisis (aka fewer babies). But what of the libido boom in the absence of boom boom? What about all masturbatory emissions and unabashed hunts for Kim K’s old butt? For the disbelieving, PornHub has graciously supplied the world with a graph, after it announced a month’s free access to its “premium” porn in April. While the entire world documented a handsy rise in traffic, India recorded the highest jump, with 95% in a day.

And in case you thought eroticisation of mortal dread couldn’t get any funkier, there’s a whole new category of “coronavirus porn”. It’s exactly how you picture it. Men and women in hazmat suits and N95s crinkling their cloaked penises and stroking their shielded breasts coquettishly across quarantine rooms. Go figure.

So, why the sudden insistence on lockdown sex or porn? I ask Stranded From Partner, who “cannot control herself”. “I dream a lot more than I used to, reminiscing about all the amazing sex I’ve had before. Because I’m away from my sexual partner, I think I’m masturbating more to the memory of him.” She can sense a definite metamorphosis in her self-pleasuring skills. According to her, earlier masturbation felt like a distraction. “Now, the primal need to masturbate is so high that it can overpower my mornings as easily as my nights. It’s like... I have no idea what the future looks like so may as well touch myself in the present.”

Stranded From Partner tells me she’s at her “sexual peak” right now, but where do women and men get off nursing such extravagant libidos at a time of impending doom? Could you even climax as the world around you teeters anticlimactically?

"Because I’m away from my sexual partner, I think I’m masturbating more to the memory of him.”

Turns out, there’s science enough to back why you’re breaking your back right now. A series of studies published in 2010 on the link between fears of death and sexual arousal found that when mortality was salient or conspicuously close, “it led to higher willingness to engage in risky sexual behaviours”. Dr Justin Lehmiller, social psychologist, elaborated on this to an interviewer when he said, “Sex is an activity that makes a lot of us feel more ‘alive’, so it shouldn’t be surprising that a pandemic that confines people to their homes would promote more interest in activities that give them this powerful feeling.”

Horny But Confused can totally relate, and has been wanting lockdown sex, feeling hornier than before with each extension of the lockdown. “My body has never been this isolated.” This young woman relies on sexting and occasional porn. “I think, in times of crisis, when you have somebody to be intimate with, you derive great comfort. It’s the little things, the touch of your skin to theirs, the way they hold you. I think we all miss that – that human contact.”

Then there is Too Annoyed to Masturbate, who thinks it is because she’s home a lot more than she used to be. This is the longest she’s gone without meeting someone she liked off an app.

Of course, some of us find encouragement in some pretty neat studies linking orgasm through masturbation to raising your white blood cell count. Do it for the immunity. As for me, I am glad I found Kim K’s 2002 butt. In case you’re interested in lockdown sex, you’ll find it where you find all things at night in a lockdown: Your incognito internet, next to a box of tissues and your salient fear of mortality.