Sex during lockdown: what on earth is that?

25 August 2020 - 15:23 By Tanya Farber
Lockdown has been in the nail in the coffin for many sexual partners.
Lockdown has been in the nail in the coffin for many sexual partners.
Image: 123RF/gstockstudio

For many, lockdown has been a dry patch when it comes to sex.

A study by Indiana University in the US found that half of all those surveyed said their sexual activity had decreased during lockdown.

A separate survey online found that 63% of couples had experienced “sexual challenges” during lockdown, while one in five couples were not having sex at all. No such study has been conducted in SA.

Relationship counsellor Paula Quinsee.
Relationship counsellor Paula Quinsee.
Image: YouTube

Johannesburg relationship counsellor Paula Quinsee said couples that “didn’t have a strong relationship to begin with have now also been locked in each others’ spaces in a confined space, and it has caused a lot of friction, anxiety and stress”.

“Many people have not been able to cope.”

Speaking during a webinar hosted by Ronald Abvajee of MyHealthTV, Quinsee said some couples had found different points of tension compared to pre-lockdown life.

While someone might have complained before that their partner was “always at work” or “never helps with the children”, this had now fallen away — but it didn’t necessarily mean they were now “bonding on a deeper level”, she said.

Quinsee said women were more inclined to be dissatisfied with their body image because of how society functions, and were “always comparing themselves to others who are out there”. Social media worsened this, she said.

She said every parent should not only affirm their daughters but also “have conversations with their boy children about what a healthy relationship looks like and that no form of violence — be it physical, sexual, verbal or financial — is acceptable”.

For cosmetic gynaecologist Dr Meshack Mbokota, lockdown is another factor of change that has been added to women’s lives.

“Age, childbirth, pregnancy, menopause ... all these things create change in a woman's body,” he said.

Then there are changes that are traditionally imposed on women, like “the lengthening of the labia minora” in certain communities in mainly Sub-Saharan Africa. This practice is intended for the males’ pleasure and often “becomes an embarrassment later in life for the woman”, said Mbokota.

On the other end of the spectrum, women are choosing to alter their own sexual organs for aesthetic reasons and to enhance pleasure.

“Aesthetic gynaecology has been on the increase,” said Mbokota. “Traditionally, women have been reared to provide pleasure for men without considering their own sexual needs, but as women become more liberated, it means they can also control their sexuality. You come across women who have never experienced an orgasm even in their 50s.”

Demand has increased for vaginal PRP (platelet-rich plasma), he said. This is a procedure during which platelet-rich plasma is injected into the upper wall of the vagina and clitoris, triggering stem cells’ multiplication and “younger” tissue growth.

“It rejuvenates the vagina with a new skin and improves sensation. You’re able to get more lubrication,” said Mbokota, adding that for women, sex is more frequently an emotional and physical experience, whereas for men it is primarily physical.

“A bomb can go off and a man will still be driven to ejaculate before he flees,” he said.

For dietitian Mbali Mapholi, the changes in a woman's body as she gets older should be tackled with a “food-first” approach to get the nutrition needed to keep the body as healthy as possible.

“Calcium becomes especially important for women as we age, as high levels of calcium are lost through bone loss when oestrogen levels decline,” she said. Mapholi said supplements are useful but should not be seen as a replacement for calcium-rich foods like dairy and leafy greens. Omega 3 fatty acids are also important, as is folic acid.

“Also, vitamin D is important because it helps in the absorption of calcium and also improves mental health.”