There are many different reports about how the Covid-19 crisis affects people’s sex lives. Some reports claim that it makes people much hotter and that they have sex more often due to being at home (with their partner). Other reports say that stress and anxiety are a damper for libido. How is it that this period can have such different effects?
The relationship between mortality and sex drive
When people are confronted with their own mortality, according to cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker (author of ‘The Denial of Death’), something strange occurs. Spiritual people often believe there is such a thing as immortality (or life after death). Being confronted with death can result in them becoming less interested in animalistic activities, such as sex. Becker bases this on Otto Rank’s theory, who explained it as follows: Caring for posterity is an animalistic activity that does not fit our image that we are spiritual beings. Why would a spiritual being engage in such physical and animal activity?
So you could say that our primary animal instinct is to associate sex with death, unless it takes on a romantic and spiritual context.
Terror Management Theory
Another theory is known as Terror Management Theory. This theory assumes that when we are faced with the prospect of death, or with the idea that we are all going to die, we adapt our behavior to that situation. The Terror Management Theory says that everyone does it differently.
Research showed that people with a lot of self-confidence and a positive self-image, and people who like to have intimate contact get more sex drive in such a situation. For them, sex is a mechanism for reducing stress and anxiety.
Dual Control Model of Sexual Response
Another theory that may apply to this situation is that of the Dual Control Model of Sexual Response. This theory assumes that everyone has an accelerator and a brake. The accelerator turns you on and the brake turns you off. Some people always live a little bit with the foot on the accelerator. They get excited easily in different situations. Others live with their foot on the brakes and have trouble getting excited.
Whether or not you are sexually more active during a crisis such as the Covid-19 can therefore depend on whether you live with the brake or the accelerator.
Excitation Transfer Theory
Yet another theory, the Excitation Transfer Theory, says that we sometimes translate arousal or anxiety – from a roller coaster, for example – to sexual arousal. This is also the reason that people have make-up sex, for example. They translate the intense emotions of an argument with a partner into sexual arousal.
A bit of both?
How you respond to the lock down depends on different mechanisms. It seems paradoxical, but some people get excited and others don’t. One response is no better than the other. People are simply different.
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