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Does A New Sex Revolution Beckon As The Pandemic Wanes?

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Lisa Becker

Thirteen months of social distancing and masks, and it’s no wonder people are having less sex.  

But with protocols loosening, infections stabilizing and vaccinations on the rise, many are ready for some sexual healing.

In fact, some experts and publications are predicting a Hot Vax Summer, a new Roaring 20s, a modern-day Summer of Love -- however you want to call it.

But after a year of Zoom calls and kids being home, is everyone ready to bring sexy back? Or, could have people changed their perspective on sex?

Joshua Corum is a UNLV instructor and Ph.D. candidate who studies sociology, sex and hook-up culture. He also co-hosts a podcast called Sex Nerd.

He told KNPR's State of Nevada that there will likely be two responses to the easing of restrictions and a return to a more normal life.

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"I think you'll have people who are ready to get out there and ready to have their fun, but I think you're going to see a lot of people coming into this way more cautious and slower than perhaps they could have done in previous pandemics," he said.

After restrictions are lifted, he said people will have to relearn some of the social norms. 
 
"I definitely think when masks aren't mandated, it is going to feel a little weird actually seeing someone's face socially and I think we're going to have moments of, or at least a time period, where people are going to have to relearn social norms or recreate social norms on those initial interactions," he said.
 
The return to a more normal life might actually help people in monogamous relationships. 
 
Markie Twist is an adjunct faculty member at UNLV and a marriage and family therapist. She said studies have found that married couples reported having less sex during the pandemic.
 
"People not only weren't being sexual with each other actually physically, but they were not necessarily sexual with each other in terms of everyday communication because there was a lot of frustration and boredom, particularly for women," Twist said.
 
She said that many women were hit doubly hard by the pandemic because many of the household chores went to them on top of dealing with child care. They also either lost their jobs or left to take care of children. 
 
"They were put in the position of more care maintenance, more maintenance for the relationship, and in some cases, a lack of an outlet for themselves," she said. "And so, a lot of women were reporting emotional non-support, being overworked, feeling like their relationships were thankless." 
 
Twist said research found that while couples were having less sex during the pandemic, they were exploring more novel ways of having sex, including digi-sexuality or sex facilitated by technology.
 
For instance, the sales of high-tech sex dolls increased during the pandemic.
 
"The same study found that even though there was more novel engagement it was less satisfying," she said. "So people might take their dolls and put them back closet after this - who knows?"
 
Besides impacting the number of sex people are having, the pandemic has also impacted sexual health. 
 
Cheryl Radeloff is the senior health educator for the Southern Nevada Health District. She said preliminary numbers show a jump in sexually transmitted infections compared to 2019.
 
"People did engage in sexual activities before the pandemic, yet during the pandemic, they often had less access to testing and treatment and potential protection such as condoms," Radeloff said. 
 
She said getting to a store to buy protection might have been difficult, and people were reluctant to go to a doctor unless it was for something that they felt was absolutely necessary.
 
For those who don't want to go to a doctor's office to be tested, Radeloff suggested getting an at-home testing kit, which is available through the SNHD.
 
Radeloff said Nevada remains number one in the country for cases of primary and secondary syphilis. 
 
One important change that could come from the pandemic could be a more open discussion about sexual health because it is more common now to have conversations about COVID risk and health.
 
Alice Little is a sex worker at the Chicken Ranch brothel in Nye County. She used to work at the Moonlight Bunny Ranch in Lyon County, but because Nye County was the first to announce that brothels would be allowed to reopen on May 1, she moved to the Chicken Ranch.
 
Little said at this point she doesn't think vaccinations will be required to visit the brothel, but she believes it is an important conversation to have. 
Little said she has been fully vaccinated.
 
"For those who aren't vaccinated, having that conversation is going to become a part of our daily life," she said. "We need to be comfortable as adults discussing these things that are so important to our health. So I wouldn't discourage those conversations from happening."
 
Twist agreed. She is hopeful that the pandemic will lead to more open conversations. 
 
"You have to have the conversations around consent - 'Is it okay for us to meet and not wear masks?' 'How comfortable are you hugging?' What is the green light, what is the yellow light, what is the red light?" she said.
 
She said one thing that has come from the pandemic is that kissing can be more dangerous than sex with a barrier, which means conversations around intimacy and safety have become very different than just a few years ago. 
Guests

Markie Twist, adjunct faculty member, UNLV Department of Environmental and Occupational Health; Joshua Corum, instructor and sociology graduate student, UNLV; Cheryl Radeloff, senior health educator, Southern Nevada Health District; Alice Little, legal sex worker  

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