In this episode of the little blackfish podcast, Doortje Braeken and Dr Sara Nasserzadeh speak about the meaning and role of sex in the time of high anxiety and despair during lockdown. Over the past two decades of working with couples across the world, Sara has noticed that sex is one of the main ways for people to cope and manage their stress of various nature. Especially in times that they are driven to consider their basic needs of feeling safe, feeling loved, and achieving agency over their bodies and lives.
Doortje shares from her experience of 3 decades as a leader in the field of sexual health and well-being by sharing lessons learned from community education (such as in the times of the HIV outburst). She invites us to continue our journey post #Metoo movement, to liberate consensual sex versus putting it in the ‘box of shame’ and labeling it as taboo. She offers the idea that kindness can serve as a lens through which bestows healing in people when they connect intimately with one another. She encourages us to be more compassionate towards ourselves and others, around our need for being sexual during this time; as having sex is a primal need and a form of coping for many.
In this way, sex is used in variety of ways to cope with the stress of our current situation. Some might find themselves masturbating more, some make requests to their partners, and others might even seek it out to ensure satisfaction, regardless of the price they have to pay. The possible reasons behind these behaviors can be broken down to two categories: the meaning that people attach to sex and the role that it has in their lives. The whole idea behind this conversation is to affirm anything that one is experiencing and validate one’s sexual needs while keeping in mind that they need to proceed with kindness, especially when a partner is involved. Their way of coping with this situation might be drastically different from yours. Some people might have completely emerged in the ‘fight or flight’ mode to the point that they keep to themselves and may not be willing or able to participate in a sexual act, which for most people is a vulnerable one. In these scenarios remind yourself of how important that person is for you and the role they play in your life. Be compassionate towards them and appreciate that we are all in the same boat, it is unrealistic to assume that only you are anxious and need a release and the other person is not. Doortje reminds us that kindness goes a long way in our current circumstances. Just ask yourself: what would a kind person do in this situation? Find new ways to connect with your partner. Make it safe for them to be close to you physically and offer mutual comfort and healing to one another in a way that is acceptable and comforting to you both. Some couples also take time to cope independently and are there for each other when they can.
Some may look at sex as a form of release as many use forms of sexual release to sleep better or cope with anxiety. Others look at it as a special act of connection and closeness or as an act of imposing control and establishing power. Especially during this time, some look at sex as a way to be reminded that they are alive, they can still find pleasure in life, and create comfort in the idea that there is one area that they can still control about their bodies and their intimate relationships.
To connect our current situation to one’s past, Doortje shares the results of postponing the process of grief from the experience of her mother in which she said : “we should have taken time to mourn after the war…we were told that we had to get up and build the country…there was no room for grief…we failed…I never took time to grief. I am still grieving.”. On this final note, she encourages us to take our time and not rush through the stages needed to experience and gradually recover from this disaster in massive proportions.
You can listen to the whole podcast episode about sex and the lockdown here.