Discovering sex during pandemic times
Restrictions mark the sexuality of young people who miss physical contact
BarcelonaIn pandemic times everything is intensified, including sex: being touched with a finger becomes an injection of affection, receiving certain whatsapp texts warms your body, snogging while the world falls apart "is more emotional than ever", the mere act of getting naked in company is a miraculous "oasis" where all the tensions you have been carrying for months disappear. They also say that affection is more present. Boys and girls who have seen covid fully impact their early years describe how sex is during pandemic times.
Contrary to what you might think, they do so with some concern. They are sorry that the sexuality their generation is exploring is marked by the limits dictated by restrictions, and they also say that it exposes the shortcomings of the first lockdown: "Exploring ourselves and each other has come to play a much more important role in our lives, because it now covers the physical and emotional needs that social detachment denies us at such a key stage in life", explains Andreu (who prefers a false name so that he cannot be identified), who is one of many young people that the second wave has caught without a partner.
Experts agree that youngsters' sexualities have been forgotten by the institutions managing the second wave. Above all, they criticise the fact that the issue is approached in a very "prescriptive" way and through "danger" messages so as not to infect "loved ones" - the Public Health Agency directly recommends not kissing people you do not live with to avoid it - when it has been proven that using "fear" "does not work" in these cases. "Once again we are stigmatizing young people without accompanying them emotionally or giving them alternatives; on the contrary, we are imposing on them what they have to do; I wonder if anyone has gone to ask them what their demands are" says Clara Martinez, from the desexualidades - educación sexual feminista team of the Sidastudi organization.
In fact, most of the young people consulted agree that they have not received any "useful" information - they say - other than the fact that it is not advisable to have sexual relationships with non-living partners. Neither from school, nor from the administration, nor from their families. "I looked for information myself, and after five minutes of reading I saw that it was totally surreal, like having sex only on all fours". Emília jokes and says that she has just received a meme in which a condom comes out of a mask. The text says: "I've never seen so much responsibility together". Maria has also not received any "positive" advice - she says that "you do it the way you can" and "with lots of hugs".
Gemma can talk to the CRAE Pere IV educators - who remind her that "the degree of responsibility" assumed by this generation is very "high" - but she assures that she does not recommend anyone to start a relationship in times of pandemic if they do not have their own apartment, as it has occurred to her.
The team of sexualidades - educación sexual feminista of the entity Sidastudi consider that "positive strategies that make us reflect on how to take care of our sexuality in a moment like this" should be provided. In practice, Martinez specifies, this could involve teaching sexual partners how to communicate their own boundaries - "At the moment I prefer not to see each other in person, but to write erotic stories, for example" - and how they can negotiate the sexual practices with which they feel comfortable. "We have also missed a call for creativity: why can't we include masks in sex play, or try to give ourselves pleasure in other parts of the body", she wonders, recalling that for many months, channels that could have been used to discuss these issues, such as sexuality workshops, also failed. "If we had formalised sex education in Catalonia, we wouldn't be so lost in managing sexuality in covid times", she assures.
More or less desire?
Beyond the intrinsic intensity that intimate encounters can have in pandemic times, Emília explains that there are weeks when desire takes a nosedive. "Right now, for example, I have zero desire: I don't know if it's because I'm low in spirits or because with these restrictions it's impossible to meet new people. I'm sure it's both", says the 17-year-old who lost her virginity last summer, on a day when her parents were away. The fact that with the second wave all the spaces where you could "flirt" have disappeared makes it worse, she states: "We go very little to school, in the street we theoretically have to wear the mask, if you want to see a person's mouth you can't go to a bar for a snack either and obviously we can't go out at night".
Emília says that she includes herself in the group of "responsible" young people, but she admits that there has been a moment when she succumbed: "You need someone to hug you, honestly". "The Satisfyer and sexting save us, but we have to learn to manage other situations, as adults do", says Maria. Even so, they both believe that the administration's efforts should go towards avoiding more frequent risky behaviour among young people, such as lowering their mask when they don't need to, or sharing drinks.
The ultimate danger
The call for a shift in the focus on young people's sexuality in pandemic times is "urgent". According to experts, not doing so could have negative sexual consequences for them, as Andreu pointed out. "In the future, some people might close-off to others, become more insecure; young people might have lower self-esteem issues, or simply feel that they arrive late to the world of affective relationships" warns psychologist Aina Lliteres. In addition, she recalls, making such a shift be useful for the world of single adults, "who are living these issues in the same way but with a flat of their own".