When lockdown was first imposed, as a sex coach I thought, well, this is going to be bad for business. All that time at home with nothing much to do? People will be tearing their clothes off and licking chocolate from each other’s bodies. They’ll spend whole days in bed together.
Everyone predicted a baby boom. I fully expected the phone to stop ringing and all my libido coach workshops to empty overnight. I enjoyed dispensing advice on the breakfast TV sofa, but why would Phil and Holly need the wisdom of a sex expert if quarantining couples were groping each other over the cornflakes?
But how wrong I was. The huge social experiment that is Covid lockdown has not been an aphrodisiac. On the contrary, what I thought would be a sex glut turned into a sex rut. And far from going silent, my phone has been ringing off the hook.
Private clients are desperate to find out why their libido has fallen off a cliff in the pandemic — and learn how to get it back.
All the surveys confirm my clinical experience. In one, almost 40 per cent of Britons said they’d had less sex in 2020 than in 2019, while a full quarter of us didn’t have sex at all. Google data showed a 90 per cent increase in searches for ‘decreased sex drive’, with searches for ‘loss of libido in women’ up 300 per cent.
Far from fooling around in our romantic little bubbles, we have been suffering a sexual depression — and it is hitting women hardest. Time and again, I see women who complain that sex does nothing for them. They are bored, tired and have lost their desire.
Camilla Constance thought her phone would be silent during the Covid-19 lockdown, but it was not quite the aphrodisiac she thought it would be (stock photo)
But if lockdown was no sexual paradise, perhaps this strange, hopeful, transitional time we are in now could be?
As we emerge slowly into a post-pandemic world, many people are looking to change the fundamentals of their lives. And sex is right up there at the top of the list.
So let’s use this time of regrowth to get out of our ruts and relight our fires.
Here is my guide to having the best sex of your life this spring . . .
DON’T BE PUT OFF BY THE ‘CORONA STONE’
Let’s address the post-lockdown body issue first, because this is the one coming up time and again with my clients. Yes, you’re flabbier — but so is he.
You don’t feel great in your body. In fact, you feel tired, unfit and about as sexy as an old dishrag; and he now has more spare tyres than Kwik Fit.
If you’re finding it hard to fancy his new profile, focus on the parts of his body you do find erotic — his strong forearms, his muscly shoulders, his lovely hands.
And if it’s your body that is the issue, use your other senses to get you there, not just your sense of sight. The image we have in our head of a sexual woman is generally of someone young, hot and fit because that is what adverts and magazines bombard us with. We need to find ways to get over that.
First, you don’t have to ‘dress up’ for him. Some women like fancy lingerie but lots don’t; and what looks sexy on a skinny supermodel is apt to feel uncomfortably snug on us. Think about how you feel. Forget about looking at yourself — focus on touch, not sight.
Spend half an hour after a bath moisturising your skin and feeling how soft it is. Tell him to use the palm of his hand, not his fingertips, when he touches you — it’s more sensuous and you will both find the touch new and exciting — and use massage oils scented with orange blossom or jasmine.
And remember, no one says you absolutely must have sex with the light on. If you would rather do it under the covers instead, then that’s fine too.
In fact, if you are really distracted by how you think you look, put on a blindfold to take you out of your head, into your body and experience those other senses to the full.
Almost 40 per cent of Britons said they’d had less sex in 2020 than in 2019, while a full quarter of us didn’t have sex at all (stock photo)
TAKE A NAUGHTY BOOK TO BED
Take some ‘me time’ — and I don’t mean with an embroidery kit or in front of Bridgerton (well, perhaps the latter . . .) Getting out of a sexual depression means getting back in touch with what you like sexually.
Perhaps the biggest reason women go off sex is because it does nothing for them — you need to find what does.
The world of publishing is afire with naughty fiction this spring and summer; and demand for escapist, sexy plots is booming.
Take one of the many new erotic novels to bed with you and lock the door for an hour. I’m not a fan of things with batteries — they are often too stimulating — but less vigorous toys are great. Listen to music, light a candle; whatever floats your pleasure boat.
GO ON A ‘FAKE FIRST DATE’
You’ve heard of the ‘fake commute’ where you leave the house for a 40-minute ‘journey to work’, get your daily exercise in, then return to the spare-room ‘office’ for the rest of the day? Well, now try the ‘fake first date’ . . .
One of my favourite tips for clients looking to revive intimacy in a relationship is to practise something called ‘eye-gazing’, a form of heavy-duty flirtation that new lovers do naturally but older couples forget.
You can do it sitting across a table from each other, or you can do it in bed. Simply look into each other’s eyes and hold the gaze. You’ll find it awkward at first, even excruciating. Or funny, perhaps —people tend to laugh and look away. But you will get better at it the more you do it and, trust me, it’s a powerful tool. After 30 to 60 seconds of eye-gazing, the love hormone oxytocin is triggered, creating feelings of calm and connection. Become an expert and your stomach will be doing those first-date fizzy flips you never thought you’d feel again.
MAKE SEX ABOUT YOUR RELAXATION
Why is it women, in particular, who have found their sex lives so unsatisfactory over the past 12 months? The simple answer: exhaustion — and probably resentment too.
Even before Covid, women told me all the time that sex felt like a chore to them: it was just another thing on their to-do list, like stacking the dishwasher.
When they are also doing the online shop and answering work emails all evening, the last thing they want, or have the energy for, is to be sexy for their partner.
So you need to tell your partner what you want. It does come as a surprise to some of the men in our lives that we are not sexually nourished by doing the household chores. Imagine how much better it would be if he suggested working through those tasks together, then taking you upstairs for a half-hour back massage to relax you. A man who realises that intimacy can be the ultimate stress-buster for you is a much sexier man than the one who wants you in lingerie when you’ve only just taken off your Marigolds.
At this point, it should be your fire you’re both trying to relight.
PLAN A NAUGHTY ESCAPE, WITH RULES
Hotel bookings for fun are back on the cards after May 17, so now is a great time to plan one. But beware — a lot of my clients have tried weekends away as a means to rev up a stale relationship and they have ended up dismal failures or turned into shouting matches. There are rules.
First, book in early and make use of the room from two or three in the afternoon. Fool around, use lots of sensual touch and massage — then have your meal with wine in the fancy restaurant. It’s bonkers to go for a posh dinner — three courses plus pudding, plus digestif — and expect you will both be in the mood afterwards. Don’t do it! Have sex before supper and you will feel so connected, the meal will be sizzling hot.
Camilla advises taking a naughty book to bed, going on a ‘fake first date’ and trying something new as lockdown ends (stock photo)
Secondly, talk about what you want out of the getaway first. I advise clients to use the formula Love, Fears, Desires.
Start by telling him what you love about him. Use the stopwatch on your phone and give yourself two minutes, then swap roles and have him tell you what he loves about you. Then do the same for your Fears around sex.
It may be ‘I fear you’re going to judge my lockdown thighs’, or ‘I fear you’re going to want the sex we had in our 20s and I’m not sure I’m ready for that’. And finally, using the fixed-time method, take it in turns to tell each other what you Desire from the weekend.
It might be ‘I’d love you to massage me’ or ‘I’d really like to fall asleep cuddling’. Couples almost always find that neither partner has high expectations of performance but both really want emotional connection — men too.
Whatever you discover, it is important not to go into it cold because misunderstandings around sex all too often lead to feelings of rejection.
TRY SOMETHING NEW AS LOCKDOWN ENDS
It feels as if we are emerging very slowly, blinking, into the light — but I still want you to grab every bit of the new-old normal as quickly as it comes. Go to the new cafe for your take-out coffee and try a different restaurant as soon as you can. There’s not long to go until April 12 and the great salon reopening, so have your hair cut short or dye it a different colour — and if you’ve had enough of the 1970s look elsewhere, have that waxed too.
Draw up a list of countries — or counties — you have never been to before but would love to visit this summer if you can.
What does this have to do with sex? Well, trying new things activates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter known for its capacity to make us feel good (we release it when we have sex, too). Dopamine helps us feel alive — it triggers desire and want and arousal. Doing new things makes us want more new things, including in the bedroom.
WHY NOT HAVE HIM BRUSH YOUR HAIR?
Let’s face it, we have all been anxious. Running in parallel with Covid, there has been an epidemic of insomnia. This sounds really obvious, but it’s hard to have good sex when you’re worried and sleepless — and that is especially true for women. Anxiety is a huge libido-dampener.
With any luck, the emotional load women are carrying will lessen as the pandemic retreats, but we still need a sensitive touch.
An anxious client of mine recently told me her husband brushed her hair every night, which seems to me a great way to foster intimacy. It is not entirely PC to say so but men being protective, putting a big arm around you, keeping you safe, is a very sexy thing for a lot of women. If that’s your bag, tell him so.
STOKE THE FIRES BUT DO IT GENTLY
How to put this? You do need to use it or you lose it. You wouldn’t expect to go straight into a super-hard spin class after a year on the sofa; and it’s the same with sex. If you haven’t had any for ages, try some gentle Kegel exercises, where you tighten and relax your pelvic muscles, to strengthen the pelvic floor.
Yes, you can revive your sex life and get out of your sexual depression. And yes, it can be better than it ever was before. But don’t expect to be hot and horny with a snap of the fingers. When women experience a shutdown of sexual feeling, it affects their whole lives — they are not getting the surge of hormones that sex gives them, not feeling great in their bodies and not feeling valued and loved. Women are naturally sensual and vibrant but it is often a gradual journey back. The same goes for men — they are often under such pressure to ‘perform’ and so in thrall to myths about not showing emotion that any soft, nurturing feelings get pushed away.
So stoke the fires but do it gently. Be realistic and playful and access that zone of your life with a passion that recognises tenderness as much as pure lust. Soon those flames will be leaping again.