How the pandemic has transformed the sexuality of the French – BLOG
SEXUALITY – The question of desire, love and intimate relationships in the context of Covid-19 is a major theme that says a lot about the state of health of a society. Even more when clinical practice and recent scientific studies demonstrate one and the same thing: between 2020 and 2021, the sexuality of the French has changed. From “face-to-face” to “distance”, it has transmuted.
Since the first confinement in March 2020, the pandemic has radically transformed the way people meet and have sexual relations between individuals. The various confinements, deconfinements, curfews, re-confinements have imposed their share of restrictions and barrier gestures with psycho-corporal consequences that health workers cannot ignore. Behind the political and prophylactic choices, it is a new relationship to oneself, to others and to the world that has if not imposed itself, at least redesigned.
Baby blues pandemic
One of the first consequences of the health crisis on the sexuality of the French appears in the field of procreation: between January 2020 and January 2021, according to the latest surveys of theINSEE, the birth rate in France fell by 13%. The analysis is simple:
The context of the health crisis and the great uncertainty linked to the pandemic may have discouraged couples from procreating and encouraged them to postpone their parenting plans for several months. In addition, it can be seen that considerations relating to the possible transmission of the virus from mother to newborn may also have to play.
During the first confinement, medically assisted reproduction centers were also closed. In total, only 735,000 births were therefore recorded in our country in 2020. This is the lowest birth rate observed in France since the end of World War II. But if the decline in the reproductive rate represents the element leader and manifests the consequences of Covid-19 on sexual relations, this pandemic has also triggered many other repercussions on the privacy of French people.
Covid and death drive
Thanatos, the death drive, is the flip side of Eros, the life drive; this is why when we talk about love and sexuality, we cannot ignore the deadly counterpart of libidinal energy. In fact, domestic violence and intra-family difficulties have marked a sharp increase since the start of the crisis. For network associations Solidarity Women, the first confinement marked a sharp increase in requests for help in the face of situations that have become highly “anxiety-provoking and urgent”. 9% of women were victims of domestic violence with an increase of 30% during the first confinement. The negative behaviors and emotions experienced by families under constant strain have invariably produced deleterious effects on the sexuality of couples.
The continued presence of children at home during school closures has also increased the mental burden on parents and reduced the possibility of moments of intimacy. In the end, the consequences on the psyche – stress, anxiety disorders, anxiety and depression – greatly reduced desire while logistical problems reduced the frequency of sexual intercourse. As for single people, they also confirm a strong deterioration in their sexual and emotional activity, especially during the first confinement. In the consulting room, the diagnosis was identical in 2020. The people who came to consult were out of breath, out of love, out, just plain. Over the months, the instinct of the drive for self-preservation in the face of the death drive, has imposed itself to the detriment of Eros and its principles of pleasure.
Across the Borders
On the other side of the borders, surveys corroborate French statistics. The British Journal of Sexual Medicine reveals that 60% of respondents reported not having been sexually active during the entire period of first confinement. Likewise, a study carried out by Italian gynecologists reported a decrease in their sexual function and intimate quality of life at the same time. Specifically, the proportion of women who had an average of six sexual intercourse per month prior to the restriction measures decreased to two monthly intercourse thereafter.
According to the authors, the negative impact of Covid-19 on sexual function and quality of life shows how acute stress can affect psychological state. Another Polish study published by gynecologists in the Jinternational journal for environmental research and public health reported that the percentage of women with sexual dysfunction more than doubled from 15% before the pandemic, to 34% during the first lockdown. In view of all these investigations, it appears that the pandemic and the global government responses have had major consequences in the internal functioning of our societies, even in the spheres of procreation and the privacy of individuals.
Covid and life drive
An unexpected fact, however, happened at the end of 2020. Certain tensions were able to subside in the lives of couples, better prepared for re-containment and “relieved” of home school during the day. The sexuality of the French experienced a revival for people living under the same roof, but also for singles and partners living separately. From these first observations of libidinal depression and then of sexual revival, it is interesting to go further to discover and understand how all these measures triggered new erotic and sexual practices in our society.
Sex toys and cybersex: new sexual practices in the face of the pandemic
In his article Covid 19 and sexualities: the emergence of a new paradigm of sexualities, A.Giami evokes: the construction and the foreshadowing of a new paradigm of sexualities which distinguishes and associates the sexual relations which take place in the presence of a real partner and those which take place with the help of a whole panoply of electronic tools qualified as “virtual” Which provide support to the imagination and nurture sexual arousal for personal satisfaction.
Let’s face it bluntly, a revolution has been underway in the sexual practices of the French since 2020. The beginnings were latent, they had hitherto boiled in the shadows of the alcoves. The pandemic has only removed the veil, yielded the peg and the locks half open on the horizon of new action. Two phenomena have developed in particular since March 2020, to the point of generating new scripts and sexual anchors:
- The practice of cybersexuality (cf. works by F. Tordo and S. Tisseron on the subject.) With the proliferation of internet connections for sexual purposes (boom in registrations and chats on dating sites, practices of sexting between partners, sending dicks-pics, love through interposed screens, the rise of camgirls, etc.);
- The phenomenal boom in online sales of intimate accessories, more commonly known as sex-toys.
For distant couples and singles, confinements, limitations on movement, self-isolation and physical distancing have shown that the latter have not been able to satisfy their desires. The novelty is that sexuality has nevertheless been able to be experienced, but according to previously secondary practices, via the use of the Internet; the passage to the act taking place mainly in video, each one using the masturbation on each side of his screen for a sexuality founded on a practice “cyber”, primarily sound and visual:
The increase in digital sex has helped to minimize the likelihood of negative sexual emotions occurring. Cybersexualities are therefore not de facto pathological, or synonymous with risky behavior, contrary to representations still dominant.
In addition, the sales of sexual accessories recorded in 2020 a net increase worldwide and much more in France. If sex toys have slowly but surely integrated French households for ten years, sales have jumped astronomically, according to the figures of retailers and manufacturers (113% increase in sales for the famous clitoral vibrator and 40% for sex-toys connected couples). The trivialization of intimate toys in French sex life is no longer a shameless subject. The increase and promotion of sexual well-being reveals a democratization of erotic objects. Still shameful in France fifteen years ago, the sex toy is no longer a taboo, it would even become a sign of erotic and playful modernity according to most users.
When sexuality rhymes with the need for comfort
These new “sexual acts” acted as a response to the injunctions of barrier gestures during the crisis. This resulted in the appearance of a resumption of sexual relations from November 2020. However, behind sexuality, it is a general demand for emotional comfort that has been asserted. The proportion of French people declaring to have felt a lack of “tenderness or hugs” in November is much higher (47%) than those who evoke a lack of sex (33%).
Face-to-face sex and remote sex
Ultimately, the state of bewilderment experienced by the French during the first confinement caused a noticeable drop in their desire, the frequency and the quality of their sexual relations – whether it is about reproductive or recreational sexuality. Current research highlights the construction of new paradigms of sexuality distinguishing on the one hand a face-to-face sexuality, “face-to-face”, and on the other hand a virtual sexuality, which we dare to call “distance”. The latter relies on screens and digital technology to provide support for the imagination and maintain interactions between people. These observations reveal a great novelty: there are now different official ways of experiencing one’s sexuality.
Like the professional sphere, the modes and possibilities of “distance” or “face-to-face” have integrated the private sphere. The use of cybersexuality and the use of intimate toys have made it possible to create and live a sexuality freed from health constraints and, moreover, personalized. The anchoring of these practices is now attested, in particular among generation X (40-55 years) and particularly for generation Y (20-40 years). However, the results of these new paradigms will remain to be observed and analyzed over time. The issue of data protection and privacy will be, it is to be bet, at the heart of future debates.
Along with the rise of cybersexual practices, the need for connection, touch, skin to skin which enables awareness of oneself and of the other, has asserted itself as an essential need and has been reinforced by it. Beyond sex, the need for intimacy, caresses and comfort have reaffirmed. Touch, hugs, kisses represent this “Me-skin” as D. Anzieu would say, which structures our being and our relationship to the world.
Because loving hearts and erotic bodies reveal our greatest needs and embody the precious soil of our greatest freedoms, let’s not forget to cultivate them.
See also on The HuffPost: A more fulfilling sex life thanks to virtual reality? This is the idea of this Londoner