I was compelled to write this article, after reading a document issued by New York Community Health entitled Sex and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID -19).
Upon reading the publication, I was struck by various ideas concerning sexuality, which the New York scientific group was suggesting for its readers, faced with pandemic-imposed confinement. For instance, I read a phrase: ‘You are your safest sex partner.’ The logic behind the idea was to encourage the practice of auto-eroticism and masturbation as substitutes for physical contact during sexual relations: thus providing an outlet for sexual energy, so it wouldn’t be released through person to person contact.
What’s more, the article indirectly suggested developing alternative outlets for sexual stimulation and satisfaction: through the use of pornography, erotic video chat and sexting (to name just a few). In other words, practising long distance sexuality, in order to minimise the risk of catching the disease.
While examining literature on the subject, I found there are still not many studies and commentaries on the psychological and behavioural consequences of confinement in relation to sexuality: in particular, regarding new sexual habits of people during this time of social isolation. That said, we know from UN reports that in China and other countries, as a consequence of confinement, there has been an increase in cases of domestic violence and divorce. We also know isolation can produce stress related conditions, anxiety, angst and depression (to name a few), all of which exacerbate the difficulties in a relationship and produce sexual dysfunction.
Actually, the articles I was able to review go down the aforementioned path. That is, solo or long-distance sex looking for sexual stimulation, satisfaction and orgasm with virtual alternative forms.
In the midst of a pandemic, all the above suggestions can give a false impression of being reasonable. Especially if we confine sexuality exclusively to a right, which one can freely choose to practise, and where one’s only limits are personal will, the absence of damage to oneself and the avoidance of potential damage or harm to third parties. Viewed from this ideology, everyone would have the right to practise their eroticism freely and consciously as each one sees fit. Indeed, many people hold to this way of thinking.
However, from my perspective, we must make some clarifications related to human sexual behaviour. We beg to differ, because sexuality is not an exact science. The study of human sexuality and its postulates are not like mathematics. Sexual feelings, attitudes and behaviours are governed by ideological presuppositions which we cannot ignore. What may be suitable for many is not appropriate for others.
We can have a critical and reflective attitude towards this avalanche of proposals.
How, then, can we respond to these suggestions that ‘experts’ make to us? Is virtual sex a valid and beneficial alternative for human beings? What is right and wrong in matters of sexuality? For many people, there is no basis on which to ask such questions. But that all depends on the ideology that each person has.
What really is important, however, is that one makes a real effort to both intellectualise and reflect on the matter in hand. And to acknowledge the undeniable evidence which must be considered when making choices about one’s sexual behaviour.
1. We must differentiate human sexual behaviour from that of all other living beings. Sexuality in animals is instinctive and exclusively biological. Affections do not count in the sexuality of animals. In the human being, it is the affections that give meaning and direction to sex: they are what enrich the sexual experience. The loving contact that surrounds a sexual relationship produces not only momentary satisfaction, but can transform such moments into the best of memories, beyond a biological experience. This emotional contact with one’s partner is what distinguishes and elevates sex: preventing the possibility of an immature and selfish experience to transform it into an affectionate, complementary and enriching human relationship.
2. Sexual practice constitutes the best and most complete human experience if it is possible to share it with another person. So in turn, autoeroticism and masturbation are immature, selfish ways of living out one’s sexuality. We cannot put them on the same level as the full experience with another person. We cannot deceive ourselves or deceive others. It is like eating a fruit when it is still green or unripe. Can we eat an immature fruit? Yes, of course we can, but I prefer not to do it. Nor do I wish to promote it so that others do it and thus cease to experience the best of human sexuality.
3. The pornography being promoted in this lockdown goes down the same line of reasoning. Pornography is an immature and selfish form of erotic satisfaction. It’s ‘today’s bread and tomorrow’s hunger’, because we can end up as prisoners of addiction in this quarantine situation. Pornography can ruin personal and marital life. In studies by Josh McDowell, the statistical data shows that a high percentage of divorces today are as a result of pornography. Pornography diminishes libido; it also replaces the natural attraction and authentic experience with another person for a pornographic image, totally distorting the purpose of sexuality.
For all these reasons, we still continue to understand that sexuality is a human experience, which requires the best conditions. Let us free ourselves from the myth of thinking sex cannot be controlled. Nothing has to happen to us, nor have we nothing to lose, if we wait for the best moment, with the best person and the best of ourselves, to be able to experience it. Let’s not settle for anything less.
I recommend you keep in mind these reflections on sexuality throughout this lockdown period.