This article is part of a series highlighting findings from The State of Sex — an O.school original 2021 study in partnership with Pilotly. The State of Sex study consisted of a 103-question online survey administered to 1,074 US participants, ages 18-75 with an average age of 44.
The study was representative of the US population and oversampled Black, Asian, and Latinx respondents to obtain holistic, readable data on ethnicities and sexual orientation. Our findings enable us to better understand sexual habits, behaviors, attitudes, and consumption.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of our lives — from physical and mental health to family life, work, school, travel, and more. But has it had a major impact on people’s sex lives, too? O.school’s State of Sex survey found some pretty surprising results.
Almost half of Americans say the pandemic didn’t impact how much they made out, cuddled, or had oral and vaginal sex with a partner.
Perhaps you thought Covid would stop people from having sex with a partner because of limited opportunities to hook up and date, or because of stress. Or maybe you assumed the opposite — that people were doing the deed even more because they were cooped up inside. The reality is, though, that many State of Sex respondents said their sex lives didn’t change all that much: between 40 and 50% said they had the same amount of makeouts, cuddle sessions, oral sex, and vaginal sex during COVID as before. This is likely because many people who experienced lockdowns and quarantines were already partnered and continued with their normal sexual routine in spite of increased stress and other changes to daily life.
Those who did experience changes in their sex lives had less sex.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, among people who reported changes to their intimate lives, the majority experienced less cuddling, kissing, grinding/dry humping, oral, anal, and vaginal sex than before. This difference was driven by single people (those in relationships experienced slightly more vaginal sex, kissing, and cuddling), and was most pronounced for dry humping and hand jobs. Only a third of respondents said they’d experienced the same amount of these activities as before, while almost two thirds said they either hadn’t done them, or had done them less. This could be due to the fact that people are more likely to engage in sex that doesn’t involve penetration or fluid exchange with casual partners, and many people experienced fewer hookups and less casual sex during lockdowns.
The bottom line
COVID-19 has affected many people’s lives in unpredictable ways. Among those who responded to the State of Sex survey, however, sexual behavior with a partner was fairly stable. While we don’t know for sure why that is, what is clear is that sexuality is highly complex, individual, and often surprising. To see more findings from our State of Sex survey, check out our full report.
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