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Sex, social distancing and love during lockdown

Whether a budding romance was starting to bloom, or married life continued steadily on, coronavirus changed the course of love for better or worse.

For those going it solo, dating became even more digital – old fashioned courting came back into style, and sadly, spontaneous hook-ups were off the cards. But what did lockdown mean for those in relationships, specifically those with children? Did boredom lead to excitement in the bedroom, or did spending too much time together have the opposite effect?

Using Relative Insight’s unique text analysis technology, we analysed conversations in forums to investigate the differences in how mothers, and the Gen Z generation without kids are navigating their relationships through COVID-19.

First of all, let’s look at mums

Routine out the window:
When discussing their sex lives, mums are more likely to reference “normal” or the pre-pandemic state.

“When everything is back to normal” is a phrase which will haunt us for years to come. Interestingly, mothers were found comparing life before and life during lockdown 3.1x more than people in the other demographic set when discussing their pandemic relationships. Sexual routine was discussed as a matter-of-fact when you have children; however lockdown gave little room for normality. For some mothers, this translated to less time and ultimately, less sex.

Mums on duty:
When mums talk about sex, they often refer to the fact that it’s impacted by their kids being in the house 24/7

When juggling both work and home-schooling, is it really a surprise that busy mothers couldn’t find the time for intimacy? Insights show that mothers were 22x more likely to mention children in relation to their sex lives, than not.

Tensions at home:
Mums are more likely to discuss the emotional turbulence of life in pandemic when discussing their sex lives. 

Anxiety is a major turn-off which can dampen a person’s libido, and mothers were 13.5x more likely to discuss the emotional turbulence of a pandemic, compared to their younger counterparts. Along with concern for their mental wellbeing, ‘dislike’ was a common theme for mothers, implying that even couples who isolated together experienced a decline in intimacy, with passion giving way to irritation.

Generation Zs – young, free and single

A digital replacement for intimacy:
Generation Zs often discuss the digital realities of dating during the pandemic

Anybody who quarantined alone was worlds away from ‘normal’. People in the more general boards (who are typically younger than people in parenting specific spaces) turned to video, discussing the digital realities of dating during COVID-19. Video dating (and hook-ups nonetheless) provided an opportunity to interact with new people, for a ‘cute, short, sassy’ fling or to get to know each other over an extended period. Dating app Tinder even recorded that conversations were 25% longer over lockdown.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder:
These people are more likely to refer to other people and their desire for intimacy than mums.

The opportunity to meet new people diminished with coronavirus and ruled out romantic encounters closer than two metres. While video calls relieved some loneliness, people without kids were 2.3x more likely to mention their desire for intimacy and the company of other people, a stark contrast to mothers who seemed in desperate need of some ‘me’ time.

Protecting the vulnerable:
These people are far more likely to express concern over the impact of their actions on other people.

While sex might have been off the cards, interestingly it didn’t seem a huge priority for the younger-non parents as they were 7.5x more likely to express concern over the impact of their actions on those who are vulnerable. Unable to share intimate moments, younger people saw the bigger picture, whereas mothers remained preoccupied with their familial bubble.

Following the rules:
Gen Zs discuss what the government guidelines are and what it means is permissible when it comes to dating and sex.

Surprisingly, the younger generation took a selfless approach to love in lockdown, erring on the side of caution. In fact, they were 18x more likely to discuss government rules and guidelines, and specifically how they would apply this to their sex lives. So the fact that young people have been being blamed for the uplift in coronavirus cases seems very unfair.

Actionable insights

It goes without saying that coronavirus has impacted our lives in almost every way, and has changed the dynamics of our relationships for the foreseeable. So with almost 32% of women providing full-time childcare over lockdown, mothers couldn’t catch a minute to themselves.

However, the younger generation craved intimacy. Instead of acting on impulse, coronavirus has heightened young people’s desire to protect others. A behaviour that we hope translates to sex too, echoed in Durex’s ‘Let’s not go back to normal’ campaign.

While there’s nothing sexy about a pandemic, qualitative insights provide brands with an opportunity to engage in current conversations. For dating apps, lingerie brands or wellbeing initiatives, these findings are useful for informing communications to promote sexual wellness, as we navigate our lives and relationships post-coronavirus.

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