He’s got spunk: ‘COVID fatigue, sex fatigue’

By Gary Sowder, Columnist

As we reach the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdowns, the morale of the world is in a downward spiral—a spiral only exacerbated by this year’s particularly harsh winter. At the onset of quarantine, the weather was sunnier and we could go out on socially-distanced walks in our booty shorts and roast marshmallows at night in cozy sweaters, but now I have to brave the Commonwealth Ave wind tunnel just to get groceries. We’re inside more, and that’s no good for our mood.

I’ve struggled with depression my entire life, first experiencing symptoms when I was 11, but it’s never been like this. It takes hours to get out of bed, my apartment is constantly a mess, and I procrastinate assignments simply because I cannot find the motivation to start them. 

My therapist has coined this feeling as “COVID fatigue,” and this feeling has permeated my sex life.

In the past, I averaged four or five hookups a week, which is excessive, but I consider it research. Now I’m rarely on the apps, barely hooking up, and hardly feeling good afterwards. Earlier this year, as I was coming home from a Grindr hookup, I felt uneasy, confused, shameful. Why? He sent me a negative COVID test, he had been vaccinated, he was nice, he was sexy, he let me stay the night. So, what was it? Everything was fine, but I felt like garbage.

I couldn’t help but wonder: am I suffering from sex fatigue?

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Sex in 2019 was exceedingly different. I’d meet guys in bars, clubs, and dingy house shows. We’d shoot the shit, cultivate some sort of emotional intimacy, dance together, buy each other drinks. When I met guys on Grindr, I’d usually head over to their place as the night was winding down, asking for their address on the walk back from the club, surrounded by a posse of my best––and drunkest––friends. There was something exhilarating about ditching your girls to meet up with a hot guy, the bow on top of an amazing night.

Now, sex is the night; since there are no bars and no parties, it’s usually all we have lined up. And there’s only one way to find it. Online. 

Like Postmates, there’s an impersonality to online hookups, especially on Grindr. The getting-to-know-you portion is just fluff, padding until you get to the real stuff: exchanging pics, inquiring about sexual preferences, asking about COVID safety. There’s a routine to it, and there’s only so much bush to beat around until he invites you over.

In a time where we’re so desperate for connection, emotionless hookups only fill that void in one way: the physical one.

When we remove in-person meetups and sex becomes more about fulfilling a need, it leaves us feeling unsatisfied and lonely. That’s because loneliness in the pandemic is much different from 2019’s loneliness. Pre-pandemic, my loneliness came in bursts, but it was always remedied by going out to dinner with my roommates, partying with my friends, or going to class. Now, going out to dinner isn’t a thing, neither is partying, and with social distancing and masks, in-person classes can sometimes feel even more isolating than Zoom. 

COVID-19 has forced us to shrink our friend groups, eviscerated our night lives, and made spontaneous interactions with strangers impossible. We see the same people every week, over Zoom calls or in person, and the opportunity for new connections is outside the realm of possibility. We can’t tell a girl to dump her boyfriend in the Tam bathroom or split a joint with a kind Italian man outside of the Fire House. The borders of our social circles are more rigid than ever. The only opportunity we have to meet new people has to happen in the ether.

I usually end my columns with a nugget of advice, something for you to take and ruminate on the next time you go on a date or have sex. However, I don’t think that’s a possibility with this article. We can’t eliminate sex fatigue until things return to normal, and there’s still no time-stamp for when that will happen.

Instead, the advice I’ll give you all is to stay conscious of your emotions. If sex isn’t making you feel as satisfied as it used to, listen to those feelings. If that dissatisfaction outweighs the sexual positives, listen to that. COVID-19 may have pushed us inward, forced us to spend more time with ourselves. But the benefit of that is we are given all of this time to start listening to our emotions, really sitting with them, and making changes to feel better about yourself in this, honestly, depressing time.

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