'The Government's Casual Sex Ban Shows Single People Have Been Forgotten'
Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that casual sex is banned under current coronavirus restrictions.
Now, I know what you're thinking - the fact that we shouldn't be bonking around left right and centre at the moment is neither new nor surprising. But there was an interesting caveat that came alongside his announcement - those in 'established relationships' are exempt.
Which begs the question: as a single woman, where does this leave me?
To begin with, just what is an established relationship? Does it count the guy in my DMs? And if - as you'd assume - it means a month or so down the line, when things are getting serious, then how will I ever reach that point with someone while remaining two metres apart, and making sure I've wrapped up my date by 10pm?
Unfortunately, Matt Hancock doesn't seem any more sure on the definition than me. During a rather awkward interview on the topic with Sky News' Kay Burley, he seemed to blush and snigger when quizzed on the fine details of the new exemption.
When pushed for more details, he said: "It just means that people need to be careful, they need to be sensible.
"If you're in a relationship that is well established... what it means is people realising that coming into close contact with people from other households... that is how the virus spreads."
There's one key problem with this. As one of my single girlfriends puts it: "I'm all about following the rules, but if Matt Hancock and co. really think they're going to get nation of single people to go six more months or without sex - or possibly more - they have another think coming."
Simply, an outright ban for 51 per cent of the population, with no end in sight, seems almost impossible to adhere to.
But besides the fact that it's a bit of a stretch to expect all single people to abstain until further notice, there are also many people - myself included - who find this new exemption downright exclusionary.
Billie Quinlan - co-founder of mindful sex app Ferly - says she fears that banning casual sex not only further wraps it in shame, but it tells single people they're 'not worthy' of their basic desires.
"This rule is incredibly antiquated," she says. "Whilst there have been amazing strides in the sex positivity movement, there is still work to do in unpacking outdated and unhelpful sexual narratives, and shaming people who enjoy casual sex is one of these areas.
"Sexual pleasure has been defined by the WHO [World Health Organisation] as a human right.
"By prioritising those in 'established relationships' the government are shaming single folk, essentially denoting their experience as less than, and not worthy of enjoying one of life's most basic human needs.
"Sex can be an incredibly therapeutic experience for many, and human touch is a crucial part of our lives, banning this for single people could have far reaching consequences on their mental health."
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Pyschologist Emma Kenny agrees. "To be denied of something so instinctually driven and part of our hardwired DNA is definitely something that could cause mental health issues," she says.
"If you think about our Chimpanzee cousins - our DNA is 99 per cent the same - all they do is preen, play and have sex all day. For humans, sex is a basic need too."
As Emma explains, physical intimacy is about more than just fun and frivolity, it's actually a key component for many when it comes to maintaining happiness.
"Sex is something that helps with stress relief, reduces anxiety and relaxes us. It's life enhancing," she says.
"It's essentially adult play, where you can escape - and that in itself is impactful psychologically and emotionally - especially in the current climate."
She adds: "Sex also helps you form social bonds because it makes you a happier human. It boosts our serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin levels (the hormones responsible for mood regulation, feelings of positivity, and that warm, fuzzy feeling).
"So, certainly, people having sex tend to fare better on a mental health level - presumably because they feel that they have connections and close bonds, but also feel loved, wanted and desired, which is excellent for self esteem and self confidence."
The problem for singletons is that society already puts an immense amount of pressure on us to find The One - and now the government are essentially rewarding our loved up mates for doing so, giving them a free pass to mix between households, while we lag behind.
"It's like being the kid excluded at school," Emma theorises. "It's saying that your needs are less than.
"Telling you that you're not as 'successful' for not having a relationship, and punishing you by making you miss out on that physical experience."
There's a consolation for single people navigating the world of dating during coronavirus, according to relationship coach Hayley Quinn.
"Modern dating can be characterised by people being commitment-vague. It can feel genuinely terrifying to have an honest conversation with the person you're seeing about whether they're dating other people," she says.
"However, with this new legislation in place it may force people to have more emotionally real conversations about what people's intentions are."
The other silver lining is that a ban on casual sex might very well help us to build stronger emotional connections without any distractions.
"People can absolutely enter an established relationship without physical intimacy. In fact, new research shows you can form a very deep connection just through video chatting," Emma adds.
And that's all well and good - really, it is - but it doesn't diminish the fact that right now, we're living by a different rule book to everyone else, and someone else is telling us how to date, and how to form connections.
Moving forward, there has to be some trust in the fact that single adults are old enough and wise enough to make decisions about who has access to their own bodies.
It's been seven months since lockdown. Don't you think it's about time the government considered the psychological weight they're putting on us by demanding our chastity?
Featured Image Credit: Unsplash
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