Your questions answered by our Views Editors.
I’m obsessed with sex. My worry is that I’m using sex/masturbation as a distraction from my life problems. I’ve never been diagnosed with depression but I certainly struggle to see the point of getting out of bed many days recently. Is it unhealthy to use sex as a coping mechanism, or is it normal for it to be your primary motivation? I’m currently in a healthy relationship, if relevant! Just concerned that my constant sexual thoughts are getting in the way of a healthy lifestyle.
Hailie: We all use different things to unwind. Some of us like a nice long soak in the bath, others enjoy stretching out on the couch and devouring a good book. Maybe your thing is setting aside some alone time to get the benefit out of that glorious Lovehoney student discount. I can think of dozens more harmful coping mechanisms than having a wank, far less enjoyable ones too. It’s so important, no matter what coping mechanisms you’re using to deal with whatever you’re up against, that you don’t judge yourself for needing something to help you get by. You’re obviously in need of something, maybe that thing isn’t even sex, but we have ourselves a starting point for working out which of your needs feel unmet right now.
We’re often quick to jump to the conclusion that there’s something “wrong” with us if we have an especially high or low sex drive. Much like everything else, libido exists on a spectrum: you shouldn’t be aiming for a “normal” sex drive, because there isn’t such a thing. Enjoying sex, masturbating frequently, and using sexual pleasure as a way to escape the mundane things in life are all perfectly normal behaviours. Ultimately, your sex drive (high or low) is only problematic if you feel like it is.
Having sex as your primary motivation isn’t ideal, but that doesn’t make you weird, or bad, or disgusting. It means you’re struggling to see value in other areas of your life, which isn’t surprising at a time like this. I’m with you, getting out of bed has never been harder, and it’s often difficult to find things that make facing the day seem worth it. Talking through these feelings has been my saving grace recently. Maybe you need to sit down with your partner and have a long talk about how you’re feeling. It’s likely they’ve noticed that you’ve been struggling recently, and perhaps they’ll have some insight into your situation that will help you to put things in perspective. They’ll likely be able to reassure you that your sex drive isn’t unhealthy, or at the very least will be able to talk through how they think it’s been affecting your lifestyle. When we find ourselves looking for distractions, in whichever form, it usually means there’s something bigger going on. Exploring what that may be with someone you trust is so important, even if only to make yourself feel less alone. They won’t have all the answers, but you’ll have someone by your side while you seek them.
I wouldn’t say you need to stop having sex, that your libido is abnormal, or that there is anything wrong with using sex as a distraction. Just take a step back and evaluate what that need for distraction is masking, and consider what needs aren’t being met. And if you’re really worried about it, there’s no harm in talking about things with a professional if that’s an option for you.
I’m a first year living at home, my best friend is in halls in the city. We’ve not been able to see each other much in person because both my parents are high risk, and I’m not comfortable breaking lockdown/social distancing rules to see anyone. We FaceTime almost every day but recently it feels vaguely uncomfortable and we keep running out of things to say, which has never happened before. We’ve seen each other basically every day of our lives since we were 12 so it all feels so different now. I feel like she gets all these experiences in halls and all I do is work and study, so when it comes time to talk about whatever’s going on in my life the conversation comes to a halt. I don’t know how to make it feel normal again, while still keeping it mostly digital.
Emily: This is a really horrible situation to be in, and one that a lot of people have found themselves in during the pandemic. The move online has made relationships that relied on in-person experiences difficult, and the lines have really been drawn between friends and family who break the rules to socialise, and those who don’t. But the thing is, what you’re describing likely isn’t all down to Covid.
The sad reality is that we do drift away from our former friends the older we get, and even if we do manage to stay friends with our high school besties through all the changes university brings, it’s likely that friendship will end up looking very different from how it did when we were all 18. If these were normal times and you had stayed at home whilst she went to halls, although you would have been able to see each other, you probably still would be running into some difficulties as you’d be having really different experiences from one another. Even if you had also gone to halls (in case Covid was the only reason you didn’t) you likely would have been living with different people, and making different friends – or maybe one of you wouldn’t be taking to it as well as the other, which also happens. In both cases, things probably would have started feeling fraught, purely because things were so different from what you were used to.
You’re experiencing it all a lot quicker and on a more heightened level due to the social isolation of the pandemic and the move to online teaching, but it’s fairly likely that these issues would have occurred at some point down the line if they’re happening now. But remember that just because you don’t always have much to talk about doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends and care for one another. I used to speak to my school friends all day and still FaceTime them when I got home every night, but now at the other side of my uni years, I maybe text them individually once a month – it’s not that I care about them any less, and we still have as much fun when we do get together, but we just have completely different lives now.
I firmly believe that as good as university (normally) is for socialising, one of the toughest yet most important lessons you’ll take from it is being okay with being alone a lot of the time, both physically and emotionally. You don’t learn that at school because you’re surrounded by friends day in day out, so when it starts to happen at university it’s easy to feel as though everything is slipping away – but it isn’t. This is a completely normal way to feel.The only advice I can give you to try and help you in the shorter term is to be open with your friend about how you feel and find the things that you can still talk about. That may not be every detail of your daily lives anymore, and that’s okay, but there must still be shared interests in there somewhere. Try and schedule calls with them a bit less often so you’re not so stuck for words, and maybe theme it in advance like scheduling a film night or starting a series together. And I know it’s difficult when everything is online, but try and branch out by joining some societies, or organising online socials with people from your course so that you can start trying to lay the foundations of some of the experiences your friend has had this year. You can and will make more friends, and the best part about university is that branching out and not relying on one friend or group of friends for everything anymore.