COVID-19 has caused another silent pandemic: the death of the sex drive.
As society slowly emerges, in fits and starts, from the trappings of the coronavirus, sex workers are discovering that their clients’ libidos are as off-kilter as supply chains. The culprit, many have determined, is not a lack of desire for others but a lack of confidence in themselves.
“People will now apologize, ‘I’m sorry I’ve gone gray, I’m sorry I’ve gained weight, I’m sorry I’m not more attractive.’ It breaks my heart,” intimacy expert and self-described “highest-earning sex worker in the US” Alice Little told The Post of the “marked difference” she’s noticed in clients’ self-confidence in recent months. “It’s taken on a lot of forms.”
Many of the single male guests she sees online and at Carson City, Nevada’s Moonlite BunnyRanch were previously on dating apps and websites, but have since deleted their profiles. “They’ve withdrawn from that outward aspect of society — they don’t feel worthy of finding love or a sexual partner and have retreated very deeply into themselves,” the 31-year-old Ireland native said.
Single female clients, she finds, have already made their minds up to overcome their pandemic setbacks and are now mostly looking for service tips. They reach out to Little with questions like, “ ‘Hey, I purchased this lingerie set. How do I do a boudoir photo shoot? How do I striptease? How do I dirty talk in a way that doesn’t feel like terrible ’80s porn?’ ”
For the couples she sees (and there has been a “tremendous, tremendous increase in couples” seeking her services recently), spending months trapped at home together has caused something akin to “a stress injury within their relationship,” and many have forgotten how to connect, communicate and trust one another.
Indeed, interest in having sex has reached a lower point today than it has at any point during the pandemic, according to a forthcoming study under peer review for the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
People are “feeling really schlubby,” lead study author Dr. Rhonda Balzarini told the Wall Street Journal of her team’s findings. Common pandemic comforts such as overeating and drinking have led to a kind of “stress spillover” that “makes them feel less attractive and, therefore, less desirable,” Balzarini explained.
Influencer Amber Sweetheart, who calls herself the “queen of sexting,” has noticed a change in her clientele in recent months.
They’re more fixated on their eating, shyer about sending her selfies, and increasingly dependent on her as their on-screen girlfriend.
“They think it’s easier to talk to me than find a girl face to face. They won’t send pictures from before the pandemic ’cause they’ve gained weight — a lot of them mentioned going on a diet,” Sweetheart told The Post of the ways she has watched her followers “decline,” a pattern she first observed in the middle of the pandemic which has become more pronounced in the last few months.
She finds her older male fans are simply leaning into their isolated reality where Sweetheart is their stand-in girlfriend, while younger guys are realizing and grappling with the changes the novel coronavirus has wrought.
“I chat to older guys now, ’cause the younger ones are going out,” she said, noting that her fan base has recently “gone from younger to older.”
Her older fans, she finds, have a harder time losing weight, and have been more demoralized by COVID. “A lot of them tell me they’ve ‘aged so much during the pandemic,’ ” she said, adding, “They got used to being behind the screen.”
The road back to to self-love for their newly self-conscious clients, Sweetheart and Little believe, is long, but both have been trying to ease it with affirmations and support.
“Some people just want to hear ‘I’m here for you, babe. I think you look great,’ ” said Sweetheart.
Sex therapist Dr. Megan Fleming agrees that a small amount of positive affirmation can go a very long way in regaining mojo. “We can all turn ourselves on and off as much as our partner can turn us on and off,” she told The Post. “For somebody who wants to feel empowered, it’s about how they turn themselves on. It could be about what they’re reading, what they’re wearing.”
And as people stumblingly rediscover their sex drives, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that many others are with them on the same journey.
“This is just such a normal part of our society these days,” said Little of the epidemic of insecurity that has gripped the globe.
“It really isn’t just you, I promise. This is far, far more common than anybody really wants to say. You are certainly not alone.”
— additional reporting by Andrew Court