• Anika Jusuf

Sexual Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Dutch Journalist Linda Duits claimed “sex is a human right” in an opinion piece penned for Dutch newspaper Het Parool. Duits aimed to criticise the lack of advice presented to single Dutch citizens regarding sexual activity during the pandemic. These claims, along with other backlash towards the Dutch government, led them to take a different approach towards recommendations for singles on how to approach lockdown and quarantine when it came to sexual activity.

In a statement that made international headlines, the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) of the Netherlands advised singles to seek out like-minded individuals in order to find a “sex buddy.” This recommendation received questioning from international news media, many from neighbouring countries that had taken different approaches towards sexual health amidst the pandemic. Due to negative attention from media outlets worldwide, RIVM eventually retracted their statement, removing the advice of seeking out a “sex buddy.”

The Netherlands has been one of the only countries to directly address the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on sexuality and its expression. Countries worldwide have stressed the observation and maintenance of physical and mental health, but rarely consider the role of sexuality in both of those.

This brings into question: is sexuality a health concern?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sexuality is an important dimension of an individual’s health. To obtain sexual health, sexual rights must be respected and maintained—a part of this being the ability to express sexuality accordingly.

Within the past year, COVID-19 has significantly impacted the role of sexuality in health, and how it is experienced. Many studies have been conducted in order to observe these changes, both negative and positive.

An international study published in December 2020, almost a year after the first documented COVID-19 case, declared that sexual activity had, unsurprisingly, dramatically decreased in comparison to the years prior to the pandemic. Several reasons for this decrease were found, one of them being the different gathering restrictions and social distancing measures that were implemented. The anxiety linked to contracting COVID-19 may have played a role as well.

Amid changing trends and perceptions of sexual activity during the pandemic, it may be important to consider what positive effects sexual health may have on individuals during this time. Are there any benefits?

Research concerning the benefits of sexual activity has found that engagement in sexual acts has been able to help individuals manage the psychological concerns that individuals are having due to the pandemic. Sexual engagement was found to be a protective factor against anxiety, depression, and many of the relational issues that individuals are facing.

Taking into account all of these findings, it can be assumed that while sexual health has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also offset some of the other negative effects associated with it. Despite this, many countries are still not addressing the issues concerning sexual activity during the pandemic and how to best approach it.

Source: Unsplash

So what is the solution towards this issue?

Experts from the Spanish Association of Sexuality and Mental Health have developed several recommendations of how to continue sexual activity whilst maintaining a low risk of exposure to COVID-19 based on different individual situations. It is important to consider that these recommendations were drawn up based on the current knowledge of COVID-19 and developments in research may lead to different recommendations further down the line.

Overall, it can be garnered that sexual activity plays an important role in one’s health. Governments should be openly creating discussions on these topics. Rather than casting sexual health aside, it is necessary to put forward safe recommendations and inform the public.


Speaking plainly:

  • Sexual activity has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to both personal reasons, such as individuals’ fears and anxieties, and implications of measures made by institutions.

  • Sexual health plays an important role in general health and the experience one has during the pandemic; it was found to be a protective factor against depression and anxiety during the pandemic.

  • Positive benefits of sexual activity should be considered, but one should also take into account the different risks associated with sexual activity, and consider recommendations provided by researchers to maintain and protect their health.