We Asked People What They Replaced Sex With in Lockdown

"It’s not worth my time to have disappointing sexual experiences."
Sex Replacement COVID Tier Restrictions UK
All photos courtesy of interviewees

For the first time in recent history, having sex indoors is technically illegal in large parts of the UK, unless you live with the person you’re having sex with. For the shaggers among us, this is… problematic.

Think about it: all the hours during the week that would typically be spent on the crucial chatting stage, then on the delicate and strenuous build up and then on the sex itself, followed by the aftermath, are now going to have to be transferred to tending a vegetable patch, knitting or getting obnoxiously and irreversibly into playing Call of Duty: Warzone etc.


You may see this inability to have sex as a much-needed chance to finally self-reflect. A chance to take a long, hard look at the physical or emotional effects of sitting comatose on the sofa night after night, splitting your attention between aggressively swiping through Hinge and half-watching Grand Designs. Perhaps the situation has lead you to forget about sex entirely, instead purchasing a Headspace Premium subscription and meditating yourself to a higher plane every night. You might, alternatively, be literally counting down the hours until you can get back out on the pulling scene without those deeply, deeply unsexy Viral Pandemic Vibes cramping your style.

Either way, you’ve got to pass the time somehow, right? We asked you what you’d been doing instead of shagging.


Hugo, 23

Hugo, 23.

I was worried that lockdown would have quite a negative effect on me and I’d just retreat into gaming or binge-watching TV, but I started running and I’m so glad I did. It’s definitely given me more of a purpose and I can’t really see myself ever stopping.

I feel more wary now about going out post-lockdown, because it might stop me from getting up and running the next day. I think on the sex side of things, not being able to sleep around as much has given me more clarity on what I want from life. Before lockdown it just seemed like the normal way to live: find someone on Hinge, get stupid drunk, sleep together and never really speak again. But I can’t really see myself doing that again. Not that I think it’s wrong, it’s just not for me. – Hugo, 23



Katie, 25

With my newfound free time, both from an empty social schedule and general pandemic things, I’ve moved my experimentation from the bedroom into the kitchen.

I learned about the wonders of shrubs in cocktails and went through every combination of seasonal fruit and vinegar I had in my pantry. I grow vegetables every year but I expanded my growing patch to include four different kinds of chilis, that I’ve preserved in oil, as pickles, hot sauces, sweet Thai chilli sauce, and dehydrated and crushed into chilli flakes. I’m not sure if I’m any better as a home cook, but I’m definitely a lot more weird. – Katie, 25


It was weird because for a long time we couldn’t have sex, then we could and now we can’t again. To be honest, I found sex stressful anyway. It would always end in drama and hurt feelings, on either side. Over lockdown and also right now in this weird semi-lockdown, I’ve replaced sexual intimacy with platonic intimacy. It’s made me a lot closer to my friends. We’ll meet for outdoor hangs and walk our dogs. All that time I’d have spent worrying if some girl had left me on read is now spent laughing with mates. — Rhiannon, 27


Sasha, 22

One of the first things I picked up during lockdown was yoga. I've always enjoyed the odd session here and there but never really got into the swing of it, but with hours upon days upon months of time on my hands, I thought I'd give it a better go. I started a 30-day challenge that I just loved, and found myself genuinely getting excited to do it every morning. I was feeling more confident and my “FUCK ALL MEN” attitude soared as I began to feel better about my body and myself.


Lockdown, although terrible, did bring a lot of mental clarity. I think for a while I thought that if I wasn't having sex as much as other people my age, it meant I was doing something wrong or I wasn't attractive enough. Lockdown certainly helped clear that one up for me. I learned to love myself more and pleasure myself better and realise that my worth will never be defined by how many people swipe right. It has taught me to know and ask for what I want, and that I’m perfectly happy and okay on my own. – Sasha, 22


Zhané, 21

I’ve had a myriad of hobbies since the start of lockdown, mostly because of my inability to stay focused on one thing for too long. I bought far too many books than I could read by the end of the year, then spent most of my days watching daytime telly instead of working through my books. Garden Rescue was a guilty pleasure because of my huge crush on David Rich.

Having less sex has been okay! I’d say because I’m on the pill – and have been since I was 17 – I suffer from a decreased libido anyway, and the involuntary break from dating and sex has definitely increased my sex drive, even if it has shown up in weird ways (e.g. Garden Rescue horniness). I’ve had a lot of time to consider what I want when we’re able to start dating like “normal” again and will probably (hopefully?) have less casual sex than before. Mostly on the basis that after sex has literally been outlawed, it’s not worth my time to have disappointing sexual experiences. Zhané, 21



Jade, 24

Jade, 24

There’s been lots of staring blankly out of the window, lots of dance parties alone in my room, lots of watching Friends. Lots of watching Sex And The City, because I can live vicariously through them and judge their sex lives, since I do no dating of my own. Then there’s also been food – so, so much cooking and food.

When the lockdown was really heavy though, I did really, really miss having the opportunity to go out and flirt with someone and just get a good shagging. Sometimes you just need it. – Jade, 24


Alfie, 21

I’ll be honest, I was still having sex… just not as much. I’ve been a chef for three to four years now. I’ve always been very career-driven, but I think the lack of physical affection during lockdown made me crave it less. To be honest, I went straight into a relationship after lockdown, and then it broke down very quickly because I actually cheated. Not something I’m proud of at all, but something I’ve never done before and wouldn’t do it again. The fact I did it kinda proved to me I don’t need affection and I don’t need attention from anyone. I’m just happy being me, and I’m definitely now happier by myself. – Alfie, 20