sex and relationships

Are You Getting Any? I Took a Year Off from Sex and It Changed My Life

After breaking up with his girlfriend, 24-year-old Joe needed some time to focus on himself.
06 May 2020, 3:41am
How to Deal with Not Having Sex
A screenshot of Joe talking to the author on Skype. 

JOE, 24

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Are You Getting Any? interviews are conducted via Skype video call.

Quality of sex overall: 7/10
Frequency of sex: 3/10
Intimacy levels: 3.5/10
How do you feel generally about the people you fuck: 5.5/10
How happy are you with the amount of time you have for sex: 4/10

VICE: Hi Joe! Tell me about your pre-lockdown sex life.
Joe: I hadn’t had sex with anyone for a year – from last January to this January. I broke up with my ex-girlfriend, and I’d gone from the ages of 16 to about 23 being constantly in and out of relationships. I didn’t take my professional life seriously and I didn’t really focus on my own personal attributes or my mental space. I decided that I was done with girls for a bit. It was too much pressure on my mental state.

I wanted to be more confident within myself, so when I do start speaking to someone, it’s not just a case of bumbling about like an idiot and not really knowing what I’m doing. Especially as I’m getting a bit older now.

So, being in a relationship took its toll on you?
For the majority of uni, I had a girlfriend. A lot of my focus was on her and then when we broke up, I was quite depressed. I was going on dates and having one-night stands to make me feel a bit better. It got to a point where the main desire for me was to have sex to make myself feel more "important" – because I didn’t consider myself important.

It’s nice to centre myself and just focus on me, because I haven’t ever thought about just me for 24 years. I have a lot more self-worth than I had two years ago. I wouldn’t say I’m the most confident at all, but I do have a lot more confidence within myself.

Which elements from your days of shagging did you reflect on during your year-long break?
When I was in university, especially third year, I’d be getting drunk and doing late-night booty calls and texts. But then you wake up the next morning and it’s like, "How embarrassing can you be?" The morning after, you get so much anxiety. You’re like, "Why did I do that?", especially if that person hasn't replied or they said "no". You’re creating tension and anxiety for no reason, especially when it [sex] shouldn’t be the main focus in your life.

What did your friends think about you taking a break? Were you the odd one out?
Completely the odd one out. I was doing completely the opposite to what everyone else was doing. All of my friends weren’t in relationships, but they still were having regular sex with people. It’s been the same since then. Probably February time of this year, I was like, "Let’s try and ease myself back into it." I’ve not had a lot of experiences since then, but it’s been nice to ease myself back into the rhythm of it.

What was getting back into the dating game like?
It was very weird because after a year, I forgot how to communicate or flirt and just be confident. I went on a date for the first time and I’ve never been so nervous. I was shitting myself.

Skype Screenshot

Was the first time you had sex again equally as nerve-wracking?
OK, so the first time I had sex again, I just started messaging this girl off Tinder. I was joking around and not being particularly serious and she was like, "Come round to my house". To be honest, I was rusty as anything. It wasn’t so much nervousness or embarrassment or anything, it was just like, "I can’t remember the last time I had sex, so I can’t remember what to do anymore." Since then, it’s got a bit more comfortable.

So, are you team quarantine-makes-you-horny or has sex barely crossed your mind?
Well, I’ve increased in personal pleasure, but at the same time, I think that’s partly down to being bored and there’s nothing else to do. [_Laughs._] Not that I’m sat here 24/7 wanking away! But equally, I haven’t been sat here thinking, "Fucking hell, all I want to do is shag."

There have been days, obviously, because we’re going into week four or five. But even so, I hadn’t had sex prior to the quarantine for five or six weeks at that point. I think people who are saying that they're so horny are looking for an excuse to moan about anything. I appreciate that other people get hornier than myself, but just go for a wank, like! It’s a nice time period, especially in today’s society to sort of appreciate yourself. It sounds a bit selfish and quite absurd. I’ve been questioned many times as to why I’ve done it.

Who questions you about it?
More specifically girl friends than it is guy friends. Guy friends tend to take the piss a bit more and make a joke about it, whereas my girl friends have just been analysing it and asking the reasons why. I’m always happy to talk about it.

Would you have been as open about sex a couple of years ago?
Throughout university, I associated myself with predominantly very masculine, stereotypically sort of "lads, lads, lads" groups. The main aspiration was to try and impress people with sexual acts. Now I’ve left uni and grown up a bit, my friendship group is more open to talking about shit like this. Now, it’s a case of knowing that not all girls are there for a shag.

A lot of my really close friends are female. I’ve always been a lot more comfortable around women than men, I think that’s down to living with three women for the majority of my life: my two sisters and my mum. In the last year or so, I’ve started coming into my own and have a huge respect for and kind of idolise women. It's not just a case of thinking they’re objects or they’re not equal. I think that’s changed my perspective in regards to my sexual orientation – because of my respect towards women, which has just been growing since university.

You mentioned your sexual orientation. What’s yours?
I’m straight.

OK, interesting. You’re only the second straight man I’ve interviewed for Are You Getting Any?. I’ve had emails from some saying that they enjoy reading it and want to have a chat about it, but that's it.

Yeah. Why do you think more straight men don’t want to publicly talk about sex?
It’s difficult to talk about sex. I think this is the reason a lot of other straight guys took the piss out of me when I told them I had a break. It’s not seen as masculine. For a lot of straight men, the ideal is someone who has sex, women love him and he’s rich – like the projections of what you see on social media. There’s no denying it, I’d love to be one of those big boys who shags about and I struggled with it. It’s funny because a lot of people question whether I’m gay. I don’t mind when people ask because it’s not offending me or anything, I just put them right.

Do you wish it was easier for straight guys to be more open about sex?
It comes down to a lot of society bias and standardisation of men not wanting to speak about stuff. We should all just be open. I happily speak quite frankly with my female friends. I do in a certain group of male friends, not all of them at all – they find it quite awkward at times.

Awkward as in, they won’t go into detail?
Yeah, that's the extent to which a lot of my friends are okay to speak about. It’s like, "Yeah, I shagged this person last night" or, "We did this". I don’t think my male friends want to be hearing about the specifics of things. They just want the basic yes or no answer.

What do you think of the British Medical Journal research? Pre-lockdown, was social media to blame for us all shagging less?
Completely. I feel like because of the social groups that I’ve been in, it’s put in my mind that it’s not as important as what it’s been made out to be in the past. It’s been very projected over social media that there’s more important stuff going on, like climate change and politics than who did you shag last week. But at the same time, dating apps have made it a lot more accessible to the point where it’s not so much that we’re having less sex and more that we’re fulfilling sexual needs through just “matching” with someone. If you get a notification from Tinder saying you’ve matched with someone, it’s a nice little feeling.

Maybe that’s what people need just gratification, rather than having to go through everything. Sex has become a lot more accessible thats the reason why people aren’t having so much.

What is your sex life going to look like post-lockdown?
Probably a lot of the same. I’m supposed to be going back to university and I just want to focus on that and not being a bum at 30 years old.

Good luck. Thanks Joe!


Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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This article originally appeared on VICE UK.