The Dutch ‘sex buddy’ coronavirus lockdown advice shouldn’t be seen as a joke – the UK could learn from it

We have all been deprived of many things during this pandemic. Single people deserve a chance at physical contact as the lockdown begins to be eased 

Amy Nickell
Sunday 24 May 2020 12:57
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Responsible sex is good for us, and it’s OK to admit that we need it
Responsible sex is good for us, and it’s OK to admit that we need it

When the Netherlands updated its public coronavirus guidelines to say that single people “who want physical contact” should find a “sex buddy” – the response was swift and obvious. “RANDY Dutch ordered to find coronavirus ‘sex buddy’” squealed one tabloid headline.

Officials at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment later removed the term “seksbuddy” from the website after it drew too much negative attention from the international news media. They clarified that those who already knew each other or were in relationships but were not in the same household could have sex during lockdown without violating the rules.

Meanwhile, in England, we’ve said little about sex with a buddy or otherwise. Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, said in March that couples who were living in separate addresses should choose either to stay apart or to move in together. While Matt Hancock added that pairings should “make a choice and stick with it”.

Single people were left to make do on their own while dating apps encouraged us to video call potential suitors. But while this certainly provided momentary relief for many, technology will never substitute for skin-on-skin contact. Those who live alone have found themselves enduring weeks without human touch.

Single people are reporting feeling something close to “skin hunger”, previously associated with prisoners in solitary confinement. No amount of time spent in front of a screen can genuinely mimic the connection or interaction that comes with the touch of another person.

Sex is still an awkward subject for most Brits. Some polls have suggested half of Brits admit to being too shy to talk about sex, while others have dubbed English men the second-worst lovers in the world. We’re one big pit of self-consciousness when it comes to honest discussions about our needs and desires. Truthfully I’m getting twitchy just writing this.

While it might be uncomfortable to admit, the discussion of sex is still taboo in our society for some, which prevents us from being able to admit our desires. The UK’s pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates are among the highest in the developed world, and sex education plans stall and stagnate.

Meanwhile, the Dutch have a reputation for being radical in their dealings with sex. Everyone knows about the red light district in Amsterdam and legalised prostitution. But I see the Dutch as pragmatic and they take sex seriously. The Netherlands recognises better than almost anywhere that sexuality is a normal and natural part of human development. The Dutch have long been having sex “smarter” than we have, and have some of the lowest teen pregnancy and STI rates in the world. LGBT rights in the Netherlands are also some of the most progressive in the world.

Staying away from each other was the right thing to do to benefit our community’s overall health during these unusual times. But, it forced ourselves to behave in a way that goes directly against our nature as a social species. Now, as the country plans to reopen, the need for touch shouldn’t be ignored. As we try to carve out a “new normal” state-sanctioned celibacy for singles isn’t a longer-term solution. Abstinence, though ideally desirable, is unrealistic as a long-term plan.

It’s a tired old joke that being single can sometimes be like taking a vow of celibacy, but we all know that such contact is important. Sex is as natural a need as eating, sleeping, and shelter.

Meanwhile the health benefits of the bonding hormone oxytocin that’s released when we are intimate with another person are vast – including, ironically – a boosted immune system. There’s also a possibility that regular ejaculations might help to avoid prostate cancer.

Responsible sex is good for us, and it’s OK to admit that we need it as humans without being labelled “randy”.

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