I hear the key scrape in the lock, and freeze. As my mum calls a hello up the stairs, we slide off each other, scrambling for our abandoned underwear.
Like a couple of horny deer in headlights, we have been caught mid-quickie. And, unfortunately, since we were forced to move back in with my mum due to the pandemic, this isn’t the first time we’ve had to do the speedy untangle routine.
When you move back into the family home, you start to alter your behaviour pretty sharpish. Staggering downstairs from yet another boozy birthday Zoom isn’t quite as acceptable when you’re trying to keep it together in front of your mum, and neither is having no good answer to the question of just what your plan for the next ten years is (spoiler: I have none). But perhaps the most obvious and biggest change is that we are no longer free to have steamy, noisy sex should we wish to.
There are some things we all keep tucked away in our adult lives, hidden from our parents – how hungover you really were at Sunday lunch, or just how much money you actually spent on those sparkly disco pants. Sex is one of the things you keep safe and secret from parents, something you share only with the person (or persons) you’re doing it with, and maybe those best of friends willing to listen to you yabber on about it.
I don’t want them to know what I do in the privacy of my own sheets, and so I do not, under any circumstances, want them hearing me do it. Your mum hearing you have sex is not the same as a flatmate banging on the wall to tell you and your Tinder date to shut up so they can get some sleep. The thought of my parents catching even a snatch of an excited moan is deeply, profoundly cringeworthy.
“Having to muffle my vibrator with a sock isn’t quite the glamorous boudoir moment I imagined for myself at this stage in life.”
What’s more, quiet sex is simply hard to do. We are constantly betrayed by my bed, the same bed in which I lost my virginity, which creaks if you so much as hiccup the wrong way. And when it comes to our actual bodies? Any slapping or moaning must be immediately shut down, lest the sound carry through the thin walls to my mum’s bedroom (unhelpfully located right next to mine). Having to muffle my vibrator with a sock isn’t quite the glamorous boudoir moment I imagined for myself at this stage in life.
Unable to let ourselves get fully carried away, we’ve limited our options to some tried and tested ‘nice and quiet’ routines. But I’ve always got one ear open, listening out for that key in the front door, or paranoid about rogue sounds escaping, which does put a bit of a dampener on passion. The last thing I want when I’m getting down to business is the image of my parents popping up in my mind like some subconscious sex police.
And then there’s having the lube and anything else suspicious squirrelled away out of sight, and rendered impossible to find in the heat of the moment, complimented by the panic that descends every time we have to empty the condom filled bin discreetly on bin day.
When we moved home, I understood that we would have to change aspects of our lives. I’m not asking that we rip each other’s clothes off mid-way through dinner should the mood take us, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how it would impact the way I felt about where I was in life.
“Getting it on beneath the watchful eyes of Pete Doherty has significantly less appeal 14 years on.”
The sexual frustration I feel is a reflection of where I have ended up at this stage in life. It hides a deeper sense of dissatisfaction with the uncontrollable circumstances that have landed me here. Though I didn’t have a clear picture of where I might be as I neared the end of my twenties, I did at least think I would have left home.
In moving back, I’ve lost everything from having free rein to have dinner when I want (it’s now a family affair) to watching what I want on TV (Bridgerton’s sex scenes just aren’t as fun when you’re with your mum). Throw in the restrictions I now have on my relationship, and I’m feeling like I have more in common with my 17-year-old self than my peers.
Even the physical space of my childhood bedroom is a constant reminder that I am trying to conduct an adult relationship in a less than adult environment. Until recently I still had The Libertines and The Kooks posters plastering my walls, tacked up lovingly since I was a teenager – getting it on beneath the watchful eyes of Pete Doherty has significantly less appeal 14 years on.
Having a fulfilling, free sex life is one of the markers of independence we get used to as we grow up. Like turning 18 and being able to buy your own Lambrini, it’s one of those things that opens up the world to us. Sex helps us set ourselves apart from the teenagers we used to be, allows us to say, look, I’m grown up enough to pay for this bed, in this house where I live, and therefore I can do whatever, and whoever, I please it in it.
I know I’m lucky to have the safety net of being able to move back into my family home, but I’m looking forward to the moment when we can bring the rafters down again.
Sally Connor is a freelance journalist, writing under a pseudonym
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