Lockdown Has Forced Me To Confront The Link Between Sex And My Self-Worth

Going without sex in quarantine, I've realised tying my sex life to my self-worth isn’t making me happy.
Rear View Of Woman Relaxing On Bed At Home
Adam Paluch / EyeEm via Getty Images
Rear View Of Woman Relaxing On Bed At Home

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Covid-19 has brought with it a whole load of limitations. Life in lockdown has reminded me about some luxuries I didn’t think I’d miss: coffee shop chai lattes, monthly manicures, coughing in public. It’s made me think too about the things I take for granted too, like spending time with my family and friends, reading in the park, and beer from the tap.

I’ve also been hankering for intimacy – probably because I haven’t had sex since social isolation began. While I’ve gone a lot longer without it, it’s taken not being able to have it to remind me why it’s something I’m missing.

I have a complicated relationship with sex; my romantic relationships even more so. My self-esteem has always been like a piece of ripe fruit dangling in front of me – a little too high to reach – and my sense of self has always been mixed up in how others view my worth. I’ve never had a great love. Wondering if the woman or man I’m ‘meant’ to be with is my latest fling has created a desperate urge to hold on to that person, by any means necessary.

And so, that’s resulted in sex being a tool I try and use to secure the pieces of any relationship I was in. It led to me to believe sex was the secret superpower that would dazzle someone into thinking I was the one for them. But unlike the women in the movies, nobody has explored my brokenness.

“Instead of being able to douse my self-loathing and lust for love in ‘a night of fun’ with an old flame, I’ve had to put my dating life on hold”

Being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder helped explain my feelings of emptiness and fear of abandonment – surprisingly, it lightened the emotional baggage I lugged around. I wouldn’t say I understand myself any more than I did before, but at least I can attribute some of my erratic emotions and thoughts to something tangible.

It has also explained, though did not eradicate, my impulsivity. The urge to have sex on a first date (or worse, text an ex) hasn’t subsided. In fact, I’ve even reckoned the compulsion to the symptoms of my disorder: Maybe this person won’t see me as an easy lay; perhaps this time giving my body over won’t be in vain.

Then came the global quarantine, and the plot thickened. The mandatory lockdown has become my proverbial block. Instead of being able to douse my self-loathing and lust for love in ‘a night of fun’ with an old flame, I’ve had to put my dating life on hold too.

Friends have said this is the ideal time to go online looking for a romantic connection. After all, with all this time on their hands, potential and prospective partners are able to commit to a more ‘traditional’ way of courting. Rather than suggesting a meeting at the pub after a brief back and forth via an app, we’re now able to really get to know each other. Any single person looking for long-lasting love would jump at the chance. Right?

“I haven’t had an epiphany and come out the other side. I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do with this truth.”

Not me. Other than the gruelling sign-up process, with hours of scrutinising every selfie I’ve ever taken, I have no desire to put myself out there. I don’t imagine my wit and wordplay will charm someone into believing I’m their soulmate. I don’t hold that belief within myself. Knowing that we can’t meet in a bar somewhere and that a socially-distanced date would be sketchy, I’m not convinced I have enough to offer.

I’ve been forced to analyse my relationship with sex and how, for me, it has become synonymous with my self-worth. That’s brought along with it a grief I don’t want to process. Recognising my patterns and shining a light on their futility means I have to make a change. And I don’t know if I’m ready for it.

It saddens me that I can pick up my friends when they feel they fall short, but I can’t fathom a time that I will ever feel worthy. Sure, I can acknowledge it’s unhealthy; doing what I’ve always done will get me what I’ve always got. But, for me, believing that I deserve better seems impossible.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending – because there is no ending yet. I haven’t had an epiphany and come out the other side with great romance and unshakable self-love. I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do with this truth.

What I have realised though, is that while sex might release a ‘feel-good hormone’, giving myself to someone to get something more isn’t working. And it’s not making me truly happy.

Milla Alexander is a freelance writer. Find more of her work at millaalexander.co.uk

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