From lockdowns to anxiety about whether or not potential partners have been jabbed, it’s well-documented that the pandemic put a dampener on the sex lives of singletons.

Last week, a ‘sex recession’ was declared after research found 21 per cent of Americans under 35 have not had sex in 2021 thus far, according to the Institute for Family Studies. But what’s it really like to have your libido put on ice for so long? Three brave writers share their lessons from an accidental year of celibacy…


Hattie Sloggett

One whole year has passed since I last had sex — almost to the day. My dry spell may have been accidental — beginning as a result of having fled the city for deepest, darkest Devon, where the average age in my village is 50-plus — but over time it has become a lifestyle choice. This has proved to be an incredibly powerful decision.

Three UK-based writers revealed what they learned from a year of accidental celibacy - including Hattie Sloggett (pictured), who has been single for three years following the breakdown of her her five-year marriage

Three UK-based writers revealed what they learned from a year of accidental celibacy – including Hattie Sloggett (pictured), who has been single for three years following the breakdown of her her five-year marriage 

It is easy to imagine that a 32 year-old woman would be tempted to jump back in the dating pool. However, I was able to see how all these restrictions helped me.

I’m not the only one — many of my friends have become far more selective about who they let into their bubble. The rollercoaster is being abandoned in favor of real interactions with those we cherish and love.

I’m seeing this in my work as a relationship coach, too: people are far more picky about how they spend their time and with whom.

Just as many are resigning from jobs they don’t enjoy — according to a recent report, we’re on the brink of a ‘great resignation’, prompted by a high number of vacancies and burnout caused by the pandemic — we millennials are choosing to level up in every area: work, social life and love.

The only way out was to hide in the country during the initial lockdown for 2020.

I chose my parents’ granny annexe on the top of a hill, in a tiny hamlet on the border of Exmoor. I soon became rather lonely — missing not only interactions with people of my own age but the familiarity of another person, a lover, a friend, a confidant.

Single for three years — since the breakdown of my five-year marriage — I had taken to indulging in casual hook-ups without commitment.

At first I continued online dating — albeit via FaceTime or socially distanced walks.

In April 2020, I had a meeting with someone and, after hours of video chats, he arrived in Devon from London to close the door.

Even though we attempted to maintain the momentum, September was a rough month.

Although I felt heartbroken initially, it was soon clear that there had been a shift in me. Instead of seeking a human to hunker down with, I craved inner stability — a job to get me back on my feet and give me a reason to leave the house.

Hattie (pictured) said dating profiles mentioning vaccinations and the preference for video dating put her off

Hattie (pictured), said that dating profiles that mention vaccines and prefer video dating made her nervous. 

When I returned — very briefly — to the safety net of internet dating, the fact that every profile mentioned vaccinations and their preference for video dating put me off. Is that where the thrill?

Within a week I had deleted the dating app.

Although I could have gone back to London, my choice was to stay in Devon. In order to move out of my home, I found a job at a small shop as a part-time employee.

My most enjoyable time outdoors was when I discovered nature. I worked on my mental health — getting a new therapist. While I made new friends, my main focus was on me and my independence.

It didn’t come easily; I was so used to being co-dependent, especially in relationships. However, I kept going and I now don’t want to be dependent on anyone else.

Reconnecting with myself was the most important discovery. The most significant discovery was the ability to reconnect with my body. I needed to have everything done, including spinal surgery for a degenerated disc and nerves. I left the hospital quite traumatized, and with some very large scars.

Yet my body didn’t give up on me — so I decided not to give up on it. When I overate, I didn’t punish myself. Kama was a great app that helped me learn how to enjoy myself. And I became grateful for what I had — at a time when others had lost so much.

Hattie (pictured) said her attitude to connection has changed, but she isn't choosing to be single and celibate for the rest of her life

Hattie (pictured) stated that her approach to connections has changed. But she’s not choosing to live a single life and be a celibate her whole life. 

The desire to love myself and my life became my raison d’etre. After months of shifting my focus, I’ve discovered I have no fear of being alone.

This isn’t to say that I am choosing to be single and celibate for the rest of my life — or even for the foreseeable future — but my attitude to connection has changed.

Although I long to lay down in bed with a handsome guy, what is most important for me?

Although my mother hopes I’ll settle down with a man happily, she is now accepting the reality that this will not happen with as much enthusiasm as she might have liked.

Don’t use dating apps! I would rather meet people organically. Someone who doesn’t need me but wants me — and vice versa.

We need to connect with others, but what about sex? Now I’m not so sure. I want it, but I don’t need it.

Balance, autonomy, respect for boundaries, and support are what I seek in a partner. If incredible hot, steamy sex comes in that package too, then great, but it’s not my priority.


Katie Glass

It wasn’t my masterplan to live like a nun for a year. If you’d told me last May, after I broke-up with my boyfriend during the first lockdown, that I wouldn’t get any action for 12 months, then I might have reconsidered leaving him.

I’ve always enjoyed a positive and healthy sex life. In my last relationship, our romantic life was good for the majority of the six years that we were together — not just in bed but in other ways. It was all about touch. Kissing, hugging and fighting. We were one of those annoying couples who couldn’t keep their hands off each other.

Katie Glass (pictured) said it was freeing to go without any sex for the longest time in her adult life, after splitting with her ex at 40

Katie Glass (pictured) stated that she felt liberated to have no sex after splitting from her 40-year-old ex. 

Perhaps that’s why when things faltered, with my ex blaming the fact that I’d gained weight, it hurt so much — because I’d never questioned that part of our relationship.

We broke up. It was shocking to lose our constant connection and go a full year without even a single snog.

Surprisingly though, I realized how heavily my entire life revolved around sex after I quit having it. My friends and I lied about who did what as teenagers. My 20s was spent worrying whether other men thought me attractive. In my 30s, sex became all about getting pregnant.

When I turned 40 after my divorce, it was the first time that I went without sex in my entire adult life. It was liberating.

I indulged my body — reclaiming it for myself. Just like the Gone Girl movie, where Gone Girl drove off in the sunset eating junk food. I enjoyed not being questioned about my body or made to feel bad for it.

When I stopped sleeping with anyone, I stopped shaving my legs or bothering to wear make-up — things that someone I once dated would ‘joke’ were ‘the minimum effort a woman should make’.

In place of buying mascara and booking waxing appointments — which must have cost me almost £100 a month — I saved a fortune and spent my time building myself a new life.

I stopped buying sexy clothes that made me feel uncomfortable and — having moved from the city to the countryside — embraced a practical wardrobe of dungarees and hiking boots.

Katie (pictured) said after a year of enjoying being on her own, she is in less of a hurry to commit to another relationship

Katie (pictured) says that she has enjoyed being alone for the past year and is now less in a rush to be committed to another partner. 

I enjoyed not worrying about what other people thought about my looks. My favorite way to go to sleep was with my book and my flannel pajamas.

Yes, that was the year I avoided having sex because of lockdown and because I still felt self-consciousness over what my ex had to say about my body.

I’d have been too nervous to show it to anyone else. Going through a ‘sex-drought’ gave me a chance to regroup.

After spending most of my life worried about what men would think, I decided to start seeing my body and my abilities as a service.

It was a pleasure to just focus on me once in a while. And in doing so I started to get fit — this time not losing weight because I didn’t feel good enough, but because feeling strong made me feel good.

After the adrenaline rush from exercise, I thought it would be fun to get back in bed with someone.

It was the best feeling ever to lose weight and get fit. – Katie Glass 

I joined a dating app around May and quickly discovered that everyone I chatted to on there was desperate for some action because they’d also spent most of the pandemic year alone.

After waiting for months to finally meet someone that I was really interested in, it took me several frustrating months. Our first date was a casual one in a coffee shop, and it became clear that we liked each other immediately. Not because I was worried, but because it felt right.

The moment it took place, I felt exactly the same excitement as when I had lost my virginity. I was looking for the perfect time, finding the right outfit, and getting waxed. Except it was much better this time because I knew what I was doing — and better still, I’d taken a year to really get to like myself.

We had some fun but it didn’t turn into a relationship. After enjoying my year on my own so much, now I’m in far less of hurry to commit to another relationship.


Lucy Holden

Last month I slept with a man for the first time in 14 months — the longest I’ve ever had off sex since I lost my virginity to my first boyfriend at 16.

My generation of millennials has been very casual with sex. Hook-ups were the norm. But when I lost the opportunity to have sex during the pandemics, it was a bittersweet experience. I questioned breaking up with an awful ex if it now meant I wouldn’t be touched for years, potentially.

Having left London for my parents’ house in Bath, dating, let alone sex, was suddenly impossible. Not only was touch effectively banned, but I didn’t want to bring anyone back to my teenage bedroom at home, even after the worst of the pandemic was over.

Lucy Holden (pictured) admits she often found herself in tears wondering if she would ever meet someone again, after leaving London for her parents' house in Bath during lockdown

Lucy Holden (pictured), confesses to often finding herself in tears, wondering if it would be possible for her to meet again after moving from London to Bath with her parents during lockdown. 

31 years old, I was crushed by my empty new world. My daily anxiety encouraged me to think only of the extremes.

I sat alone, often in tears, wondering when I would ever meet someone again, imagining I’d be celibate for ever, never be able to have children and that I’d probably end up as a single fiftysomething who cared for her elderly parents, similar to a woman who lived up our road.

Not only was life on pause indefinitely, but I’d been so put off men that I couldn’t imagine a time I’d want to let one anywhere near me.

My 20s were a time when I viewed sex only as an entertainment and I used it to help me get through my hangovers. But I saw how much I’d relied on it as a way not to feel alone only once it was gone.

Instead of wasting my energy on men and going on dates or crafting texts, and worrying about whether that person might want to meet me again, I focused it on myself. My parents were my inspiration. I was a prolific reader, escaped initial sexual frustrations on the treadmill and got to know them well. I also wrote two plays, a sitcom and three books — the first of which is out in February.

Now my sex drought is over, I think of my year of celibacy as precious time, a moment that’s set me up for the next stage of my life. Knowing that the accomplishments of these past 14 months have been far more fulfilling than an orgasm, and more meaningful than any of my pre-pandemic mistresses, is what makes it so satisfying.

However, my identity crisis remained when I tried to get back into the game. I’d previously been quite forward, quite sexual and found flirtation easy.

My first date after 14 months was my first. I seemed defensively timid. I’d felt ready to date, so had downloaded the dating app Bumble, but immediately told the teacher I met for a drink in town that I needed to go slow because it had been a while.

He was charming about it — but later texted to ask: ‘How slow is slow? Because let’s go at your pace but if slow means a year, I might need some warning.’

Three dates in, a week later, we were in bed, both happy for different reasons, but me, mainly just because I’d remembered what to do. It turned out that being close to someone was better than sex.