Verity Johnson: Struggling to remember what sexy feels like

Right now we are all in a romantic recession, writes Verity Johnson.


Right now we are all in a romantic recession, writes Verity Johnson.

Verity Johnson is an Auckland-based writer and entrepreneur.

OPINION: “Thank you, thank you, thank you…!”

A radiant blonde in a bramble backless slip came toward me like Venus rising from her clamshell. She wrapped her arms around my neck and, before I could open my mouth in surprise, kissed me on the lips.

We had just finished a burlesque show and this girl was so happy she didn’t even mind taking a sip of sweat on her upper lip and mango body spray. (It’s always a gamble to kiss someone who’s just come off stage. We’ll always be sweating like an Italian marble water feature.)

But she was so happy that a goldfish could have popped out of my hair and she wouldn’t care. I could tell she had had years and years of demons exorcised in the most thrilling way possible. She pulled me into a tendon tearing embrace and whispered:

“I haven’t felt this sexy, or even anything like that freesince…well, since…”

Ah. Yes. Since covid.

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The memory of the past three years crept into the room and glared at uslike a shady ex who intrudes on a mutual friend’s house party. She didn’t need to say more. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

See, one of the unexpected things about owning a burlesque club is that it gives you an unusual amount of insight into the hearts and loins of the audience. You end up like some kind of erotic economist, following the ups and downs of the sensual stock market. And right now, we’re all in a romantic recession.

For at least a year now, it’s felt like sex stopped working, sensuality stopped working altogether, and people struggled to remember what sexy feels like. I’ve had so many conversations with audience members about how we’ve forgotten how we’re supposed to feel…well, anything but permanent low anxiety.

I am no exception. I may work in a sparkling industry, but I’ve felt as warm as two-day-old oats hardening in the bottom of a bowl of cereal for six months.

Verity Johnson:

Lightwave stock media

Verity Johnson: “Studies over the past few years have shown that Covid has put our sex life on hold.”

But the good news is that there is nothing wrong with us per se. And it’s not even just us.

Studies in recent years have shown that Covid has put our sex life on hold. a study from the Kinsey Institute on the impact of Covid-19 on marriage quality, it was found that 24% of married people report having less sex than before Covid. Other studies suggest that during Covid, 34% of couples experienced pandemic-related conflict, and the amount of sex they had significantly reduced. And a Kiwi stud farmy from wellness company No Ugly also found that 46% of respondents (most of whom are women) had sex twice a month or less.

The consensus is that Covid has left our collective sex life so sterile it might as well have been dipped in hand sanitizer. And it’s not entirely surprising. After all, stress is one of the greatest anti-aphrodisiacs imaginable, and living with chronic anxiety in recent years has put all but immediate survival questions on ice.

But Covid has secretly calcified many other parts of us as well. It has quietly satisfied many of our subconscious hunger, curiosity and adventurous whims. And we are only now realizing it.

Who else forgot how to travel and was a nervous, sweaty mess the first time they went abroad after the pandemic? Or did they recently realize that they don’t know how to have fun anymore? Or that they had forgotten how infinitely full of possibilities the world is?

Verity Johnson:


Verity Johnson: “There’s still good news…our sex life isn’t dead, it just needs to be thawed out.”

All those feelings come from the same place as our Eros – our joie de vivre. And it turns out that Covid took all of this, packed it in ice and put it in the back of our internal freezers like decades-old spagbol.

And yes, it’s depressing, but there’s still good news. It means our sex lives are not dead, they just need to be thawed out.