sex and the apocalypse

My entire city and pretty much the entire rest of the county (and much of the state and indeed the region) has no power, thanks to the glories of global warming and the weight of snow collecting on not-yet-fallen leaves. (So most of you won’t be reading this until tomorrow or later. Hope’re staying safe!)

The lights went out around 6:30 last night, when it was already dark and the euphemism and I were settling in to a nerdy evening of soup and internet.

A few months ago, I would have written a witty post about using the dark as an opportunity to take candlelit bath with your sweetie and then snuggle in the bed.

But then a few months ago I would have assumed that the anxiety of losing power and not knowing when it would be restored would be erased by the comfort of having someone to snuggle with – which I didn’t have then and I do now.

In other words, a few months ago I would have been a bit deluded.

Losing power and not knowing when it’ll be back is anxiety provoking. Even early into the event, I was already obsessively checking and rechecking twitter and facebook on my phone, for updates.

So rather than writing a quippy, feminist-women’s-magazine style post about “making the most of it with Victorian-era role play,” I’d like to take this opportunity remind readers that anxiety, worry, and stress of all kinds kills most people’s sexual interest. (Details about individual differences here.)

It’s a point I haven’t made for a while – not since two July’s ago, when I was criticizing TV for blithely ignoring how stress affect sexual desire.

So I’m glad for the opportunity to avoid making the error that I criticized last year, the a glossy assumption that a stressful situation can be handily set aside while you play and frolic with your bunny.

Nah. It’s neither that simple nor that easy. When shit just sucks and when the suckitude drains you of sexual energy, THAT’S NORMAL.

It makes perfect physiological sense, right? Your stress response, being unable to differentiate between loss of electric service and, say, being hunted by a lion, shuts off or slows down a variety of biological systems, from your digestion to your immune system, until such time as the stressful situation, be it lion or electron, has been resolved. Your sexual motivation system is one of the ones that gets impeded by the stress response; globally (and there are exceptions), sex is not a biological priority under circumstances of high stress.

(Sometimes sex can be used to manage negative affect or to resolve a stressful situation.)

(Also, there are special strategies for dealing with worrying about sex during sex.)

So when you’re stressed and therefore your sexual interest goes away, THAT’S NORMAL. Don’t sweat it. Don’t try to be a candy-coated sexy kitten when what you want is to obsessively reload the outage map.

You know what can help instead? Straightforward affection, the loving presence of someone you trust and care about, who trusts and cares about you. Be grumpy and stressed together. As long as you recognize that the stressor is OUTSIDE the relationship, you can commiserate and problem-solve and just sit next to each other in the candlelight, glad that there’s someone else there, in case this really is the apocalypse.