'The idea of having sex post-lockdown fills me with anxiety'

Casual sex now feels foreign as we re-emerge into a new world, writes Amrou Al-Kadhi.


Words: Amrou Al-Kadhi

This article first appeared in Attitude issue 335, June 2020.

I’m scared that I’ve forgotten how to have sex. The last time I fornicated – lol, what a bizarre word – was October 2020, which in gay years is about a millennium, and in pandemic gay years is the lifespan of the Milky Way.

The idea of f**king now terrifies me. I’m nervous I’ll be a total rookie again. But more than that, it’s the overwhelming corporeality of sex that feels so completely foreign to my new way of life.

I live alone, and have done since the start of the pandemic. This third lockdown has felt particularly arduous – the freezing temperatures, the early dark, the lockdown anniversary, and the general existential malaise that has plagued us all.

What started out in Lockdown 1 as “Ooh, I’ll use this opportunity to reconnect with nature and learn the art of mindfulness,” has now mutated into an unnatural kind of hibernation where we’ve been completely starved of socialisation, desire, collectivity… the very things that make us human.

"I haven’t hugged anyone in more than three months"

In truth, I sometimes forget that I am a human. I’ve definitely forgotten that I have a human body. I sometimes have to hold myself to remember that there is a physical, biological dimension to me.

I haven’t hugged anyone in more than three months. All my meetings continue to take place on Zoom, the most budget-conscious of technological platforms (which at least reassures me AI isn’t going to take over the world anytime soon).

As a professional screenwriter and performer, most of my creative juices flow from the spontaneity of human interaction – whether that be improvisation with an audience, or with other writers in a room.

And my writing is best when I am able to immerse myself in the world, for only then do the infinite quirks of human speech find their way into my dialogue. Attempting to capture all this on a constipated digital platform where it’s impossible to tell who is trying to speak — and where the magic of chance goes to die — has deadened my work.

Not only am I physically starved, but I am emotionally and spiritually depleted. I can’t think properly, and my body feels numb. When I do interact with humans on the street, even eye contact feels too intimate these days. We stand metres apart, masks on face, our safety contingent on our separation.

"Not only am I physically starved, but I am emotionally and spiritually depleted"

Living in a new reality where the act of touching is deemed transgressive, I’m not sure how I’m going to cope with the weight of a naked man on top of me again. I’ll probably burst out crying the second our skin meets (apologies in advance to whoever the Grindr culprit is).

As the end of lockdown nears, I can’t help but feel scared and worry that I can’t remember how to have sex.

But I’ll tell you what – I’m f**king excited to rediscover what it is to be human all over again. Bring it on.

Amrou is the author of Unicorn: Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen. Follow them on Twitter @Glamrou.