Enthralled with journalistic spirit, I initially took this article up in the hopes of getting Exeter-wide data about the trials and tribulations of discreet sex in lockdown. My ambitious naivety led me to set up a questionnaire on ‘Overheard in Exeter’, hoping that amongst the thousands of students I would receive hundreds of responses detailing personal experiences.
In reality, only nine people responded. To add insult to injury, many of my friends reacted to the post, but never actually filled out the questionnaire. With hindsight, I should have expected this lacklustre response. The whole point of discreet sex is that you don’t want to get caught, so me inviting people to share their personal and private stories, even if it was anonymously, wasn’t my brightest idea. I do also worry that my content call looked rather dubious; I was a stranger, a random guy asking for people to divulge their sexual endeavours under the pretence of ‘journalism’. My self-deprecating joke about labelling this ‘journalism’ in inverted commas may have raised red flags for many instead of a light laugh.
Anyway, I digress; this article is supposed to be looking into the phenomenon of having sex during lockdown, a time where your beloved flatmates or family are inside, all day, every day. For those lucky (or unlucky) enough to be living with their partner amongst other students, getting caught is an inevitable rite of passage. Everybody knows you’re a couple, and the mild surprise of hearing distant noises from a bedroom is hardly enough to make a fuss. For those without a partner who get caught, the same cannot be said. One can only assume the rise in ‘flat incest’ (flatmate on flatmate action) has a big enough controversy-factor that those discreet noises will not go unnoticed.
Another option, of course, is a one-night stand. My dear housemate (who shall remain unnamed) spends a lot of time glued to his phone on Tinder assessing potential matches, although he never actually goes as far as ever seeing them, let alone having sex. I imagine those bolder and infinitely more appealing than my housemate have quested out in the darkness of night on a one night stand. The thrill of sneaking someone into and out of the house now brings added spice to an already gossip-worthy act, and for those six seconds of glory the costs are now even higher.
But the worst act is getting caught by an adult. All nine of my wonderful responses agreed that getting caught by their parents was the worst-case scenario, ranking higher than a sibling, partner’s sibling, or flatmate. One brave student divulged their story of getting interrupted ‘mid-action’ by a plumber and being so scared they sent their partner downstairs instead to answer the door. It’s all fun and games amongst us students, but this lockdown sex isn’t something to be shared with the adult world; it’s far too embarrassing.
At the end of the day, sex is normal. If you get caught, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always something bigger at stake, like news about the pandemic, or begrudging debates about what to eat for dinner. Trying and failing to be discreet while having sex (just like my attempt and failure with the questionnaire) is incredibly embarrassing in the moment, but in the long-run it makes a rather funny story to look back on.
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