At this point, it’s no longer news that social distancing, self-quarantines and mass lockdowns have shifted the sexual landscape of societies all around the world. Without the ability to leave the house for anything more than a toilet paper run (good luck with that), it’s become nearly impossible for people to fuck in person, a blue-balling reality that’s caused rates of masturbation to reach all-time highs among bored, isolated and irrepressibly horny quarantinites looking to pass the time with something a little more thrilling than neurotically disinfecting their house.
But while masturbation is a satisfying diversion for most, some people have been taking their masturbatory habits a step further, not just by amplifying their jack-off routines to pass the time, but by tracking them, recording every little detail in logs, spreadsheets and charts like deranged cum scientists on the path to some sort of Nobel fap prize.
Well, as Bryce, a 29-year-old in L.A. who started tracking his “jack habits” two weeks ago, counters, “Why the hell not?”
“I honestly thought it would be an interesting little snapshot into the sexual mindset during a very volatile moment in history,” he says before sending me an Excel spreadsheet containing the lurid details of his week-long lockdown cumfest. “Quarantine horniness is a real thing and I’ve got the time for a personal project, so I figured it would be a fun little experiment.”
For a full week starting on March 14th, Bryce noted what time he masturbated, how many times per day, how long it took him to cum and any relevant feelings and thoughts that came up throughout the “jack.” To keep track, he recorded his “data” in the aforementioned Excel spreadsheet:
According to Bryce’s data, he spent an average of 18.33 minutes per day masturbating, with one impressive 30-minute session logged on March 14th, the day Trump tested negative for coronavirus, the travel ban was extended to the U.K. and Ireland and the number of confirmed cases in the country was just 2,900. In the following days, the amount of people who could gather in crowds would be limited, grocery stores would be raided for toilet paper and beans and cities like San Francisco and L.A. would announce unprecedented “shelter in place” orders to flatten the curve.
When asked whether any of this affected his penile spirit, he points to the data. Though he masturbated once or twice during those days, the state of the world really did get him down and he became more interested in headlines than handjobs. “Stoned, but starting to feel the quarantine paranoia kick in,” he wrote on the 15th. “Want to escape for a bit, thinking of my yoga instructor who I definitely have a crush on.” On the 16th, he wrote that the anxiety was starting to wear on him. An earnest but unfulfilling midday session was all he could muster.
On those days, and for the majority of the week, jacking off was like a panic blanket — something to calm him down or get his mind off what felt to him as an increasingly chaotic and unorganized response to a rapidly spreading disease. “My numbers are dwindling,” his entry on the 17th reads. “I now appear to be jacking simply to survive.”
Beyond Bryce, other people have followed suit with their own masturbation-tracking methods. Erica, a 30-year-old in Denver, has been studying hers with the keen eye of an armchair scientist and the graphing abilities of a slightly more advanced armchair scientist.
“My routine and schedule are messed up right now,” she says, explaining that she started tracking because she just lost her job as a product designer and is “trying to figure out the new normal.” Unlike Bryce, she lives alone, so it’s been easy to experiment, something she’s only recently started using porn to do. “I’ve hesitated to use much ‘help,’ but I’m really leaning into the idea of more props,” she says. “Fuck it — what am I saving myself for?”
Erica tracked slightly different variables than Bryce, logging her orgasm intensity and correlating her masturbation habits to specific life events and happenings in the news. Like so many of us, she had to deal with the shift from familiar life to the bizarre, culture hellscape of the present and the loss of her job at the same time, so her “jack habits,” as Bryce would call them, are particularly germane.
Interestingly, her most mastubatory day was the day her company told her it would be “cutting back” on staff. “We got the ‘talk’ on Monday, and were then told we’d know who would be let go in two more days,” she tells me. “The anxiety of not knowing what was next made me resort to self-soothing tools like walking, cuddling with the dog, and of course, getting off.”
When she found out she’d been laid off the following Thursday, she was too distraught to masturbate at all, but the next day, she was back in the saddle with two curiously strong orgasms she suspects had something to do with the sudden freedom and time off. “I’ve been learning that this is a really positive tool to help cope with uncertainty and anxiety,” she says. “The more time I have and the more comfortable I feel, the harder I come. If I have the time and patience for edging, that shit is next-level.” Though, no amount of uncertainty and anxiety could suppress her urges — only getting a dog midway throughout her data collection could accomplish that:
Whereas Bryce says his habits didn’t change all that much from his regular baseline, Erica says the way she masturbates now is “significantly different” from the way she did just a few weeks ago. “I now stay up so much later than when I worked,” she says. “As far as masturbation, I’ve been taking it a lot slower than usual and have been working myself up to heighten the experience. The frequency has increased with my lack of human interaction. This is a really hard time emotionally/physically/financially/etc. I’m prioritizing my health and happiness so I don’t lose my shit.” Tracking her masturbation has, she says, opened her eyes to the soothing salve of self-pleasure in times of need.
Meanwhile, it’s not orgasmic soothing Mario is after, it’s comedic relief. The 41-year-old bisexual is currently on lockdown in New York City, and he’s using the amount of “me time” he’s had while working from home to document the bizarre inner workings of his own mind for no reason other than because he “thinks it’s funny.”
“I kept noticing that my thoughts would drift from what I was fantasizing about to something horrifically disturbing or morbid,” he says. “But somehow, I’m able to simultaneously wring my hands about dying and wring my penis at the same time. It’s actually pretty entertaining to see what I’m thinking about, to be honest.”
Curious about why his mind wandered to such dark places — and badly in need of a homebound hobby — he started taking notes about what kind of fucked-up scenarios it crafted during what he describes as “the most strangest and most pivotal time in recent history.”
Both Erica and Bryce can relate to the way his mind flitted in and out between porn and the apocalypse, and though neither documented what they were thinking about with quite as much gusto as Mario, each reported having to steer their minds back to masturbation after they wandered into decidedly “not hot” coronavirus territory. “It’s just proof how ingrained the news is our minds,” says Mario. “Before this, nothing could get in the way of me getting off, but all this COVID stuff has been able to penetrate the deepest recesses of my brain. I’m literally never not thinking about it.”
With corona as his new constant companion, it’s no surprise that his libido has sidled up next to it in his mind. The two are, as he says, “going around, hand-in-hand,” and as a result, he’s discovered he’s been getting erections during activities that normally would have squashed his sex drive had they not become so “disturbingly normal.”
But while Bryce and Erica both reported rolling increases and decreases in their libido as the week progressed, Mario says that, despite “all the mental, emotional and physical shit” he’s dealing with right now, there was no statistically significant difference in his jack-off patterns before and after the pandemic hit. “Nothing has changed for me,” says Mario. “I’m actually really surprised that my penis is like this.”
Danielle, a 26-year-old self-proclaimed “sex witch” who lives in L.A., hasn’t had such luck. Writing in the masturbation diary she’s been keeping for the past few days to “remind [herself] I still have someone to bang,” she describes how she attempted to “fuck her dick candle” by putting a condom on it for a spell she was doing. It was a surprisingly “pleasant experience” that filled the void momentarily, but wasn’t enough to overcome the “extremely low” libido she’s had in the past week. “I was so lonely last week, and now, it’s subsided into a physical loneliness that isn’t being satisfied with orgasms,” she says. “I miss being so horny that I feel like I’m going to explode.” She’s still having minor orgasms, but with all the stress and isolation, they’re nowhere near as strong as they were pre-COVID, and they’re just “not quite what [she] wants.”
So, what can be learned here? A meta-analysis of their collective data (by me) conducted in a highly specialized laboratory (my living room) reveals the following trends:
- More mindless masturbation. Masturbation has always been a somewhat zombified undertaking for some people; a pleasant aerobic activity that shuts down most of our brain for the singular purpose of getting off. But, right now, people are looking for particularly mindless content. Most aren’t into thinking, fantasizing and creating some sort of erotically healthful landscape in their mind; they’re into turning on and tuning out. As Mario says, “We all just need something to take our minds off this, so whatever’s in front of you will do.”
- Stress increases some people’s libidos and decreases others’. Big shocker — the anxiety of the times has shifted some people’s masturbation habits away from their normal jack-off homeostasis, but it’s had no effect on others. This falls right in line with arousal patterns in happier times — some people are sidelined by stress and anxiety, others want to fuck it all away.
- All this is proof that we’re adapting to some sort of upside-down new “normal.” The fact that some people’s libidos are surviving the apocalypse cockroach-style is evidence that we’re approaching some level of dystopian normalcy. While most people reported dips in their masturbation routines as corona news started to hit and their lifestyles began to change, trends in jacking off have rebounded as people acclimate to quarantine and social distancing, proving that already, we may be getting used to this. Whether that’s good or bad isn’t clear, but one thing’s for certain: You can take away people’s freedom, but you can never take away their throbbing quarantine erection.
But despite the great strides in science that research like this brings, none of the jack trackers reported particularly enjoying their data collection. “It gave me no comfort, and was somewhat annoying to do,” says Bryce, who promptly stopped after turning in his report. Likewise, he doesn’t think it’s something other people should necessarily take on with their generous quarantine free time unless they’re already into that kind of thing.
He did, however, learn something: “I learned that even in times of extreme duress and stress, there are some urges you just can’t repress. I think people gotta jack. Everyone is gonna be so stressed out. We’ll need to release that tension, or we may run into even more problems as a society down the road.”
“It won’t ‘single, or double-handedly’ keep us all sane,” he continues, “but it may be an important function along the way.”