Sex and the self-isolated woman

Some encouragement from Jonty Claypole, the delightfully-named director of BBC Arts, in this week's Radio Times. "It's a small consolation to know that, thoughout history, this condition of anxious inactivity - known as quarantine - has produced great art. The Decameron, one of the pinnacles of Western literature, was written in the mid-14th century during the Black Death... Just over 250 years later, Shakespeare took advantage of his theatre being closed for months because of the plague to write King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra." I think that's setting the bar a little high, Jonty, though you don't say exactly how many months Shakespeare had at his disposal; but I think I will limit myself to writing just one thing of the quality of King Lear, Macbeth, or Antony and Cleopatra. It's certainly doable; after all, it only took three days of this newsletter to get to an email entirely about me washing my bum, so who knows what months could yield. Speaking of which, thank you for your responses to 'bumjet'; who knew that you had such a wealth of bumjet experience between you? I have now been thoroughly coached on technique and will continue my adventures in private (probably).

On the subject of private adventures, it's hard to know where to go after the bumjet, but seeing as we're oversharing, I may as well get this out of the way: self-isolation is a fucking disaster for single people. And I mean that literally. It is a fucking disaster.

There have been several articles around about this, and I've read a few of them, but they all seem to be variations on the theme of 'show your bumps and holes to people over WhatsApp' which is all very well if you were born in the nineties and are used to doing everything on screen, but I would say my minimum prerequisite for sex is that there is somebody else in the room. Video sex is like a distant cousin, a strange and distant cousin, the kind of cousin who would turn up at a family reunion and I would marvel at her, thinking, 'It's amazing how much she looks like me while being nothing like me whatsoever'.

Nobody is sure how long social distancing is going to last, though UK experts are currently suggesting that it will take at least three to six months for things to be approaching normal again. Now, three to six months isn't actually that long for me to go without (yes yes, I am a tragic spinster, see me at my lonely loom) but there is a crucial difference: usually for the duration of that three to six months, I am sustained by the belief that I could meet the next person I am going to have sex with at any moment.


New boss, supermarket cashier, person four yoga mats away, postman, colleague of my sister, dentist receptionist, human in book shop, toothless elderly man in pub: it could be YOU.


(Actually, Lord Kitchener himself is looking pretty fine there with that moustache and hat, though he is, of course, dead, not that that makes any difference right now.)

I mean, it probably isn't YOU. (It is unlikely even to be YOU, reader, unless it already has been, in which case, in these times of scarcity, THANK YOU. Though god knows, if you would like it to be YOU, and you have successfully completed fourteen days of total isolation, drop me a line.) It probably was never going to be local newsagent or new barman at pub or even, disappointingly, hot guy in good trainers on the tube, but that doesn't mean that I didn't check with myself to see if it would be a good idea, should the opportunity arise. I might not have checked for very long. But I did check. I even checked re: Jonty Claypole, who I met once at a lunch at a friend's house, but he fell at an early hurdle: 'married'.

I had a lot of hurdles, in fact: maybe I found them physically repulsive, or emotionally repulsive, or I was in a relationship, or they were, or they were gay, or I tragically thought that they were, or the cost of boning them would be the utter destruction of the social and emotional fabric of my life, or I couldn't be bothered, or they were serving another customer, or possibly they didn't want to have sex with me, though that seems odd, or they were Jeremy Hunt, who my parents tried to set me up with once, but that's another story. Underpinning it all, though, was this sustaining fasehood: it doesn't matter, I can afford to be choosy, there will be another one along in a minute.

Well, now all my minutes are up. I'm self-isolating. Indefinitely. In Dorset. With my parents. (Though, happily, not with Jeremy Hunt.)

I now realise that I have behaved like a person wandering through the food court in a shopping mall, casually rejecting stall after stall because I'm not in the mood for pizza and sandwiches are boring and the guy at the sushi place has dirty fingernails and I got food poisoning at the Thai stall once so I definitely don't want to eat there again, and the next thing I know they've closed the shopping mall and thrown me out into the street and I'm not allowed to go withing two metres of food again under pain of possible death.

I should have had the pizza.

(And don't tell me that looking at a video of pizza would have the same effect.)

Meanwhile, some of you are in quarantine with the pizza. Some of you are with fresh, delicious pizza. For others, maybe the pizza is looking pretty stale. But as your parents used to tell you, there are people starving in Africa. Some of us are even starving in Dorset. For all of our sakes, please, eat the pizza. Relish it. Gorge on it. Or at least nibble the edge of a slice. And don't forget to tell it that you appreciate it.