Is the Cost of Living Crisis Impacting our Sex Lives? All Signs Point to Yes

Frustrated girlfriend sad in bed while boyfriend ignoring his girlfriend on bed.
Frustrated girlfriend sad in bed while boyfriend ignoring his girlfriend on bed.

Whether coupled up or single, the cost of living crisis is impacting our sex lives. As household costs soar, many are experiencing new money tensions, meaning sexual wellness is becoming less of a priority.

A study by Stowe Family Law found that 56 percent of couples have testified that it is causing friction between them, and 70 percent fear that their relationship won't survive it. As co-habiting couples split increasingly astronomical living costs, romance and intimacy are falling by the wayside.

"My boyfriend and I broke up because the financial stress became too much", Birmingham-based Lily tells POPSUGAR. "The cost of living crisis exposed existing tensions in our relationship. I was constantly footing the bill for food shops, topping up the gas and electricity meter when he'd spent all of his money at the pub." Though Lily's ex-partner earned more, he had started to rely on her financially; in the end, they stopped having sex. "The sex just wasn't as good as it had been. I was zoning out, frustrated by his inability to contribute towards the household. It felt like he didn't care about me, like I was purely transactional." Lily moved out last month.

Elsewhere, studies suggest that the cost of living crisis is disproportionately impacting single people; without a significant other to split the bills, this cohort spends on average £7565.50 per year more on basic household outgoings than their coupled-up counterparts, according to Ocean Finance. "Household monthly bills are £363 more expensive for singles, with rent the biggest contributor. A single person is paying, on average, £674 a month on rent in the UK and a couple only slightly more at £866, or £433 per person," Financial Writer Ellie Austin-Williams outlines to POPSUGAR. With rising bills, recreational activities naturally have to be reduced - and that is having a detrimental effect on our sex lives.

Couple having arguments and problems in bed
Couple having arguments and problems in bed

Casual dating often costs money. London-based Felicity has been single for a few years, and remarks that the cost of living crisis paired with the aftershock of COVID-19 has left the dating scene in a strange state. As budgets tighten, many simply can't afford flirty drinks or candlelit dinners as a pre-curser to sex. On dating apps, Felicity has encountered matches that are increasingly cutting the small talk and inviting their matches round for casual sex. "People are skipping the quote unquote bullshit, which is fine, but that's not what I'm after", Felicity reveals to POPSUGAR. When she has been invited on dates, Felicity has had to balance budgets. "Just last week, I had to have an awkward conversation with a guy that invited me to a restaurant that was above my budget. That sort of killed the vibe a little bit, having to bring that up."

It isn't just casual dating that's being impacted: our relationship with sex toys is changing, too. In 2021, one study conducted by PwC found that the British public spends, on average, £444 million per year on sex toys. Expenditure in this area is decreasing, with London-based company EmbertHot reporting a 50 percent decrease in sales between April and June 2022. Prices are soaring, with comparison service PriceSpy finding that the price of sex toys has increased by 33 percent between May and October 2022, meaning self-love has taken a backseat.

"Sex toys are by no means cheap – especially those of a good equality, and with many people's disposable incomes being slashed, they're rarely a priority."

With BDSM communities in particular relying on sex toys and sex-enhancing products like sex furniture, tightening budgets is impacting the way these groups access pleasure. Peter Lawrence is the CEO and Founder of Eklipse Parties, a luxury swingers' collective hosting swinging sex parties. As Peter explains to POPSUGAR, the cost of living crisis is squeezing budgets, but amongst the BDSM and kink community, he's encountering couples that are attending sex parties to alleviate financial stress and experiment. "Sex toys are by no means cheap – especially those of a good equality, and with many people's disposable incomes being slashed, they're rarely a priority", he acknowledges. "Many people are looking for sexual gratification in an effort to relieve stress caused by the cost of living crisis. I'm seeing lots of couples and individuals looking for sex parties to let off steam, where they can connect with like-minded people and explore various fetishes at the same time."

So, how can people keep the flame going without breaking the bank? Get creative, and remember to always ensure you're comfortable. "Explore community activities and even community fridges for free food items to make luxurious, date-worthy meals. Look into group activities with friends and even go on double dates where group bookings may be cheaper", Sex and Relationship Expert, Therapist and Clinical Sexologist Ness Cooper tells POPSUGAR. "Explore different sex positions that can be found on various magazine sex guides for free and learn about your partner's other love languages. Not all of these are focused on money, and many individuals will have multiple." The future of sex might seem disheartening, but as Cooper observes, there are ways to navigate intimacy and self-love without copious spending.