I was halfway through wiping down a bottle of virgin olive oil with a pre-moistened anti-bacterial towelette when I realised it was illegal for me to have sex.
It took me a good 12 hours plus my bi-monthly grocery shopping to fully process the NSW Stage 3 pandemic restrictions, though I’m still a bit fuzzy on the details. The new laws dropped at midnight, saying that unless I had a “reasonable excuse” to leave the house, I had to stay home, or else face up to $11,000 in fines and up to six months in jail.
I’ve triple checked, but no, apparently being in my early 30s, single and stuck in quarantine with my parents and their cats is not a “reasonable excuse”.
Without much to do besides take photos of my cats’ paws, I followed the federal and state governments in the news as they fumbled their way through this crisis. It’s been an eye-opening, butt-clenching experience.
“I have a growing apprehension that our lives are in the hands of politicians who are still making this up as they go along”
During a particularly harrowing week, and despite multiple experts advising him against it, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted over and over that he was going to go to the footy on the weekend. That Friday, it was revealed that his close colleague, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, had contracted the virus, forcing a reluctant PM to cancel his plans.
It was like watching a small child drop his ice-cream before he even got a lick – but in this analogy, the ice-cream is covered in coronavirus.
He didn’t go to the footy, but despite being in a cabinet room with Dutton only days earlier, he wasn’t tested, and he and his cabinet ministers didn’t self-isolate. The advice at the time was: there was no need.
Two and half weeks passed, and 4,561 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, before Morrison acknowledged calls for lockdowns, and then meekly advised people over 70, vulnerable people and indigenous people over 50 to stay home.
That night, NSW State Premier Gladys Berejiklian slipped into my bedroom and padlocked me into a chastity belt.
Back when headlines were wrapped in toilet paper and panic was a spectacle instead of a sensible lifestyle choice, my parents packed up their caravan for a monthlong holiday down the South Coast. Delaying both a move to Melbourne and an interstate tryst with a broody guitarist who has great arms, I chose to stay at mum and dad’s.
But with this global catastrophe devastating communities and shutting down entire countries, the state government forcing my vagina into lockdown isn’t really a big deal. It’s the kind of problem I expect someone to turn into a meme depicting a traumatised middle-class white woman curled up in the fetal position, stroking a ‘neck massager’ that’s lost its charge, whispering, “It’s going to be OK.”
And yet, not being able to have sex is all I can think about. Or rather, bear to think about while both my parents remain in an “extremely high-risk” category of vulnerability to COVID-19.
“The state government forcing my vagina into lockdown isn’t really a big deal”
My psychiatrist tells me I have poor impulse control and a tendency toward self-destructive behaviour. In other words, I have a thing for musicians.
Luckily, I’ve grown up in a democracy that, from the age of consent, gave me the liberty to have ill-advised hookups on those ripped vinyl couches that sit backstage at every gig venue in the country.
So my hypothalamus has regressed back to a time when sex was more compulsion than desire. And, frankly, the Dandy Warhols banana poster hanging on my teenage bedroom wall hasn’t helped.
Lately, I’ve been seeking out tactile distractions, like learning an instrument, cutting my own hair and giving my neck massager a nice bubble bath. All of this to prevent myself from flinging open the front door and running to Melbourne like a toey Forrest Gump.
The thing is, while I could be tempted to breach a minor law for someone who plays me Portishead covers over Google Hangouts, I would never, ever risk the lives of other people just to hit that.
State and Territory lockdowns came into effect shortly after Berejiklian’s announcement. Police officers spread like an aggressive immune response, clearing out quarantine bandits, beach-going backpackers, and people sitting down in parks.
The next day, a 30-year-old man with an intellectual disability became the first person in Australia to face up to a year in jail after leaving his house during self-isolation. While this man sobbed in a courtroom, Morrison addressed the ever-escalating online protests from teachers and parents pleading with the Government to shut down schools, saying, “I’m telling you as a father, I’m happy for my kids to go to school.”
The mixed messaging from federal, state and territory governments during this crisis has been heavily criticised by politicians, health officials and civil liberties experts. Many are saying the poor standards of communication and general ambivalence confuse the public, undermine the effectiveness of the measures and remind them of my ex.
This recent, super dramatic escalation from State governments is further proof of that, Jamie.
“NSW State Premier Gladys Berejiklian slipped into my bedroom and padlocked me into a chastity belt”
Victoria and NSW released a comprehensive list of the new quarantine restrictions to the public only moments before they came into effect. It’s lucky (or unlucky?) that I wasn’t already halfway to Melbourne on the night they were released.
All of us are increasingly disconnected, isolated and vulnerable. We’re relying on the competence of our leaders more than ever before, especially those in marginalised communities who don’t have the assets and access that many of us take for granted.
With experts advising that we have 18 months until a vaccine is released to the public, we need a better plan. But I have a growing apprehension that our lives, and sex lives, are in the hands of politicians who, months into this pandemic, are still making this up as they go along, with short-term strategies, favouring restrictions and punishments over long-term coordination and institutional change.
I can deal with the sexual dissatisfaction of regency era-style courtship. Even low-res webcam serenades are growing on me. My priority is keeping the people I love (and even the people I don’t love) healthy and safe.
What frightens me, almost as much as the virus itself, is the thought that my priorities and the priorities of our leaders do not align.