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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Lockdown prioritises sex, say leading academics

Two leading academics from the Australian Catholic University (ACU) and the University of Sydney say recent Victorian lockdown restrictions should have Australians rethinking sexual relationships.

The Stage Four restrictions prevent those living in metropolitan Melbourne travelling further than 5km from their home, with exceptions including essential work, medical appointments and visiting an intimate partner.

ACU Philosophers Associate Professor Stephanie Collins said the notion of allowing an exemption for sexual relationships was an assumption on the community’s relationship priorities.  

“We need to challenge the assumption that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans,” she said.

“The exemption for intimate partners is based on the same kind of assumptions that are embedded in everyday phrases like ‘She hasn’t found the one yet’ or ‘It’s time he grew up and settled down’.

“Not every adult wants, needs or is able to have a single privileged relationship or a sexual partner.” 

Both New Zealand’s and the United Kingdom’s lockdown restrictions included a “bubble policy”, where residents could interact with one other household, based on basic human contact rather than intimacy.

Associate Professor Collins said the Victorian Government should have followed suit on this method of restrictions, especially if limiting contact and social distancing were top priorities. 

“If there is no harm in allowing people to meet a single sexual partner, then surely there is no harm in letting them meet just one other person they care deeply about without sex being involved,” she said.  

“If anything, it is the sexual relationship that might require justification, given the incompatibility of sex and social distancing.

“If the government thinks it is unreasonable to require temporary celibacy on the part of intimate partners (which is what the current regulations suggest), then it is surely unreasonable to require a temporary lack of meaningful human contact for an individual who has a close yet sexless relationship with another person.”

The current restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne do however allow two people from different households to exercise outside together if neither leave the 5km radius from their house.

Residents are not permitted to visit another person’s home unless they are visiting an intimate partner or maintaining shared parenting duties.

Associate Professor Collins likened the restrictions to closing Muslim schools but allowing Catholic ones to stay open or closing vegan restaurants but allowing burger venues to operate.

“The current regulations are nothing short of discrimination,” she said.

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