Credit: Angelica Alzona

November 8, 2016 was one of the most romantic nights of my life.

I was at the Hillary Clinton campaign’s headquarters in San Francisco, and a feeling of dread was hanging in the air. My hopes of seeing Clinton appear victorious had just been crushed. My fear of what it would mean for Donald Trump to turn his campaign bluster into actual policies was beginning to grow. We had begun to pass around a bottle, the collective groan of the pantsuit-clad crowd the only thing audible.

And yet, I was also hiding the faintest giggle and sneakily texting Bonnie, my newfound long-distance sweetheart, underneath the table. We had met a month before, while I was traveling through Ohio for a journalism project exploring privilege and identity within a divisive campaign.

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“Look at what your state done did!’’ I texted. That was followed with a parade of emojis that would be undecipherable to anyone who fails to understand the complexity and emotional breadth of a baby chick in an egg. Bonnie understood.

Chaos and confusion took over that night, but one thing was clear: During a divisive election cycle and in the face of threats to my well-being as a queer, black woman, Bonnie had become a safe place. Our connection seemed steady in an unsteady world. Over the past few months, our attraction has grown to love in the face of a Trump-Pence administration, and even feels stronger because of it. Our Ohio-California, interracial, same-sex love is a nourishing and supportive sacred space amid folks who are clamoring to “take our country back,’’ a thinly veiled call to arms to fight for the heyday when white supremacist, heteronormative, “Christian” ideals went unchallenged.

With the new administration’s rhetoric, policies, and executive orders that threaten healthcare, Muslims, immigrants, black people, women, the poor, children with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community, it’s fair to say that many people are living in a new state of emotional duress. The attacks from the Trump administration on entire communities have had many of us constantly worried about basic survival.

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That revelation took me right back to college, to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Brief review: In 1943, this dude, Abraham Maslow, broke a few things on down. He argued that there are some basic needs that need to be met before a person can adequately move onto other aspects of their life. This chart breaks it down nicely: Sex is right at the bottom with food and shelter. Safety is next, then love and belonging, esteem and then finally self-actualization.

But what are the hierarchy of needs in the time of Trump? Does this politically tumultuous time lead to more hook-ups, more people clinging to love and belonging as necessary protections? Or are sex and romance taking a hit because of our stress levels, with more urgent political needs forcing sex to the back burner?

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Personally, my appetite increases for the baser of human needs during times of upheaval. Sex and orgasm is known to relieve stress, increase endorphins, and have other positive health outcomes. I also suspect seeking out love and sexual intimacy is appealing because that’s the one thing within my control right now. “Sexual healing” is not just a great Marvin Gaye song—it’s also become a way to cope with a frightening political time.

But it’s different for everyone. Troy Bronsink, director of The Hive, Center for Contemplation Art and Action, told me the election has had an adverse effect on his marriage’s sex life. “Just having phones by our bed changes things,” he said. “We frequently fall asleep checking our feeds, we wake up to figure out what other shit hit the fan last night. How do we keep the 24-hour news cycle out of the bedroom?’’

For William Winters, a digital organizer and leader in the Bay Area’s sex-positive and poly communities, the political environment seems to be driving people to seek each other out.

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“As a result of the election, if I’ve seen anything at all is that people go to sex-positive spaces to be with their communities,” he said. “This goes beyond just the need for sex—it’s the need for intimacy, and the need for belonging, need to be with people who understand something about where you’re coming from, what you’re up to.”

Still, I can’t help but think that casual sex will suffer under a Trump administration’s ramped-up attack on women’s already fragile access to sexual health care. The new confirmation of Neil Gorsuch coupled with the ongoing creation of new anti-abortion bills could very well have a domino effect on our sex lives. And the way things are going, the fuckbois of a certain generation may be the last to realize that policies targeting women’s rights will hurt them, too.

“I hang out with a bunch of millennial men who don’t quite have their head around the fact that Tinder wouldn’t exist in a world without easy access to birth control and legal abortion,” said Kate Willett, a sex-positive and feminist comedian. “In a pre-birth control pill, pre-Roe v. Wade world, people had families very young, and didn’t have the freedom to pursue their dreams in the way so many people of my generation do. It [would] be funny to watch so many men of my generation trade their DJ equipment for business casual attire, but that’s not what I want to happen.”

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It may be lost on many twentysomethings that the sexual freedom we enjoy, from sliding up in someone’s DMs to buying Plan B over the counter, is directly a result of policy changes that improved contraceptive access. The pill emerged on the scene in the beginning of the 1960s, and in 1965, birth control was legalized following the Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut. A few years later, use of the pill was endorsed and distributed by doctors as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s social reform policy. In 1973, abortion became legal.

But just as wealthier white women had more access to contraception and abortion before everyone else, Trump’s administration will have more adverse effects on low-income people and people of color. The “Trump effect” on sex is not created equal. Lots of people are feeling panicked and stressed, but many others remain blissfully unaware of how new policies will disrupt people’s lives—and sex lives.

This mismatch has created a new type of sexual currency: Some people are finding their value in how many people they fuck, while the everyday stress of living is devaluing sex for others. Those with more privilege often are more able to enjoy self-actualization, the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, while some are still struggling to receive basic respect. The blatantly prejudiced rhetoric of this administration has increased feelings of isolation for marginalized people, making dating across the lines of privilege and race harder for many—like Collier Meyerson, who recently broke down the complexities of dating white men for The Cut.

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No matter who you are, politics seem to loom large in sexual relationships in a way they didn’t just a couple of years ago.

“Everything is intersectional—people are having political conversations almost as foreplay,” said NYC-based sex coach Eric Fleming. He later described how a private chatroom for local gays became a post-election rallying board.

“Intimacy and exposure that sex allows has created this space for more openness,” he said. “Sex has been the vehicle for connecting and finding like-minded tribe members for protests and rallies. Sex has been the doorway, almost.”

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As resistance continues to build in the face of policies that impedes on human rights, there is a lot of talk about self-care. And Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be an important reminder to make sure you’re getting your needs met. That includes love and belonging, however you see it.

If ever there were a chant for the resistance by way of sex positivity, Fleming has it.

“We are focused on community,” he said. “We’re evolving. People are taking care of each other’s emotions while simultaneously touching butts.”