It was a Saturday with several hours left until we left for our much-anticipated weekly outing: A walk around the park with another couple, separated by six-feet.
We were one day away from New York’s implementation of the state’s version of shelter-in-place, and Jordan and Zach would be the only familiar faces we’d see in the outside world. We had exhausted everything on Netflix, binge-eaten everything in the kitchen and still had two hours to kill, so we settled on sex.
Our first foray into coronavirus-catalyzed BDSM was rudimentary at best. A fluffy hat served as stimulus, Glade candle wax counted as sadism; an airplane mask doubled as a blindfold and ribbon tied wrists to the Amazon bed frame.
This is life in lockdown, where it’s a blessing (and sometimes, curse) to be quarantined in close quarters, 24-hours a day with a lover. Then again, on the hunt for entertainment without daily distractions, physical intimacy is suddenly thrust into the spotlight — as are its, pun intended, shortcummings.
“I’ve seen a lot of couples noting that they’ve been trying extra out-of-the-box sex things,” Gigi Engle, sexologist and sex coach, tells Very Good Light. “I also think it reflects positively on the sex-positive shift millennials and Gen Z seem to be taking towards a greater appreciation and curiosity around pleasure.”
It’s an unprecedented shift, when just last year young adults were in the grips of a “sex recession” — that is, enjoying a notably less amount of sex than ones before. Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, sexologist and author of The Ultimate Guide to Seduction and Foreplay, says that while many may feeling more sexual than usual with additional time, there are many for whom things are different.
Keeping the spark alive
“Some people use sex as a form of stress relief; on the other hand, many people have lost interest in sex at this time,” she shares with us. “They’re preoccupied by the stress of uncertainty and change. It’s important not to prescribe sex as a universal stress reliever, as some people experience sex as a source of stress.”
Then there’s navigating loss of desire. If distance makes the heart grow fonder, surely being forever within a few feet of your partner can only have the opposite effect.
“One of the major tensions in modern love relationships is the desire for stability and security versus our desire for adventure and freedom,” reveals relationship psychologist, Stephanie Zuber. “One requires togetherness, the other separateness. With this pandemic creating a lot of togetherness, the need for distance is important. Anything that creates differentiation, difference and separation is good for couples right now. This will help your sex life.”
Thankfully, there are ways in which you can create distance even if self-isolation prevents you from spending time apart. Tantra expert and orgasmic meditation trainer, Lauren Harkness, believes the key to stoking sexual chemistry is by creating the illusion of “alone time” — be that meditation across the room, a shower or walk outside, even listening to headphones while working on individual projects.
“Solo practice is key, whether that’s meditation, masturbation or exercise,” Lauren says. “If you’re suffering from lack of desire, name it. There is great courage in vulnerability and often the deeper conversations and relationship patterns come to the surface to be worked through. This is a great time to build solid foundations in partnerships, by digging deep into things you may have been avoiding while staying busy out in daily life.”
“The largest sex organ is the brain,” adds Stephanie. “Shift your perspective from, “This is my partner I know everything about,” to “Who is this hot, sexy co-worker I can have a quickie with?!” Instead of thinking, Do I want to have sex right now?, ask yourself, Am I willing to get in the mood right now? Sex isn’t simply defined by intercourse. Expand your definition of sex and see where it takes you.”
COVID-19 casual sex
For those who don’t have an omnipresent partner to satisfy their needs, things are a little different. Fulfilling social responsibility and enjoying hook-up culture do not easily co-exist in the face of a pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy intimacy with a near-stranger. Based on the orgasm-gap data, Gigi explains, virtual sex has a better chance of getting you off than a tryst with a new partner — it’s also a chance to connect, without putting the health of you and the community at risk. “Think of it like pre-dating before you get a chance to spend time together in person,” she says.
“It seems that many people are following the rule of only have in-the-flesh sex with who you live with, or if you’re hooking up with someone new, do so digitally,” notes Dr. Jess. “You can have all types of sex online; I even know people who are setting up private orgies and dirty talk play parties online.”
“Lastly, washing up before and after sex is more important that ever. Make this a habit.”
She continues: “Voice messages allow you to tap into your lover’s audial desires. For those of us who are auditory learners, the sound of a lover’s voice can be overwhelmingly hot. Use a low, soft voice to tell them what you want to do. Ask them for what you want. Let them know you want to please them. Convey your desire and desperation for their touch. This is the time to get creative and those who do will probably find that the benefits far outlast the isolation of this pandemic.”
Psychotherapist Allie Lerner isn’t surprised the discourse around quarantine has for the most part ignored the dynamics of sex-in-isolation, particularly given our culture is so uncomfortable with the topic of sex, and as such the message, she claims, has been distilled down to: just don’t have it.
But it would be foolish to overlook the singletons for whom the sacrifice of regular sex is just too big. When possible, Allie suggests, view and use verbal communication as “extended foreplay.”
Then there are those who can’t resist meeting up with a potential partner – when their own horniness takes over and they’d risk it for a biscuit. Allie says while not the best idea, if you’re in need, you must keep a few protocols in mind.
“Pursing casual sex within the confines of this epidemic means washing your hands, taking your temperature regularly and understand the risk you are taking by continuing to engage at this current moment,” she says. “If you feel sick, are sick, or think you might be sick…please abstain until you know for sure that you are well. Casual sex can be exciting, but not at the expense of the welfare of yourself or other people.”
Stephanie agrees. “People are craving connection right now and for some, horniness will win out over social distancing,” she says. “If you do have sex outside your household, have as few partners as possible — avoid kissing anyone outside of your small circle of contacts. Use of condoms and dental dams can reduce contact with saliva or feces, especially during oral or anal sex. Lastly, washing up before and after sex is more important that ever. Make this a habit.”
And then, of course, there’s self-love. Recommended as the primary — and safest — method of getting off in a global health crisis, it’s unsurprising porn sites have seen massive engagement. Italy’s porn consumption spiked 57-percent the day government officials announced the borders were closing. And as of this week, worldwide porn viewing is still roughly 11-percent above average. Sex toy consumption is also on a consistent upswing, with products like Womanizer, and couples’ option, WeVibe, experiencing a 135-percent sales increase. Yes, we’re even stockpiling sex accessories.
“I think that’s indicative of the fact that people realize orgasms and pleasure are one of the few luxuries we’re able to have during this pandemic,” Gigi claims. “Now is the time to try stuff you’ve always wanted to or may have been afraid of.”
“Please abstain until you know for sure that you are well. Casual sex can be exciting, but not at the expense of the welfare of yourself or other people.”
But with all this time holed up at home, where we’re searching Pornhub for spicy new uploads, should we worry about the frequency of our masturbation?
The myth of masturbation addiction has run rampant for decades, says each sexologist, as a result of the leftover puritanical values discouraging sexual freedom that our society still endorses. If you notice your genitals are a little desensitized or it’s becoming more difficult to climax, it doesn’t mean you have to stop — just switch it up. Slow down on the porn and try your imagination or video sex with a partner for a change, maybe you use lube or experiment with a different technique or toy. New stimulation is what will keep you engaged and feeling on top of your sex game.
“Typically, ‘too much’ masturbation has to do with the context,” shares Stephanie. “Too much in your religion, too much for your partner, too much for the answer Google told you — there is way too much shame and guilt surrounding it. Masturbation is an amazing way to get to know your body, your likes, dislikes and practice with your erectile diversities. Especially during this pandemic, the safest person to have sex with is yourself.”
If you’re experiencing “death grip,” where your penis or clitoris is so accustomed to your hand that sex becomes unfulfilling, take a break for a week, then ease back into it. But the bottom line is: unless masturbation is really interfering with your work, relationships and so on, you’re fine.
SEE ALSO: What it’s like to date as an asexual man
“Masturbation is elemental to increasing desire in many cases, as it helps us to learn about our own bodies and reactions,” explains Dr. Jess. “Self-pleasure also increases the likelihood of an orgasm and is connected with higher self-esteem. Moreover, as your body relishes in the dopamine and endorphin release, you are more likely to crave more, resulting in an increase in desire for sex.”
And that’s not all masturbation is good for. According to sexologists, it’s known to increase circulation to the sex organs to promote erection, as well as teaching you more about your body’s sexual response to serve you better in partnered sex. It reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases, helps to de-stress and facilitate better sleep. Orgasms stimulate oxytocin — increasing your sense of connection, and bonding — increase immunoglobulin A, which strengthens your immune system. They also lower pain, producing a parasympathetic response in the body: calm, centered, safe.
“Masturbation is an amazing way to get to know your body, your likes, dislikes and practice with your erectile diversities.”
“In terms of what we’re actually getting wrong about masturbation, we just do it the same way all the time. Just as variety is the spice of life for couples, so too can variety enhance your solo sex game. Experiment with toys, positions and techniques so that you discover new pathways to pleasure.”
Spicing up partnered sex
With more time on our hands than ever before, it’s important that we also embrace sexual diversity in our relationships. Gigi Engle recommends masturbating in front of your partner to learn about their sexual responses, and pegging – “it’s really fun way to play with power dynamics.” Dr. Jess says partners should try complimenting each other daily, and practice “role rituals” like pouring a glass of wine, getting undressed to signal that you’ve slipped into a lover role.
Stephanie Zuber suggests sharing your erotic fantasies and pleasures, while Lauren Harkness says the sexually adventurous might enjoy experimenting with a different Karma Sutra position each time they have intercourse. Allie Lener believes constantly communicating your current approach towards sex will work wonders.
“Hopefully we’ll start to think outside the box and build tension, desire and arousal in the long-term, as opposed to waiting until we get into the bedroom and expecting our bodies to respond like light switches,” offers Dr. Jess.
As for our sexual standing when this is all over, only time will tell. This might be our chance to reset the aforementioned sex recession, which may very well have been catalyzed by our recent hyperfocus on sexual misconduct and violence (something that so often went “hidden and dismissed,” says Stephanie). Perhaps the fervent emphasis on health and safety will only further inhibit us sexually; or maybe, this is the much-needed break from the bustle of daily life we’ve been crying out for. A chance for us to reconnect, with our partners, but more importantly, our bodies.
“I believe that this period of isolation, for many people, will lead to an increased appreciation of and deeper connection to their sexual sense of self,” says Allie. “ [We will hopefully emerge] with a stronger commitment to using our voices and words to own and articulate who we want, what we want, and how we want to be fucked and loved.”
Tips to on surviving self-isolation, sexually
— Set a schedule that allows for time alone, time together, time spent with friends online.
— It’s okay to fight and you might find that the tension builds while you’re in close quarters. But if you catch yourself fighting about the little stuff, try to laugh it off. Admit when you’re being less than your normal stellar self.
— To spice up your sex life, slow down. Try mindful sex practices beginning with non-sexual mindfulness (breathing and visualizations) and then moving on to mindful touch.
— Visualize waves as you breath during sex, but as you become more comfortable being present and in your body, you’ll likely find that feeling in the moment comes more easily during sexual activity, and your anxiety may dissipate.
— If you’re living with a partner: flirt and tease, kiss with tongue when you wake up in the morning, compliment your lover every single day, ban technology for one hour per day, stop complaining about your body.
Try these oral/manual techniques
— The “Claudia”: Slather two hands in lube and wrap them both around your partner’s shaft while you slide up and down with extra pressure
— The “Cross My Fingers”: Cross your index and middle fingers as though you’re telling a lie. Slather them in lube. Slide them in and out of your partner as you rotate.
—The “Wet Trace”: Lick a line or S-pattern over their skin (collarbone, thighs, genitals — your pick!) to create a very wet path. Open your mouth wide and breathe warm air gently over the wet path. Purse your lips to alternate with cool air. Build anticipation to get their dopamine flowing rather than going in for the whole nine yards right away.
Try these sex positions
— Butt Buddies: Your partner lies flat on their stomach with their head in the upper right corner of the bed. You lie on your stomach on top of them in the lower left corner of the bed. Legs stretch out on either side and positioning deprives them of eye contact and exchange of facial expressions to facilitate “blind sex.” They both pop their hips upward far enough for the penis to angle backward comfortably and slide inside.
— Mile-High Club: One kneels on the floor with forearms resting on the bed in front. The other stands behind between their legs, lifts hips on either side of his hips and slides in.
— Upright Missionary: The ultimate shallow-penetration position, the Upright Missionary comes naturally and offers the benefits of intense eye contact, full upper body views, and one of the One lies on their back while the other kneels over her with his legs on the outside of hers. Holds the base of the penis while slipping in and out, while the other squeezes their thighs together for extra friction.
— Swinger: This sexy pose not only allows you to admire one another’s bodies face to face but also provides the clitoral friction most women need to experience orgasm during intercourse. She lies on her back with her legs hanging off the side of the bed or couch and her feet touching the floor. He kneels or squats between her open legs (atop a pillow, if necessary, to adjust for height) and slides inside. She wraps her legs around his body as he leans forward slightly.