Maybe you’ve been one of the lucky ones to be in a relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. Maybe your partner lives with you and your emotional and physical needs are being met. The pandemic caught everyone by surprise, but perhaps those most impacted are those living alone.
Increased need for intimacy during COVID-19
As we discussed in last week’s column, the need for physical intimacy actually increased during lockdown. For many, feelings of anxiety and loneliness generated a deep desire for connection and touch. Studies have concluded that the benefits of touch last well-beyond the immediate moment. One such study concluded that “Participants who were touched more often reported better psychological well-being 6 months later.”
In fact, the consequences of lack of touch can have significant impacts. Professor McGlone, a neuroscientist, argues that “the brain, if it doesn’t get a reward it has evolved to need, will quite often find inappropriate replications which could be drugs or alcohol or food.”
Certainly there are benefits from myriad forms of touch, but in this week’s column, we will focus on the need for sexual intimacy and how to meet those needs, safely.
Uptick in pornography
All over the world people are longing for physical intimacy. Pornhub released data for average daily consumption during lockdown, and their site experienced a massive hike. The increase offers us insight into human psychology. Something that is taboo in most of countries is in high demand in an average household. ‘Sex’, the cradle of life, is treated like a sin. Getting folks to talk about sex was a challenge. We believe that is all the more reason to talk about it.
Taking the risk
In an interview with Transcontinental Times, an Indian couple in their twenties bravely opened up. “We have known each other since childhood, living in the same society. We casually started talking during lockdown since we were both home after a long time.” The 25-year-old female shared, “How did it get to this, we don’t know. We met a few times since we were living in a closed society and our parents know each other. We obviously felt strongly for each other, and were under a lot of stress in our personal lives. I asked him for a walk, we kissed, and it kicked off.”
“She made the first move,” her 25-year-old partner shared, laughing. “I never expected this. When her parents were out one weekend, I snuck into her house, and we had sex.”
They shared that the sex was “more risky, so it was more fun. We believe the bond we made was special. Both of us had to take that leap of faith because of the nature of the virus. It was an outlet for both of us, and it made us calmer in our personal life. Sex during COVID is special.”
For those who aren’t quite ready to take these risks, there are alternatives.
“Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.” -Woody Allen
One can gain the pleasure and many of the benefits of physical contact through self-touch. Masturbation is the safest way to achieve sexual satisfaction during lockdown. The benefits include:
- Releasing tension and anxiety
- Aiding in both falling asleep and having a restful sleep
- Building self-confidence as you become familiar with your preferences and comfortable with your own body
- Production and release of endorphins, and release of oxytocin (which lowers cortisol linked to stress and heart disease) during orgasm
- Avoiding (contraction or transmission of) COVID-19 (just be sure to wash your hands or any toys you use before and after masturbation)
“I want to be the reason you tilt your phone away when someone walks by.” -Anon
Sexting is a way to enjoy the pleasures of intimacy while maintaining distance. Your partner could be in the next building or on the next continent. Sexting requires only a mobile device and your quick fingers. Some suggestions for intimate sexting include:
- Be sure you are in a place that feels private, comfortable, and safe, and where you can set the mood for yourself
- This session can either arise spontaneously or be the result of a planned date
- Begin with descriptions of what you are feeling in the moment (often starts with how you are longing for the other)
- Describe what you are doing to yourself, what you want to do to your partner, or what you want your partner to do to you; invite them to do the same
- Generally short descriptions, giving your partner a chance to respond, work best
- You can also send erotic photos to one another (either in the moment or ones you have taken in advance—ask a friend to help you take a series of boudoir photos and have them ready)
“I swear to you I won’t stop until your legs are shaking and the neighbors know my name.” -Ritesh Chauhan
If you are longing for a more visually interactive experience, you can kick your sexting up a notch and try virtual/video sex. Popular dating sites that incorporate video chat reported a spike in usage during pandemic lockdowns. Virtual sex often involves masturbating simultaneously with a partner who is also on video. All the benefits of masturbation are inherent in virtual sex. Yet there are some things to keep in mind to keep it both safe and stimulating for both partners:
- Establish boundaries (prohibit or allow recording)
- Share fantasies (submission/dominance, role playing) and incorporate props (sex toys, fresh fruit, handcuffs, ropes, etc.) to enhance your play
- Set the mood: burn incense, put fresh flowers in a vase, light candles, make your bed with freshly washed linens
- Find a place to prop your phone so it doesn’t interfere with the intimacy
- Our minds are our most sensitive erogenous zone, so don’t forget to use those words to describe what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, or what you want your partner to do.
“Next time she’d have to ask him to keep the light on while he did it, so she could watch his face. That was the best part of the whole thing as far as she was concerned.” ― Tom Perrotta
If you find that the need for physical touch is overriding your fear of contracting COVID-19, here are some ways you can find sexual satisfaction with a physically present partner. One of the best ways to enjoy the closeness of another person while staying safe is to masturbate together.
- Lay side by side, watch your partner touch themselves
- Focusing on the way your partner touches themselves can also be educational, as you can learn exactly what turns them on
- Your knees can be touching or maybe you can be grasping one another’s hands
- Pay special attention to the sounds your partner makes; moaning is a primitive way to express pleasure
“Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.” -Richard Feynman
Foreplay and intercourse come with risk. Know the risks and limit your partners. The Dutch government offered a simple suggestion: Find a sex buddy.
- COVID-19 is well known to be spread through saliva, so sorry folks, no kissing
- Coronavirus has been found in semen, but not in vaginal fluids; sexual transmission is unlikely but as yet unknown at this time Please check for most recent data Harvard
- Coronavirus is present in fecal matter, so take all care to avoid fecal-oral contact (rimming is highly risky, for example)
- USE A CONDOM!
- And hey, why not integrate mask-wearing into your sex-play
Whether it’s time to get to know yourself more or you’re longing for a partner, the need for sexual intimacy and release is not only normal but healthy. The benefits are both affective and physiological. By honoring this need, sex during COVID-19 can provide an opportunity to learn more about yourself and others in a deeply intimate way.
Co-authored by Onkar Mishra