How to keep your sex life alive, when physical touch is off the cards

Article by Stephanie Nuzzo /
Body and Soul /
April 21, 2020 /
Click here to view original /

Intimacy in the time of coronavirus is a curious beast.

Some people are struggling because they’re cooped with their partners, and everything down to the sound of their breathing has become a source of frustration. Others have been forced to separate from their S.O, with no idea when they’ll be able to reconnect. And then there are the single folks whose dating lives have become a series of text exchanges, and the odd video date.

To put it simply: social distancing rules have limited the ways we can connect with others. And this shift means that for many, sex and intimacy has changed or stopped altogether. It’s a consequence of this virus that’s affecting more of us than you might think.

To get a little insight into the ways we can better navigate this bizarre reality we’re living in, I spoke with a handful of sex experts. I chatted with Chantelle Otten, sexologist and ambassador for Womanizer, Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne, and Kassandra Mourikis, a sexologist with Pleasure Centred Sexology.

These were their words of wisdom.

Don’t underestimate the power of touch

Social distancing is impacting each of us in lots of ways. But one element we might not be as aware of is the loss of touch. Dr Rosewarne explained “[Touch] It’s what makes people feel desired, it’s also the way we most commonly show our affection to another person. The oxytocin released through touching and being touched also enhances our bonding with another person.”

“The absence of touch makes people feel acutely alone,” she said. Otten expanded, stating that touch is linked to our “physical and emotional health”. In addition to the release of oxytocin, Otten shared that touch lowers blood pressure and releases dopamine “which makes us happy and prevents depression”.

“Tactile touch is also associated with erotic arousal, and a decrease in tactility can impact sexual function,” she expressed. To avoid “touch starvation,” Mourikis said we should be focusing on self-touch. Not only sexually, but with acts like moisturising; massage and holding your own hands.

Put effort into emotional connections

Given that our ability to connect physically has been impaired (not only because of separation but the risk of infection that sex creates) it’s more vital than ever that we build on our emotional closeness. Despite the enemy that is uniting us all presently, many of us are feeling particularly lonely – which has a considerable effect on our mental health. To combat this, Otten recommended bonding “with another love language, such as words of affirmation or sending gifts”. Play with dirty talk or the camera Across the board, health experts are saying the safest sexual activity during the corona crisis is solo sex (which, by the way, is always a valid way to satisfy sexual needs). If you’d like to virtually share your sexual experience with others, however, there has never been an easier time to do that.

Video chat is a great tool, allowing people to experiment with “self-touch, masturbation and using sex toys in the presence of and while viewing a partner through a screen,” Mourikis said. Just be sure to lock any calls on platforms where others could crash your conversation, she stressed. You don’t want Hamish Blake popping in to say hi, you know?

Phone sex or sexting are popular options, too. Try something like asking your partner what they’d do if you were in the same room. Or “send some sexy photos to get you both in the zone and prepare the mental imagery,” Otten said. For added excitement try erotica; app-controlled sex toys, or, as Otten recommended, toys with an autopilot function, like the Womanizer Premium.

Respect boundaries

Like any sexual encounter, consent needs to be everyone’s primary concern for sex at a distance. Mourikis shared that it’s worth having a conversation about your limits before kicking off any kind of interaction. Talk about what you’re comfortable with and allow your partner to share their wishes, too.

“On zoom, there’s also an option to block screen recordings,” Mourikis said. “…ask your partner to give you a tour of their space, so you’re able to check out whether they have any other cameras or whether others are present in the space.” She also suggested avoiding including your face in photographs “or identifiable aspects such as tattoos”. Ultimately, if you’re unsure about anything, give it a miss.

If you’re not feeling sexual, explore other forms of intimacy

Don’t forget that intimacy goes beyond sex. So, if you’re not feeling it, that’s okay. “Not all folks are sexual, and many folks don’t feel like being sexual during this highly stressful period,” Mourikis said. “Prioritising other forms of pleasure, connecting and rest is important.” Otten shared that it’s also worth putting time into acts like iso date night. “Cook dinner together and sit together and play a game, which can even be done virtually,” she said.

In these wild times, it makes all the difference to have our emotional needs met. So, if a loss of physical contact is weighing on you, try these intimacy-boosting tips. The power of feeling connected, loved and heard is immeasurable. And we could all do with a little more of each of those things at the moment.