We’ve been socially shut down and practicing mitigations during the novel coronavirus pandemic since February 2020. Only now in May 2021 is U.S. society slowly opening up and fully vaccinated people can take off their masks outdoors and indoors and return to some normal activities. What pre-pandemic activities will we return to? Masks and social distancing inhibited sexual activities. People report that touching another body and being touched by someone have been deprivations during the pandemic. Will the removal of these mitigations also result in returning to normal sex? This time I offer a couple of questions to stir thinking. Readers, I hope, will offer some frank answers.
What did you do for sex during the pandemic?
What do you think sex will be like for you after the pandemic?
Consider what we’ve gone through that has put a damper on sex. The usual meetups were canceled. The bars, restaurants, theaters, fitness studios, and churches, where you might meet someone new or take your partner, were closed. They are only now re-opening.
The dating app Tinder even put out a precaution about dating and mating in the time of the new coronavirus. Sex was risky.
The coronavirus is spread through air-bourn droplets (and fecal matter). You cannot get COVID-19 just by having sex. But you get it from breathing in or being in immediate contact with the virus. That’s why the standard recommended mitigations also applied to having sex.
Masks were required, so kissing was out. You had to stay six feet apart. It’s hard to have vaginal intercourse at that distance. Anal intercourse would also be risky.
Even married couples could be at risk, especially if one partner was infected or came into contact with someone who was.
So with all these restrictions, how did you have sex during COVID-19? Did you go ahead and have sex anyway? CDC recommended doggie style or other ways of not facing each other during intercourse, rather than the traditional missionary style.
I’m sure many couples, especially married couples, had sex as usual during the pandemic (whatever that may have been for them). But a lot of people reported a low libido, which could be attributed to pandemic-related anxieties. Psychotherapists have reported an increase in case loads during the pandemic. Reports of new births show a deficit from the last year (a growing trend exacerbated by the pandemic). If you don’t feel like having sex, you won’t produce babies.
I received a question a year ago about experiencing a low libido during the pandemic that I answered in “Frank Answers Briefly About Male Body Issues.” I suggested in my answer that couples whose libidos are low could maintain intimacy by giving each other a massage and doing more hugging than usual.
People reported missing human contact. Human connection includes touch—touching another and being touched. For at least some of the time during the pandemic massage studios were closed. Yet we all need touch, even if we have to touch ourselves. Did you practice self-massage?
This will probably lead to masturbation, especially for men, since we can’t keep our hands off our dicks.
Mayo Clinic and the New York City Health Department recommended masturbation and virtual sex as the best forms of safe sex. The New York City Health Department stated that “Masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sex.” Furthermore, it’s worth acknowledging that masturbation helps to reduce stress and tension, as well as improve sleep quality, and therefore might be a powerful coping tool in these nerve-racking times.
Did you try mutual masturbation with a partner while wearing masks and not facing each other?
Mutual masturbation with physical distancing could also work if the couple is facing each other at about six feet distance. Long arms would help. And wear face masks.
Did you try a different way to masturbate solo?
Humping a pillow (hey, if you’re all alone, enjoy your pretend partner) can also keep your pelvic region flexible.
If you can’t have or aren’t up to having sex, did you watch another couple or a single woman or man doing something sexual on a webcam? Not surprisingly, the New York Times reported that traffic in viewing webcam sites increased during the pandemic. For those who don’t know, you pay to interact with the performer(s), so it is a form of prostitution. Here is a live nude cam web site where users leave reviews. (I’m not endorsing either the online sex or the review site, just noting that it is a sexual activity that has been utilized during the pandemic.)
Did you pay to “talk dirty” with some person on the phone? The usual purpose of the “conversation” is for the sex worker to talk the phone caller through masturbation to a climax. I’m told that your professional phone sex partner knows how to get the conversation started and keep it going if you get tongue-tied.
However, you can also have phone sex with an actual partner, perhaps a lover from whom you are separated. This is recommended by leading health authorities like Mayo Clinic and the New York City Health Department. It helps you keep up your interest in each other during a time of absence. You know your partner and may know what buttons to push. You could begin conversation just by asking, “If we were together right now, what would you like to do?”
Mayo Clinic recommended virtual sex using social media platforms. (See Frank Answers About Sexting. In that article I describe what is legal and illegal in the U.S. and what social platform companies allow in terms of sending nude images.)
Did you do sexting? By the way, sending dick pictures is not considered cool, according to women interviewed, especially if it’s a first contact.
Did you contact people on Snap-chat? Supposedly this is safer than other social platforms because the photos you send have a limited time span before being deleted. Obviously, having your nude self shared online is a personal risk.
Did you get nude on FaceTime with your girlfriend?
FaceTime is sharing just between the two of you, so it’s not as risky as sending photos.
Pushing the envelop in terms of your own bodily experiences and sensations can be a form of self-eroticism.
Did you buy and use sex toys? Sales reportedly have been up.
Being home alone provides the opportunity for experimentation with solitary sex.
Did you do something to make yourself feel more sexy, like offer a naked food or cooking class on Zoom? Some women did.
Naked yoga classes have been expanding around the world. Most studios have been zooming their classes and you can push the envelop and join a naked yoga class on Zoom. It’s not sexy, but it does allow you to assert some freedom of movement during the pandemic lock down.
Did you find a way to assert your freedom while following the recommended mitigations, like working at home naked?
Did you venture outside naked? A cool breeze on your naked body is quite sensual. With people staying in there would be fewer nosy neighbors.
If you live in a high rise, did you venture out on your balcony in your boxer briefs to greet the morning sun? It’s not illegal. Do you care what your neighbors might think?
Did you explore sleeping naked? It’s a healthy thing to do. Sleeping naked will keep your body cooler. A study conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that keeping yourself cool while you sleep speeds the body’s metabolism by producing brown fat that burns calories. You can actually lose a bit of weight by sleeping naked. It’s also very sensuous.
Men have the sensual advantage of sensing their nocturnal erections when they arise and are not constricted by underwear or pjs. In fact, your genitals need airing out, especially if you wear tight briefs during the day. Men used to wear night shirts to sleep in, leaving their lower parts uncovered. Studies have found that sleeping naked can increase fertility and raise libido levels. In anticipation of when you may be skin-to-skin again, men, start sleeping naked.
Or, as the pandemic wore on, did you just lose interest in sex or being sexy? Whether with a partner or solo? Apparently, many did.
The pandemic is not over, but with more people being vaccinated and mitigation recommendations/rules being lowered (like wearing masks and observing social distancing), society is opening up with more indoor and outdoor activities. How soon do you think you’ll get back to normal sex, whatever that means to you? Can we really just return to anything the way it was before the pandemic when the “all clear” is sounded, including sex?
Supposing you have engaged in some of the sexual or sensual practices I’ve mentioned in this article, has this resulted in giving you a deeper sense of the dimensions of sex, whether with a partner, solo, or virtual? Will practices you tried during the pandemic go away when the pandemic goes away? Or is it possible that you could end up seeking a bolder sexual life and deeper sexual relationships post-pandemic, and not just more of the same old sex you had before? Ultimately, the goal of sex is to experience a deep union with another. The recommendations of masturbation and virtual sex are place-settings for the main course.
Whether you are gay or straight, man or woman, coupled or single, young or old, I’d like to hear from you. Readers might also be interested in your experiences and expectation. It would help if you noted how you self-identify by age, sexual orientation, gender, and life situation.
The frank answers to these questions won’t be from me, but from comments which I invite you to make. How did you meet your sexual needs and desires during the pandemic? Or didn’t you. What are your expectations of your sexual life after the pandemic? Don’t be shy. We all have sexual needs and we’ve all been through this pandemic together. We will not be judgmental.
If you want anonymity you can send a response as a “Question.” It will come to me as an email sent by WordPress. I won’t know who sent the “question,” but I will post it as a comment/response.
General comments on my questions are also welcome by using the “Comment” feature.
I think it’s only fair to say something about my own sexual and body experiences, which haven’t been much affected by the pandemic. I’m 78 years old. Married. Retired. But I’ve had teaching opportunities via Zoom. My wife still practices private psychotherapy and has done so from home. So we weren’t out much during the pandemic until recent months when we’ve both been vaccinated. We’ve not worn masks or kept our distance from each other at home. I’d say that intimacy has actually increased in little touches like hugging and kissing. But I also think I’ve been more tense, because of the seriousness of the pandemic for someone at my age, my need to learn how to use the new technology (I’ve always been nervous about using new technology), and, quite frankly, because of the tensions in American political situation since the 2020 election. I don’t do sexting, and my FaceTime has been with family and friends. But I’ve continued my naked men’s yoga classes on Zoom. It was a new experience to see myself naked on the computer screen because, well, normally we don’t see ourselves in class. I began receiving massages again in April after more than a year away from the massage table. But my (male) massage therapist and I wore masks and we didn’t hug like we usually did. He has to abide by state regulations. I’m looking forward to returning to our normal massage protocols. I’ve always enjoyed sleeping nude and walking around the house nude in the morning. I don’t expect my body practices to change much when the “all clear” is sounded because they didn’t change so much because of the pandemic. But my guess is that for younger people, especially singles, the changes were greater and the expectations for life post-pandemic will be higher. There’s a spiritual principle there: the more you are deprived, the more you desire.
Let me hear from you. Your frank answers begin here.