hotgoss redux: Love in the time of Corona
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all parts of daily life across the globe, and our sex lives are no exception. Speak About It's DMs have been blowing up with questions about sex and dating in the time of social distancing and the corona virus. On this week's #hotgoss we tried to do our best to answer those questions. Keep scrollin' for some hot tips for trying to keep things hot...and also healthy.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA
First things first: social distancing is of utmost importance right now, particularly to prevent community spread of COVID-19. Stay at home. Find other ways to stay connected. We have some great tips for you below!
Please note: We are not doctors. We did consult friends who are medical providers with our questions, but we encourage you to look at the resources we've provided and check in with your local CDC if you have questions or concerns. The CDC guidelines about transmission can be found here. Plus, Scarleteen has some great general advice here, and you can always text your questions to their hotline at: (206) 866-2279 or live chat.
Here's some of Speak About It's hot takes:
Q: Is it normal to be thinking about sex right now?
A: Absolutely. Everyone deals with stress differently, and you may notice an increase or decrease in your libido, or no change at all during this time. Sexual health is an important part of holistic health and dating can be a valuable part of people's social lives. You might find yourself especially craving physical intimacy right now--particularly if you can't have it in isolation. Skin hunger is real, and physical touch has been proven to have positive mental health benefits and can reduce aggression. You're totally normal for thinking about sex right now, but how you choose to act on those feelings takes some additional consideration.
Q: Is it okay to date or have sex right now?
A: Maybe. Social distancing is the name of the game, so unless you are in isolation with your partner, physical intimacy is pretty much off limits. That said, you can be sexually active without being physically together. (More on this in a sec!) Our favorite resource (and a lot of people on the internet's) has been this guide from NYC Health. You can read the guidelines, and people living for them, here. We stan their "you can f*ck yourself, you can f*ck your roommate" attitude. Here's a few more deets:
- ~Intimate partners living in the home: If you are social distancing within the same home together, you are probably alright to be physically intimate. However, if your partner is a health care worker, grocery store employee, or some other public facing employee they are at an increased risk for infection and so are you. If one of you develops symptoms, you both must self isolate and not leave the home for the recommend period of time (~2 weeks, experts say.)
- ~Intimate partners not living in the home. This is where things get complicated. The most important thing is to be open and honest about how you're practicing social distancing. Do you and your partner live in separate apartments by yourselves? Who do you come in contact with throughout the day? Are you putting roommates at risk by inviting a partner into the home? Currently, public health officials are recommending people do not have intimate contact with partners outside of the home. Be sure to evaluate your circumstances and the number of people you might be putting at risk by going out and seeing your partner.
Even if you’re effectively self-isolating, there’s still a real risk of not knowing what your partner has been exposed to. It’s important to remember that even if you aren’t actively hanging out with friends, but are still going out to stores, you are potentially exposing yourself and your isolation buddies.
- ~New people: To quote our doctor friends, "Honestly, the medical advice is: Just don't." Working in the sexual health field, we know that prohibition isn't always the most effective teaching tool, but this is a public health emergency. We're not saying you can't be sexual with a new person, just don't do it...in person. "Unlike, say, deciding to forgo a condom without proper testing, unnecessary interaction with the outside world right now could easily affect large amounts of other people," says Stoya in this article from Slate.
- We recommend you don't, but if you do meet up with a new person, wash your hands and commonly touched surfaces and openly communicate about symptoms, exposure, and isolation plans.
- ~In addition to preventing the spread of COVID-19, you will want to be careful about STIs or sexual health concerns, especially with new partners. Hospital resources are strapped right now and should be reserved for folks who need them most. If a sexual health related issue comes up, you may have trouble accessing care right now.
- ~It's important to note that while anal/vaginal penetration or sexual fluids have not been proven to transmit COVID-19, it is carried by saliva droplets and can live for 3 hours to to 3 days on various surfaces. So while it isn't a sexually transmitted disease, a lot of the activities we do during sex, from kissing to even just touching a doorknob to get into a home, are going to increase risk of transmission.
Q: So if I can't hook-up in person, what do I do?
A: Just because you can't get down face-to-face, doesn't mean you can't be sexual. Now is a great time to expand your sexual repertoire. In fact, there's lots of ways to get your freak on. Here's a few ideas:
- ~Masturbate! To quote our faves at NYC Health, "You are your safest sexual partner." Get down with your fave human...you! Do some self exploration and figure out what feels good. Here's Teen Vogue masturbating guide for people with penises and people with vulvas.
- ~There's no better time to get into sexting. It's not for everyone, but if it's for you, it's a super safe way to be sexually active. Just remember, part of safety is consent, so make sure you're checking in with your partner and you're sure that they want to be sexting too. We have a great guide from our first ever #hotgoss episode about sexting here. Remember: now, more than ever, it's especially important to keep private sexts private. And if you're looking for ways to spice up your sexting game, check out this guide.
- ~Mastur....date! Get busy, by yourself...together! Some may find it sexy to watch a partner please themselves, so turn on that webcam and get at it. Phone sex or cybersex are definitely great options rights now too. (With a partner who enthusiastically consents!) Not to mention, there are sex toys that work via wireless and allow you to be in entirely different places to use them.
- We do not recommend being in the same room with someone you have concerns about transmission with, but if you are, remember to try and stay the recommended 6 ft apart and wash hands/surfaces.
- ~Ignite your imagination. Whether you're limiting screen time or conserving your budget, maybe it's time to get old-school and analog. Write a steamy letter. Email some sexy erotica. Paint a nude. Mail it. Paint a nude. Text a picture of it. Get creative! If you come up with any wild and sexy ideas, let us know!
- ~Find some porn you actually like. Learn more about Porn Literacy and how porn is made, and then, if it's an option that's available for you, share with a partner! We love CrashPad, but you can also check out this list of ethically made porn here and here. Plus, Google Chrome has an extension where you can share browsers and have a watch party, so you can watch some porn...together! Also, apparently there's some pretty good smut on Netflix. And that's pretty chill. 😉
- ~Go full on Love is Blind. Boy, we couldn’t have picked a better time to have binge watched that Netflix gem. So, take some advice from the pods and really talk to each other. Get vulnerable. Social distance does not mean you can’t build connection! Call and text each other, write letters and emails, ask big questions, laugh together, make art. Create emotional space with the time and distance that you have, it could make your experience when you do get together even more special. We love this tip from Teen Vogue: "There’s something to be said for a digital connection that fosters an air of anticipation while still maintaining the moral high ground on behalf of the elders in your lives...You might as well invest a little screen time into the fledgling relationship. Another silver lining to being cautious during this scary time, besides protecting the people you love: It’ll be a great courtship story to tell people later." Aw. <3
Q: I am feeling really anxious and queasy. Sex is the *last* thing on my mind right now, what's wrong with me?
A: You're anxious, and that's okay. This is an unprecedented and stressful time, we all react to stress differently. Sex is going to be high on some people’s priority list right now and low on other's. While there's research that orgasms can relieve tension and anxiety, that's only the case if you want to be having an orgasm at all. It is absolutely okay to not be in the mood.
This is a good time to be gentle with yourself and others. The psychological impacts of this pandemic may be steep for many of us, and particularly difficult for trauma survivors. If sex, masturbation, and sexuality are part of your self care, that is valid. If they are not, that is absolutely valid too.
Be sure you're listening to your partner when negotiating intimacy. Consent is vital always, and it is particularly important to be extra concerned, careful, and communicative when negotiating sexual activity when emotions and pressure is heightened. Carve out time to talk about how you and your partner are doing, and be sure you're communicating your needs to each other and respecting boundaries. It's okay to slow down, it's okay to no be sure, it's okay to hold off until you feel better.
Ask yourself, “What do I really need right now: human connection, stress relief, sex, not sex...?" If a partner does not want to have sex, it is never okay to pressure them, and it is especially important not to do so now. Whatever your need or want is, be sure you're figuring out how to express and meet those safely. We can get through this but need to listen to ourselves, each other, and our trained medical professionals.
Q: How do I talk to a partner/friend/roommate/parent/someone I love about social distancing without coming across as controlling?
A: Great question. We've all seen the memes of millennials yelling at their parents to stay inside (with little success). One of the most difficult parts about this time is everyone is reacting to being told what to do very differently, and we all have our hackles up in different ways about the virus. We encourage doing everything you can to make sure your network is social distancing effectively.
Use I statements and explain to your partners, friends, or family why it feels important to you for them to take COVID-19 seriously and to be honest about their isolation practices. For example, instead of text yelling at your mom to stay inside because she's over 65, try explaining that you love her and want to see her at the end of the pandemic, and you would feel safer if she let her adult children do the grocery shopping. Have empathy for why your boyfriend may be resistant to social distancing, after having his last semester in college cut short.
Try to engage in dialogue with loved ones, if possible. That doesn't mean you have to give up on your boundaries, morals, and opinions, it just means a conversation may be a more effective tool. This might even be a time to get together and do research about the pandemic and all get on the same page with how to stay safe and healthy.
Q: It is so hard being single right now. What do I do?
A: We get it. This is especially tough time to not be in a relationship, especially if you are isolating alone. We don't think it's healthy to gloss over these difficulties, but we do want to say you are not alone in feeling isolated at the moment.
Remember: romantic relationships are not (and shouldn't) be the only relationships in your life. Friends, co-workers, neighbors, families, and even strangers on the internet can add to our lives in important and meaningful ways. Use this as a time to connect or reconnect and continue to build supportive relationships, whether you have a boo or not.
Whether or not you are in a committed relationship--you can still express yourself sexually. Fill your camera roll with steamy selfies (for yourself or others), get into a romance novel, flirt with a new cutie from the safe distance of a Tinder message.
Find ways that affirm your wholeness. Just because you don't have a partner at this time doesn't mean you are not worthy of being celebrated and cared for. There's no shame in reaching out and asking for that validation.
Hope we could help answer some of those burning questions you had about sex and dating right now. At the end of the day, practice social distancing, keep your eye on your local CDC guidelines, and make smart choices that not only protect yourself but your community. To quote Rick Woziuk in Slate, "Sex, in the short term, is not a need right now." Health and safety is a need right now, social connection is a need right now. You can put hook-ups on hold, but you can't put you and your community's mental and physical health on hold. Be safe, have fun, get consent, and for now, we'll add...#StayHome.
Speak About It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with high schools and colleges to educate, entertain, and empower students to create positive change within their communities, advocate for and practice healthy relationship habits, and prevent sexual violence.
Copyright 2016 Speak About It, Inc. Website by Alexandra Valleau