Let’s face it, 2020 hit hard. In a recent study, 45% of responders reported that COVID had an impact on sexual functioning. In a time when people struggle to keep jobs, go to the grocery store, or even watch a new movie, it is no surprise sexual expression and connection is in a place of turmoil for many of us. Yet at the same time, science has shown us connection and sex are two hugely important ways of countering depression! Using what we know about sexuality, there are clear ways to improve sexual response in a pandemic Here are three ways of increasing intimacy when six feet apart from the world.
Solo Sex Increases Intimacy
Whether you have a partner or not, masturbation can be crucial in increasing intimacy. Masturbation releases dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin, which all work together to make us feel good and happy! This combination of hormones is crucial at combating both depressive and anxiety symptoms and can help shift your mood.
Masturbation also improves self-esteem by practicing self-love and appreciating your body, as well as helping you fall asleep as the dopamine works to decrease cortisol and make us feel relaxed. A study released in 20091 by the Journal of Sexual Medicine found links between increased vibrator use and higher sex drive and wellness.
Not only can masturbation help mentally, but physically as well. Endorphins are well known for decrease pain and tension in our body, which could come in handy after sitting in a chair for eight hours in front of a screen! Your body also releases prolactin, which can help give a natural boost to your immune system. Not only is COVID going around, but it’s also flu and allergy season as well! Any extra boost to your body could be a good one!
Masturbating can help you figure out what is exciting and hot for you—and that will carry on way longer than COVID!
Role play Increases Intimacy
A study2 completed to see the effects of COVID on relationships found that 31% of couples reported a decrease in relationship satisfaction while under lockdown together. It makes sense that living in the same space as someone 24/7 can highlight all of the nuances and annoyances that we may not have noticed or could have easily ignored before.
We may not want to have sex with the person that is always leaving dirty dishes in the sink, but also may not be able to have sex with anyone else! That’s where role play saves the day. Role play can help grow relationships with our partner and also breathe fresh air in an otherwise stifling environment.
Role playing is more than just wearing a costume, it can be exploring a new identity and give us space to be someone other than ourselves for a little while. Give your character a backstory even! Dress up in an outfit, try out an accent, try out a wig! Role playing really allows your imagination to take root, which can be a wonderful break from the real world.
The most important part of role playing is talking it out. What are the boundaries? Would a safe word be needed just in case? Is there a certain way you would like this fantasy to play out? Being able to connect verbally with our partner is paramount in continuing a healthy relationship. While it may be looking on the surface like you’re just talking about sex, you are also creating a bonding experience that will help your brain re-connect to your partner.
Use Distanced Partners to Increase Intimacy
Until COVID dissipates it is definitely not a great idea to be engaging in sex with new partners, but that doesn’t mean meeting new people is totally off limits. If you do not have an intimate partner right now, meeting someone online or through a shared experience group (like a book club that meets online) can help start laying the groundwork at feeling connection and intimacy. Knowing there are others in the world that relate to our experiences and thoughts is one of the most beautiful parts of humanity and can provide such deep connection.
Similarly to masturbation and role playing, talking about fantasies with a partner online can be a jumpstart to sexual fulfillment. We know now that sexual desire first comes with sexual motivation, which might be triggered by fantasies or experiencing something ‘new’. Exploring phone or skype sex can be really hot and keep sex on the table for couples who are not able to quarantine together! Sharing photos, playing sexual games, or using other visual stimuli can increase sexual imagination and increase the excitement we feel both toward our partners and toward ourselves!
Although COVID3 is creating distance, it is definitely possible to practice healthy practices and enrich our sexuality at the same time. The important thing is to be open with yourself and your partners and to explore the creativity that quarantine creates!
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(1) Herbenick D, et al. (2009). Prevalence and characteristics of vibrator use by women in the United States: Results from a nationally representative study. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01318.x
(2) Arafat S, Alradie-Mohamed A, Kar SK, Sharma P, Kabir R. Does COVID-19 pandemic affect sexual behaviour? A cross-sectional, cross-national online survey. Psychiatry Research. 2020;289:113050. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113050.
(3) Guan W.J., Ni Z.Y., Hu Y. China medical treatment Expert group for Covid-19. Clinical characteristics of coronavirus disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med. 2020;382:1708–1720.