Intimacy, Tech & Leisure Pleasure During COVID19 [My Spicy Convo with a Human Sexuality Expert]

Image of couple intimately smiling at each other
Photo by Hilan Oliveira

Growing up with a staunch presbyterian mother, you best believe the subject of sexuality was a strict no, no! It was taboo to speak of sex…hell I thought, even to think it! As far as my mom was concerned (as I extrapolated as an adult since we did not discuss it), the sole purpose of sex was for married people and for women to reproduce children for their husbands and to carry on the family name.

It’s no surprise that I (and many women who had the same conservative upbringing) knew so little about intimacy or sensuality. We had to learn everything about it through our own curiosity and experiences, sometimes making costly mistakes along the way.

The impact of this traditional approach to sexuality forced many women to think of it from a male perspective as opposed to through their own lens. Sexuality meant “for the pleasure of men.” There was no priority placed on their own pleasure.

Thank goodness for feminism, the ubiquity of human sexuality information, and a natural curiosity to learn more about ourselves, women, including myself have shifted their priority to seeking pleasure for themselves, not just for their partners.

It is through this renewed women-focused perspective on intimacy and sensuality that my friend Ana and I decided to host a Facebook Live discussion for our gapmuseWomen Facebook Group. Our conversation was centered around the role of technology in intimacy and leisure pleasure during COVID19.

Join our Facebook Group to watch our Facebook Live video

Aside from being my dear friend, Ana is also currently a Doctoral Candidate in Human Sexuality at the California Institute of Integral Studies. In addition, she’s a public health expert on aging, disabilities, and youth issues.

I was extremely excited to have her share useful insights with the women of our Facebook community. During our Live session, we set out to answer two key questions:

  1. How do you capitalize on technology to pursue pleasure, even from a distance?
  2. How can you socially distance and be intimate at the same time?

Here are the key takeaways from what turned out to be our spiciest conversation yet. (Caution, you may blush a few times!)

  1. How do you capitalize on technology to pursue pleasure, even from a distance?

Leisure pleasure is the pursuit of sex for pleasure as opposed to only for reproductive purposes. You’re doing it because you want to for the purpose of connecting with someone or with yourself. It’s especially important for women because we have been conditioned to think of sex for traditional reasons – reproductive, obligatory (because my husband or my partner wants it.)

Before the pandemic happened, it was much easier to pursue leisure pleasure, especially for the so-called hookup culture for those who are single. It was readily available through apps for both short and long-term relationships.

That all changed with the COVID19, which made it harder to pursue intimacy. Since the virus is transmitted through in-person contact, we have to worry about being close to someone and be more careful. The agony and stress that comes with contracting the virus have put a damper on our mood and everything about our sexuality.

There has been a decline in sexual activity.

According to an Indiana University 2020 study done by Justin Lehmiller, overall, there has been a decline in sexual activity, meaning that people are having less sex either solo or with partners. It’s important to take these research results with a bit of caution because the sample size was relatively small (1500 participants), and included mostly Caucasians and those in partnered relationships.

People are engaging in less sex possibly because they’re at home all the time. They are not going out and doing the things that they normally do – go out to dinner, dates, picnics, lunch – or whatever else they do to be stimulated. Let’s be honest, there is nothing sexy about getting up in the morning, grabbing your coffee, and jumping onto your first Zoom call meeting, sometimes still in your jammies!

There is some good news, though! The research found that the diversity of sex and sexual activity has increased. Basically, people are having less but more exciting sex, meaning that it’s become more about the quality, not the quantity.

Those in partnered relationships have introduced additions to their sexual repertoire. Interestingly, the number one thing added to the repertoire is…wait for it…the position! No need for fanciness, just change or add a new position! (Who’d have thank it!)

Basically, people are having less but more exciting sex.

According to yet another study by Justin Lehmiller, this time with a much more robust sampling (20,000 participants from diverse backgrounds, gender, and race), people are also sharing fantasies with each other.

The most popular pursued fantasy is group sex. But how you is that possible you might ask with no in-person contact? They watch adult entertainment together, such as erotica. It feels safe because it is virtual – not physically engaged.

Traditionally, adult entertainment, commonly referred to as porn has been done from the male perspective. Today, there is more adult entertainment by women. Women have opened up their own production companies that are producing entertainment that is more reflective of women and how we desire. There are even more adult entertainment film businesses, which are impacting messaging on women’s sensuality.

This is important because contrary to popular belief, despite being socialized in different ways; men are socialized to seek pleasure while women are loved-centered, we’re equal in our desiring and how we pursue desire. For the most part, we want sex too!

Join our Facebook Group to watch our Facebook Live video

Women desire visual stimulation and are more complex when it comes to arousal. The same applies to orgasm, which is something women don’t talk about or even know. Women are more fluid than men when it comes to sexuality. Research has found that women, especially as they get older can switch in terms of sexual orientation and move towards attraction to other women.

Since women are visual, they can get aroused through auditory and reading mechanisms. Our desire and arousal is complex. Thankfully, there is female erotica on audible now available to stimulate desire.

In addition to audible erotica, technology has filled a void, especially for people who are single. They are mainly sexting; i.e., sending nude photos of themselves. This could be unsettling for some (including yours truly) since there is the risk of sabotage. According to Ana, there needs to be a certain level of trust between you and the individual. You have to be careful and use your best judgment on whether it’s the right thing for you to do.

People do get stimulated by reading something sensual so you can opt to write something sensual instead. If you must send nude photos, you can avoid your face. However, with editing tools like Photoshop, you’re still not safe because anyone could superimpose your face to the photo. The best way forward is to proceed with caution and to only do it if you’re 100% comfortable.

According to research conducted by Match, young single people are also opting for roommate sex; i.e., having sex with a non-romantic partner (46% of Gen Z and 33% of Millenials.) Sexologists commonly refer to this practice as situation sexual behavior.

2. How can you socially distance and be intimate at the same time?

Since the coronavirus pandemic, sex toy sales have skyrocketed in some cases up to a 600% rise in sales! People are buying all kinds of toys.

Teledildonics aka “smart dildos” (whaat! my reaction exactly!) are very hi-tech, interactive, internet-based, and blue-tooth enabled sex toys for women, men, and couples. They are currently developed by Kiroo, an Amsterdam based company. Their VR-like products start from $300, which is cost-prohibitive but with time and wider adoption, prices may come down.

Other fantasies include the use of sex toys with yourself or with each other. Another alternative is opening sex toys in front of your partner, which creates opportunity for discussion and adds an element of excitement and diversity to your sexual relationship.

“Situation sexual behavior is sexual behavior that one expresses in situations or circumstances in which they are unable to express their normal, preferred patterns of sexuality. ”

Dr. Helen FISHER

If you’re single, it’s always nice to try something new and if you have a partner at a distance, you can do it over FacetTme or any other video chatting format. Be open to allowing for watching each other using technology from a distance.

There are even smart toys that can talk to you. Basically, you can turn the toy on with a USB or Bluetooth or your partner can turn it on from a distance and stimulate you from afar. These toys are utilizing the same concept of turning on your alarm system from a distance.

Whether it’s seeking sexual stimulation from adult entertainment, audible, erotica, or smart sex toys, it’s evident that the possibilities for women to pursue sexual pleasure during COVID19 and beyond are endless.

Women have long accepted the status quo of male-centered pleasure. It is time to own our desire for pleasure and to find the tools, tips, and tricks that will help us navigate our sex lives from a woman-centered approach during this pandemic and beyond.

Click here for the list of resources that Ana compiled to help us pursue the pleasure we deserve. It includes the books and links to the articles referenced in this blog post as well as the names of the most popular adult entertainment sites for women.

Join our Facebook Group to watch our Facebook Live video

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