Disclaimer: Stress and illness can annihilate a person’s libido. If you or your lovers aren’t interested in sex — listen and take a break. Physical touch can help relieve stress and lift our emotional health AND you don’t have to be turned on and doing it all the time. I promote masturbation and sex because that’s what I do. It does not have to be what you do. Stay safe. Stay home. Take care of yourself.
Now more than ever folks need to be having sex. Lots and lots of protected, consensual sex. Sex and physical touch light up our brains and dump all sorts of delicious chemicals into our bodies. These chemicals lift our mood, give us energy, dilute stress chemicals, and feed our bodies.
“But, Erin, I’m not allowed to touch people right now!”
YOU CAN TOUCH YOURSELF.
If you do not have lovers staying at home with you, connect with your lovers online, over the phone, or through snail mail.
In my last column, I briefly touched on ways to connect without physically connecting. I had several requests for more detailed how-to’s on this topic. There are soooooo many tools for this! First, we will focus on general rules and ethical behaviors before getting technical.
Rules of engagementAsk for consent before initiating sexual behaviors.
Do not send unsolicited nude photos
Do not answer your video call naked
Do not record audio or video without permission
Create a sex planWhat are you both willing to do?
What are you not willing to do?
When and where?
What medium are you using? Video, text/chat, email, snail mail?
What do you want to get out of the experience?
How are you going to take care of yourself and/or your lovers after?
Will you both delete any sext messages?
RespectListen to yourself
Listen to your lovers
Anyone can stop at anytime
Privacy and SecurityPay attention to the security features of the online tool you are using
Does it have encryption?
Who has access to the account? Your employer?
This is a plan all parties involved need to create and agree to before engaging in sexual activities. It will help to shake out any concerns and logistics.
Online sexYou’ve agreed to lick each other virtually, awesome! What medium do you use — video conference, texting/chat or email? What app or software do you use?
Tools to connectVideo conferencing options
Google hangouts/Google Duo
Texting: If you have a cell phone, most of them come with some sort of messaging or chat feature. You can also DM (direct message) from a computer via social media apps like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, etc, etc, etc.
Email: The Internet’s snail mail.
As you can see, there are many platforms to connect with people online (there are probably more that I don’t even know about) and I encourage you to be discerning in which method you use to get it on, online. The only application that I know which uses encryption from end to end is *Signal.
Signal is free. Free. Free. Free. In order for the encryption to work you’ll both need the app. There are desktop and mobile versions.
How to have sex onlineIt’s not so different from sex in-person. The hang-ups come from the embarrassment/shame associated with masturbation, voyeurism, and exhibitionism. Society has been preaching that there are only a few accepted ways to engage in sex and these are not them (eye roll). It is important to remember that the shame one might feel in touching their own body comes not from some terrible thing, but rather a set of oppressive and intentionally controlling beliefs.
Touching yourself for pleasure is a beautiful gift, a celebration of your body, and the majority of humans do it. In these pandemic times, the difference is touching yourself in front of another person on camera. This isn’t new. People, lots of people, already have phone sex, video call sex, sext each other, send nude photos, and so on. For the folks it is new for, it’s totally understandable that this feels like a performance rather than a connection. Following the Rules of Engagement listed above can help clear up any fears you may have about what will happen, logistically and emotionally.
If you are more comfortable with sex online, be patient and kind with any lovers that are hesitant or struggling with physical distancing. Try asking clarifying questions about what makes this hard for them. Don’t forget foreplay, and you will need to up your verbal foreplay game.
Some logistical tips for when everyone has said, “Yes!”:
If you are using your phone as your camera source, prop it up somewhere so you don’t have to stop touching yourself to move it.
Try several locations — bed, couch, table, and so on — you want to be comfortable and you need a spot for your tech.
Test your lighting. Yes, you can have candles, but they probably won’t provide enough light for your lovers to see you. So you’ll need to play with lighting — turn on overheads or bring in an extra lamp. Lights should be in front or to the sides of you because any lights behind leave you in shadow.
Double check that your audio and camera works with the application you are using before the call.
Dress for the occasion. Are you wearing clothing that makes you feel good, confident, sexy? If this includes your sweat pants, rock on. If you haven’t showered and dressed in “button pants” in three days, take some time to care for yourself.
Set the mood. Put on some Marvin Gaye or whatever the kids listen to these days and groove.
When the video call starts, do and say what feels real and honest in the moment. If you missed seeing your lovers, tell them. If this is a one night stand, do the typical and awkward “Hi, how are you” and then dive in. I cannot speak for you so this part you’ll have to figure out for yourself. Remember to have fun, don’t worry about the little details, and enjoy yourself!
The written wordNot everyone has access to computers or consistent Internet connections. Texting or email use a lot less data than a video call and are great alternatives for connecting. When writing to someone there is time to refine what you are saying. This allows for the opportunity to explore how many ways you can describe what you want to do to your lovers. Be mindful of autocorrect, e.g. fuck = duck. Ducking someone is weird.
I am a romantic under my feminist armor and lament the decline of love letters. My life partner wooed me with hand written love letters in the beginning of our relationship. I still have them.
If there was ever a time to explore writing down your expressions of sex, flirting, love, pleasure, teasing, fucking — it is now. Email your lovers. Send a letter via post. Whatever medium works for you. You can use these letters as foreplay for future video calls or when we no longer have to engage in physical distancing.
An exampleDear Lover,
When I think of you during this time we are apart, I am reminded of the sensation of your body when it is close to mine. The smell of you. Your warmth. The way we move when we touch. I want nothing more than to kiss and nibble your lips. To tangle our tongues as you grab my ass and pull me close. Etc, etc, etc.
Use your creative brain and say all the honest things you’ve always wanted to say. There is no time like the present.
Erin Brandt (she/her/hers) has been a sexologist for 15 years. When she’s not spreading sexual knowledge, Erin can be found learning from her child, hiking with her partner, cuddling with her pitbull, knitting with her cat, dancing with friends, and searching for the nearest hammock and ocean breeze. Want more? Visit www.positivesexed.com