Polyamory and COVID-19: Staying Connected

Today, I want to discuss polyamory and COVID-19 and staying connected. A lot of this advice can be applied to anyone who’s trying to stay connected with people they’re socially isolated from, including friends, although some of it does, of course, deal with staying connected in a sexual sense. 

I’m focusing specifically on polyamorous relationships, because people in non-traditional relationships often have a harder time than those in more traditional relationships. Usually, they have a smaller support network; they can’t talk to just anyone about their relationship and their relationship struggles. My heart has a special place for people who are struggling in polyamorous relationships, socially-distanced from one or more partners, and trying to figure out ways to stay connected. 

Today, I’m going to be sharing some practical tips for how you might stay connected with a partner that you’ve decided to be socially distanced from in order to protect them, yourself, or someone in either of your circles. 

There are plenty of technological options for staying in touch. Videochatting may feel like a lesser substitute for in-person interaction, but if you remember that, right now, in-person interaction would probably mean staying six feet apart and/or facing away from one another, and you certainly wouldn’t be able to snuggle, you can see that videochatting actually provides a real opportunity for face-to-face, eye-to-eye connection. Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype are all options, as are apps like Marco Polo which you can use to send little videos back and forth, which is nice if you might want to watch it over and over again. There’s also some interesting technology for distance-connected sex–for instance, there’s phone app you can use to control a sex toy that your partner has (for one, google wevibe), and multiple other sex technology you might be interseted in investigating. 

I think texting or sexting is a really great way to stay in touch. One thing I recommend is developing a way of doing an activity simultaneously, without actually being online together while you do it. For instance, maybe you work out simultaneously in your separate spaces. You can text between activities, send each other pictures, and then after the fact you can sit down together on Zoom and drink your smoothie (or whatever) and chat. That kind of arrangement can help you feel really emotionally connected, in a pretty intimate way, without having to be in the same space together. 

If you want to have a sexual interaction, you can use the same concept: you could have a self-pleasure interaction separately and not online, but where you’re relating to each other about it, and you know that your partner is doing the same thing at the same time. It’s possible to create a very intimate experience in this way.

If you have a crowded house, and are having trouble getting a little privacy to talk, there are a few ways to get around that. You might want to go for a walk, and have your private phone conversation while one or both of you are walking. You can have a more intimate conversation that way than you could if you were worried about someone overhearing from the other side of the door. Obviously, if there are other people around you outdoors you can’t have a sexual conversation, but you can have emotional intimacy and privacy from household members. 

Alternatively, you can also use white noise on the outside of a closed door, or play some music outside the door, to create a sense of privacy and help you feel a little more relaxed and comfortable chatting with your socially-distanced partner.

When it comes to connecting over technology, a lot of people are concerned about privacy, especially if they’re considering connecting sexually over technology. One way to protect your privacy is to come up with euphemisms to use when sexting with your partners. 

But, of course, any form of technological communication comes with security risks, so that’s just a factor you have to take into account. As you’re weighing the risk of some kind of breach of privacy, be sure to also consider the mental health benefits of that connection. For many people, it comes out clearly that the mental health benefit is worth the tech risk. However, if you have a lot to lose if there is a breach, use euphemisms, don’t send intimate pictures, and use secure platforms.

I hope that you’re getting creative about ways that you can connect and feel connected, and I’m sure you can come up with some great ideas that I haven’t thought of. Stay tuned for my next installment, in which I’m going to be talking about staying sane when you may be getting a little too much connection with the people in your home.

Self-Pleasure That’s Really About Pleasure

Self-pleasure is a particularly relevant topic right now, as COVID-19 reshapes the way we conduct our lives, including our intimate lives. Many of us are quarantined, sheltering in place, or socially-isolated, and most of us are avoiding unnecessary contact with others, even if we’re still going to a physical workplace. Some are separated from partners, others are not. Either way, this moment in history is an opportunity to explore your own sense of what is erotic. I’ve gotten some questions about this topic, so today, I’m going to focus on self-pleasure and how to build a stronger erotic connection with yourself. 

In our culture, we tend to assume that desire comes from outside ourselves: we see a sexy person walk by, and we get turned on. But the truth is that desire comes from within: when that sexy person walks by, it leads to a thought, and that thought comes from within you. It’s your interpretation of any given stumulus that makes it erotic, and results in you feeling turned on. It’s not a “bolt from the blue;” it comes from your own erotic self. 

Why is this important? This is the point I want to make: because sexual desire is essentially seated with you, it is something that you can nurture. This is where building a positive relationship with your erotic self starts. Could you build the ability, within yourself, to turn yourself on because you want to be turned on? To feel sexy because you want to feel sexy? To create a sexual vibe within yourself, because you want to experience that? 

In our culture, self-pleasure is called masturbation, and it’s seen as a sin, or as somehow harmful. We’re subjected to tons of propaganda about the dangers of self-pleasure, social, religious, and otherwise. I want to reframe that: self-pleasure is simply that, pleasure you create for yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you have one partner or multiple, whether you’re in the same home or in different homes, or whether you’re sheltering in place separately or together. Everyone has access to their own feelings of desire and arousal within themselves, and this is a great opportunity to explore that.

When we talk about masturbation, the implication seems to be that it’s a quick and somewhat shameful thing you do in secret. Maybe you do it for a purpose: 

  • to manage anxiety
  • because you’re bored and it gives you something to do
  • as a study break or a work break
  • to relieve your menstrual cramps
  • to help you go to sleep
  • to relieve intense feelings of desire

Now, all of those are great reasons for self-pleasure, but it seems to be that the “pleasure” part is strangely absent. If this is a sneaky, shameful thing we do as quickly as possible, just to get it over with, I think we are selling ourselves short. 

What if you really treated self-pleasure as a form of pleasure? What would make it luxurious and lovely? Think about it for a minute. 

  • Would you light candles? 
  • Would you take your time? 
  • Would you tease a little? 
  • Would you bring in some other things that are sexy to you? Maybe some props or a sexy story? 
  • Maybe a sexy phone call with your beloved? 
  • Would you explore your body more broadly?

Whatever you would choose to bring in to make your self-love deeply pleasurable and erotic is wonderful; it’s all about discovering your inner eroticism and following where it leads. 

If you missed last week’s blog, check it out here; it’s all about self-pleasure strategies partners can use to stay connected while they’re self-isolating. I’m going to be vlogging and writing a lot more in the coming weeks about the impact of COVID-19 on sex, intimacy, and relationships, so stay tuned!

How Self-Pleasure Can Help Partners Stay Close in the face of COVID-19

Last week, I blogged about how COVID-19 has impacted people’s romantic and sexual lives. Today, I’m following up by offering some practical advice for how people can maintain a fulfilling intimate connection and a joyful sex life, even when they’re socially distanced from their partners. I’m going to be focusing on self-pleasure, because it’s one of the most useful skills you can have for maintaining a satisfying erotic life. 

Contrary to popular belief, self-pleasure can be immensely useful for strengthening your sexual connection with your partner. This is more true than ever right now, when many people are socially distanced from their partners, either because they’re living in separate households or because they’re trying to avoid sharing germs within the same household. It can be very disappointing and frustrating to be unable to physically connect with your partner in person. Right now, if you are socially distanced from your partner, you can’t have partnered sex, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share erotic experiences, or experience intimacy and closeness. That’s where self-pleasure comes in. 

If you have clients who are socially distanced from their partners, now might be a good time for you to get comfortable discussing the concept of self-pleasure with your clients. They may need your help to think creatively about the possibilities for connection that are still open to them, even in this time of social distancing. They will also need your encouragement: it’s hard, but they can get through this. It’s going to be okay. In fact, I think there are some ways that partners can actually take advantage of this situation to build skills that will help them to create a stronger sexual connection now, and in the future. 

In our culture, we tend to assume that sexual touch should be from one person to another person. I don’t agree with that idea. In my experience, one of the most powerful sexual skills you can possibly have is the ability to touch yourself for pleasure when your partner is with you, and for you to find it erotic to watch your partner do the same. 

That’s because, over the course of their life, there are almost certainly going to be situations where partnered sex is off the table. We’re living through a very dramatic example of that principle right now, but this will probably not be the last time that your clients find themselves in a situation where their typical ways of having sex aren’t working for them. 

When that happens, you don’t want them to have to shut the door to intimacy entirely. Self-pleasure is an incredibly useful, and versatile, skill. Being able to experience pleasure in tandem with your partner, without worrying about giving them an orgasm, or about triggering sex pain, or about having an orgasm too quickly or too slowly, can really reduce anxiety, and therefore free up more psychic energy for pleasure and connection. It can allow partners to have a joyful, connected sexual experience, when otherwise they may have had a stressful, disappointing experience, or given up on having sex entirely. 

The key to having great sex over a lifetime is flexibility. If you want to maintain a fulfilling sexual connection over the many changing circumstances of a lifespan, you’ll need to be able to respond creatively to new challenges. Now is a perfect moment to practice that skill. Let’s imagine that you’re on some kind of videoconference platform with your partner, and you’re having an intimate interlude. You’re going to have to touch yourself if you want there to be genital touch, because your partner is far away, on the other side of a screen. This is the same for phone sex and sexting. Of course, if you just want fun, juicy flirtation, you can totally do that without touching your genitals. But if what you want is genital touch, I’m here to remind you that you can do that. Just put your hand on your genitals, and enjoy the vibe you can build with your partner when they’re doing the same. 

This as an opportunity to for your clients to build their repertoire of ways to experience erotic connection with one another. If they can respond to this moment with creativity and flexibility, it will certainly pay off in their relationship down the road.