This is a harrowing time, and we all respond differently. Some of us dive into projects with energy and purpose. Others feel immobile, caged, and depressed. Likewise, our sexual feelings vary. “Anxiety can undermine desire,” explains sex therapist and author Marty Klein, Ph.D. “While some people eat too much when anxious, others lose their appetite. It’s the same with sex—when anxious, some people want more, but others just lose their appetite for it.”
As sex advice columnist and Savage Lovecast podcaster Dan Savage says, “Some people react to stress by getting horny. Other people’s libidos tank.” Give yourself permission to feel however you’re feeling. No shame if you’re especially horny. No shame if you want to go on sexual hiatus for now.
Tips for feeling sexy during isolation
I’m not trying to talk you into having more sex if you don’t want it. But if you usually enjoy your sexuality, and you wish you were in the mood, read this explanation of responsive desire. Be open to the benefits of bringing sexual pleasure back into your life, partnered or solo. Sex — meaning sexual stimulation and orgasm, no partner required — can make you feel better. It’s a natural anti-depressant and stress reliever and floods the brain with mood enhancing chemicals.
Here are some ways you can recapture your enjoyment of sex, if that’s what you want:
- Just touch. Maybe your partner’s touch or your self-touch will relax you. Maybe it will bring you to orgasm. Maybe both.
- Try a new sex toy. Order a new pleasure product, maybe a kind you’ve never used, maybe an updated version of one you’ve enjoyed.
- Try sex toys in new ways. Just because you bought a sex toy for a vulva, for example, doesn’t mean that it can’t be used on a penis, nipples, or other erogenous zones.
- Explore sex without goals. Decide you’ll receive pleasure, whether or not it leads to orgasm. If you’re partnered, give pleasure without goals.
- Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Ask yourself, “Does this feel good?” If so, keep going. If not, try something else or leave sexual pleasuring for another day.
Does it work to schedule sex?
I think planning for sex is always a good idea. Instead of waiting for sex to be spontaneous, make a sex date with yourself or your partner.
If you’re living with your partner, plan to spend a few hours apart before your date, either in another room, or doing separate activities if you don’t have another room, or taking walks separately if you can go outside. We’re not meant to be together every moment, and it’s hard to feel passion if you’re craving time apart.
Before sex, get some exercise, which increases blood flow throughout your body, including to the genitals. Then relax with a shower, followed by whatever erotic stimulation gets you feeling sexy. For easier arousal, do not eat right before sex — save your meal for afterward.
What about long distance sex?
If you’re isolating away from your partner, try new ways to connect sexually: phone sex, video chat with dirty talk, fantasy exchange, masturbation sharing. If this is new to you, make a plan with your partner. Agree that if you don’t like what’s happening, you’ll change it up. Since we have different sexual tastes and turn-ons, you may find it easier to fill your partner’s fantasy during one distance date and, during a separate date, fill yours.
But be careful about what you put online for posterity, warns Susan Jarvis, The Maven from www.thespicyboudoir.com in Australia: “It’s bad advice for people who are dating or in new relationships to participate in sexting and cybersex. There can be social problems down the track if you break up. What if you have sent naked pictures of yourself to that person, what will they do after you break up?” Her suggestion? “Use your imagination and have good old phone sex like we used to before the Internet!”
If you’re new to phone sex, Kinkly offers a helpful article, 11 Expert Tips for Phone Sex Beginners. However, I disagree with point #1 that warns, “No matter how silly you feel or what ridiculous or outrageous thing your partner says, you may never, ever laugh.” Laughter is fun. Laughter is sexy. Laughter is a tension reliever. Laugh all you want. Just make sure you’re laughing with — not at — your partner!
How do I talk to my partner about my sexual needs or lack of interest?
Susan Jarvis offers this advice:
- Pick the right time when your partner is rested and can give you their full attention.
- Avoid the bedroom for heart-to-heart discussions to preserve the energy of that space for your passion, sensuality and lovemaking.
- Touch and make eye contact with your partner while you say something like, “I need to share with you how I’m feeling about…” By doing this, you’re conveying that you trust them to listen to what you have to say.
Sex therapist Cyndi Darnell recommends a direct and loving approach with simple statements: “I’m feeling X. It’s impacting Y. I want you to know Z. I love you.”
Do I need to change how I feel about sex now?
The world is upside down, and we’re all bumbling alone and together. Just as no one should tell you whether you should color your hair or “act your age” (whatever that means), no one should shame you for feeling sexy or not wanting sex right now. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel or what you should want.
“Just remember that we all cope in different ways,” says sex researcher and author Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D. “Whether you’re having more, less, or the same amount of sexual interest right now, it’s all good. You do you.”
How can I learn more?
“Why the Lockdown Is Turning Some People On, But Others Off” by Justin J Lehmiller, Ph.D.
“Sex and the Coronavirus” by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
“Coronavirus and Couples” by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
“How to Have Sex in an Epidemic” by Carol Queen, Ph.D
Joan Price calls herself an advocate for ageless sexuality. She is the author of four books about sex and aging, including the award-winning Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and her latest: Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality After Losing Your Beloved. Her award-winning blog has been offering senior sex news, views, and sex toy reviews since 2005. At age 76, Joan continues to talk out loud about senior sex—partnered or solo. She is the co-creator of “jessica drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex: Senior Sex.” Find Joan at https://joanprice.com.