With national health guidelines suggesting we avoid social spaces amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a lot of people are wondering how they can get their social — and intimate — needs met while balancing their concerns about our personal and community health. The good news is that we can still develop and maintain our connections to people, even if we're scaling back our social lives.
Apps have been a primary way to maintain relationships, and they've never been more relevant than right now. We're used to using social networking apps to keep up with each other's lives, and dating-focussed apps, like #open, can be an amazing way to make sure that we're still nurturing our intimate needs as well!
Before you say, "Shouldn't your mind be on things other than dating or sex?", let's stop for a moment. Think about the things that we do to feel happy, safe, and connected. For most of us, intimacy — whether sexual, sensual, emotional, or physical — is a critical part of that. And many of us enjoy destressing with a flirty date, some hot sex, or some skin-to-skin snuggling. Intimacy is part of health, and it deserves to be discussed — and maintained as a priority — during times of heightened stress.
Some tips to keep in mind:
- Learn everything you can about COVID-19's symptoms and how to prevent it. First and foremost, evaluate your own risk levels. Many sex positive, kinky, and consensually nonmonogamous folks have done this for years to reduce their risks for STI transmission, and it's important for all of us to be smart about levels of exposure. While we should absolutely be self-isolating for as long as it's recommended, people are still going to meet up if they really want to. Two people who live alone and are at low risk for severe complications may be okay to continue to have at-home dates and have sex; other people might not. The key is to make the right choices to protect ourselves and others.
- Swipe right more often! Not everyone is interested in every person they see on the app, but clicking "like" can often open up new opportunities for friendship and connections that we might never get through in-person events. Feel free to edit your profile to let others know that you're also interested in conversation and friendship, and expand your horizons a bit by chatting with new acquaintances. Who knows? You might find a new BFF, gaming buddy, or even — gasp! — a new partner.
- Playing it safe takes on a whole new perspective if you're interested in hooking up. Even if you can't leave the house, you can still use spicy messages (with consent!) or video chat to engage in some hot, sexy fun. Use this as a chance to get more comfortable with dirty talk or to verbally explore some of those fantasies that you've been itching to try out. The best thing about these? They aren't just fun, they can give you even more insight into whether hooking up IRL is going to make you both feel satisfied.
- Exploring online can be a much more comfortable way to "test the waters." Before diving into things like open relationships or kink, you want to make sure that you and your partners feel safe, respected, and excited at every step. And exploring these things online while self-isolating is the perfect time to learn more. Approaching this with honesty and affirmative consent can help make the decision to move forward a positive experience, regardless of what we end up choosing. Many folks in open or kinky relationships are happy to share their experience and enthusiasm with you — just ask!
- Nookie, in all of its in-person forms, carries some risk. Kissing (along with other activities where people are exposed to each other's saliva) is a pretty solidly risky activity. Being in close proximity to other people is somewhat risky, as well, but unavoidable if you're living with someone. Are there things that you can do to reduce the risk? Sure! Activities that put a little more distance between faces and bodies may be well suited to safer sex — mutual masturbation with a little distance, for example — and using fresh gloves for some of your play to prevent any virus transmission from your hands could reduce the risk, as well.
- Play the long game. While the awesome thing about dating apps is that they can help us "cut to the chase" faster, they can also provide a way for us to get to know someone over a longer period of time and see where the connection naturally flows; we know that while everything is scary right now, the virus threat will subside over time, and investing in these longer conversations will give us some amazing things to look forward to.