At the height of the HIV epidemic, singles learned how to have a “safer sex talk” with a potential partner. If precautions were taken, we were basically in the clear for sexually-transmitted infections. What to do, though, if a deadly, super contagious virus lives not only in our coughs and sneezes but in our very conversations, our intimate whisperings?
Sexting has always been a thing, pandemic or no. Ditto Zoom flirtations or Skype sex. What I have been considering during the time of COVID-19 are things consenting adults can do, at the recommended six-foot separation, when they’ve gone past the initial dating stage. As restrictions ease and space opens for sensual interactions in person, what are some creative solutions for lovers who don’t live together but were already at some level of intimacy before shelter-in-place?
One of my female friends calls the suggested “Creative Things You Can Do from Six Feet Apart” a “Cosmo-like list.” (I praise all women’s magazine for their grains of truth and usefulness). My sources are my own experience, personal growth workshops I have attended over the course of twenty years, conversations with a sex educator, advice from my physician, and input from peers and poets.
But first, some caveats.
My suggestions are meant to be progressive and have no time frame; there are more than an evening’s worth. Pick and choose. Use these prompts to stimulate your own imagination.
My intention here is to be gender neutral, but I am a female, and currently my sexual interests are men. Some activities I offer might be construed by a guy as c**k-teasing. If he’s in the same room with a person he likes who is doing such provocative things, it might be quite a challenge to keep his distance. Not that he will do anything criminally aggressive, but he might cajole or pressure his lover to relax their boundaries. Another possibility is that he will get sad or mopey or even angry from only looking and not touching. And then you have a lovers’ spat!
For me, as a vital, mature women, there is tension as well. I care for my partner (or potential partner) and want them to be happy. I also need relationship intimacy and desire satisfaction—in fact my health depends on it. So I rationalize, weigh risks and benefits. It’s a dilemma that has very few answers and precious little guidance.
If couples who do not live together decide to have contact sex, whether oral or intercourse, they should take precautions to reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. How to do that is a “Cosmo List” for another time.
What I am attempting here is to initiate a compendium of sexual-pleasure-from-a-distance that stretches the imagination and pushes the envelope. I welcome and encourage your additions!
Fetch your carpenter’s tape and mark off your room in six-foot intervals—from easy chair to couch, doorway to doorway, prop box to video screen. If you can find a private space outdoors, so much the safer, but still maintain your distance.
- Take turns telling each other what you find appealing—a physical attribute or a quality of personality. Give your partner one compliment at a time, whatever comes spontaneously to mind, back and forth for three minutes. Use an egg timer, or re-purpose the game timer you use to wash your hands.
- Flash a body part at an unexpected moment. Pretend nothing unusual happened.
- Read erotic stories out-loud; discover who likes to read and who likes to listen. Bring your favorites or tap into the “literotica” sources online
- Dance for the other. Remember that black leather teddy and fishnets you wore for Halloween? Call them back into service to enhance the effect. Another opportunity for masks!
- Answer the question, “Tell me one thing that turns you on.” Example: Kisses and little nips on the smooth skin between my neck and shoulder. Sweet breath and full lips. A superbly-toned backside.
- Share a sexual fantasy as if you were describing a dream, in first person, present tense. Example: I have just bedded down alone in my tent beside a running creek when I hear the distinct pleasure cries of a woman emerging from a campsite just up the hill. I quiet all my movements and listen carefully…
- If you’re shy about this kind of talk, do this homework assignment: each of you write a list of “25 things I find arousing” and share it at your next rendezvous.
- Watch a sexy movie together. (Remember about the placement of furniture). Provide your own libations and snacks. Make sure you agree on what a sexy “The English Patient” or “Debbie Does Dallas”? Be cautious. When a partner suggested we try viewing what turned out to be degrading porn, I was turned off to his attentions for the rest of the evening.
- Practice talking sexy. You might start by saying, “When I’m able to touch you again, I am going to…” Dare yourself to use “dirty words” you’ve never said. Discover new, poetic descriptions for body parts (“heart of the peony” “velvet valentine”); let them loll on your tongue.
- Do a real-time strip tease for your sweetie. Welcome their appreciative comments.
- Privately record a show-off video, and then share it with your partner. You could demonstrate, for example, how you make love to yourself. This might be the occasion to bring out your sex toy box and illustrate the uses of its contents piece by piece.
- Try mutual masturbation to The Big O (in the event that this has not already occurred). Or take turns. The active partner might close their eyes. The observing partner might encourage, “You are so radiant, so delightful, so orgasmic. Your skin is beginning to flush, you are glowing with energy. I can feel your heat from here.”
I’ve read reports of asymptomatic people who’ve attended choir practice and expelled virus droplets from enthusiastic singing that infected those nearby. Might the same be said for the heavy breathing or vocalizing that occurs during sex play? Distance is probably not enough protection if the partners become so deeply engaged. Then masks are a necessity rather than just a costume accessory.
I’ve newly discovered, through a referral from poet Bill Noble, a respectful source of real sexual experiences, with world-wide reach but originating in Australia. Beautiful Agony is a paid-subscription erotic website featuring head shots of user-submitted videos showing the participants having orgasms, without providing any visual description of what technique is being used or revealing anything below the neck and upper chest.
Men, women and non-binary people are featured on the site. Many of the video clips are lovely and compelling, almost meditative. And utterly appropriate to social distancing. You can watch Beautiful Agony’s Show Reel to get a sense of what it would be like to subscribe and contribute content.
My book, Poetry, Politics and Passion, contains the essay “A Face of Ecstasy” in which I describe my experience participating in the documentary film “Orgasm: The Faces of Ecstasy,” a 2004 project by now-defunct Libido Films and produced by the late Joani Blank, author, sex educator and founder, in 1977, of Good Vibrations—the second feminist sex toy business in the United States.
Posted on my website is a video of me reading that essay intercut with sections from the Libido/Blank film. Probably not many of my clients or employers have delved that far into the audio-visual section of Piece of Mind Creative. It is an obscure portion of my obscure website, but it is there for the clicking if you are curious. In my view, Joani Blank is the mother, or grandmother, of the Beautiful Agony cohort.