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How a pandemic prioritized our sexual wellness

How a pandemic prioritized our sexual wellness

Whether you’re chaotically horny or just bored enough to indulge your curiosity, life in lockdown over the past few months has ushered in a new era of sexuality. Staying home if you’re single, coupled, grouped, or long distanced has been uncharted territory for most of us. But as we continue to navigate the murky waters of social distancing, one positive to come of this pandemic is a prioritization of our individual sexual wellness.

While COVID-19 can’t be transmitted genitally, it can spread through intimate contact and saliva. Even as many states across the U.S. ease restrictions, official guidelines continue to deem solo sex the smartest option duing the pandemic — with the New York City Department of Health reminding us, “You are your safest sex partner.” 

Yes, that’s one of the largest public health agencies in the world urging you to masturbate.

And while more solo time after months of quarantine might not sound ideal, it does provide a chance to slow down and shift focus toward self-exploration. What do you like? What don’t you like? And what supplies do you need? Because, let’s face it, the most exciting adventure many of us are having these days is likely in the bedroom. 

Turns out, sexual pleasure amid this socially distant moment in time can be a revelatory experience. While physical celibacy is considered best practice, recent developments in technology provide a digital pleasure playground. Corners of the internet have historically served as grounds for sexual exploration, but now, even more so. During quarantine, video games have arisen that catalyze queer identities, and virtual dating has become, surprisingly, more intimate than ever.

While more solo time after months of quarantine might not sound ideal, it does provide a chance to slow down and shift focus toward self-exploration. What do you like? What don’t you like?

In this moment of taking pleasure more seriously, market trends reflect the times. In fact, according to a recent beauty and self-care report, the entire sexual wellness sector is “coming out on top” during the pandemic. Sex toy sales have skyrocketed since lockdown measures clicked into place mid-March, and individual retailers across the globe are seeing huge surges of interest in masturbation toys, especially. In other words, solo play is taking a front seat in 2020. 

“A lot of people are — for stress relief and sexual pleasure and all the other reasons why anyone would masturbate — finding themselves doing it more on their own, and looking for creative ways to make it a little more fun, more interesting, and take a little strain off our hands and wrists as well,” Searah Deysach, owner of feminist sex shop Early to Bed, told the Chicago Tribune.

The stress relief bit is important to note. Beyond pleasure points, orgasms release oxytocin, otherwise known as the body’s natural antidote to anxiety and depression. During highly stressful times, masturbation is an easily accessible act of self-care to recalibrate and escape.

Leaning into this notion, audio-based erotica provides a more sensually inclusive experience of escapism. Apps like Dipsea and Emjoy that offer guided erotic meditations and sensual stories provide some structure while leaving more to the imagination than visual porn. Since mid-March, Dipsea has seen subscriber rates increase by 84%, and Emjoy has seen a 160% spike in usage, according to Forbes. Meanwhile, individual audio porn websites have seen visitor numbers increase by up to 6000%. 

As the pandemic drags on, new doors of sexual experimentation have opened worldwide. It’s become increasingly clear that sexuality isn’t just self-care; it’s a human need. And it seems the  global lack of skin-to-skin contact is opening our eyes to self-pleasure as a celebrated act, rather than a taboo.