Sex and dating in the age of Covid. Have we changed?
Hugs, kissing and sex with anyone outside the bubble are taboo, so it’s been a tough time for those who like to touch. We’re wondering if, during this time of social distancing, the outlook on dating and casual sex has changed. Hooking up or finding love mid-pandemic isn't easy, but are there also positives to be found in all of this?
We have a chat with Terri Ewart, a certified sexological bodyworker, embodied counsellor and somatic sexuality educator, otherwise known as a sex coach. Terri works from Tauranga, New Zealand, and she teaches people from all around the world how to feel more pleasure in their lives.
It’s her passion to help people discover and honour their pleasure without the taboos, social conditioning and judgements of society, family, and themself. We ask her a few questions about how she thinks dating and attitudes towards touching have changed since Covid.
KM: Tinder and casual hook-ups were pretty normal until the pandemic hit, and many people are now more anxious about dating. How do you think things will change for singles post Covid?
“I believe people in New Zealand and most of Australia have been extremely lucky, having little fall out from our experience of Covid-19 and the effects of lockdown, unlike a lot of the rest of the world.
We have countries where people are effectively living with the fear that not only touching, but coming within two metres of another human, could potentially kill either one of them. This is creating huge amounts of fear and stress in both mind and body, which automatically shuts down the concept of safety. The risk is that people’s desire to engage intimately shuts down, too.”
KM: You have studied the impact of touch. Why is touch so important for human beings?
“Connection is one of our five basic needs. As humans we need to feel connected, loved and have a sense of belonging. Touch is the most supportive way to meet those needs. Our nervous systems can be calmed, nurtured, and supported into a space of relaxation through touch.
Dr Steven Porges Polyvagal’s theory has shown that the Vagus nerve has 80 % afferent (sensory) influence, meaning we can influence how we feel emotionally by interacting with our bodies. In times where we need a hug, a calming voice, our head stroked… it decreases our stress response.”
KM: Although things have now eased a lot Down Under, much of the rest of the world is still living with tight restrictions and no one knows how long this will go on. Do you think there could be a long-term impact of social distancing on singles who live alone?
“Yes, although this can be overcome by choice. We are effectively living in a constant state of regulation and even on a basic health level, this has the potential to impact the length of peoples lives as stress is a major contributor to activating genes and our biological response. As a society, we have the potential to become sicker as a whole, as a direct response to the stress we are under.
In terms of relationships and intimacy, there are those who will be unaffected and their biological response to connection will come back quickly. But there is a portion of the population who will notice a trauma response in their body, in response to invitation of physical contact or possibly even the thought of leaving their homes. This may show up as resistance, tension, anxiousness, a desire to hide or a desire to shut down. People may become scared of people.”
KM: What can people do to combat the loneliness? Do you have any tips on how to cope better?
“Loneliness has been shown to affect life expectancy in a bigger way than smoking. Our emotional bodies affect our physical being. Firstly, being aware of when your thoughts are racing or of loneliness, knowing when you need support and having the ability to ask for help. Stay in regular contact with other people, online or with scheduled connection appointments.
Connecting to your body and thereby grounding yourself can also be super useful. Any physical activity when it is done with awareness of the physical sensations and emotions connects you to yourself and grounds you. Dance, do yoga, practise martial arts. Create an opportunity to learn something new, meet new people, and stay present in the moment. It all supports in combating loneliness.
Get on a dating app or if that’s not enough, track down a virtual play party where sexual expression is encouraged and welcomed via your computer screen. Different parties have different levels of engagement and different boundaries around behavioural expectations. Try a few and find what fits.”
KM: Do you see any positives for people regarding love and sex when this pandemic is over?
“Covid has given us time and if used wisely, playfully or with curiosity, that has the potential to journey us into more wholeness. It’s a perfect opportunity to delve into your embodied erotic connection with yourself.
Before we connect with another, its invaluable to know what your body likes and how it operates. Go get educated and start to gift yourself experience of self-pleasure and time, start feeling your body instead of a wham bam thank you mam in the shower, five minutes before you leave for work.”
KM: Where can we look for information and support?
“There are so many great platforms and teachers in the online world who are able to support people in their erotic journey, and who doesn’t want more pleasure in their life!?
On a relational level, Covid has slowed down the game. People have the space to dive more deeply into each other, their values, desires, and needs as we are not so caught up in the sexual chemistry of attraction. We are connecting on deeper levels and making choices in our partners based on compatibility and values as opposed to chemicals.
To a degree, Covid has made the whole world our playing field. In terms of learning anyway. When you can only learn or explore online, it opens up vast worlds of knowledge and experiences if you chose to participate. This Journal is a great platform, too.”
KM: Is there anything else that you’d like share or that you think is useful or important?
“We have a choice around how we view our situations, relationships and connections. We can choose to view it as a positive opportunity to take a deeper look at how we operate in the world. We can choose to embrace learning, we can remember how to feel again, and I really think we should take hours and hours to rediscover our true sexual, erotic intimate lives.”
Find more about Terri and her work on staycurious.co.nz