Read: Solo Sex and Self-Isolation: Bodysex Goes Virtual
The pandemic allowed others to connect with their bodies, too. Take Em, 24, of Whidbey Island, WA, for example. She took an asynchronous Bodysex course and had her first orgasm in April of 2020 during a two-week quarantine after exposure. "The stress and fear forced me to be introspective and radically seek out self-pleasure and push through so much shame," she says. "I found power. It truly was life-changing. It may have been part of a bigger change, but coming back to myself on a visceral level brought me into being again."
"The stress and fear forced me to be introspective and radically seek out self-pleasure."
She describes it as an awakening of power she didn't know she had and thought she had to get from someone else. Around that time, she decided to go back to school, quit her corporate job to work for a nonprofit, and come out of the closet. "Now, I have fantastic sex all the time with myself and others," says Em.
Like myself, C, 26, in Los Angeles, CA, also felt an uptick in sexual desire.
"I would think about sex way more often and would always be in the mood for sexting. I had a friend with benefits, so she and I would sext often and exchange nudes."
Read: An Etiquette Guide for Sending and Receiving Nudes
Plus, he would masturbate more often as well, sometimes five times a day. "I guess it also helped pass the time," he says. Once the lockdown was lifted, he would visit (sex work) providers who helped provide a safe, clean space for fun and release.
As the world opens, Deysach hopes that folks who have found a deeper appreciation for self-pleasure can carry that into their life post-COVID. "For a lot of people, that is probably going to mean making self-love an intentional practice," she says. "Just as we make time for other types of self-care, it is important to remember to make time for self-pleasure."
Suppose you find you are having trouble remembering to masturbate now that socializing is ramping up again. In that case, Deysach suggests setting a daily or weekly time to check in with your sexual self and allow time to explore your body and bring yourself pleasure. "Keep your sex toys handy, and don't forget that even if you start hooking up with people IRL, solo-play is still a valid, worthwhile pursuit."
"Keep your sex toys handy, and don't forget that even if you start hooking up with people IRL, solo-play is still a valid, worthwhile pursuit."
As I slowly ease back into the world of dating, I'm still making time for masturbation. One of my partners recently joked about how sexually jaded we were before the pandemic and how the collective trauma gave us a new perspective. I have to agree. In addition to this new openness, I'm bringing everything I've learned about self-pleasure over this past year to my partner's sex experiences – and it's paying off. I'm having some of the best sex of my life right now with new-to-me partners.
For those of us who double-downed on masturbation and orgasms during the pandemic, I hope we can continue to reap the feel-good benefits long after the pandemic is over. (If and when that ever happens, sigh.)
"Masturbation can be a lifelong practice that brings us joy, release, and self-love," says Deysach. "It keeps us in tune with our bodies and releases endorphins which make us feel great and can even help relieve some pain temporarily. There is no real downside to masturbation, so why not make and keep it a part of your health and wellness routine?"
Hands-on habits are healthy, and establishing regular masturbation routines is the clear winner of the past year.