Exploring Sex, Pleasure, and Self-love While in Quarantine
The following blogpost was written by Lilly Oram and UVM Sex Educator Jenna Emerson from UVM’s Living Well.
Here we are, in quarantine either at home or at UVM, we are still in the peak of a pandemic, and It’s dark by like 4:30PM. Last fall, we made it through I am guessing what was one of the hardest semesters for most of us. We all deserve some extra love and care. Wherever you are in quarantine, it’s hard. And not like sexy “hard” (well, maybe), but also difficult hard. Starting a new semester can be stressful as is, then adding on COVID fears and copious amounts of alone time makes some self-care strategies less accessible (anyone else just miss *hugging* people?). So, how do you find joy, connection, pleasure, and self-love while in quarantine?
Sex positivity is about advocating for the exploration of sex and sexuality in a way that is consensual, safe, and free of shame or judgement. So besides charging up your favorite sex toys or unpacking the lube, here are 6 tips and 1-minute exercises to make this time a bit more loving…
School may be starting soon, but it doesn’t hurt to get a head start on the learning! Sometimes with partners, friends, or from societal messages, we can create these expectations for ourselves about what it is that we are supposed to like and be into. This time away from others can actually be an opportunity for you to find out what it is that YOU like. Whether you had sex (solo or with a partner(s)) once, never, or a thousand times, there is still always more you can learn, because you are a complex and multifaceted sexual being. It is an ongoing process that also evolves and changes over time.
Learn more about what you like, who you like, and what kind of relationships you are interested in. You may discover new kinky interests, sexual attractions, indenties, fantasies, porn, sex toys, or you may realize that you might not like sex or romantic relationships at all (which is totally normal and okay – oh hey ace and aro babes!). There also is a chance you geek out over this stuff and discover you want to pursue a career in the field of human sexulity (like me!). The world of sexual exploration truly is endless, just remember to search and consume responsibly. The internet is an awesome tool, but it also can carry a lot of misinformation and encourage unsafe practices. Make sure that you are getting your information from resources that are sex positive, intersectional, ethical, and credible.
Look up a glossary of sexuality and identity terms. Set a 1-minute timer, and try to learn at least one new term (like omnigender!).
2. Look Inwards
Unfortunately, we have all grown up with cultural messages that were not sex positive and the sex education system in the U.S. is often harmful in its erasure of LGBTQ+ folks and racism. These messages may come from family, friends, TV/Movies or social media, with all of them stemming from centuries of colonization and White Supremacy (for example: the gender binary was violently enforced by White Europeans on Indigenous people through “boarding schools” as a form of eugenics and assimilation). With or without us noticing, these things have an affect on us. We can not always control everything going on around us, but we can take a look at ourselves and see what messages no longer serve us, and who we are without those negative messages.
Let’s break down these ideas! Set a timer for 1 minute and free-write as many messages or expectations you received based on your gender or sexuality that no longer serve you. Then take this list and somehow “let them go” in a way that feels meaningful to you. Optional: rewrite these messages to be positive affirmations for YOU. (example: turn “I’m not attractive enough” to “my beauty does not determine my worth”)
3. Get Physical (w/yourself)
Has anyone else watched Dirty Dancing while in quarantine and realized how touch starved you are? Just me? Being physically isolated from other people can be hard. It has been scientifically proven that physical touch is extremely important for our overall health and wellbeing, so let’s explore some ways to get in touch with ourselves (literally). One way to do that is by masturbating, or self-pleasuring. Not only is masturbation the safest form of sex to prevent STI’s or contracting COVID, but it also can reduce stress, give you a chance to explore what you like, and help some people sleep better.
Orgasms are never the goal (the goal is pleasure and self-connection), but if it does happen, it releases endorphins in your body which are the feel good chemicals and a natural painkiller. If you are looking to try out some sex toys but share a wall with a family member or roommate, maybe look for a non vibrating one (like a dildo or a butt plug) or look for one with quiet vibrations. I also suggest putting on some music for background music if you’re self-conscious, plus it sets a nice mood. Treat yourself.
Also, physical intimacy with yourself does not have to be sexual. Other ways to explore your sense of touch can be by holding yourself, tracing your fingers around different shapes on your body, feeling some comforting textures like a fuzzy blanket, or giving yourself a massage.
Next time you have some physical intimacy with yourself, whether it be sexy time or not, give yourself a big hug with an extra squeeze for 1 whole minute. You can hug yourself by grabbing at each shoulder, elbow, or wrists (depending on chest size), or (and this is my favorite and lowkey makes me cry), cross your arms into an X and place your palms on your face and rub your face like it’s someone else touching you. Oof, this one’s powerful. Optional: say “Thank you”, “I love you”, or any other positive affirmations. It may seem silly at first but giving yourself that acknowledgment really helps with the self-love (which is next on the list!).
4. Practice some self-love/fall in love with yourself
I will be real with you, it do be lonely at times. And it is perfectly normal to be feeling that way, especially if you are physically isolated from others. But spending all this time with yourself provides an opportunity for growth and self-love. Assess what your needs are; sometimes we get so caught up in thinking about other people’s needs that we forget our own. We also live in a society that has made us afraid of vulnerability, when vulnerability is a beautiful thing, it can just be hard to face head on. Try sitting with that vulnerability for a little while. What is it telling you? And remember that being lonely does not mean you are alone. You have friends, family, and community who care for and love you.
Set a timer for 1 minute and make a list of traits you look for in a partnership. You can specify what type of relationship this is, if that helps (friendship, romance, sexual, etc). Great! Now that you’ve done that, look over your list… how can you start to become these traits? If you said humor, is it time to create a TikTok account to add some funny content? If you said compassion, how are you practicing that with yourself? Think about it: you’ll likely attract these traits in partners if you also embody them. Plus, if you’re single, you’re practicing being your own best partner. Love that for you!
5. Explore other Senses
Sensuality involves all of our senses, and does not always have to relate to sex or genitals. So what are some things that make you feel good? Think: touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing, feeling, whatever senses you have access to. Engaging with things that make you feel good at least once a day can have positive effects on your overall mood and happiness. It helps you stay present to the moment by bringing an awareness to your body and senses that can lead to a decrease of stress, anxiety, and loneliness. This will also help with your overall sexual satisfaction with a partner(s) or solo.
For guided meditations, check out the UVM Mindfulness tracks on YouTube and Soundcloud.
For one minute, focus on one of your senses (touch, sight, feel, smell, hear). And during that focus, just focus on the parts of that sensation that feel good to you. What do you like about the song you’re listening to or the food you’re eating? The only goal is connecting to your body and identifying what gives you pleasure.
6. Spread the Love
Share this great new knowledge you have learned! This can be done in many ways to match anyone’s comfort level. You can bring positive sexulity into the conversations you have with friends, into classroom discussions, or into your papers for class (trust me, it can be related to any subject material; business of sex tech??). Social media can be a great tool, too. Share that awesome infographic you saw about the internal clitoris! Just make sure the info you are sharing is from a reliable source.
Want to build community at UVM to talk openly about positive sexuality? Well, there’s a program for that! Check out this weekly peer-led positive sexuality group called The Good Stuff.
Find an awesome sex educator on instagram that you like, read through their grid posts, and share a post that resonates the most to you onto your story. If you don’t have Instagram, check out some YouTube videos or podcasts, and explore how sexuality educators talk about sex, relationships, and pleasure. They’re literally trained to not make it weird. Even if you have to start small, just getting used to talking about this stuff normalizes the conversation and can help break down the stigma of it being taboo.
Thanks for reading and we wish you great pleasure, joy, connection, and love this semester and beyond. You’re worth it. *self-hug*
Positive Sexuality and education programs through LivingWell aim to create spaces to explore the positive aspects of sex and sexuality and reduce shame around these topics. These programs range from free safe sex supplies, sexuah health clinical services, office hours for sex-ed related questions, group positivity programs, workshops, and more.
Follow us on Instagram @livingwelluvm and find all future sexuality-based programs on UVMBored at go.uvm.edu/wellbeing.