Just The Tip: Dating During the Shut-In

people on two beds apart from each other looking at their phones

Just the Tip is a sex and relationship column hosted by queer non-monogamous kinkster Jera Brown. Here you will find interviews with sexuality researchers and educators as well as smart and compassionate responses to anonymous questions. If you would like to be interviewed or have a sex or love question you’d like Jera to answer, email  jera@jerabrown.com or DM Jera on Twitter @thejerabrown.

I’m a pansexual, single woman in my 50s who has been out on the dating scene for about 7 years after a 15-year relationship with another woman. Since ending that relationship, I have much more fully discovered my sexuality than I had earlier in my life. I am good, giving and game, fully comfortable with my own sexuality, my high sex drive, my interest in people of different genders (I identified as a lesbian for many years). I love sex, when it’s in the context of a relationship of some kind – a monogamous or non-monogamous dating relationship, or within the context of a good friendship with an ex, but I’m not into one night stands, sex with people I don’t know or pornography. I meet the people I date mostly through online aps, but I have never really engaged in sexting or cyber-sex. Sending a picture of myself in pretty lingerie and commenting on how wonderful an experience was or how I looked forward to one is the closest I’ve come. I am very tactile and extroverted, and I what I really want is the full experience! However, the prospect of COVID19 keeping us all isolated and dating being all virtual for the near future has me curious about sexting and cybersex. How would I become comfortable and what are my options? Also, I wonder if heading into a relationship with someone this way makes for a weird start that doesn’t translate into the real, tactile world once we are all engaging that way again, or if it’s just another options for getting to know and enjoy one another? More info please!

Joy Wright (Read Joy’s piece about dating during the pandemic)

Practicing social distancing is forcing all of us to maintain “long distance” relationships with family, friends, romantic partners. It can be especially frustrating if you just started to connect to someone and now you can’t see them for the foreseeable future.

Starting a “Long Distance” Relationship

Throughout the centuries, people have started or maintained beautiful long-distance relationships via letters, and then phone calls, and then finally emails.

(For fun inspiration, check out these books of correspondence between: Anais Nin and Henry Miller, Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka and Milena Jesenská, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.)

Distance, along with mediums that lend themselves well to long-form thoughts, created more cerebral connections.

Yes, the lack of in-person interactions can create an imbalance — a reliance on one aspect of your connection. It’s like going to the gym and only working on your arms. And it can be awkward when you finally get to spend time together. But both the imbalance and the awkwardness can easily be overcome.

And the situation has its benefits, as well.  If, like me, you tend to dive into new relationships, distance can force you to slow down and maintain some good practices:

  • Excess alone time allows you to check in with yourself more often. How do you really feel about this new connection? Note, this does not mean dwell. Practice listening to your body.
  • Your ability to meet your own needs can reassure you that you don’t actually need this new person. This knowledge can help you maintain healthy boundaries as you move forward.

The Effects of Sexting and Cyber Sex

Of course, long-distance relationships are not what they were even twenty years ago. Videos calls and texts speed up the possibility of (and the urge for) a visual connection. And not just any visual connection … a very intimate one.

Sexting, phone and video sex can feel rushed, forced, shallow. But it can also be thrilling, tender, rewarding.

Here are some tips about how to approach digital intimacy.

1. Establish Trust First

By trust, I mean, before you start sending pics of yourself or consent to sexy Skype time, see how you feel about saying no to this person and telling them you’re uncomfortable. See what it’s like to establish boundaries.

2. Set Your Tempo

Joy asked how to get comfortable with sexting and cybersex. My best advice is to simply take your time.

Also, it’s okay to tell someone what you need to feel comfortable, such as positive responses about your body or a response within a reasonable amount of time. If they balk at this, then they’re probably not a safe person to be intimate with.

Be considerate yourself, of course. Don’t freak out if you don’t get an immediate response. Don’t send a sexy pic without consent. Don’t expect them to have the same comfort zones you do.

3. Get Creative

Digital intimacy doesn’t have to follow a set script. Play games! One of the first things I did when I started sexting was played “guess this body part” with extreme close-ups of my curves.

Since Joy is a tactile person, they could ask their new lover to find similar foods, fabrics, or smells and describe them to each other. They could masturbate together and describe how their bodies feel to themselves.

4. Remember You Don’t Have To.

Just because sexting and cybersex are options doesn’t mean you have to do it. It’s a good time to check in with your motivations. Are you afraid if you don’t take it to this next level that the person won’t stick around or the relationship won’t progress? Are you afraid you’ll disappoint them or lead them to believe you’re not really interested?

Basically, this is an opportunity to practice enthusiastic consent. If the connection is real, it’s going to outlast the distance whether or not you let someone see you naked.

Is this situation an ideal way to start a new relationship? Perhaps not, you can also see it as an opportunity to create new habits.

Check out my related post about the many mistakes I’ve made dating online.

Photos by AllGo – An App For Plus Size People and Bruno Cervera

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Jera Brown writes about being a queer kinky polyamorous Christian on their blog scarletchurch.com. Their sex and relationship advice column, Just the Tip, is hosted by Rebellious Magazine. Follow them on Twitter or Instagram @thejerabrown.