The first couple of months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic were rough for me. They were for everyone, of course, but at the time, I was still dealing with the sudden death of my partner, Robert. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in September 2019, and succumbed to the illness seven months later.
Suddenly, I had to cope with my personal grief and the reality of having to live alone again after six years in a relationship. Virtually no one around me could offer 100 percent of their support because of the pandemic lockdown, but I managed.
If we're being totally honest here, one of the hardest struggles was my sudden sexual frustration. Obviously, I couldn't meet partners physically, and at one point, even masturbating—aided by porn or not—wasn't enough.
Keeping each other safe
As a recovering sex and drug addict, I knew I had to be mindful as I explored the internet looking for online hookups. After a while, I was introduced to a group where guys would virtually meet regularly for collective masturbation. It was called "Love Temple"—and I enjoyed it.
Whether you're still looking to safely get off without risking COVID-19 exposure, or if you just think this might be helpful even in a post-pandemic world, I've come up with some tips for navigating online sex, with help from Gestalt therapy/chemsex therapist Stu Fenton and therapist Jamie Willis, who specializes in addiction/chemsex/trauma and LGBTQIA+ issues.
Firstly, it's important to note online intimacy is not a guaranteed solution: It won't work for everyone, for a variety of reasons.
'Certainly cybersex is one way of continuing to have a healthy sex life and also preventing COVID-19 from spreading.'
"I think every individual has to make a decision for themselves. Everyone feels different about this pandemic situation," Fenton said. "Certainly cybersex is one way of continuing to have a healthy sex life and also preventing COVID-19 from spreading."
However, he recommends people who have decided to engage in cybersex adhere to the relevant regulations in their specific countries, not just to stay clear of the law but also to keep each other safe. This typically boils down to having respect, care and empathy for all involved parties, including yourself.
"Protect your confidentiality and pictures," Fenton advised. "There are many different ways that you can do that these days. Most of all, though, just have fun."
Be mindful and set up boundaries
If you decide to enter a cybersex arrangement, you should have a clear plan of how to do it. Willis warns it's very possible to become lost in cybersex—as with any other form of escapism.
"Work out how long you are going to spend doing it. Put down or write down your boundaries," Willis said.
He recommends, as a rule of thumb, to engage with only a couple of partners or groups, rather than exclusively seeking the novelty element. No matter the number, good, safe encounters rely on firm, honest communication.
"If you decide [to do it with] many people, that's also fine. Just make sure you set up boundaries and then write them down," Willis added.
If all else fails, there's always the tried-and-true self-stimulation. However, using porn as a masturbatory aid can quickly become a vice, as the mind needs increasingly intense stimulus to reach the same level of arousal. To counter that effect, Willis recommends "taking breaks for several days at a time. When you masturbate, skip the porn and go au naturel.
"Try using your own imagination a little bit more instead of porn. This can tackle any potential reliance on these external factors for arousal," Willis said. "You know, the biggest sex organ is the brain—so try to use it."