Who better to guide us through having sex during the period of social-distancing than Betony Vernon. The bold, provocative and subversive American jewelry designer is also a sexual anthropologist and author of The Boudoir Bible, The Uninhibited Sex Guide for Today. Though she has designed for several brands including Alexander Wang, Missoni, Gianfranco Ferré, and Fornasetti, she may be more well known for her fine erotic jewelry collection, and her mission to empower women and men to enjoy and share greater pleasure.
So whether you are quarantined with your partner, in a social-distanced Zoom-based relationship, trying to be in a relationship, or trying to get out of a relationship, read on for Veron's musings on intimacy and affection during the time of confinement.
How do people deal with their relationships and sex during this time?
The situation is complex for everyone, and circumstances depend on if you are isolated alone and totally deprived of physical contact, or with a partner or in a family or group of three or more. The isolation during the virus and physical spacing protocol is in clear contrast to human nature and behavior. We touch each other to express ourselves daily and not only to show and strengthen intimacy and affection, but also socially and at work. Nothing can replace the sense of touch, the pleasures, the comforts and the confirmations it provides. Consider that if children are deprived of touch, they are unlikely to survive and this helps to keep the importance of physical contact in perspective. I find that fear of physical contact is the most dangerous aspect of coronavirus in society as a whole. Those who are isolated on their own need to take better care of themselves and make self-love and self-care a daily priority. Those who are isolated in the company of others, on the other hand, must be more aware of their emotions and behaviors. The negative effects of confinement are compounded by unawareness. Everything we do, think and feel seems to be underneath an emotional magnifying glass - confinement is a time to be kinder to each other. This is not the time to have delicate conversations or decide if your partner is right for you. Emotional intelligence will bring all our relationships, no matter how intimate, to the other side of this global pandemic intact. A crisis can make us break, so we aim to get out of this experience stronger and more united than ever. And there is always a positive side in any crisis, coronavirus highlights the fundamental value and importance of love and affection in our lives.
What are the most frequently asked questions you receive as a Sex Counselor?
Normally my therapeutic work focuses on sexual trauma and changes the taboo of pleasure in the name of increased pleasure. Overcoming the effects of, inhibitions, guilt, shame and abuse is fundamental for the art of loving oneself and others. The questions I have most to deal with in these strange times also revolve around sexual frustration, loneliness and security, especially for those individuals who are isolated on their own and crave contact like never before. Frustration is the most normal reaction to this unprecedented situation. The quality of our sex lives reflects the overall quality of our lives in general, so the safest way to manage your libido if you don't have a trusted quarantine lover, is to love yourself more and more every day. I shared two complementary clinical hypnosis sessions on my YouTube channel. One is concerned with managing anxiety and the other is designed to relieve the physical and emotional stress caused by the lack of physical contact with those we love most.
Are you for or against virtual sex during COVID-19?
Personally, I believe that if virtual sex can soothe your soul, you should devote yourself now more than ever. Virtual sex is essentially assisted masturbation, and for many it is the only "shared" sexual experience they can safely have in these strange times. Practically assisted or not, it is really important to get sexual liberation. Our physical and emotional balance and therefore our general health depends on it. The only thing to be aware of is its addictive nature. Like pornography, the consumption of virtual sex can lead to frustration, because over time it leaves us hungry for real physical contact. But as long as you are aware of it and treat virtual sex like pornography, as a special occasion, not a habit, you will keep the dangers of addiction and its destructive effects on your true sex life at bay.
How to take care of yourself erotically during the pandemic?
Those who are isolated on their own should prioritize self-love rituals, their physical and emotional health depends on it. Sensual deprivation is more dangerous than you can imagine. Self-care rituals such as self-massage, hot baths, masturbation and lots of exercise and yoga will keep the endocrine system aligned until the end of this isolation period. Try using a dry body brush and any other tool of your choice to generate microcirculation, from head to toe. The goal is to prevent the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and to encourage the production and flow of hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine into the bloodstream which not only make us feel good but keep us emotionally balanced. I suggest you spend as much time as you can naked. Pamper your skin with oils, masturbate often, and also embrace and kiss yourself. Be creative and compensate in every way imaginable for the dangerous lack of physical contact, imposed on many of us.
If you are confined with a partner, take this time to align yourself energetically with each other more than ever. Take care of each other not only by connecting deeply both sexually and emotionally. Sex, as in penetration, must not be the only goal. The tension that we all experience according while living in a crisis results in the accumulation of micro and macro voltages in the body. Tension is a physical warning that it is time to be more aware of our emotions to avoid unbalanced behaviors that can lead to misunderstandings and emotional escalations
Hidden stress can also take sex off your priority list, but keep in mind that sexual pleasure is the most powerful source of well-being we have access to. Take this time with each other, explore the body as a sensual whole and rediscover each other by making love as if it were the first time.
Whether you are alone or with company, you can create a home spa and beauty days, ritualize your pleasures from bed to bathroom to kitchen and beyond, because your happiness depends on everything else in your life. Such as the quality of your sleep, what you eat, the conversations you share, etc.
What is the relationship between sexual desire and fear?
Fear is our worst enemy in the bedroom and beyond. Fear prevents us from being in the present. Being in the hour is essential for pleasure, be it sexual or otherwise. Fear creates physical and emotional tension that casts a shadow over practically everything we do. Fear management is the key to living happily and even more so while living in compliance with confinement protocol. Everyone suffers from a certain level of micro or macro tension caused by the fears of current events and unawareness in general. It doesn't matter how sensitive you are or not ... the added tension is there.
Can sex help overcome fear?
Yes, absolutely. Sex is as powerful as meditation when it comes to losing fear and knowing yourself deeply. Deep pleasure and deep transformation go hand in hand. When we treat our sexuality as a sacred force, rather than something to be repressed or consumed quickly, long paths of discovery without fear open up before us and our partners. Only by letting go of fear can we experience deeper levels of pleasure and possibly sexual transcendence. I speak of transcendental sex in great detail in my book The Bodouir Bible.
Is having sex a good recipe for the spirit?
Having exceptional sex is the best recipe for good spirit and happiness in general, and sex has nothing to do with performance. The more authentically connected you become with yourself and your pleasure, the more real and connected your relationship with pleasure and your partner will be. Sexual frustration has been scientifically proven to underlie most neuroses. So entertain your mind and then your body with erotic literature, the best porn you find, virtual sex if you like it and any other tool that helps you to ease sexual tension. Feel free to engage in several of those if not all the above. Try vibrators and dildos, and why not a little flogging for some added contact and fun? Laughter is still the best medicine after all and don't forget to remind yourself that this horrible situation will soon be behind us and we will embrace and love each other physically again before you know it.