How the pandemic led to better sexual relationships with ourselves | Love and Sex | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

How the pandemic led to better sexual relationships with ourselves

click to enlarge How the pandemic led to better sexual relationships with ourselves
CP Illustration: Lucy Chen
This Valentine’s Day, the second of the pandemic, Pittsburghers might find themselves reflecting on increased time spent alone over the last few years. But for some, this solitude has brought an opportunity to deepen their sexual relationship with themselves.

For Kevin, 40, who lives in the North Side and preferred not to give his last name along with others mentioned in this story, the onset of the pandemic coincided with the breakup of a 13-year marriage. This has led to him masturbating more often now than before, an increase from “a few times a week” to “once a day on average,” with each session also lasting longer, from 15 or fewer minutes to “regularly spending an hour or more.”

Spending more time masturbating allowed Kevin to broaden his sexual horizons and try new things. “I found that, if I extended the length of time, I was able to touch myself in a way that yielded a very long orgasm (or at least for as long as I could hold out) where it would last a minute or two,” he writes in an email to Pittsburgh City Paper. “I also spent time rediscovering prostate play and trying to achieve a hands-free orgasm (I haven't gotten there quite yet!).”

Alexis, 26, of Sheraden, also went through a breakup near the start of the pandemic. For her, being alone and deciding to focus her romantic and sexual attentions on herself gave her the opportunity to finally prioritize her own needs. She was sexually unsatisfied at the end of her previous relationship, she says, but “when I presented the idea of a toy, he told me I might as well cheat.”

“Fast forward to 2022, and I’ve had whole romantic nights to myself and my toy with candles and music and mood lighting, even wearing lingerie sometimes to elevate the experience for myself,” she says.

Connecting with herself in such an intentionally loving way has helped Alexis trust her intuition and set healthy boundaries, she says. “Another thing that has changed is never allowing myself and my needs to be minimized ever again.”

For Dana, 23, of Squirrel Hill, the pandemic has made her feel grateful to be able to have a satisfying sexual relationship with herself. “I'm so much more aware of myself in public spaces with others. … It may seem like that doesn't have any impact on, like, masturbation-type things, but I think it does,” she says. “The feeling that we are all both connected to and isolated from each other in such a dramatic way amidst the pandemic makes masturbation feel, for many people, like one of the safest ways to even express their sexuality. I would say I feel relieved and grateful now more than ever to be able to masturbate because I think it feels like, even if COVID is raging on, I will still be able to meet my needs.”

“I invested in a new dildo and got my very first butt plug,” she added. “It was fun!” Investing time, energy, and even money in self-pleasure paid off for these Pittsburghers. They found that being able to get themselves off and do it well was part of an overall improvement in their relationship with themselves that included more self-care and self-compassion.

Kevin agrees that his relationship with himself is much improved. “I have a better understanding of what I like/don't like, I give myself more grace, and I have more confidence in myself,” he says.

Since becoming her own primary sex partner, Alexis says, “I have become much more gentle with myself. I celebrate myself more and put myself down less.”