In the face of the pandemic, fantasies, sex toys and masturbation have become central to some people’s quarantined sex lives.
COVID-19 and the resulting quarantines have had a significant impact on sexual behavior and expression everywhere. To get a better sense of these changes, the World Association of Sex Coaches (WASC) teamed up with Sex Coach U and conducted a global survey between mid-April and early June this year, called, “WASC Global Survey on the Impact of COVID-19 on Sexual Behavior.” The findings from the almost 1,000 responses to the survey offer valuable insights to anyone working in any sex-related field.
Of most interest to those in the pleasure product industry are the answers to the questions pertaining to fantasies, masturbation and sex toys.
When we asked how often people were having sexual fantasies compared to before the onset of the pandemic, the results indicate a slightly higher incidence of fantasies. While 70 percent of respondents said their fantasies were “not at all pandemic-related or influenced,” it’s also interesting to note some of the other, less popular responses.
Almost 20 percent said their fantasies were offering an escape from the pandemic. One person said, “I have fantasies about meeting someone in the woods.” Someone else responded that the content of their fantasies hasn’t changed, but now “they involve me being out of the house and away from my child.” Another respondent reported, “I have limited options to realize my fantasies, but outdoor sex became more exciting.”
Many people are fantasizing about past loves, while others are focused on fantasies with partners they’re isolated separately from.
For partners who are quarantined separately, “sharing fantasies” was the third most popular way to stay erotically connected among our survey respondents (behind sexting and sending nude or semi-nude selfies to each other).
One of the self-identified polyamorous respondents said, “New sexual smut chats with friends have started — so creativity this way. Fantasy high. Actual interaction lower.”
When asked about the impact of social distancing on their sense of sexual self, their sexuality, or their sexual expression, one person said it has “brought about more curiosity and fantasy.” Another described a heightened need for “sexual experimentation and development.”
Our survey did not go into a lot of detailed questions about sex toys, specifically, but they still showed up in respondents’ answers to other questions.
In relation to the question regarding the effect of the pandemic on one’s sexuality or sexual expression, one person shared in depth:
“It has given me time to drop deeper into practices such as the jade egg. I notice I am masturbating less to climax but doing more ‘self pleasure’ with my jade egg. We have been more creative with things that we do — for example, we have watched porn together, incorporated food, practiced Shibari, played with exercises from the Wheel of Consent, done 20 minute Tantric massages, blindfolded each other and played with making different sensations with objects.”
One couple appreciated the question that included app-controlled remote toys as an option, as they’ve been enjoying getting creative and hadn’t considered those before. They also said that during the quarantine, they’re “focused on quality and intimacy and super self care/love when we’re on our own.”
Almost 5 percent of respondents reported they and their partners were playing with app-controlled toys. This may indicate an opportunity to market this type of product.
There has also been an increased interest in or curiosity about BDSM, so this may represent another area for which pleasure product retailers could fill a need.
So many people are quarantined apart from one or more of their partners, or were single when the pandemic began. Among those who participated in our survey, almost 20 percent indicated they were quarantined apart, but could still visit periodically. A little over 16 percent said they were quarantined separately and could not visit one another. Around 18 percent of respondents did not have a sexual partner at the time of the survey.
Fewer people seem to be masturbating, and orgasm during masturbation seems to be more elusive during this time period.
But many others are taking advantage of the enforced isolation to enhance their sexuality, often through self-pleasure activities.
One person said they’re enjoying the “time away from work to explore my sexuality. I have orgasmed so much more during this time. I’m more present during sex too because I’m not rushing from one thing to the next.”
Someone else remarked, “I’ve been enjoying myself more thoroughly and exploring ways of pleasuring and loving myself.” Another respondent wrote, “My imagination has been of great help! I have experienced more solo time to play like when I was single and that’s nice.”
Some people are enjoying masturbation, but understandably are still missing partnered sex. One individual reported, “I have time to learn and appreciate my body but I do miss the affection from my boyfriend. Hand play with myself is not the same as my boyfriend’s.”
One respondent wished there would be more emphasis on normalizing masturbation, and not just during quarantine.
People Need More Self-Love Products & Information
Finally, we asked what people felt they needed right now from the global community of sexual health and wellness professionals, and here is a sampling of their answers:
- “More content on individual sex”
- “I think an emphasis on how to create/find sensuality without a partner would be strategic and helpful. I think information about self-pleasure/soothing can also be helpful (e.g., materials, strategies, etc). I also think porn literacy might be helpful for folks.”
- “Solo time, self massage, auto eroticism“
- “Tips on connecting non-physically”
- “Additional toy options, podcasts”
- “Advice on ways to connect sexually outside of ‘traditional sex.’”
- “Ideas or guidance for how to approach dating when physical contact is not allowed”
- “More sex toys … where I live there’s no free giveaways and I’m really broke ahah … and more discussion about being single and coping with your sexuality during the confinement! It’s annoying, on a lot of websites or pages they only give advice to couples to ‘spice it up’ with toys or cope with being confined together. But what about having to spice it up with yourself? And not being able to flirt IRL? Have sex?”
- “For sex shops to open.”
- “A new toy. I want a clit pumper”
- “More information on virtual or ‘distance’ sex technologies”
- “Ways/techniques/tools on how to maintain intimacy when physical distancing and how to use technology to help with sexual intimacy. Resources for community support and sharing online re: sexual wellness (forums, safe spaces for erotic practices, online courses in sex topics, etc.)”
- “Quieter vibrators”
Many state governments and health departments are offering advice for having sex safely and they’re recommending people engage in solo sex or virtual sex whenever possible, instead of in-person partnered sex, in order to reduce their risk of contracting or passing the COVID-19 virus. This means more people are likely to reach for a pleasure product to meet their erotic needs.
There is so much opportunity right now for pleasure product retailers and other sexuality professionals to offer their assistance to consumers who are searching for ways to stay erotically alive and connected.